Round at both ends

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2009/09/03 14:18:25 (permalink)

Round at both ends

No, not from too much roadfood - I spent a few days last week in Lebanon, Ohio and while I was pretty busy I did have the opportunity to have a few meals and take a few photos.
On Wednesday afternoon I was traveling through Fisher, Illinois (population 1600 and change) on US-136 and passed the Village Garden restaurant.  Fortunately its parking lot has 2 access points so I was able to hit the brakes and pull in without having to make a u-turn.

Too bad the parking lot had that second entrance...the BPT I ordered turned out to be disappointing.  The pork was heavily processed and the breading was too crisp for me; it was almost crackerlike.  I was hungry when I started but as I began to get full it began to lose its appeal, and that's never a good thing.

To be fair, perhaps there are other menu items that are more popular and the cup of vegetable beef soup I had was thick and full of barley.
After reading Nocarolina's report about his visit to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana I decided that I'd stay there Wednesday night instead of in a motel like I usually do.  My mom grew up mostly in Indianapolis and she remembers visiting the park when she was young and sitting in the rocking chairs over the Inn's entrance.

There's a nice restaurant in the Inn and its menu advertises "the best pork tenderloin in Parke County" so after my lunch letdown I decided to see if it was true, although I wasn't going to have much of an opportunity to try all the others.  Fortunately it was much better than the one from earlier in the day; the breading was lighter and the pork was in fact a piece of meat still in mostly original condition other than being knocked around a little.  I did bring my camera to the table but overheard the couple at the next table tell the server that it was their anniversary, so I chose to skip the photos.  I did take one of the genuine 1950s-era bathroom in my "cabin room" but you don't want to see that...but it did remind me of the one in my great-grandmother's house years ago!
I hiked 1 short trail after dinner and 2 longer ones in the morning, and then it was time to hit the road.  US-231 south took me to Greencastle where I spotted this outside the Monon Restaurant.  I was all set to pop in for breakfast but as I got to the door I could hear the radio and learned that in this place they have both kinds of music: country and western!  Time to keep moving and eat somewhere else.

From Greencastle I took IN-46 east and found the drive to be quite scenic and enjoyable, and got sidetracked here for a little bit.  As I hadn't eaten any breakfast I had to pass on the free tasting.

It's always good to return home bearing gifts!  The winery is east of Nashville and west of Gnaw Bone and yes, the Food and Fuel is still closed.
Eventually I rolled into the little burg of Hartsville, which doesn't even merit an entry in the Rand-McNally index.  Small or not, it does have a little bakery and when I saw that it serves lunch I turned around and stopped.  The owner does the baking (she was working on a couple of wedding cakes when I was there) and her mother does the cooking.

The extensive menu had 3 items that day: chicken salad, turkey salad, and beef stew with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.  OK, I guess that could be considered 4.  As I'm not a fan of <fill in the blank> salad I went for the stew.

I was hoping that the stew would be good and it didn't let me down.  The broth wasn't overly thick like some stews (in a way it was more like thick soup) and it was very fresh; the carrots tasted like carrots, the corn tasted like corn, and the potatoes were nice and firm.  The sandwich was made with white American cheese and it was pretty good, and had a different flavor due to the addition of Miracle Whip.  But the stew won hands down.

It looks like I might've taken a bite out of the sandwich but I distinctly remember cutting it with a knife.  The bread was rather soft and the blade just sort of smooshed its way through.
Across the street from the bakery is the town park, which at one time was the setting for an institution of higher learning.  It was a nice place to spend 10 minutes or so just relaxing and letting my lunch settle.

There's a wing chain called Rooster's in central and southern Ohio, and that's where we went for dinner Thursday night.  Nothing spectacular but the wings were decent (better than Hooters) and cold beer was available by the 22 oz. glass.  I don't know as I'd go there on my own but for the 6 of us it worked out OK.
Friday morning we had to make a decision about breakfast and after a few chains had been bandied about (Lebanon has no shortage of chains) I did the right thing and reached for the phone book.  We narrowed our choices down to Al's Diner in South Lebanon or Breakfast Club in Lebanon, and since John (our host) doesn't think much of South Lebanon the winner was Breakfast Club.

John told us that Breakfast Club has good food and is very popular, especially on weekends.  Happily he was spot-on with his assessment and we received both good grub and good service and since it was a weekday we were seated right away.  I chose the potato pancake breakfast, which comes with 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, meat (smoked sausage for me), and toast.  The pancakes were light, creamy inside, crisp outside, and not the least bit greasy.  Hash browns, you have some serious competition here!

John chose the portobello mushroom omelet.

And our Canadian friend Ed chose pancakes with a side of bacon...but it was traditional, not Canadian.  Trust me, he started with a lot more than what're shown here.

Phil ordered a Belgian waffle but as he was kittycorner from me at the table I wound up not getting a photo.  I'm not a big fan of them, anyway.  John was the only one who didn't clean his plate and it was no coincidence that he was also the only one that didn't get a "Good job!" from our server.
I've been visiting here every August since 1999 but had never really looked at Lebanon, so after that filling breakfast it was a good idea to go for a walk.  As an added bonus the temperatures were abnormally low this weekend for southern Ohio.
The architecture makes it obvious that Ohio was settled long before Wisconsin!

Here's The Golden Lamb, Ohio's oldest continually operating inn (since 1803).  We didn't eat here but self-guided tours of the rooms are permitted so we checked them out.  I hadn't brought a flash with me so no photos.

Remember when banks were built almost as if they were monuments?  I can just picture Uncle Billy standing at a table, frantically searching for his missing $8000.

Lebanon has its fair share of antiques stores and ice cream shops, too.  Have a seat at the old depot while you're enjoying your mocha-mint cone, won't you?

No eating out on Saturday except for my mandatory visit to White Castle, where I tried a bacon cheeseburger for the first time.  I'll stick with the original burger and original cheeseburger, thank you.
Sunday is going-home day, when I cover all 480 or so miles in 1 day.  I had stopped for gas and a cold Casey's sandwich near the Illinois/Indiana line and wasn't really thinking about food as I headed north on I-39, but as I neared Oglesby I saw that the blue "Food This Exit" sign had a listing for a place called The Rootbeer Stand.  It's not near the interstate like the chain places are but it didn't take more than 3 or 4 minutes to find it.  Hmmm...I wonder what it used to be?

Another clue.

Yay, car service!  Nocarolina, if you look at the lower right corner of the menu there's something for you.

Root beer and food served the proper way, just like when I was a kid.

Since I was feeling a bit nostalgic and wasn't really interested in a BPT I went for a coney dog sans onions.  It doesn't look like it here but there was plenty of sauce on the Oscar Mayer-y dog and it had a good balance of sweet and spicy; not too much nor too little of either.  The fries were the frozen crinkle-cut variety but they were crisp, hot, and even came unsalted with a couple of little paper salt packets.  Again, the proper way.  And I even got a couple that had taken an extra bath in the fryer, which meant they were extra dark and crisp.

At this point I was less than 2 hours from home so no more stops were made.  My only regret is that I once again didn't try Cincinnati chil...guess that'll have to wait 'til next year!
post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/09/03 14:45:55

11 Replies Related Threads

    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 14:51:46 (permalink)
    Great report and photos Brad! We'll have to stop at the Rootbeer Stand next trip down i-39, Oglesby is a good half way point for us on our way to the inlaws in Peoria.
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 14:58:58 (permalink)
    Terrific photos, and that Rootbeer Stand place is adorable!
    mayor al
    Fire Safety Admin
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 15:29:21 (permalink)
    Nice Job Brad. I enjoyed following your report. We will be checking out the Root Beer Stand on our twice a year I-39 run to Wisconsin! Thanks for the notes.
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 16:14:59 (permalink)
    Good job!  I want a rootbeer stand like that here in LA!

    Once again, jealous!
    John A
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 17:12:46 (permalink)
    Nice job Brad. The root beer stand reminds me of the A&W's 50 years ago. BTW Mar, that was in Red Bluf, CA.
    post edited by John A - 2009/09/03 17:13:49
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 17:30:41 (permalink)
    Hi Brad -

    Another great trip!  Looks like fun and good food!  Thanks for posting and sharing!
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 18:09:47 (permalink)
    Hey Brad, Very enjoyable trip report.

    When I saw all the vegetables in the stew, I was worried that you became a vegetarian
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 18:15:12 (permalink)
    Just looked up Red Bluff.


    Filet Mignon
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 19:04:36 (permalink)
    Good report.

    I'm not getting the clues. What did it used to be?

    Miracle Whip inside a grilled cheese... is that a regional thing? I've never come across that. Thankfully.
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/03 19:59:16 (permalink)
    Captain, I'm pretty sure it's an old A&W based on the colors and the oval sign, and the statue is "Papa" from A&W's burger family (Papa, Mama, Teen, and Baby IIRC).  I've heard of and tried the Miracle Whip trick with grilled cheese but I know my mom didn't make them that way when I was young, so I have no idea if it's regional or not.  But it's definitely different.

    Joe, the rest of the weekend I was very much the practicing carnivore!
    After rereading I think I might've shortchanged the Village Garden a little.  While the BPT was disappointing, the restaurant itself was great in terms of atmosphere: the guy 2 stools over at the counter was friendly and started a conversation, a table of locals was talking about the upcoming H.S. and college football seasons (this is right in the heart of Fighting Illini country), the waitress was friendly and efficient, and my order came up quickly.  I'd definitely give it another shot, just with a different menu item.
    post edited by Brad_Olson - 2009/09/04 08:10:09
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:Round at both ends 2009/09/04 09:59:19 (permalink)
    Excellent trip report, and great photos. Too bad about the BPT - I can actually see the little air pockets from the processed meat. I couldn't have even choked down a bit once I saw that.  But - nice that you had some real winners after!
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