Hot chicken is on fire, y’all!

Head to Nashville for hot chicken, tacos and much more. Click RIGHT HERE to check out my latest piece for St. Lou-based Feast Magazine on where to stay, what to do and everything you’ll want to eat while you’re in town…

 

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A Story worth repeating

Hubby and I enjoyed, sort of, what could have been a very romantic evening last weekend in Brown County. Read on and I’ll explain later…

Last Friday saw us spending the night at the adorable Story Inn, about 10 miles south of Nashville, Ind. in the miniscule village of Story. Calling Story a village is something of a stretch. As far as I can tell, the whole shebang consists of the inn, a farm or two, and a stop sign. It is, however, a supremely peaceful, idyllic little escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday bigger city life. Don’t expect to find wi-fi, televisions or even alarm clocks in the rooms at Story Inn. You’ll be lucky if you get cell phone reception. There’s really no choice here but to relax. This is not a bad thing. It’s perfectly ok to switch off and be inaccessible every once in a while.

the charming Story Inn

We basically spent our evening at Story chilling out in our rustic cabin digs, and meandering down a big gravel hill in the moonlight to enjoy dinner at the inn. The on-site restaurant is the only food option for miles, unless you fancy making the 20-minute-or-so drive into Nashville up a series of twisty country roads guaranteed to make you carsick.

When all is said and done, the Story Inn food and ambiance are worth the trip. The farmhouse-style décor in the restaurant is cozy and intimate, but totally casual. In keeping with the rest of the whole Story Inn experience, meals are a leisurely affair. So much so that the web site suggests allowing at least two hours for dinner.

For such an out-of-the-way location and small-town vibe, the Story Inn cranks out some impressively high-quality food. The menu is small, but servings are generous and ingredients are familiar, yet still fancy enough to be upscale. Locavore to the core, the menu graciously recognizes an array of local producers and suppliers.

the Story salad

To start, we quickly scarfed down warm slices of sourdough-esque table bread along with a Story salad consisting of mixed greens, goat cheese, apples and pecans.

chicken dinner Story Inn-style

Hubby liked his chicken breast with gingered peaches, corn pudding and roasted vegetables, and even tolerated the onions sprinkled in here and there. Now THAT’s saying something.

spicy tomato vegetable risotto

My vegetarian entrée of delectable roasted baby artichokes, tomatoes, olives and feta over lemon risotto was beautiful and delicious as well, with a surprisingly spicy tomato broth that really brought it all together. For dessert, we shared a sinfully rich chocolate pot de crème buried under a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

chocolate pot de creme

Did I mention the Story Inn offers a top-shelf wine and beer selection, along with full bar service? The Manhattan(s) I sipped were perfectly mixed, and hubby enjoyed his Upland Wheat beer served as it was in a Mason jar. All told, we agreed that Story Inn was an out-of-the-way find worth discovering, and we slowly made our way back up the hill to our settle into our charming accommodations for the night.

So, yes, it could have been a wonderfully romantic evening if it weren’t for two hiccups — No. 1 being the fact that we had our two boys along for the ride (our three-year-old son and my seven-year-old stepson). And No. 2 being that said seven-year-old stepson woke up barfing his brains out at 3 a.m., poor little dude. Eight words you never want to hear in the middle of the night: “My tummy hurts. I need a trash can.”

Next time, I think we’ll arrange to leave the kiddos at home.

For more information,

www.storyinn.com

Story Inn on Urbanspoon

Nashville nosh

I graduated from Indiana University in the early 1990s, and Bloomington will always hold a special place in my heart, but I never really spent any time in nearby Nashville or Brown County except for an occasional drive-through on trips back home when I felt like taking the country route. When you consider how crazy scenic and charming the whole area is, this seems downright disrespectful. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to right my wrong.

beautiful Brown County State Park

Between stints of walking through the adorable shops of Nashville proper, horseback riding, journeying the annual artist studio and gardens tour through some of the most outerlying rural terrain, and an overnight stay at Abe Martin Lodge on the grounds of gorgeous Brown County State Park, I enjoyed some tasty meals.

Words that come to mind when I think of Nashville and Brown County: cute, small-town, old-fashioned, country, charming. Cutting-edge cuisine? Nope. But that’s perfectly ok. If you’re looking for fancy four-star meals full of frills and garnishes, keep on driving. If you’re in the mood for the kind of nostalgic, old-school eats you’ve probably grown up on (if you were born and raised in Indiana, that is), you’ve come to the right place.

Case in point — Hob Nob Corner is about as old-school as you can get in this neck of the woods. Literally. It’s housed in the Taggart Building at the corner of Main and Van Buren, the oldest commercial building in town and dating back to 1873 (the restaurant’s been operating here since 1973).

Hob Nob Corner Restaurant

These days, visitors flock for down-home breakfasts along the lines of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash, oatmeal and French toast. (I was surprised to see huevos rancheros on the menu, it was the only nod to ethnic food I noticed anywhere the entire weekend.) And of course, you can’t call yourself a real-deal breakfast joint in Indiana without serving classic biscuits and gravy. I’ll bet it’s good here, although I opted for the pancakes with bacon on the side.

Hob Nob pancakes

Hubby filled up on the basic breakfast of two eggs, toast and bacon, and added on a slice of country ham to boot cause that’s how he rolls.  (Hubby wants me to mention that he had just biked 70 miles from Indy to Nashville the day prior, and that’s why he needed the extra protein…) Everything was down-home delicious.

hubby’s Hob Nob brekkie

Hobnob Corner on Urbanspoon

For dinner, we visited Brown County’s hometown microbrewery, Big Woods Brewing Company. If we lived down here, I have a feeling this place would claim a lot of our time and money. Like most places in Nashville, the décor is all rustic wood lodge with high beamed ceilings. Big Woods is newer than most, open just since November 2009. The vibe feels a little like Thr3e Wise Men here in Indy, except Big Woods isn’t kid-friendly. The clientele is strictly 21 and up.

The food at Big Woods is probably the most new-fangled of any I saw in town. On the menu — a half dozen or so housemade microbrews (the refreshing Six-Foot Blonde was just our speed), along with a selection of pizzas, sandwiches and apps.

Big Woods Six Foot Blonde Ale

The spinach artichoke dip and Emily’s Garden veggie pizza we shared both arrived piping hot and loaded with super-fresh ingredients. Highly recommend.

Emily’s Garden pizza at Big Woods Brewing Company

Big Woods Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

As an IU grad, several people told me I HAD to make sure I visited that sandwich place… I thought they were speaking non-specifically, but no. The name of the restaurant is actually That Sandwich Place, and anyone with any amount of interest in IU basketball needs to put lunch or breakfast here on their Brown County itinerary.

Visiting this eatery is like worshipping at the church of Bobby Knight. The walls, counters, columns, ceilings — every possible surface is covered with memorabilia, some items ranging back as far as the early 1970s. Seems the restaurant opened around the same time Knight arrived in Bloomington and the owner remains a personal friend. Love him or hate him, Knight is an undeniably charismatic figure that demands attention. An oversized General doll in a glass case holds court (get it???) over the restaurant from its post by the register.

all hail, the General

Down a short flight of stairs, subterranean That Sandwich Place serves simple greasy-spoon breakfast and lunch fare. There’s not a ton of stuff to choose from, just a handful of sandwiches complemented by fries, cole slaw and deviled eggs, and a hi-calorie salad laden with ham, cheese and sunflower seeds. No joke, that’s what it’s called. They are not messing around with any diet food here. At least they’re upfront about it.

tenderloin platter at That Sandwich Place

Hubby and I split a Piggy Wiggy tenderloin platter. The thin crispy pork patty was obviously pre-formed, and reminded me of the kind of sandwich I grew up eating at the local drive-ins in Richmond. Good fries, too.

We ate with wide-eyed wonder, taking in the ambiance. Indiana, oh Indiana, we ARE all for you.

That Sandwich Place on Urbanspoon

Bon appetit, Brown County!

For more info:

http://www.browncounty.com/

http://www.browncounty.com/listing/hobnob-corner-restaurant

http://www.bigwoodsbeer.com/

(Can’t find a web site for That Sandwich Place. Guess you’ll just have to go there and see it for yourself.)