We all know (and love!) St. Elmo’s, The Rathskeller, and Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis, Little Sheba’s in Richmond, and Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington… but we went looking for some
other amazing restaurants that offer the unique experience of grabbing a bite to eat in a spot that has survived a century (or more!) of Indiana life. These 9 restaurants were selected for both their food and their histories.
1. River City Winery (New Albany)
“Preserving our past, fermenting our future”…we like River City Winery’s attitude! Their award-winning wines live up to the glory of their historical home. The Baer’s Bazaar Building was built in 1900 as a dry goods store before becoming the W.T. Grant & Co. department store in the early 1930’s. It took nearly two years for River City Winery to renovate the space by removing all of the non-original additions to the neoclassical architecture and restoring the old-school tin ceiling and hardwood floors. Today they serve some excellent wood-fired pizzas alongside their wines, which you can see fermenting in tanks in the cellar space.
2. The Story Inn (Story)
The Story Inn is (literally) the entire town of Story. Constructed in 1851 by Dr. George Story as a logging community, the area was dealt a near-fatal blow during the Great Depression, but was revived in the 1980’s to preserve the history of the 19th century midwestern village. Today, the buildings that once housed various businesses in Story have been transformed into bed & breakfast style cottages. Despite its age, the restaurant at Story Inn shows off impressive culinary skill in their modern preparation of traditional Hoosier favorites, using locally grown produce and regionally sourced meats. The Story Inn, as a whole, makes for a perfect relaxing getaway that combines respect for the area’s “story” and the comforts of modern life.
3. Heorot Pub and Draught House (Muncie)
This excellent Nordic pub takes its name from literary legend Beowulf, but their nod to classic style doesn’t stop at the décor. Their home was once Bliss & Fudge Outfitters, built in the 1890’s, but also served as a candy shop, produce seller, and shoe shop, before returning to clothing sales and closing entirely in 1975. The vacant space was sold for only $3,470 in 1984 to an English professor from Ball State University (hence the nod to the epic hero!) who saw the opportunity to build the perfect place for students and locals alike to grab a pint. In 1988, it was listed in the National Register. Heorot serves up nearly 400 different brews, including 67 on tap.
4. Firehouse BBQ and Blues (Richmond)
This building is so old that it has a pre-1900s renovation! Originally built in 1860 as—you guessed it—the Richmond Fire Department, this Historic Depot District building had the beautiful stone faces added in 1889. It served as the city’s fire station until the 1930s, but was revived in 2009 by local firefighters who wanted to honor its history. It took Tom Broyles and Rick Bolen two years to restore the then-vacant firehouse, and they made a point of remaining true to its roots... right down to the fireman’s pole! And what better type of restaurant to fill a firehouse than a smoky BBQ!? You will find some of the best ribs around, as well as all of your favorite comfort foods, alongside Blues-y live tunes from their excellent stage venue.
5. The Log Inn (Haubstadt)
The Log Inn is an obvious choice for this list…it is officially recognized as the oldest restaurant in Indiana. Built in 1825 by Henry Haub, this family-style restaurant has seen plenty of action over the last 191 years. As one of the original stagecoach stops and trading posts, it’s biggest claim to fame is that Abraham Lincoln visited in 1844 while campaigning in support of Henry Clay. It also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad! The historic Inn was converted into a restaurant in 1947 and has been passed down through three generations to the current owners, Rita and Gene Elphers. Aside its historical significance, The Log Inn is also famous for their fried chicken, which has won many awards over the years and was featured on the Food Network’s “Best of Viewer’s Choice” Special. If you are looking for comfort food in Southern Indiana, The Log Inn is a must-see (and taste)!
6. Perillo’s Pizzeria (North Salem)
Damiano Perillo brought some excellent family recipes with him from his native Italy and packs some BIG flavors into this tiny town Pizzeria! Perillo’s lives in a building that dates back to the 1890s, when Dr. Oscar H. Wiseheart opened up private practice in North Salem. The doctor stayed in this space for 60 years, then passed the business along to his son. In 2011, the Perillo brothers bought the brick building and transformed the space into a pie shop that draws hungry visitors from across the state… which is good news, because North Salem is home to only 530 people!
7. The Vine (Elkhart)
The menu may be elegant and modern, but The Vine offers more than just an excellent wine list—this Elkhart restaurant lives inside one of the oldest buildings in town! The beautiful red sandstone and copper-topped tower (now bright green from oxidation) was erected in 1892 for the McDonald & Co. Securities financial institution. In 1997, the US Department of the Interior added Elkhart’s Downtown Commercial District to the National Register of Historic Places. With the approval of the Indiana Landmarks group, owner Dan Boecher restored the Securities Building to its former grandeur and opened up The Vine. They serve up some excellent appetizer dips to kick off your meal and—don’t let the name fool you—the “Garbage Salad” is a real treat. With a wide range of entrees and a beautiful patio space, The Vine makes for a great place to celebrate both a delicious dinner AND more than a century of local history.
8. Zaharako's Ice Cream Parlor (Columbus)
Now here’s one business that has been around as long its building has; Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor has been scooping up homemade ice cream since 1908! Zaharakos is a can't-miss stop if you are in the Columbus area.
9. Zydeco’s (Mooresville)
New Orleans has a rich history, but Louisiana natives Carter and Deb Hutchinson found an Indiana-original hideaway when they set up shop in a former dentist’s office that dates back to 1879. (Our mouths prefer the Cajun cuisine over the dentist tools!) This beautiful Mooresville building became a pharmacy-- Brown’s Rexall Drug—which occupied the space until the 1960’s. Today, Zydeco’s serves up tasty New Orleans classics alongside great live music, and the restaurant has become so successful that the owners even bought the building next door so that hungry guests can enjoy a delicious drink while waiting for a table!
The Hoosier State is full of wonderful hidden gems like these–far too many to fit in a single list! Do you have a favorite spot that serves up food with a side dish of history? Tell us about it in the comments section below!