The Sampler

at Chapel Café

I can’t help but notice in my professional rounds that many new restaurants have hours for breakfast and lunch and have left the dinner trade to the larger eating establishments.

I pondered the trend as I paid my first visit to new breakfast and lunch eatery the Chapel Café for a good sit-down breakfast with my better half.
Located on the East side of North Van Buren Street at the Hidden Valley area in what was once a wedding chapel, the Café has the unique feature of exhibiting almost exclusively the works of one particular Brown County artist; the ubiquitous Harold Hancock.

I love to eat breakfast when somebody else cooks and serves it, but I am not what you would call a “morning person.” I do not leap from my bed at sunrise in eager anticipation of the new day. As I consider my next writing assignment I appreciate the opportunity to be served the first meal of the day at the recently-opened Chapel Café, wisely serving breakfast and lunch all day long.
And what a breakfast menu to choose from!

There’s the “Farmer’s Hash”—grilled hash browns with diced onions, green peppers, ham and bacon bits, topped off with tomato and cheddar cheese. For an extra two bucks, you can add two eggs and toast. That ought to be enough breakfast to stoke up even the most voracious farmer amongst us.

Then there’s “The Hardy Hunter”—two eggs, two meats, two slices of toast, one side dish, a half order of biscuits and gravy, and coffee. It’s enough to keep you on the trail of those ding-danged varmints until at least early afternoon.

The side dishes include French toast, fresh fruit, pancakes, oats, grits, fried potatoes fried mush, and a variety of side meats including steak, ham, sausage, bacon, and Goetta, the “Cincinnati Caviar.”

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of Goetta, a peasant food of German origin that is popular in the greater Cincinnati area. It is primarily composed of ground meat and oats and originated with settlers from the northwestern regions of Germany who migrated to the Cincinnati area in the 19th Century.

All of this breakfast bounty comes with a bottomless mug of the Chapel Café’s own special blend of locally roasted coffee, or perhaps tea, milk, or a variety of fruit juices.
I had my usual order of biscuits and gravy with a glass of milk and coffee—as good a reason to get out of bed as any. Mrs. Sampler enjoyed a three egg omelet with various vegetables and a side of sausage.

All was perfectly prepared and delightfully consumed.

This menu in force all day but there is plenty to choose from on the homemade lunch portion of the menu. There are soups, salads, sandwiches, and quiche, along with daily specials to tempt every appetite.

Sandwiches include ham, smoked turkey, roast beef, home made chicken salad, and a gourmet grilled cheese with portabella mushrooms, onion, tomato, and cheese available on a choice of breads including wheat, white, rye, and flour wrap.

Salads are sliced, diced, and prepared to order to insure freshness. Drinks include Iced tea, lemonade, and Blue Sky sodas. The Chapel also features real fruit smoothies.
After the repast, there’s plenty of enjoyment still to be had by checking out the fine collection of Harold Hancock paintings.

Hancock was a regionally and nationally well-known artist who painted portraits and murals all over the world, working for various corporations. He painted seaside scenes, foreign capitals, Indianapolis in winter, Saint Petersburg, Florida and an amazing variety of subjects in a long career during which he produced a truly astonishing amount of work.

He was also know for clown paintings of Indiana’s favorite son, Red Skelton, an excellent example of which is upstairs at the Chapel Café, painted on a “Wall Street Journal,” as was his wont.
Hancock was a serious artist, but also somewhat of a joker, He often painted for service clubs at their luncheon meetings. He would talk and joke while he painted and the picture was usually given to one of the attendees. Often he would ask the attendees to show him where he painted a rabbit. It was always behind the tree and not seen.

He was well known for his Four-Seasons paintings. Prints of these were at one time sold in every Holiday Inn in Indiana. A “Four Seasons” mural hangs in the Abe Martin Lodge at the Brown County State Park and his works are sprinkled all about Brown County in public and private settings.

Good food and good art—well worth a trip up to the north side of town.