The Willard, Franklin, Indiana

willard-front

The Williard is one of those regionally famous places I’d never had a chance to try.

Located in an old hotel in historic Franklin, Indiana, it’s one of those places that fairly screams history.  Beautiful old woodwork, tile floors, a wonderful wooden staircase (that kind of leads to nowhere), it’s worth a visit just to wander around.  Yes, it’s a bit run down and worn around the edges, but that’s part of its charm.

It appears to be famous for 3 things…pizza, tenderloins, and wings.  They were one of the contestants at the Tenderloin Throwdown in Greensburg, Indiana earlier this year, so I’d had a chance to sample their tenderloin, but not to enjoy the whole experience.

We arrived at about 5PM on Saturday evening, and since it was such a lovely evening, we chose to sit outside.  If the weather is nice, it’s a great place to sit, dine, and watch the world go by.

The menu features pizza and wings above all else, it seems, but there is quite a few other choices on the menu.  Of course, I was there to try the breaded tenderloin.

willard-loin

This is really one fine tenderloin.  The meat is fresh, moist, and tender, and the flavor is spot on. It’s certainly one of the best I’ve had in a while.

The breading is also VERY tasty.  It’s quite tasty, and REALLY crisp.  The breading has a nice peppery taste to it.  I’m a fan of that peppery taste, so it rates very high on my list, but I realize that’s a matter of personal preference, so be aware if you are not a fan of pepper, this might not be one of your favorites,  It was, however, one of mine.  It gave a nice kick to the sandwich.

The sandwich was served dressed as I requested, with nice attention to detail.  In my book, this is certainly a 5 bite tenderloin. I would not hesitate to order it again.

For my side, I chose fries.  They were good, but fell short of outstanding.

For her dinner, Holly chose the sweet chili wings and a dinner salad.  For wings with “chili” in the name, they were quite mild – in fact, the flavor was rather bland.  Holly reports the wings themselves were meaty and tender, but that she would try a different sauce next time – one with more flavor.

In reading other reviews of The Williard, it appears they have some ongoing service issues, and our visit was no different.  It took over an hour to get our food, and we saw other parties who came in after us order, get their meal, and be finished before we got ours.  The food was outstanding and makes me want to return, but the service?  Not so much.
The Williard is located at 99 N Main Street in Franklin.  It appears their webpage is inactive, but they do have a Facebook page.

Squealer’s BBQ, Indianapolis (Castleton)

Friday night found us in Castleton, looking for a place to have dinner after we had ran some errands.  We knew that Squealers had opened a location there, and decided to give it a try.

castleton

I’d heard good things about their tenderloin.  We’d dined at the location near 86th and Zionsville Road before, but I’d never had their tenderloin.  We thought this would be a good chance to kill two birds with one stone…try the new location, and try the tenderloin.

The menu says “Voted Indy’s Best” and it took a little searching, but in 2013 Squealer’s won first place in the “Indy’s A List” breaded tenderloin category.

Let me say that I’m a little suspect of these “contests”.  There are a couple of places in town that are perennial winners that aren’t a tenderloin at all, but a pork fritter, so I always take such claims with a grain of salt.

Squealer's Loin

Turns out, this one was well deserved.  Although this tenderloin is a little thinner than I prefer, the flavor is remarkable.  The meat is tender and moist, and I really liked the breading.  It’s nice and crispy, and doesn’t get soggy during the life of the sandwich.  There’s just the slightest hint of some seasoning in the sandwich, but, honestly, this sandwich is so good on its own that it really doesn’t need any seasoning.  The bun was nicely toasted, and it was served dressed as requested.

Is this the best tenderloin in Indy?  I won’t go that far…but I WILL give it my 5 out of 5 bites rating.  There are some stellar tenderloins in Indy and I’d be hard pressed to pick an absolute favorite.  I’ll just say that this one belongs in the Indy hall of fame with the other 5 star rated tenderloins.

Of course, Squealer’s is a BBQ place.  For her dinner, Holly chose the pulled pork sandwich with a side of cole slaw, and it was incredibly good as well.  The sandwich was served as requested, with the sauce on the side (and our waitress offered the option, which was a very nice touch.)

We don’t always get dessert, but we decided to splurge this trip.  We opted for the peach cobbler, and it was outstanding.  We highly recommend it.

You can find Squealer’s online at www.squealersbarbeque.com  and they also are on Twitter and Facebook.

Pearl Street Pub, Oldenburg Indiana

PearlSIgnPearl Street Pub is the 3rd of 3 pubs/restaurants in Oldenburg Indiana where I reviewed the tenderloin.

Oldenburg Indiana is a lovely German town, often called the Village of Spires. Ornate church steeples dominate the landscape, and it’s a very historic town. A few unique shops, 3 restaurants, and a great town for photography!

Oldenburg 1

I’ve never been to Bavaria, but I can’t imagine stepping into Pearl Street is much different. Lots of dark wood, people laughing, and just a fun atmosphere.

They have a number of items on their menu, and, of course, I was there to try the hand breaded tenderloin.

Here’s what I learned about tenderloins in Oldenburg. The Brau Haus tenderloin was VERY German influenced. You could really taste the spices, and it was very non­traditional for an Indiana tenderloin.

Wagner’s was very Indiana ­traditional. Just a hint of salt and pepper.

Pearl Street Pub’s falls right in the middle. There are enough German spices that you can taste them, but they aren’t overwhelming. You get the sense of German cooking without going full bore on it. For those who prefer a more traditional Indiana tenderloin with just a little adventure, this is the one for you, in my opinion.

Pearl Loin

The breading was nice and crunchy, and stayed crisp throughout the life of the sandwich.

The meat was good, but was just a tad dry. Not terribly dry, but enough so that I’ll give it a 4 star instead of a 5 star rating.

For her lunch, Holly had fried cod loin and cole slaw. She reported the cod to be tasty, but just a little on the dry side. The cole slaw had more of a vinegar influence than she was expecting, since it was a creamy slaw, and the chop size of the cabbage was a little finer than she prefers. But all in all, a fine lunch.

Here’s a tip. As an appetizer, we had the sweet potato fries with caramel sauce. Trust me, you need to try these.

The Pearl Street Pub is located at 3034 Pearl Street in Oldenburg, Indiana. I couldn’t located a website for them, but they do have a Facebook page.

Savage’s Ale House, Muncie, Indiana

Savages frontSavage’s Ale House is a fairly new pub/restaurant in downtown Muncie.  Downtown Muncie has seen a resurgence of bars and eateries lately, and it’s good to see some activity in my old hometown’s downtown.

It’s in an old building with a LOT of character.  Hardwood floors, pressed tin ceilings, and more.  When we entered, we noticed there are 3 dining areas, the main room with the bar, and two smaller rooms.

We arrived about 1130 and it was hopping.  The main dining room was filled, and we weren’t sure exactly where to set.  We waited, and waited, and waited.  There were two servers working, and I caught the eye of each of them, but they went about their business, and left us standing.  After a lengthy wait, one of them told us to sit anywhere we pleased.

Just a word to those of you who own or manage restaurants, and I know that more than a few read this blog.  If someone comes into your establishment, the first minute or two are pretty much make or break for a new customer.   Honestly, those minutes being ignored had quite the impact on my impression of Savage’s.

Once we were seated, the service was fine.  Prompt and friendly, I wouldn’t call it outstanding but it was OK.

The menu consists of pretty standard bar fare…tenderloins, burgers, a wrap or two, a Reuben, etc.  I, of course, chose the breaded tenderloin.

Ale House Tenderloin

Looks good, doesn’t it!  The breading was a classic tempura batter – nice and crispy, and stayed that way through the life of the sandwich.  The meat was tender and juicy.

But there was one problem.  None of it had much flavor.  The texture was fine, even outstanding, but the flavor just wasn’t there.  It seemed devoid of any seasoning, and if I could describe this sandwich in one word, it would be “bland”.  I’m going to give it a 3 out of 5, just an average sandwich.

For our sides, we chose the side salads.  I was a little taken aback at how expensive the side salad was  (4.50) but it was quite a large salad, and a nice mix of greens, olives, and more.  The Blue Cheese dressing was tasty and plentiful.  High marks for their salad.

For her entree, Holly chose the veggie wrap – which consists of Chipotle black bean crumbles, guacamole, shredded cheddar jack cheese, lettuce, jalapeno, onion, and tomato in a grilled flour tortilla.  Holly reports that this is one of the best tasting wraps she’s ever had, and she would not hesitate to order it again!

As a side note, when we received our check, we noticed something very different than we have seen in the past.  The menu prices all include sales tax.  So when we received our final bill, it was the grand total amount due.  The only thing we had to figure out was how much to leave for a tip.

Savage’s Ale House is located at 127 N High Street in Muncie, Indiana.  I was unable to locate a website for them, but they do have a Facebook page.

The Brau Haus, Oldenburg, Indiana

Brau

The Brau Haus is an institution in Southeast Indiana (and beyond, actually), and folks come from far and wide to Oldenburg to dine here.

Speaking of Oldenburg, if you’ve not visited this town, grab your camera and head down I-74 and pay it a visit.  It’s a small town, but it’s a photographer’s paradise.

The Brau Haus is located on a side street in Oldenburg, with a modest sign out front.   If you’ve not been there before, you’ll likely have to seek it out, but there are only a few streets in Oldenburg so it won’t be a problem.

Like many restaurants I’ve visited recently, it’s quite a bit larger on the inside than it appears.  There are several rooms…there’s a German themed room, a local sports room, a bar, and a large family/banquet room.  Each room has its own decor and personality.

We were seated promptly, and greeted by our server, Pat.  Pat did a great job of explaining the menu and giving us some history of the restaurant.  We started with an appetizer of sauerkraut balls, and let me tell you, these are amazing.  I’m not quite sure what all was in them…and they keep the recipe a secret, but I highly recommend them.

If you know anything about dining in Southeast Indiana, you already know that fried chicken is king.  The Brau Haus is famous for their fried chicken (every restaurant in the area seems to make that claim), but I had my heart set on the hand breaded tenderloin.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Brau Loin

The meat is nice and moist, with a VERY good flavor.  Being a German restaurant…the breading is not quite traditional…you can definitely taste the pepper and the German influence in the spices.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but I must say, I was sold at the first bite.  It’s an absolutely incredible sandwich….5 out of 5, no doubt in my mind.  Please keep in mind, though, it’s not quite traditional.  For my side, I chose the potato pancakes, and, all I can say, is WOW!!  I could make a full meal out of those alone.

For her dinner, Holly chose the Rachel, which is a Reuben with turkey instead of corned beef.  Their turkey is smoked, which gives it a really good flavor.  And instead of the traditional Thousand Island dressing you’ll get on a Reuben, this Rachel has a chipotle dressing, and it complements the smoked turkey quite nicely!  She also had the potato pancakes as her side, and enjoyed them immensely!

The Brau Haus is located at 22170 Water Street in Oldenburg, Indiana.  You can find their website at http://www.oldenburgbrauhaus.com/

at 22170 Water Street in Oldenburg, Indiana.  You can find their website at http://www.oldenburgbrauhaus.com/

The Oasis Diner, Plainfield, Indiana

Oasis Diner

As an entertainer, I get to travel a fair amount.  When I’m looking for a unique dining experience, the main things I look for are a locally owned restaurant, great food, and if there is a sense of history, that’s an added bonus.

Our friends, the Kerns, invited us to join them for dinner at the Oasis diner, which sets right on the National Road (US40) in Plainfield, Indiana.  The Oasis Diner is a restored 1950’s diner, manufactured in New Jersey, I believe.  It used to set further East in Plainfield, but recently, it was relocated, restored, and reopened on the Western edge of Plainfield.

Replete with diner decor and fantastic neon lighting, the Oasis takes you back from the moment you step through the door.  It’s like stepping back to the days of Bobby Darin, Elvis, and pegged pants.

Although the menu is heavy on traditional diner fare (burgers, shakes, and such), there are a few surprises on the menu.  They seemed to have taken their menu above and beyond, and are a welcome addition to the Indianapolis area restaurant scene.

I already had my mind made up when we arrived…I was trying the hand breaded tenderloin sandwich.

Oasis Tenderloin

Let me tell you, it was fantastic.  Light, crispy breading with just the right amount of seasoning.  The seasoning complimented the taste of the meat and breading without overwhelming it.  The meat itself was tender and moist, with a fantastic flavor.

I neglected to check to see what kind of bun it was on, but it wasn’t your ordinary hamburger bun…it was quite tasty, and yet another compliment to an already fantastic sandwich.  This sandwich is 5 stars, all the way…absolutely no question about it.

For my side, I chose fries, and they were good, but nothing special.  I’ll probably try the onion rings next time.

As an aside…they offer a breaded tenderloin with gravy on their breakfast menu, which is what David had.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had one with gravy, but that may be my next order there.

For her dinner, Holly chose the Sriracha Shrimp Wrap, which consists of a serving of Honey Sriracha fried shrimp, lettuce, onion, tomato, cilantro, and ranch, all rolled up in a large flour tortilla.  As her side, she chose the broccoli with cheese.  Holly reports the Honey Sriracha shrimp to be very tasty – there is just a hint of honey, but you can definitely tell it’s there.  She said she could not detect the cilantro at all, and the ranch dressing was just enough to tie it all together – not too little, not too much. The broccoli was cooked perfectly – al dente all the way!  She wasn’t a big fan of the cheese sauce.  It was okay, but she said she’d rather have had just a plain bowl of steamed broccoli.

This was an extremely positive experience.  The service was great, the food was outstanding, and I LOVE the atmosphere.  We will certainly be back, and soon!  And, take this tip…try the Butterscotch Root Beer, which is locally brewed.

The Oasis Diner is located at 405 W Main Street, in Plainfield, Indiana.  Their website is http://www.oasisdiner.com/  and you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a Bite Diner, Metamora, Indiana

havabite front

The Hav a Bite diner is your typical small town diner located on State Road 52 in Metamora, Indiana.
I had reviewed the Hav a Bite a few years ago, but it had since closed and sat vacant for a year or so, and recently re-opened under new ownership, so we thought we’d give they a try.

As is typical with most small town diners, there are a LOT of locals who the servers know by name.  It was evident when we entered that a lively conversation among the regulars was going on.  We were unsure whether to seat ourselves, or if we were to be seated.  I caught a server’s eye, and still didn’t have a clue, so we made our way to a table.

I know more than a few restaurant owners read my blog, so here’s a hint to you.  When someone comes into your restaurant, you only have a few brief moments to make a good impression.  That impression will likely stay with customers long after they leave your establishment, no matter the quality of the meal.

You probably are picking up that we didn’t feel especially welcome when we first entered the restaurant, and that is exactly the case.  After we seated ourselves and our server came to the table, the service was fine, but that first impression still lingered.

havabite loin

I ordered the breaded tenderloin, which is hand breaded.  Upon looking at it, I thought, “This looks like a fritter”, but I’m happy to report that it wasn’t.  It was a nice piece of meat with good flavor.

Unfortunately, the breading was quite bland, and probably detracted a bit from the taste of the meat, as opposed to adding to it.  Don’t get me wrong….it wasn’t a BAD sandwich…it just wasn’t an especially good one.  I’d call it average…3 out of 5 bites.

The sandwich was served as I requested, and for my side I chose onion rings, which were quite good.

For her dinner, Holly chose the pulled pork bbq sandwich.  Holly reports that this is her “go-to” entree when she goes to a restaurant and can’t make a decision about what to have from the menu.  This is a pretty good one…well-balanced meat and sauce, and not too sweet or vinegary.

I’m left with mixed emotions about the Hav a Bite.  I really DO want to support small, locally owned businesses, but I also realize I work hard for my money and expect a good experience when I spend it.  Nevertheless, I’ll likely give them another try, but I won’t likely order the tenderloin.

The Hav a Bite is located on State Road 52 in Metamora, Indiana.  I was unable to find a website or Facebook page for them.