Indiana is a small-town mecca, and Hendricks County is no exception. It includes 11 towns of varying sizes, but all small—no cities, no mayors, just small burghs. Though these towns may be small, their flavors are big.
Should you be lucky enough to visit the area, be sure to check out these seven must-have foodie experiences in Hendricks County.
Experience one of Indiana’s best pork tenderloin sandwiches at The Oasis Diner.
The Indiana Foodways Alliance’s Tenderloin Lovers Trail features over 70 venues to try an authentic Hoosier pork tenderloin sandwich. Oasis Diner’s tenderloin ranks in the Top 10. Since I was a tenderloin rookie, I couldn’t wait to experience my first.
Oasis Diner serves their tenderloin fried, blackened, or grilled. A table of locals held their breath while I selected, then nodded their heads in approval when I decided on fried. That’s the typical tenderloin, they assured me. The pork tenderloin, pounded thin and as big as the plate, came lightly breaded and deep-fried to a golden brown. It’s accompanied with lettuce, tomato, purple onion, dill pickle chips, and garlic mayo, served on a toasted brioche bun. Today, I’m an experienced pork tenderloin enthusiast.
Enjoy a cuppa Joe at the Cabin Coffee Company.
As I walked through the door, the aroma of roasting coffee beans wafted through the air. Even before I tasted the coffee, the caffeine woke me up. Cabin Coffee Company offers a wide variety of single-origin coffees from Brazil to Tanzania, featuring light roasts to dark. Their espresso bar offers lattes to cappuccinos. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, tea and fruit smoothies are available to quench your thirst.
Don’t just grab your coffee and go. Stay and enjoy the cabin décor with a western twist. A breakfast sandwich or a light lunch are good reasons to linger. Plaques reminded us to “Just be happy and have fun!” That was easy to do in this multi-sensory atmosphere.
Share a pizza at Charbonos.
First, Charbonos isn’t a typical pizzeria, but rather an upscale venue with Tuscan countryside décor. I watched the pizza maker hand-stretch the dough, while the wood-fired brick pizza oven stood ready to receive the doughy disk in their exhibition-style pizza kitchen. The result was a thin, crispy New York-style crust, the perfect shared appetizer.
While the pasta is an excellent choice for an entrée, the tender New York strip steak marked on the grill with an herbed butter melted on top, created a tasty bite. Broccolini and garlic mashed potatoes were popular sides, but I had polenta fries. Polenta is cooked until firm, cut into long strips, and deep-fried for an exciting change of pace.
In every restaurant, there’s one item that excites me. At Charbonos, it was the bread’s dipping sauce. Starting with olive oil and red wine vinegar, the sauce includes sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, and crushed red peppers. Dip in the warm house-made bread or even that extra pizza crust for one amazing heavenly experience.
Re-live the 1950s at the Mayberry Cafe.
Spotting the Mayberry Café wasn’t difficult, with Andy Taylor’s black-and-white sheriff’s car parked out front. As I walked through the door, if I didn’t know better, I’d think I had stepped back in time 65 years to Aunt Bee’s dining room.
Any seat has a view of a television with the Andy Griffith show on continuous play. That took me back to my childhood, remembering how I would sit on the floor with my brothers, in front of a large console TV watching Opie’s adventures.
Chef-owner Brad Born loves to cook as much as he loves the Andy Griffith Show. He turns out some amazing all-American scratch home-cooking using the freshest local ingredients.
My starter was the fried biscuits tossed in cinnamon and sugar and served with apple butter. I could have made a meal of these alone as they were that good. But I didn’t stop there. Mayberry Café is famous for Aunt Bee’s fried chicken; it transported me back to the 1950s.
Taste the award-winning apple cider at Beasley’s Orchard.
As I saddled up to the cider bar, I had a tough decision to make—apple cider or an apple cider slushie. It was a warm day, so before I explored all that the orchard had to offer, I chose the cider, and after my adventures, I cooled down with the slushie. Problem solved.
Next I ventured into the orchard and picked a variety of firm, crisp apples before hopping on the hayride through the pumpkin patch. Then I selected a square Blue Doll pumpkin that I had never seen before, which later made a tasty pumpkin pie. On the way back, I had to stop and try firing the apple cannon, where I managed to hit my target 100 percent of the time.
A variety of local produce can be found at the farm market, housed in a 100-year-old barn. I chose some apple butter from a wide selection of preserves. Visitors might even want to take home a gallon of that award-winning cider to enjoy later.
Watch the Ferris Wheel of Meat at the Rusted Silo Southern BBQ & Brewhouse.
They cook the ‘que’ low and slow in full view on their Ferris Wheel of Meat here, and it’s mesmerizing. Long-metal racks rotated chicken, ribs, brisket, and pork. The meats ride the wheel for hours, smoking in hickory and cherry wood and becoming more tender by the hour. When it’s finally ready, it’s falling-off-the-bone tender.
I had a choice of four house-made barbeque sauces—a Habanero Bourbon sauce, an Alabama white sauce, a Carolina mustard sauce, and a Kentucky Bourbon sauce. I enjoyed the slight sweetness behind the incredible Kentucky Bourbon sauce.
Corn is a significant product of Indiana, and they serve it here with a Mexican twist, turning it into street corn—one of my favorite sides. I noticed several other nods to Mexican cuisine with Rusted Silo’s use of Habanero peppers and its house-made chorizo sausage.
My favorite dessert was hands down the cold banana pudding. The contrast in temperatures made the banana pudding a cooling finish to the warmth of the meat and spice.
Revel in fresh baked goods at the Bread Basket Cafe & Bakery.
Transformation came to mind as I spotted the saying, “Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.” A historic bungalow transformed into a café signaled home cooking from the start. The difference here is their food is made with love. And the eatery wants everyone coming through their door to feel that love. I felt it in the ham and cheese sandwich with apricot mustard spread— a winner for sure.
After lunch, I visited the bakery and chose the smaller-sized chocolate cake and apple pie to take with me as an afternoon snack. Options for smaller portions exist, so I could sample a few, share with my family, and not feel guilty about the calories.
If you’re looking for a multi-sensory experience with farm-fresh, local ingredients, you’ll enjoy these foodie experiences in Indiana’s Hendricks County.
Visit Hendricks County
- The Oasis Diner
405 West Main Street, Plainfield, Indiana
- Cabin Coffee Company
5530 East US Highway 36, Suite 100, Avon, Indiana
128 North SR 267, Suite 102, Avon, Indiana
- Mayberry Café
78 West Main Street, Danville, Indiana
- Beasley’s Orchard
2304 East Main Street, Danville, Indiana
- Rusted Silo Southern BBQ & Brewhouse
411 North State Street, Lizton, Indiana
- Bread Basket Café & Bakery
46 South Tennessee Street, Danville, Indiana
Thank you to Visit Hendricks County for providing the author with the meals to facilitate this review.