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Top Foodie-Inspired Must-Sees in Indiana
Whether you’re in town for two days or two weeks, you’ll enjoy the wide choice of Indiana dining and spirits. Condé Nast Traveler named Indianapolis “the most underrated food city in the U.S.” Savor a plate of fresh seafood on an outside patio with stunning views of a lake, or chow down on a hearty Amish meal served in a countryside barn. No matter where you dine in Indiana, you won’t leave hungry.
Northern Indiana is famous for its farmhouse-style restaurants serving nourishing comfort foods. Enjoy homemade chicken noodle soup, slow-cooked roast beef, or meatloaf paired with mashed potatoes and gravy. Family-style dining and all-you-can-eat buffets are quite popular. If you’re near a lake, be sure to try pan-fried perch.
The Original Root Beer Stand in Culver has been serving visitors to Lake Maxinkuckee for over 55 years. Enjoy lakeside views and carhop service while you feast on a Chicago-style hot dog. Triple XXX Family Restaurant in West Lafayette is Indiana’s oldest drive-in. Featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, it offers one of the tastiest burgers in the state. Order the Drew Brees breakfast special of chicken fried steak and gravy or quench your thirst with a premium root beer. It’s not unusual to find burger eateries offering peanut butter as a topping. Prefer some heat with the sweet? Add fiery jalapenos on top.
Indiana is second only to Nebraska for popcorn production, but it may take the prize for most unusual toppings. Try sour apple, bacon, honey mustard and loaded baked potato, or just add cupcake sprinkles or cinnamon dots for fun.
Aside from the Indy 500, The Hoosier State is most famous for its tenderloins. A staple on local menus, it’s served as thin strips of pork on sandwiches or as breaded pork cutlets with mustard sauce. Another local favorite is roast beef Manhattan. Originally concocted by an Indianapolis deli in the 1940s, it’s basically a roast beef sandwich on white bread topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Hoosiers love hearty comfort food, and chicken and waffles is a close second to tenderloins in popularity. Sauerkraut is also a big deal here. More than just a hot dog topping, it’s surrounded by dough and deep fried to create a sauerkraut ball. Some eateries add bacon or ham for more protein. Fans of talk show host David Letterman may recall he frequently gets nostalgic about fried bologna sandwiches. Letterman grew up in Indianapolis, and quite a few casual diners still serve his favorite from the 1950s.
Persimmon pudding is one of the favored desserts. Made from the pulp of wild persimmons, it has the consistency of moist cake and it’s the star attraction at Mitchell’s annual Persimmon Festival. Sugar cream pie, also known as Hoosier pie, was introduced by settlers in the 1800s and it’s considered by some to be the best dessert in the state. With just a few simple ingredients, including vanilla, cream, and nutmeg, it becomes dessert perfection. Fried biscuits with apple butter are a crowd pleaser in Nashville, Indiana. Served to order at the Nashville General Store & Bakery, the delicious rounds are more like fritters than biscuits and served hot daily.
Germans played a large role in Indiana’s heritage, and German sausages are featured in many eateries. You’ll also encounter schnitzels, roulade, sauerbraten, and outdoor beer gardens. Be sure to stop in at Das Dutchman Essenhaus if you’re in northeastern Indiana’s Amish Country. Try chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes served family-style or as part of the extensive buffet. Amish Acres Restaurant Barn also serves an Amish feast including smoked ham, roasted chicken, homemade breads, and favorites like shepherd’s pie.
The South Bend Chocolate Factory in northern Indiana offers a behind-the-scenes look at how chocolates are made. Browse delicious treats in the factory outlet store and take a 20 minute or 45-minute tour of the factory from Monday-Saturday. Olympia Candy Kitchen in Goshen has been creating hand-dipped chocolates since 1912. Have a beverage at the original soda fountain and browse the selection of candies including jelly beans, gummies, licorice, and chocolate-covered cherries. Kokomo and French Lick host fun chocolate festivals in early February.
Our Favorite Food Experiences
French Lick Winery
There's a long list of ways to make the most of any visit to southern Indiana. On the list, of the many varied possibilities, includes a stay in French Lick – and any stay in French Lick means a visit to the French Lick Winery. You'll find the French Lick Winery just east of Broadway Street, on the SW corner of Veterans Way and West Sinclair Street.
Established in 1995, the French Lick Winery has become one of the top wine producers in the region. It's a popular destination for wine lovers in French Lick, and nearby cities like Paoli, Mitchell, and Shoals. The French Lick Winery does not offer official tours, but there is a large, glass viewing window where you can peer in and watch the process.
Das Dutchman Essenhaus
When you visit Indiana's largest restaurant, be prepared for a meal of all types. The Das Dutchman Essenhaus near Goshen offers menu-style dining, buffet dining options, and family-style dining for all guests occupying its 1,100 seats. Families in particular will love the real Amish recipes this northern Indiana region is famous for.
You can also take home delicious pies, desserts, and snacks from the bakery. The restaurant also specializes in take-out dining for those on the go - if you're looking to fill up your pantry, the restaurant's grocery section sells noodles, cookies, baking mixes, candies, and jams. The restaurant and bakery is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and till 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
South Bend Chocolate Factory
The South Bend Chocolate Factory offers northern Indiana guests an up-close-and-personal look at the process of chocolate making and the chance to browse delicious treats at its factory outlet store.
Located near Mishawaka, the factory is open for tours from Monday through Saturday. Tour hours vary, but they all start at the top of every hour. Enjoy the paid 45-minute Inside Scoop tour or take the shorter and free 20-minute basic tour.
Indiana is home to a growing number of wineries, breweries and distilleries. The Indy Brew Bus is a convenient way to tour multiple Indianapolis area breweries in one day. Visit four different breweries, taste over 20 samples and record a scorecard to rank your favorites. Brewery Tours of Indianapolis also offers fun tours. The bus has coolers so you can purchase favorite brews and keep them cold on the ride back to your hotel. For those who prefer to take a scenic drive, it’s possible to visit several wineries in a day or over a weekend. The Indiana Uplands Wine Trail features nine wineries offering tours, tastings, and glimpses of the wine making process. Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Distillery in Starlight features a farmer’s market, cheese shop, ice cream factory, and wine tastings. The Starlight Distillery produces artisanal brandies in the European tradition. Take a production tour or VIP Barrel tour and take home a souvenir glass. French Lick Winery in West Baden Springs has been producing wine for 23 years. Located in a former piano factory, the winery features a tasting bar with views of the production area. Have lunch at the café, choose from over 30 wines to sample, and select wines to ship or take home. The Indiana Wine Trail in Southeastern Indiana features seven artisan wineries each with a distinct style. Enjoy views of the Ohio River Scenic Byway as you sample handcrafted Indiana wines along the trail. The Heartland Wine and Ale Trail in Eastern Indiana features more than a dozen stops. All sites are family owned and each offers a unique experience.