Breakfast of champions

Lifelong Richmond resident and Pearl Harbor survivor Paul Brittenham passed away last October at the ripe old age of 94, but his legacy lives on at the popular northside diner he founded back in 1948.

Paulee Restaurant in Richmond’s historic Depot District


Brittenham opened Paulee Restaurant several years after returning home from his military service tour. A businessman first and foremost, he knew his profits depended on frequent turnover. With just 10 seats to work with, the crusty Brittenham discouraged dawdling, often telling customers to “eat and get out!” His loyal patrons didn’t mind, and the good food and fair prices kept them coming back. The restaurant still draws crowds of devoted regulars, some who’ve been known to come in for breakfast and return a few hours later for lunch.

An on-site fixture for decades, Brittenham retired just a few years ago at age 89, passing the torch to Jenny Orbik, a loyal employee who had worked for him for 20 years and didn’t want to see the restaurant close.

my dear old dad, fitting right in at Paulee’s


Not much has changed at Paulee through the years, except perhaps for the addition of some nifty murals on the exteriors of the neighborhood buildings. There are still just 10 seats in the whole place and the joint still serves the same straight-up-good, no-nonsense food in a nostalgic diner atmosphere, much as it did when it opened decades ago.

a basic breakfast at Paulee’s

If you’re in the mood for a hearty basic breakfast, this is the place to go. Eggs come any way you want alongside toast and meat choices that include bacon, fresh or smoked sausage, ham, chopped steak, pork chop and even tenderloin.

B&G at Paulee’s


Biscuits and gravy fans take note – the recipe at Paulee is top-notch, and available in one, two and three biscuit portions. The three-egg omelets are another popular breakfast choice, and if you need a sweet fix, Paulee carries donuts and Danishes from local bakeries.

For lunch, Paulee offers a lineup of classic burgers, sandwiches and soups, along with an old-fashioned daily special along the lines of cabbage rolls, tuna casserole or green beans stewed with sausage and potatoes.

Today, Paulee Restaurant finds itself ideally sited amid prime real estate in Richmond’s emerging Historic Depot District. Neighborhood improvements, the renovation of the depot itself, and the addition of new businesses are attracting a whole new generation of clientele to the area, many discovering Paulee for the first time.

Paulee’s menu board


Open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, Paulee’s prices are more than reasonable for the amount and quality of food you get. Just don’t forget to hit the ATM first, this cash-only diner doesn’t accept credit cards.

420 N. 8th St.
Richmond, Ind.
(765) 962-5621

Burn baby burn

When I was in high school and college, it was a summertime Richmond tradition to cruise by the fire station on South A Street and wave to the cute firemen who hung out on the bench by the street.

I’m happy to report there’s a new place in town to ogle cute firemen, and eat some darn good food at the same time. Local firefighters Rick Bolen and Tom Broyles teamed up to open Firehouse BBQ and Blues in the Historic Depot District last January, a labor of love two years in the making.

inside Firehouse BBQ and Blues

This hopping new restaurant/live music venue is located in what was Richmond’s first fire station back in the 1800s, and Rick and Tom have kept much of the building’s original architecture intact; the dining room sits where horses were once stabled to pull fire “trucks” in days of old. Make sure to take a gander at the incredibly detailed murals while you’re here; the one on the exterior side of the building is so lifelike, you might actually think it’s on fire at first glance.

exterior murals

By the way, Rick and Tom recently made an appearance on Indy Style, where they prepared mouthwatering brisket and pulled pork that definitely whetted my appetite prior to my visit. These guys will crack. You. Up. (Watch them “smack the butt” around the 0:49 mark:

Let me get back to the food – this is some tasty, down-home-style ‘cue. Definitely the best in Richmond. My friends and I got off to a good start with the BBQ Nachos, a messy and delicious plate of tortilla chips loaded up with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, baked beans (!), cheese, onions and jalapenos. You could make a meal of this dish on its own.

barbecued nachos

Dinners come with two sides and a jalapeno corn muffin and meat choices include all of barbecue’s greatest hits: Pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, baby back ribs, and a somewhat intimidating concoction called “The Smokin’ Hog.” Take a smoked sausage, slice it and put it on a bun, pile on some pulled pork, cheese, onions and barbecue sauce. There you go. Diners with smaller appetites will be happy to hear you can get the “lunch special” all day long, a sandwich with one side.

the Smokin’ Hog with mac and cheese

Everything we tasted was good. If you twisted my arm, I’d have to name the beef brisket as my fave, although the pulled pork was pretty rockin’, too.

beef brisket with baked beans and cheesy potatoes

From the sides (all served in adorable short Mason jars), the cheesy potatoes came out the winner in my book, reminding me my aunt’s comfort food-classic hash brown casserole recipe. The baked beans were delish as well.

pulled pork with baked beans and cole slaw

Sadly, I had to take off around the time the live music was just tuning up for the evening. This place offers a whole calendar full of acts from throughout the region to rock the house every weekend. Kids are welcome here throughout the week and until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, after that, the crowd is 21-and-older only.

If you like good barbecue in a really interesting atmosphere, get yourself down here pronto. I’m already looking forward to coming back again next time I’m in town. This place is hot. Dare I say, it’s on fire!

For more information:

Firehouse BBQ and Blues on Urbanspoon

Dinner… and all that jazz

Color me awed. Last night, I discovered that the Gennett Mansion, a majestic historic Main Street home in my hometown of Richmond, Ind. hosts a series of absolutely awesome gourmet farm-to-table dinners. I don’t technically live there anymore, but I get back often enough. Seriously, how could I have not known about this before now?!? This was without a doubt the best food I’ve ever eaten in Richmond, and right up there with some of the best food I’ve eaten lately, period.

Richmond’s historic Gennett Mansion


Here’s the skinny: the highly hospitable Donna and Bob Geddes currently own the Gennett Mansion and live on the third floor. This Colonial Revival mansion was originally built in 1897 as the home of Henry and Alice Gennett, who lived in the house with their family for nearly 40 years. Scratch the surface of Richmond history and you’ll uncover a whole slew of information about the Gennetts and their musical legacy — the family manufactured pianos and later paved the way for new recording technology of their era. Some of the most prominent jazz, blues, gospel and country artists of the early 20th century played and recorded right here in Richmond, including Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael and Gene Autry. The Gennett Mansion is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Indiana Landmark.


I must have driven past the Gennett Mansion on Main Street a million times over the years without ever thinking too much about it, to be honest. The building used to house offices; I can recall calling on someone there when I was an advertising account executive for the local newspaper back in the early 1990s. Since taking possession of the property in 2006, the Geddes have painstakingly been restoring it to renewed levels of grandeur. Their efforts have paid off handsomely, and Donna and Bob generously open the mansion for tours, weddings, live music concerts, private parties, corporate events and farm-to-table dinners like the one my dad and I had the pleasure of attending last night.

And what a dinner this was. The Geddes collaborate with the talented Chef Jen Ferrell (who in a small-world twist is married to the grandson of my former orthodontist) to create sumptuous menus for these meals featuring locally sourced organic products. Jen grew up in Brown County, earned a degree in environmental management from Indiana University before later easing her way into a cooking career as a personal chef and caterer. She moved to Richmond eight years ago when her husband took a job with Earlham College.

one of the Gennett Mansion dining rooms

We arrived at 6:30 p.m. and had a chance to settle in and snoop around the house before dinner began. Everything was gorgeous, from the fresh daisy centerpieces to the polished woodwork. The architecture and interior design alone is reason enough to come here. There’s a beautiful Starr piano standing in the main hall, a gleaming wood staircase and elegant furnishings throughout. Our dining room (one of several) was decked out with a cross-beamed ceiling, bowed windows and a fireplace large enough to stand in. It was fun to see how the rich and famous of Richmond must have lived back in the early 1900s.

There were nearly 20 guests for dinner last night, although Donna said they can accommodate up to 40. Donna and Bob did all the serving themselves, and I spied only Chef Jen in the kitchen. This was an ambitious undertaking for just three people to pull off, and they did so flawlessly.

braised bison with polenta and red pepper sauce

Our first course set the tone for what was to come with a triangular polenta cake and braised local bison from a farm up between Lynn and Winchester, all topped with a roasted red pepper paprika sauce. The bison was flavorful and tender, and the corn cake light, fluffy and steaming hot. Yum.

mixed greens with shaved radishes and white chocolate vinaigrette

Next up was a salad of greens from the chef’s very own garden — a mix of torn romaine lettuce, spinach and bok choy with a few shaved purple radish slices on top and a sprinkle of almonds. I’m not crazy about radishes, but these were light, peppery and tasty. The dressing was a white chocolate citrus vinaigrette, which has got to be one of the more unusual combinations I’ve ever tasted. It was really different and delicious; the white chocolate was not at all overpowering, just an interesting and subtle flavor note in the overall fresh mix of ingredients.

mint julep sorbet

To cleanse our palates after the salad, we each received a small glass dish of mint julep sorbet. We’ve been on a big bourbon kick in my house as of late, and this was right up my alley. Made with fresh mint and top-shelf Kentucky bourbon and garnished with a single pink rose petal, it was as tasty for the eyes as it was the mouth. I drank a couple of mint juleps during a tour of Churchill Downs earlier last month and they were cloyingly sweet, but as a little icy treat, the recipe worked perfectly. I even stirred a bit into my iced tea to give it a slight minty kick. Big, big fan of this.

beef croustade

The main course was the real showstopper – beef croustade with roasted asparagus. Here’s the breakdown: take a tender piece of local steak, top it with porter roasted onions and gorgonzola cheese, then wrap the whole thing in phyllo dough like a little beggar’s purse and bake. Oh. My. Goodness. I was so excited to eat this, I forgot all about taking pictures until after I’d already cut in and had to rearrange my plate to get the shot. It was soooooo delicious, like a beef Wellington with phyllo instead of puff pastry. I thought my dad’s eyes were going to roll back in his head, he was so happy when he took a bite of this. The asparagus on the side was perfectly tender. We also received a small basket of fragrant rosemary yeast rolls and a compound herb butter to spread on top.

coffee and all the trappings

Prior to bringing out the dessert, Donna served some wonderful coffee she’d brought back from a recent trip to Costa Rica (in addition to her Gennett responsibilities, she also works as an international flight attendant!), along with a cute trio of accoutrement to dude up our cups. What a whimsical idea to stir in raw sugar, chocolate chips and fresh whipped cream!

sour cherry pie with coconut ice cream

Dessert was a picture-perfect slice of lattice-top sour cherry pie (I overheard Chef Jen saying the cherries had come from Wesler’s Orchard) and a little scoop of housemade coconut ice cream sitting pretty beside it. Wow. I couldn’t imagine a better end to a better meal. Chef Jen made the rounds to each table during dessert, I’m sure collecting compliments all along the way. She certainly got quite a few from us. This meal blew my mind.

Last night’s dinner carried a per-person price tag of $38, which seemed extremely reasonable for the amount and quality of food we received. Be aware — there is no alcohol here, only water, coffee and iced tea, but diners are perfectly welcome to bring their own wine or beer.

These Farm to Table dinners happen once a month or so as scheduling allows; follow the Gennett Mansion Facebook page for updates. I, for one, am thrilled to know these events are taking place in my little old hometown, and plan to make a return trip as soon as new details are posted. If you’re up for a memorable fine dining experience in a beautiful historic setting, get your reservation in for one of these dinners post-haste.

For more info about the Gennett Mansion, visit

Sweet spot

If you live in east central Indiana, you’re probably already acquainted with the exquisite chocolates of Ghyslain Chocolatier, but if you haven’t yet made time to stop in for a meal at Ghyslain’s Richmond Bistro, you need to. Soon.

Ghyslain (pronounced JEEZ-lay, as best I can tell) Maurais is a renowned French-Canadian pastry chef who met and married a Hoosier gal named Susan; the couple relocated to her hometown of Union City, Ind., where they established Ghyslain Chocolatier in 1998. The company has since grown to include satellite shops and eateries in Richmond and Zionsville, and opened a fourth location in Louisville last spring.

Ghyslain Bistro in Richmond

I visited the Richmond bistro on Saturday night with two girlfriends as part of a “Just Us Girls” overnight trip to Wayne County. Located in the up-and-coming Historic Depot District, Ghyslain makes its home in an old rehabbed industrial building. The open, airy dining room looks almost chocolaty, all done up in an elegant shade of deep, rich brown with baby blue accents.

The confectionary cases are front and center as soon as you walk in the door, a smart move. You’re already whetting your appetite for dessert before you even order your meal, and trust me, there’s no way you want to miss dessert here.

The dinner menu changes seasonally and offers just a small handful of well-conceived and expertly executed starters. Four entrees cover all the bases with fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian options.

We began our meal with glasses of wine from a very respectable list of choices, a basket of fresh bread with whipped butter, and a shared charcuterie platter that may have been my favorite part of the meal. Between the three of us, we each managed to sample a bite or two of all the delectable items on the plate, and there were plenty to enjoy.

Ghyslain’s sharable charcuterie

Most of the bits and bobs on the charcuterie plate were self-explanatory, but we did ask our server to give us a quick rundown of the meats. Thinking back now, I can’t even remember exactly what was included, I just know that everything was delicious. The memory of a small disk of duck salami brings a smile to my face, not to mention a great proscuitto and a couple other cured delicacies. I’m curious whether the meats are made in house or sourced from somewhere else.

Cheesewise, we received a small hunk of cheddar, a little wedge of brie, a slice of goat cheese and a few crumbles of blue. The goat cheese was my favorite, especially when I smeared a little on a slice of bread and topped it off with a dollop of sweet-but-not-too-sweet fig jam. Blueberries, blackberries, gherkins and candied pecans rounded out the platter. Seriously, with a glass of wine and a dessert, this could easily be a meal in and of itself. For me, anyway.

Ghyslain’s take on salad

My friend Eileen ordered an interesting composed salad, sort of like a deconstructed Caesar, although it wasn’t a Caesar. The lightly dressed lettuce took center stage, arranged in a diagonal mound across the plate and topped with freshly made croutons. A few spears of asparagus filled out one corner, several slices of crispy bacon the other. Very attractive, although it could have used just a little bit more dressing.

I must also mention the adorable white ceramic salt cellars on each table, filled with three kinds of salt and a little informational card to explain the origins of each — black Hawaiian sea salt, fleur de sel and a pretty pink Himalayan salt. A cute and thoughtful detail, and I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the flavors of each salt.

To spread the love around, we each ordered a different protein for our entrees. The plate presentations were elegant, but fairly simple, complemented by nicely cooked carrots and roasted potatoes. (Our server said they’d run out of the asparagus that should have completed the plate, but offered to make up the difference to us in more of either the carrots or potatoes.)

the morel chicken

My choice was advertised as “morel chicken.” As it turned out, morel referred to the rich mushroom sauce spooned over the sliced breast as opposed to actual pieces of morel mushrooms that you could really sink your teeth into. That was a bit of a letdown, although the chicken was certainly juicy and the sauce tasted very good. I am the daughter and sister of a pair of serious local mushroom hunters, so when you promise me morels, I get excited about it. Mushroom season is in May, though, not in December, so I guess I should have known better than to expect fresh morels this time of year.

steak and shrimp entree

My friends seemed very happy with their respective selections of mahi mahi with rice and veggies, and a beautiful surf-and-turf dish of steak and shrimp. My friend Laura said it was one of the best steaks she’d had in a long time. Portion sizes are reasonable, but definitely not gigantic. We cleaned our plates.

After we’d finished our dinners, our server invited us to walk up and take a gander at the dessert counter. You simply order what you want on the spot, they hand it over and add it to your bill. We probably spent a good ten minutes just considering the choices before deciding on two to share. These desserts, like the signature chocolates in the next counter over, are GORGEOUS works of art. We asked the woman behind the counter what she’d recommend, and she proceeded to give us a detailed description of just about everything in the case. Some of these beauties are so labor-intensive, they require three days just to produce and assemble the various components. They are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

the key lime tart

We finally settled on a key lime tart, a sweet-tart creation that looked like an art deco building you’d find in South Beach, and a Charlemagne made of chocolate cake and mousse surrounded by small tiles of white and dark chocolate and topped with a mountain of chocolate shavings on top. It goes without saying that both were ridiculously good.

the Charlemagne

Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry; the pace at Ghyslain is leisurely. This is a genuine dining experience, not fast food. The dining room was pretty full and there was a party of 15 or so seated next to us, so service might have been slightly slower than normal. No matter, we weren’t in any hurry. We arrived for our reservation at 7 p.m., lingered and were the last customers to leave when they closed at 10 p.m.

With choices like pecan chicken salad croissants, Caprese salad, a Mediterranean platter, muffaletta and a croque monsieur panini, the lunch menu is more extensive, less expensive, and sounds more my speed than the dinner offerings. I’ll come back mid-day next time.

Ghyslain Bistro is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch, and only offers dinner on Friday and Saturday night, so plan your visit accordingly. Of course, you can also stop in and satisfy your sweet tooth with those insanely creative and delicious chocolates and desserts any old time.

For more information:

Ghyslain on Urbanspoon

Get outta town!

Girls just want to have fun, and a “Just Us Girls” packaged trip in Richmond, Ind. and Wayne County offered two of my best gal pals and me the perfect opportunity to do just that over the weekend.

In addition to the fabulous food, great shopping venues, and array of discount coupons and freebies we enjoyed as part of the package, the highlight of our trip was an overnight stay at the Historic Lantz House Inn, a beguiling bed and breakfast in Centerville.

the lovely Lantz House Inn

Daniel Lantz, a wagon maker, originally constructed the handsome brick Federal-style home along the Old National Road (now U.S. 40) in the early 1800s. The property takes in three separate buildings connected by a graceful arch, a distinctive architectural detail common to Centerville during that era.

These days, the Lantz House is owned and operated by Marcia Hoyt, a Richmond native who returned to the area in 1992 after a period of time living in Oregon. Marcia spent two years lovingly restoring the historic property before opening its doors to the public as an inn in 1994. Since then, Marcia’s dedicated efforts have garnered plenty of attention and media recognition, including an appearance on the cover of Midwest Living magazine in December 1996.

the cozy Lantz House Inn sitting room

From the moment we stepped through the door, we felt comfortable and comforted. A cozy fire burned in the sitting room, beckoning us to sit down and relax. It couldn’t have been more charming right off the bat, and neither could Marcia. After a little get-to-know-you chat, she showed us to our rooms. Throughout the home, the furnishings are an eclectic but tasteful mix of antique, traditional and contemporary items.

Upstairs are four spacious bedrooms (rates run from $103 to $136 per night plus tax), along with a common area where guests can kick back to read or watch TV. The sleeping spaces are outfitted in simple and elegant Shaker-style beds, and each includes its own en-suite bathroom.

We felt so at home here, we passed on the chance to stay out late drinking so we could come back to the inn and watch Saturday Night Live in our pajamas. Heaven for three busy moms like us!

fresh fruit first course

After a very restful night’s sleep in our peaceful surroundings (I’m embarrassed to say one of my friends actually had to knock on my door and wake me up at 10 a.m.), we feasted on the sumptuous breakfast Marcia prepared – fresh fruit with a tangy orange yogurt sauce, her signature soufflé-like lemon ricotta pancakes with sausage links, and all the coffee we could drink.

Marcia’s signature lemon ricotta pancakes

After our leisurely meal, we had to reluctantly admit it was time to pack up, check out, and get on with the rest of our Just Us Girls getaway, although we all agreed we could easily have spent the entire weekend just relaxing at the Lantz House and been perfectly happy about it.

This time of year, Centerville’s charming holiday decorations make for a lovely stroll up and down Main Street. In the spring and summer, the gardens alone are worth a visit to the Lantz House. Full of native bushes, trees and perennials, the verdant green space is home to hostas, wildflowers and a majestic century-old gingko tree — all provide a beautiful backdrop for weddings, events or just a quiet afternoon in the sun. I guess we’ll just have to plan to make a return trip…

For more information:

Brewing up a storm in Richmond

My latest guest post for the Visit Richmond blog went up this week! It’s all about Das Bier Big Dawg Brew Haus – a really cool microbrewing operation in conjunction with J&J Winery on the west side of town. Hubby and I can’t wait to revisit on our next trip to town:

Blazing the Chocolate Trail

Last week, I had the delicious pleasure of daytripping down the Chocolate Trail of Wayne County. CVB leisure marketing director (and fellow Richmond native) Nancy Sartain proved a great host for this undertaking. Really, who isn’t on the lookout for an excuse to justify eating more chocolate?

I grew up in Richmond, but the trail promotion is a relatively recent addition to the local tourism scene, and one I wasn’t familiar with until just a few months ago. While I have randomly visited a couple of the Chocolate Trail businesses on prior occasions, many of the stops were brand-new experiences for me.

Here’s how the Chocolate Trail works – you swing into the (very nicely organized) visitors center on the east side of town near the intersection of U.S. 40 and I-70. There, you pick up a list of participating Chocolate Trail businesses, a chocolate passport and discount coupons. Then you get your sweet tooth on and set off to hit the trail in any order you choose. Best of all, the promotion is totally free to take part in, no purchase necessary.

At each of the nearly dozen stops on the trail, all you have to do is present your passport to receive free samples and chocolate-related giveways. It’s like Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day all rolled into one!

The businesses that make up the trail are quite a diverse collection, and not strictly just chocolate shops and candy stores. Amid the stops, you’ll encounter J&J Winery, Warm Glow Candle Outlet, Maria Mitrone’s Italian Market, the SOS Craft Shop and a couple of antique dealers in Cambridge City.

On the chocolate side of things, you’ll find yourself stopping in the swanky Ghyslain Chocolatier, hometown favorite Olympian Candies, and Hagerstown’s answer to the best caramels ever, Abbott’s Candy Factory.

This is a lot of territory to cover in a single day, but you can do like I did and ask if it’s ok to take your samples with you. Even for a chocoholic like me, ingesting that much sugar in one day just isn’t a good idea. There are a few freebies you do have to enjoy on site, like the scoop of chocolate ice cream you’ll receive at Maria Mitrione’s and a glass of chocolate wine at J&J. Be aware and plan your visits accordingly.

When my personal chocolate trail trip was all said and done, I had amassed chocolate samples from Ghyslain, Olympian and Abbott’s; a little box of fudge from Pour House Antiques and Sweets; chocolate jelly beans and a single chocolate pearl from Building 125 antiques in Cambridge City; an oversized Grandma’s Brownie-scented votive from Warm Glow; and a chocolate brown potscrubber from SOS Craft Shop. (Did I mention, I got all this stuff for FREE???) You should have seen hubby’s and son’s eyes light up as I unwrapped all my loot to show off. I had to hide the chocolates and treats in the back of the fridge behind a bag of arugula to prevent them from scarfing it all down in one sitting.

A few edible impressions:

Ghyslain’s gorgeous handpainted chocolates

• Ghyslain Chocolatier’s products are beautiful and tasty works of art. Accordingly, they are also the priciest of the bunch. The hand-painted signature items come in adorable shapes like butterflies (my favorite), turtles, fans and horseshoes.

Olympian Candies on the Promenade

• The soft Greek-recipe cream fillings at Olympian Candies are ooey-gooey heaven, try the dark chocolate lemon cream for an interesting and delicious combination.

• The old-fashioned flavor of the Smith Dairy chocolate ice cream you’ll get at the Maria Mitrione’s soda fountain took me right back to my childhood with just one lick. (Can’t wait to come back here for lunch sometime at the Italian market deli.)

Pour House fudge varieties

• It’s nearly impossible to choose just one flavor of fudge to sample at the Pour House counter. Peanut butter, rocky road, amaretto swirl, maple nut, plain old chocolate – whatever you select, rest assured it will be fabulous.

Abbott’s chocolate counter

Abbott’s Candy Factory‘s buttery soft caramels can’t be beat, but their chocolates are darn good, too. The coconut cream I sampled held real bits of chewy coconut encased in dark chocolate. Mmm.

I made a few additional purchases throughout the day to take advantage of my Chocolate Bucks discounts, and was all too happy to do so. This is a great grouping of local businesses that deserve support, and the trail is a fun way to explore some of the best tastes Wayne County has to offer.

It’s fun to learn something new about a place you thought you already knew everything about.

For more information, go to: