Gray Brothers Cafeteria

Review by: Michael Stern

The South still has some wonderful cafeterias, but this style of you-point / they-serve food service is rare in the North, where pile-your-own-plate buffets are more the rule. One great exception to that pattern is Indianapolis. Home of America’s earliest cafeteria (in 1888), the Circle City still has a handful of top-notch cafeteria restaurants where every day is like Thanksgiving. Among the best is Gray Brothers south of town in Mooresville. Open since 1944, it is a huge place, very deluxe as far as cafeterias go: leaded glass windows in the doors, plenty of tasteful nick-nacks for décor.

Almost any time you walk in, it will be crowded, but that’s no problem because the cafeteria line moves fast; and besides, your wait takes you along the “preview line,” which allows you to study the scores of food items from which you will soon be choosing. Although the trays are especially big ones, if you’re like us, you’ll find yours fully occupied with dishes of food well before you get to the rolls and beverages at the end of the line.

It’s hard to know what to recommend because we’ve never had anything at Gray’s we didn’t like. Among the most memorable dishes are fried chicken, which has an ultra-flavorful crust that pulls off the pieces of the bird like chewy bacon. The way things work in Gray’s line is that you tell the servers what entrée you want; they put it onto a nice flower-patterned partitioned plate then slide the plate down to the vegetable area, where it is piled with whatever sides you desire.

Who can resist the cornbread stuffing? Or mac ‘n’ cheese? We also love the heartland salads, especially creamy pea and carrot-raisin-marshmallow. Desserts are dazzling, with whole pies arrayed on shelves below the individual slices (many pies get bought and taken home). The Indiana favorite, and a specialty of Gray’s is sugar-cream pie … as simple and pure and good as the name suggests.

What To Eat

Fried Chicken

sugar-cream pie

Raisin Pie

Green Beans

Butterscotch Pie

Cucumber Salad

Deviled Eggs

Coconut Cream Pie

Chicken Fried Steak


Gray Brothers Cafeteria Recipes


What do you think of Gray Brothers Cafeteria?

One Response to “Gray Brothers Cafeteria”

Rocky Enfield

November 5th, 2012

At long last, I found myself in the right place at the right time to try Gray Brothers Cafeteria. When we arrived at 6:30 on Saturday night the line was out the door and down the side of the building. It seems that the Indiana State Champion Marching Band from Jasper HS and all their fans decided to celebrate their victory at Gray Brothers. It made for an hour-long wait. I didn’t mind but I can tell you that my six year old son was not thrilled (that’s putting it mildly). We passed the time talking to some kind folks from a church who rode an hour on a bus for date night. We also ogled the selections as we waited.

When it came time to finally choose it was difficult but I went with the pickled cucumber and onion with pimentos, the gigantic hand-breaded deep-fried pork tenderloin with country gravy, green beans with bacon and potatoes, fried potatoes, and butterscotch pie. My son, refusing to be saddled with a kids meal, had jumbo deep-fried butterflied shrimp, green beans, mac and cheese, Jello, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

After an hour of hearing a six year old complain about the wait the reward finally came when, after three bites of food, he looked at me and said “Thanks for bringing me here Dad!”

The cucumber salad had the perfect balance of vinegar and sweetness and the pimentos really added something to it. The green beans tasted porky and peppery and hit all the right notes; delicious! The fried potatoes were a bit of a miss because they were from the bottom of the pan and were pretty greasy. There was the right mixture of crispy and soft bits but the greasiness really stuck out.

The fried tenderloin was incredible. The breading was thick enough to stand up to the gravy but not so thick as to take away from the tenderloin inside. It was really an amazing hunk of meat that nearly covered the entire plate. The butterscotch pie was simply terrific!

Gray Brothers Cafeteria is located 15 minutes off of 465 southwest of Indianapolis. If you ever have the opportunity to visit don’t miss it!


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