“Did you hear the news?” our server asked. We were sliding into our chairs for brunch at Story Inn Bed and Breakfast, right across a small snow-dusted lane from our cottage. And no, we hadn’t heard the news—any news—because it doesn’t travel fast to Story. Cell reception is spotty, data was too slow to count on reading a news feed, and there are no TVs in the rooms or cottages. “Louisiana got five inches of snow!” she said. Shew—I had braced for a nuclear attack.
Located on the edge of Brown County State Park, it’s famous around Indiana as a fall hotspot. Horseback riders tie up. Motorcyclists cruise in. Hikers take a load off. But in the winter, the village is sublimely quiet. The 10 miles of a curvy, dippy state highway between Story and Nashville isolate the little burg and its destination hotel/restaurant. It’s a slow, careful drive to town, and a snowfall makes it a bit of a white-knuckler. Why leave when there’s a fireplace in your cottage and a great restaurant and tavern across the street?
A snowfall here is equally enchanting as fall foliage, turning the hamlet into a Currier and Ives painting. The 1851 general store that’s now the inn’s main building and restaurant serves all the biscuits and gravy, soup, and Indiana-sourced entrées you need. The basement’s low-tin-ceilinged Story Still Tavern, circa Prohibition, fills up with a few locals, guests, and off-work staff into the wee hours. Someone will tell you about the town’s renaissance, starting when a guy named Benjamin with no last name and his wife who did have one turned the place into a destination. A dog might end up inside, lying on the floor, and not even the Department of Health would complain. It’s convivial and warm, and you can drink as much as you want because you’re not going to drive anywhere. Stay in the Old Mill Loft, next to the tavern, only if you’re a heavy sleeper or likely to close the bar down. Otherwise, smokers stepping outside might keep you awake. But the room there is one of the most fetching in Story, where every house now belongs to the bed-and-breakfast. The Old Mill room has a soaking tub made from a 300-gallon horse trough.
We stayed in the Schultz Haus Front—one half of a red cottage. There’s a fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub, a full kitchen, a living room, and a queen bed in the bedroom. A cardinal landed on a tree branch just outside a window, and I watched it for a good 20 minutes before ambling over to brunch and the morning gossip. I wish I had brought a stack of books and could stay another evening, for a bottle of a wine and Indiana lamb in the dining room with lightly clinking silverware and creaky floorboards. Right now, it’s the season for Victorian candlelight dinners, featuring live piano music and staff in traditional dress, in honor of the year the town was founded. Chef Eric Swanson delivers a fine-dining experience that’s also homey and casual. Our wine-tasting dinner the night before had featured a fried-oyster amuse bouche, roasted cauliflower and figs, bone marrow, and a tender cut of steak, all paired with limited-production Oliver wines from nearby Bloomington. Some were the owner’s hobby wines, ones he won’t consider selling but was happy to share with a Story Inn crowd.
Story is a place to hole up and unplug for a day or two this time of year, when non-peak rates apply. It makes a great couples weekend, with some board games, long nights in the tavern, and lazy mornings in bed. The news can wait.
Reservations recommended for Victorian candlelight dinner. Rooms from $109 per night. 6404 S. State Rd. 135, Nashville, 812-988-2273, storyinn.com