Due to personal circumstances, I haven’t posted here for almost a week. I left my job of 26 years in early September after accepting an optional buy-out offer. That left me with lots of time to write blog posts, not to mention the uptick in my cheesesteak intake. But I’m too young to retire and have been busy trying to arrange new employment in recent days. Whenever I do rejoin the workforce, I’ll have to cut back to one or two posts per week on a more permanent basis.
Anyway, to get back into the swing of things, I’ve decided to report on several of the early Midwest – and Kentucky – trips I took with my wife over the next few days. We traveled to the region three times between 2010 and 2013. There was one prior trip – in 2006 – that we took so I could meet some of my wife’s relatives and close friends after we had gotten engaged. But I don’t have the photos to document that vacation.
We were invited to the wedding of one of my wife’s many cousins in 2010. It was in Cincinnati and we decided to take advantage of being in that part of the country to visit Kentucky and then our friends in Bloomington, Indiana.
I have no photographic record of meals on the way out to the Midwest, but I think it likely that we stopped at the Summit Diner.
After the long drive to Cincy, we checked into our hotel and headed right out to meet my wife’s family for dinner at a longtime Cincinnati institution; the boathouse location of the Montgomery Inn, a favorite of my father-in-law. They are known for their ribs and house barbecue sauce, which he always keeps in stock at his home.
I’ve noticed that some of the people from my online roadfood circle have frowned upon this place over the years as a tourist trap. But I enjoyed my ribs and fried shrimp combo and swooned over the appearance of my brother-in-law’s smoked brisket platter.
The following day – a Saturday – was taken up with wedding-related activities. On Sunday, we attended a Reds game, where I had a couple Skyline Chili Coney dogs. After the game, my wife and I hit the road for Louisville.
Our breakfast in Louisville the following morning was at a restaurant that was well-known among that same roadfood crowd; Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. Their claims to fame were a funky atmosphere and an atypical menu. At some point after our visit, the restaurant’s owner was involved in a controversy over how the wait staff was paid and was forced to closed for good.
While I’ve got photos of both of our breakfast plates, I can’t identify what my wife had. I ordered a ham, cheddar and tomato scramble with a large side of cheddar grits and a big biscuit. This was during a period when I eagerly sought out country ham. I was disappointed that it wasn’t available at Lynn’s, but was happy with what I had.
I would have loved to visit the Muhammad Ali Museum while in Louisville, but the only day we had for tourist activities was a Monday, and the museum wasn’t open. As an alternative, we toured the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, which has a 120-foot-tall bat out front.
I’m not sure why I didn’t take more photos during the tour. Perhaps they were prohibited. But I did manage to pose next to where the then current MLB standings were posted. They featured my favorite team on top of the NL East, which was usually the case back in those days.
After finishing with the museum tour, we drove west from Louisville to Owensboro, the fourth most populous city in Kentucky and the home of Moonlite Bar-B-Q; our reason for going there.
The portion of northwest Kentucky that includes Owensboro and Henderson is known for a unique style of barbecue that features smoked mutton. Moonlite serves it as part of their eye-popping buffet, which includes a number of other types of smoked meat, numerous sides, country-ham biscuits and an array of desserts.
We both made two trips to the buffet to sample as many meats and sides as possible. Actually, the meats were of primary importance to me; my wife was more concerned with the vegetables. There was also a visit to the dessert table.
Among the items I sampled were two styles of mutton, brisket, ribs, chopped pork, country ham – with and without biscuit – creamed corn, mac-and-cheese, cheddar-and-broccoli casserole and porky green beans. There were also several desserts. Needless to say, I wasn’t hungry when we left.
While dining at Moonlite Bar-B-Q was an extremely enjoyable experience, I felt that the quality of a few of the items may have been a bit better if they weren’t sitting out for an extended period as part of a buffet.
I also picked up a can of chopped mutton in the store attached to the restaurant on our way out for one of my work colleagues who hailed from that part of Kentucky.
We headed north into Indiana the following morning.
I’m a sucker for kitschy roadside giants and couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this dinosaur we spotted along the way.
Our first destination in Indiana was the sight of Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, in what is now Lincoln City, Indiana. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but moved with his family to southern Indiana when he was a child. As one would expect, based on the man’s legend, they lived in a fairly crude log cabin. While the actual cabin no longer exists, the spot where it stood is outlined for visitors to see. There is also an approximate replica nearby. Abe and his sister slept in a baron attic, while his father and step-mother had the cabin’s only bed. There was a man dressed in period clothing who sat inside the cabin and answered visitors’ questions.
From Lincoln City, we drove north to Bloomington, where my wife went to college at Indiana University, and where some of her closest friends still live. Dinner that first night was at a chain that we don’t have in the Philly region; Steak ‘n Shake. I wouldn’t quite put them up there with my favorite burger chains – Freddy’s, Culver’s and Shake Shack – but I enjoy their food and fifties-style decor nonetheless. My wife, her friend and I all enjoyed our shakes. I had mine alongside a tasty, smashed double cheeseburger.
We took a little side-trip to Brownstown in southern Indiana the following day to check out Brock’s Restaurant, a classic small-town cafe that has since gone out of business.
Their special that day was fried chicken with two sides. We all ordered it. I had mine with mashed potatoes and corn. My wife went with green beans in place of corn.
Brock’s also had pie, which regular readers of this blog know I was not about to pass up. I opted for meringue-topped coconut-cream pie, while my wife and her friend split a slice of rhubarb.
After lunch, we checked out this tank, which sits right in the heart of downtown Brownstown.
The final meal from this trip of which I have a photographic record was my second visit to the restaurant I ranked number one when I posted my 10 favorite roadfood stops over the years. Gray Bros. Cafeteria of Mooresville, Indiana, is known to have long lines that reach out their door, but we always manage to beat the lunch rush and pick our food without any significant delay.
I had fried chicken the first time we visited Gray Bros. and wanted to try something different, especially after having chicken at Brock’s the previous day. I opted for freshly carved roast beef with wonderfully porky green beans, fantastic mac-and-cheese, a delightfully airy yeast roll and meringue-topped banana-cream pie. My wife had homemade noodles with chicken and an assortment of sides. This is food that sticks to your ribs; and your hips.
I again have no record of what we ate as we drove home from Bloomington, but I did manage to snap a photo of another roadside dinosaur!
Next up: Our 2012 vacation.