The Sampler at
Trail’s End

The season has made me restless, turned me into a wanderer casting about for those out-of-the-way, sometimes little known and less understood beaneries and bistros which lie outside the confines of the Peaceful Valley.

I’m on a summer tour of eating establishments in the outlying portions and parts of Brown County. I gathered up my loved one and headed off down toward the southern end of the county, down into Van Buren Township,
somewhere between Stone Head and Story, to the aptly named “Trail’s End” restaurant and bar.

It isn’t really for the fussy—about half ranch-style cowboy bar and about half regular tourist restaurant by the side of the road. It is the kind of place where the signage reminds gentlemen to remove the horse dung from their footwear before entering.

That’s because the Trail’s End is a southern terminus of several woodland trails emanating from the world-renowned Brown County State Park and its wonderful horsemen’s camp facility and horse trail system.
Out back, on the forest side of the ample gravel parking lot, there are a series of hitching posts—places where you park your horse.

The front of Trail’s End has a couple of nice covered porches with tables for casual outdoor dining and scenic views. We arrived on a balmy afternoon and lounged around there while we waited on friends.

We split the soup of the day, a creamy and delectable cream of broccoli. I tried the old-fashioned wilted salad, with spinach, greens, and a dressing that looked like breakfast— little bits of bacon and egg and what have you.

Another group of folks for whom the Trail’s End is a welcome respite from the saddle is the numerous motorcycle enthusiasts who flock to the scenic beauty of Brown County at the first sign of fine weather.

It’s the kind of place where a pack of roaring motorcycles is not only tolerated, but sometimes openly cheered from the veranda.

Inside is “The Panhead Saloon”, a classic bar room complete with pool table, which adjoins the main dining area. Their logo is a drawing of a horse riding a motorcycle.

In the back, off the bar, is a big roofed-in porch area where we actually ate our dinner while we listened to a couple of Brown County’s finest musicians ply their trade.
The mainstay at Trail’s End is an impressive battery of sandwiches, listed up on the white board inside: burgers, Coney dogs, chicken salad, pulled pork BBQ, a good-looking grilled tenderloin, and several others. No fries—chips.

I am also given to understand that the TE draws a big breakfast crowd and is developing something of a cult following around its biscuits and gravy.

Trail’s End/Panhead Saloon is open Wednesday and Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is seven miles south of Nashville (go east from town on SR 46 and turn right on SR 135 S) and eight miles south by horse from the state park Horsemen’s camp.

Trail’s End has been offering a weekend evening dinner menu with a few choice entrees, including a grilled over charcoal rib-eye steak and fried chicken made according to grandma’s method: soaked in buttermilk overnight and seasoned and breaded.

Whose grandma wasn’t really clear to me, but the chicken was juicy and tender and tasty, arriving with some nice new potatoes and green beans plus a veg from the ample list of sides.

Mrs. Sampler had the burger, and it looked terrific, a big beefy Black Angus patty with melted cheese and all the accessories, substantial enough for anyone who has been riding a long way and has a long way yet to ride.

The motto on their T-Shirt is: “Ride with the wind to Trail’s End,” and the afternoon’s balmy breeze turned into a stiff wind as the sun faded, and it started to get a might coolish. On the lawn adjoining the pavilion, they lit a nice hardwood bonfire by a ring of Adirondack chairs and picnic tables. We adjourned to the campfire while the band played on.

I insisted—purely for professional reasons, you understand—on sampling the raspberry swirl cheesecake drizzled with dark chocolate.

I do it all for you, dear reader, so you will be better informed about your dining opportunities. But it is I, it must be confessed, who, in the end, is profoundly satisfied.