ROAD TRIP USA 2010: A BRAIN SARNIE & FRIED CHICKEN IN INDIANA
Jeff Trockman and I first encountered each other nearly ten years ago.
We first "talked" via the Internet food boards (remember them, folks?) and after, exchanging mails for a while, we finally met up for real over a memorable meal at St. John in London and found we got on like a house on fire. We have remained in touch ever since and he immediately extended an open invitation for me to visit him at his home in Evansville, Indiana if my travels ever took me to the Hoosier state.
Although, he was quick to point out that there was very little to see and precious little by the way of fine dining, he did dangle two potential eating experiences in front of me to persuade my two travelling companions, Neal and Chris (who is with us for a few days until we reach Nashville) that we should detour to spend a night with him on our way to Asheville.
It was a two hour drive from Saint Louis and we arrived to find Jeff hard at work at the family metal recovery yard founded by his great grandfather back in the 1890’s. After a quick tour we headed off to lunch at one of the city’s most famous eating spots, The Hilltop Inn. It serves the usual suspects of the American diner menu, but is nationally famous for one item on the menu, a brain sandwich. It is, apparently a bit of a Mid-West classic and was originally made with calf brains. In the early part of the new century, the mad cow scare made the owners drop the moo element and now it is made with pig brains. Neal and Chris could not be persuaded to indulge in a bit o’ brain, so went for the more benign grilled cheese sandwich which left me and Jeff to split the house special.
Very good it was too. A huge lump of brain was battered and served in a soft white roll with slices of sweet white onions and sharp pickles. It’s a winning combination and the batter coating of the brains crunched to give way to the creamy insides. It was served with a side of “German Fries” potatoes cooked with more onions until the base is crunchy.
After a few hours R&R at Jeff’s charming house, we were headed out for meal number two, this time at the oldest restaurant in the state, The Log Inn. The restaurant claims to have fed Abraham Lincoln who was raised nearby and is well known for its chicken, which is famous locally for being fried in lard.
While we decided which combination of chicken to order, we nibbled on some stunning house grown tomatoes which kept us going until we made up our minds and asked for two chickens, an order of livers & gizzards and all the sides. Soon after we had emptied our pitcher of bad gassy beer, our food arrived. There was plate after plate of it, including peas, green beans with ham hocks, corn, mashed potatoes and thick white gravy as well, of course, as two plates laden with chicken in a golden crust and a half portion each of livers and gizzards.
It was good stuff, although, If I am honest, not quite up to the standards of Stroud’s in Kansas City, where the chicken is pan fried in shortening. But, it was still bloody good and certainly fine enough that we finished off all of it bar a couple of pieces for Jeff to take to lunch the next day.
While he was polishing off that, we were on our way to Asheville, North Carolina. But, en route, we stopped off in Kentucky to celebrate my all time hero, Muhammad Ali at The Muhammad Ali Centre in Louisville and to cleanse our souls of sin by communing with God over a game of Bible themed crazy golf. If you are interested, I won after the other two disgraced themselves at Mount Sinai.
Oh, and we got to see the world’s largest baseball bat.