The Restaurant Sampler
Brown County Inn and
What to eat for a special weekend meal? Dinner out with brother and family or with an attractive business colleague?
A sandwich just won’t do it. Atmosphere is wanted. And a place where the chef knows his way around the palate. It should be relaxed…but a little bit high-end.
Two local inns popped to mind as I confronted these dining-out quandaries last week: The Brown County Inn, located at the junction of new and old Nashville, and the Story Inn, down in Van Buren Township, on the other side of Brown County State Park.
I thought of my visit to Nashville’s Brown County Inn as a study of systems under stress, so I picked a Saturday evening in October, at the height of the leaf-peeking season, and I once again enlisted the services of my brother’s family, including the toddling two-year-old and, as a special added attraction for this visit, the terrific teenager.
We were quickly seated despite a crowded Harvest Room dining room and having no reservation. We received prompt service and good attention from the staff all evening.
The salad bar was serviceable, if not overwhelming—heavy on prepared salad dishes. The two-year-old sat on my lap and shared salad and a buttered roll, which seemed like a fair start, but was in fact the last time she would stay seated all evening.
The soup of the evening was vegetable in a beef-flavored stock, pronounced by the tempestuous teen as “Bomb-diggetty” which, she hastened to inform those of us creeping toward senility, “is a good thing.”
After a day of stalking the wild multi-colored leaves, I was ready for some hearty fare and accordingly ordered the half fried chicken dinner with garlic-seasoned mashed potatoes and gravy.
The bird was nicely done, freshly cooked, plump, juicy and fried to a perfect golden brown. Very good indeed. Sister-in-law had the shrimp, which were large and tasty. Brother opted for the perch, which was butterflied and sautéed, served with slivered almonds. It was tasty and moist, and a very large portion served. The teen ordered two appetizers and a dessert, and she allowed as how the eggrolls were good and the mozzarella sticks “as good as they can be,” which I take to be praise.
If you tend more toward the carnivore, however, don’t be misled by my family; there were several tempting steak offerings, including a stately porterhouse and a T-bone on special.
Dessert choices included a berry pie, fruit cobblers, a Heath pie and pecan pie. The fruit pie was the favorite, deemed “a symphony of flavors” and the peach cobbler with ice cream was very good.
It is worth mentioning that this excellent dining experience took place as about 300 other people were also accommodated in comfort and style, which is no mean feat for the staff, both the waitresses and, more to the point, the kitchen.
The staff at the Brown County Inn was more than up to the challenge and provided first rate food and service on what might have been their busiest night of the year.
This restaurant is definitely worth a visit when you’re looking for relaxed dining of a certain quality—not too fancy—not too plain.
Located in what remains of the small village of Story, Indiana, the Story Inn juxtaposes the historical and cultural aspects of Brown County with a relaxed gourmet restaurant, all inconveniently located down Indiana 135 South, miles from Nashville or anything else, for that matter (“We’re not by the highway, we’re not for everyone” admonishes the menu). I found it very much worth the drive.
Located in the old Story general store building, the Story Inn provides an atmosphere of old wood, antiques, art and curiosities. The setting projects an authenticity which carries over to the menu, combining the best European culinary traditions with traditional Southern Indiana cooking.
Overhead is the original stamped sheet tin ceiling from the 1850’s; below are the original hardwood floors. The diner is surrounded by artifacts of a bygone era: logging tools, a pot bellied stove, an old player piano.
We were seated at a small wooden table topped by crisp white linens, fresh flowers and a candle. Soft jazz played in the background.
I started with the homemade cream of spinach soup, which was excellent, and a small garden salad which purports to be made “…with herbs from the garden just outside the door.”
Also arriving at our table: a small, fresh baked bread loaf with made-in-house creamed basil butter.
Appetizers, ranging from $9 to $13, include Baked Brie En Croute, an imported ripened cheese surrounded by pastry, and drizzled with a hazelnut raspberry sauce, Smoked Salmon served with crackers and hummus, Baked Clams Casino, sautéed in butter with onions, peppers, pancetta, breadcrumbs, then baked in their own shell and Hot Artichoke Dip with cheeses, herbs and English crackers.
Entrée choices include imported rack of lamb from New Zealand; A 10-ounce beef filet tenderloin finished au poivre; linguini al frutti di mare—shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams over linguini pasta, garnished with wilted spinach and diced tomatoes; A veal chop with a balsamic glaze and crystallized ginger chips and a boneless breast of duck pan-seared and served in a pool of plum barbecue sauce There are also several meat-eater options, including a 14-ounce pork porterhouse with roasted garlic and rosemary and a 12-ounce Kentucky bourbon steak. On the other hand, there’s a Vegetarian Lasagna made with herbed ricotta, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses, and then covered with sauce Mornay and also a vegan entrée of the day. Entrée’s range from about $25 to $30.
I had the Chicken Scallopini with mushrooms; boneless sautéed breasts simmered in stock and wine with button mushrooms and scallions, finished with a touch of cream, and served on a bed of linguini pasta. It was rich, complex and delightful.
My dining partner opted for the Chef’s culinary creation of the evening, a poached Salmon with Hollandaise sauce. It was tender, juicy and tasty – and a huge, thick portion the size of your hand!
The Story Inn has an incredible wine list of over 50 varieties, including international, domestic and very local wines of many different types. The wine list has been carefully prepared to accent the appetizers, entrées and desserts.
“We believe all of the wines represented to be excellent, though obviously reasonable palates may differ,” the wine list states diplomatically. How does one resist the “Toad Hollow, Le Faux Frog Merlot “ at $18.00 a bottle?
And to top it off, the dessert menu offers an elegant assortment of cobblers, cakes, and tortes at about seven bucks. I chose the homemade turtle cheesecake, which was excellent.
The Story Inn offers fancy dining for sophisticated pallets—but attire is casual and the ambience is “country-friendly.” The restaurant seats up to 60 people indoors and has a screened porch forwarm weather dining for another 30.
Reservations are strongly recommended.