Raised Well: A Review of Griggsby’s Station
Griggsby’s Station, the latest food venture from Greenfield’s resident techie farmer Chris Baggott, salutes James Whitcomb Riley, the town’s other famous native son.
Lunchmeat has never tried so hard to impress as it did in that fried-bologna sandwich at Griggsby’s Station, Greenfield’s locally sourced newcomer with a second location slated for Irvington. Two smoky, garlicky, faintly sweet rounds of extruded pork—their edges singed to crisp halos—were stacked beneath alternating slips of bright cheese, hunks of sourdough grilled in the meat’s zesty fat and swiped with adobo mayonnaise serving as umami bookends. When the sandwich arrived semi–open faced at the table, a few of the barbecue chips on the plate had slid (intentionally? deliciously!) under the bread; we call that hillbilly lettuce where I come from. I cleaned my plate the night I ordered this dish that conjured memories of my Charlie’s Angels lunchbox from elementary school—the yeasty, comforting smell of it—and the squishy Braunschweiger sandwiches my dad used to make as late-night snacks. Its combination of rich, salty, old-school flavors went zing, and so did the strings of my heart.
You want to root for a place this genuine and charming, with its patio lit by string lights and framed in 300-gallon stock tanks full of flowers—and its sweet plaid-shirted servers as chatty as old high school buddies you might run into at Target. I would like to politely look away from any of the dishes that miss the mark, like a parched sirloin that can’t muster much flavor in spite of some pretty elaborate accessorizing (chimichurri sauce, Chianti demi-glace, and a slab of flame-cooked watermelon bigger than the steak itself). Pay no attention to that grilled-peach salad featuring not the glorious stone fruit caramelized to bring out even more sweetness, but rather mere room-temp slices tossed among greens, goat cheese, and mushy granola croutons. Cut the place some slack, okay?
This small-town gastropub that sources every morsel of antibiotic-free meat from its own Hancock County farm 8 miles away has tech genius–turned–agri-preneur Chris Baggott at its helm and all the enviable resources to deliver one of this moment’s most on-trend dining experiences: solid pasture-to-pub fare that’s delicious on an elemental level. A sublime fried-bologna sandwich is a good start, but none of the casually dressed patrons enjoying their Hotel Tango martinis inside this stately brick two-story tucked among the adorable antiques shops and James Whitcomb Riley–themed attractions seem like the sort to send back an overcooked steak, or flinch when a menu refers to farm eggs encased in sausage and fried up like breadcrumb-coated tennis balls as “Scottish eggs” instead of Scotch eggs. Baggott—who named Griggsby’s Station after the Greenfield-born poet Riley’s piece about a city slicker homesick for the simplicity of his dear old stomping grounds, “back where we ’ust to be so happy and so pore”—isn’t catering to the food snobs. He simply wants to serve great but unfussy food, like a hulking, half-pound burger that’s juicy to the core, chomped between sips of craft beer in a raw, brick-walled room. That, and take a pair of bolt cutters to the extraneous links in Indiana’s food chain.
This is a good time to mention that Baggott was a cofounder of ExactTarget, the email marketing company (now called Salesforce) that sold in 2013 for $2.5 billion. He has since turned his attention to sustainable food production as the steward of Tyner Pond Farm, which focuses on grass-fed beef; pastured pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb; and rotational-grazing farming practices. He transformed Greenfield’s old Frosty Mug drive-in into The Mug a year and a half ago, offering curb-service pork tenderloins and other wax paper–wrapped delights sourced from Tyner Pond. Earlier this year, he introduced ClusterTruck, a high-tech online food-delivery service that combines a central kitchen, a fleet of Uber-like drivers, and a rambling menu of (again) Tyner Pond–based dishes.
When ClusterTruck came onto the scene over the summer, Baggott was simply building his own food-industry ecosystem, both creating the demand for product and supplying it. “When we really got going with Tyner Pond and started trying to sell to restaurants, I realized I was competing with other like-minded farms,” Baggott says. “Restaurants that were going to buy local food were already buying local food, and I didn’t want to go into Vida or Cerulean and take away business from Greg Gunthorp [of LaGrange’s Gunthorp Farms], who is a great guy and a good farmer. What we had to do is make the pie bigger.”
At Griggsby’s Station, Baggott bolstered his local cast with goods from other Indiana producers, including Peru’s Green River Greenhouse and Indy’s Fitness Farm, which provides the rainbow carrots served alongside the Tyner Pond filet. He even brought in custom cutlery crafted from local hardwood by Greenfield knife-maker Ash Blaeds. General manager Ian Rossman, formerly of The Garden Table in Broad Ripple, works the front of the house while chef Mike Tambasco, a transplant from The Mug, oversees a kitchen that must somehow appeal to locals (like the woman in the airbrushed mesh trucker’s cap at the bar) as well as destination diners (like the business-suited guy taking a FaceTime call a few stools down).
That’s why the plate of wings here won’t win any beauty contests, but the crispy nubs of chicken basted in Buffalo or Asian barbecue sauce set the bar high for food you eat with your hands while watching ESPN on a flat-screen TV, with or without a grilled Caesar salad. Tender clumps of shredded confit pork shoulder combine with lime, cilantro, and roasted-chile crème in a trio of flavor-packed carnitas tacos. A pile of sturdy steakhouse-variety fries holds up nobly under roasted-pepper chili and queso blanco in the Beer Soaked Chili Cheese Fries appetizer. In fact, the menu doesn’t attempt anything more exotic than two skewers of glazed pork propped against a pad of seared jasmine sticky rice with a crunchy outer crust redolent of sesame oil and a steaming, starchy core. The flavors are spot-on—the sweetness of the meat against the nuttiness of the rice. But as I licked my fork clean, I watched a woman one table over pause dramatically after her first bite. She cocked her head and announced, “Well … it’s interesting.” Which is a good reminder for someone like me that not every diner needs (or wants) to be wowed. Griggsby’s Station, which is good enough in all of the comfortably familiar ways that it needs to be, has already figured that out.
101 W. Main St., Greenfield, 317-477-7217, griggsbysstation.com
Tues.–Thurs. 4–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–midnight, Sun. 4–10 p.m.