Cafe Indiana, written by Joanne Raetz Stuttgen, covers mom-and-pop eateries throughout the Hoosier state and is divided into six sections: North, South, East, West, Central and South Central, as determined by tourism sources. With 181 cafes featured, Stuttgen was able to account for the small town (fewer than 10,000) diner and its significance to the town's personality.
The resident of Indiana since 1990 is also the author of Cafe Indiana Cookbook, co-authored by Indianapolis Star food editor Jolene Ketzenberger, for those who must try making the local goodies in their own kitchen. Stuttgen includes a list of "Next Best Bet" cafes which may have had something special on the menu, or notable decor, making it worth mentioning.
What resonates throughout the book is the author's appreciation, affection and respect for cafes in small town America. The history, the local culture and personal side of each is brought forth in a personable, feel-like-you-know-them style. And, you probably do. They are that pie cafe you stop at on your way for a scenic Sunday drive, the worth-driving-to tenderloin joint just past nowhere and the "do you remember the name of that little place, honey" eatery that you both enjoy so much because of the fun decor, great food and friendly people.
They come with all kinds of names, decor and menus, and yet they are all pretty much the same. A non-chain place with quirky decor, simple foods and hard-working owners who are willing to sit and chat. Not the glitzy type with the latest food trend, these places have the local school's banners on the wall, the owner's collection of Coca-cola items and the local regulars.
From R&S Cafe in Linden, where owner Sue makes her own tenderloins, noodles and pie dough, to Dinky Diner in Garrett where Steve serves up hand-dipped milkshakes and malts, to Harold’s in Poseyville, where Patti's pan-fried chicken brings locals, celebrities and tourists alike, the story is the same. Everyone is welcome.
Bottom Line: Cafe Indiana is an excellent guide to small town cafes and leaves the reader with a longing to hop in the car, with the book, to explore the Hoosier state's hidden treasure of mom-and-pop eateries.
Photo: Kay Westhues
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook.
Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.