State Park Inns are a perfect place to catch a great meal in a quiet setting.
Story by SCOTT ROBERTS, photography by INDIANA DNR
LOCATION: INDIANA WEBSITE: STATEPARKS.IN.GOV
DINING: STATE PARKS ARE A PERFECT PLACE TO CATCH A MEAL IN A QUIET SETTING.
Imagine starting your day with the sunrise just beginning to show through the window as you sip your cup of coffee and relax in the quiet wilderness all around you. The birds begin to sing but you can’t see one until yes, there it is. A cardinal has just come to the birdfeeder on the window you’re sitting next to, as if it’s saying good morning just to you.
That can be reality in the restaurants at Indiana’s state park inns. All seven have unique dining spaces reflecting their location. Whether it’s enjoying a country buffet with a view of the Ohio River, a barbecue dinner with a view of wildlife or just a breakfast on the balcony, state park inns deliver a quality meal in a natural setting.
Birders may enjoy the restaurant at Indiana’s oldest state park, McCormick’s Creek in Spencer—our flying friends are even part of its the name. The Birdhouse Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with canyon burgers and oversized pork tenderloins among the specialties and has birdhouse porch, a window- lined area perfect for wildlife viewing, according to Karen Hinton, deputy director of Indiana State Parks. Weekend visitors can enjoy the Friday night barbecue buffet. The restaurant is open every day from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast and 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch. The Sunday lunch extends to 3 p.m. It’s open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Spring Mill’s Millstone Dining Room in Mitchell is also a great place to watch wildlife and catch scenery from one of the higher perches in the park. There is a fireplace as well as windows to enjoy the view and enjoy a filling lunch or dinner buffet.
Speaking of views, one of the best is at Clifty Falls State Park’s Falls Restaurant in Madison. From the dining room you can take in not only the park grounds, but also the Ohio River. If you look in the right place you can even get a nice layout of downtown Madison, which is
just a few miles away. The food is as good as the view, with a buffet featuring many homestyle classics. It’s open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for
dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday dinner hours are extended to 9 p.m., and there is a breakfast buffet from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Falls Restaurant is also known for its pies, ranking fourth for best pie in a recent Visit Indiana online poll for its sugar cream.
The Garrison Restaurant at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis offers a more historic setting for your meal. Located in what was originally the officer’s club at the fort, the restaurant is known for its Sunday brunch and is a popular Mother’s Day destination. It features Midwest as well as Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The inn is also known for its pies, including pecan.
History of a different kind can be found at Potawatomi Inn’s dining room. Antique canoes and boat motors hang from the ceiling, reminding guests of the area’s Native American and mechanical past. There’s also a view, with Lake James and scenic gardens visible from the dining area. Broasted chicken is the specialty of the restaurant according to Hinton, but don’t miss breakfast either. It features a made-to-order omelet bar as well as a waffle station. Potawatomi is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. and for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday brunch is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner hours are 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Turkey Run’s Narrows Restaurant in Marshall also has unique surroundings inside and out. Brick walls and hardwood flooring make it feel cozy and homey according to Hinton. The restaurant also features buffets like the others, and the soup and salad bar is not to be missed. The fried chicken is a specialty. Freshly made boxed lunches are available for people who want a lunch on the go while hiking through the striking scenery. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 8 p.m.
The name of Abe Martin Lodge’s restaurant at Brown County State Park, Little Gem Restaurant, says it all. It has outdoor patio seating for the warm-weather months as well as a little history on Abe Martin posted near the entrance to the restaurant. It features specialty buffets on the weekends as well as the country cooking Abe Martin himself would have liked. The restaurant’s mini peanut butter pie is must-try for dessert.
Holidays at all of the state park inns are popular, as anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 guests can be served on those days. Reservations are recommended for those times.
For more information on any of these restaurants or inns call 1-877-LODGES-1 or the individual properties.