ROAD TRIP: The Butcher Shoppe & Grill

Last week, I heard about a restaurant opening in the small town of Batesville that was worth the drive. So on Friday, I headed to The Butcher Shoppe & Grill at Walhill Farm (857 Six Pine Ranch Rd., Batesville, 812-934-2600) to see what the fuss was about. The restaurant is housed in an 11,000-square-foot chicken coop–turned–Bavarian-style lodge (not kidding). Instantly, you’re struck by its eclectic state, from the wall of vintage menus and the display of horse bits to the chairs made of bourbon barrels and the giant taxidermy ocean fish. This is no ordinary food spot off the interstate. Yes, I see barrels and I’m in the country—but instead of dreading that ho-hum experience, I’ve found a treasure.

The warm and welcoming bartender informs me this stunning 141-acre farm (including the restaurant) was once owned by George C. Hillenbrand, one of the nation’s most notable industrial engineers (Hill-Rom Co. and Batesville Casket Co.). During the early 1960s, he purchased the land to raise his prized stock of thoroughbred trotters and ponies. When he passed away, his nephew Pete Hillenbrand (who was running a resort on 160-person island called Little Cayman) couldn’t bare to see the farm go unused. So he bought it and eventually decided to open a restaurant.

Pete Hillenbrand hired chef James Bogart to run the kitchen. Bogart most recently comes from McCormick & Schmick’s, a chain in Columbus, Ohio. His team makes almost everything in house, and uses vegetables (beans, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs) from the farm’s garden. They also work with Indiana food companies like Traders Point Creamery, Smoking Goose, and Great Crescent Brewery.

At The Butcher Shoppe & Grill, every customer and every dish seem to count. The buttered made-from-scratch cranberry-walnut bread may sound too sweet as a starter, but trust me on this one. And as mundane as a plate of chicken over linguini sounds, this one is packed with flavor from juicy chunks of bacon, mushrooms, leeks, and roasted tomatoes. And the hearty plate of German-style meat patties, or Frikadellen, is freaking delicious.