About Regional Flavor
Cafeteria-style dining originated in Indiana, and the heart of the state still has a few large-scale cafeterias where meals are Sunday Supper every day. Indianapolis also is famous for skillet-fried chicken, preferably followed by a slice of the official state dessert, Hoosier Cream Pie. In fact, Indiana is an outstanding pie destination. The other specialty that often precedes pie is a crisp-fried pork tenderloin sandwich, which was invented in Huntington and has since become a favorite throughout the lower Midwest.
Indiana Regional Specialties
The official state dish, also known simply as sugar cream pie, is an utterly basic and unimprovable mix of butter, sugar, and cream (and sometimes eggs). Farmland bec fins like sugar pie best in the spring when Jersey cows are on new, green grass and their milk is especially rich. Brown sugar or maple syrup may be added, vanilla extract will flavor it, and a dusting of nutmeg is common, but any further customization goes against the pie's elemental nature.
It's not just the goodness of the skillet-fried chicken that makes this Indianapolis tradition special, it is the ritual meal in all its glory. That means pan gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn niblets, hot bread with apple butter and, of course, peppermint ice cream for dessert. Served in genteel surroundings and eaten by an extraordinarily polite clientele (especially after church on Sunday), it harkens back to an idealized heartland meal.
The southern shore of Lake Michigan once was a fisherman's paradise, its signature meal known as a mess of perch. That's a multitude of small fillets, the creamy sweeties lightly breaded and fried and glistening with butter. It's become a fairly rare restaurant meal over the years, but it remains a brilliant taste of the Great Lakes.
Gray Brothers cafeteria is a Hoosier heartland sampler, including fried chicken, four-star mac 'n' cheese, cornbread stuffing and butterscotch pie.
Two words: bluegill and pie. Bluegill are a local, round and flat, freshwater fish, filleted, lightly breaded and pan fried. Fruit pies are extraordinary.