Thirty-Six Saloon: A Feast for the Senses

Themed Dining Series~ 

While the decor of the Thirty-Six Saloon in Rockville, about an hour west of Indianapolis, reflects that of a rustic, log cabin-like interior, it is quite naturally a rather modern depiction of bygone days. Thirty-Six Saloon was a small bar in 1993 when owner Mark Vanderheyden purchased it. After putting in a kitchen, to serve food, “the place took off,” he said. Since then, he knocked down walls to open it up, and added on in 2012. The family-friendly establishment has daily lunch specials, with a steak special every Friday night, and walleye every other Saturday night. American-style comfort food is the fare.

While it’s become a regional hub, drawing tourists and crowds from a wide radius, there’s plenty of room for everyone in the large indoor dining room and bar areas, and the expansive outdoor deck with another bar surrounding the bandstand and smokehouse kitchen.

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There are natural wood ceilings, floors and walls, the latter of which are covered by stuffed game and other animals; skins and antlers complete a visually interesting and warm atmosphere.

There are anywhere from 30-50 big game taxidermy mounts and tanned hides that could easily be called a prized collection. One mount features two bucks with antlers interlocked, as if in battle.

Vanderheyden said, “They were found in this position, but were nothing but skulls and horns.” He took it to Schmeltz Taxidermy in Tangier, Indiana, and they created the awe-inspiring, life-like mount you see in the dining room today. The taxidermy craftsmanship in these mounts is outstanding, lending an air of realism. The animals are all from North America and include everything from a life-size black bear mount to bull elk, caribou, bison, deer, wolverine, badger and even a skunk! Sprawling bear hides adorn the walls and are reminiscent of an Alaskan lodge.

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Slow smoked meats are prepared in the smokehouse outside where pulled pork or beef brisket, among other delicious grub, wait to be swathed in Mark’s Mom’s recipe barbecue sauce, made tastefully by his mom. When we arrived at about 2 p.m. on a Saturday, lunch was surprisingly still in full swing. One of the many local and regional bands that vie for time at Thirty-Six Saloon’s bandstand was making a name for themselves with a recognizable song, and we tasted smokehouse favorites while seated in the main dining room where an even larger menu is also available.

Thirty-Six, as it’s called is a veritable museum of North American wildlife and a favorite of young and old. The bandstand features live music, and with a party room, able to seat 50, two pool tables, three bars, award-winning wood carvings and Harley Davison décor, there’s something for everyone. As their tag line says: “Family Dining – Good Food – Cold Beer”.

Thirty-Six Saloon
108 E Ohio St • Rockville
(765) 569-9441 • Thirtysixsaloon.com