“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” Erma Bombeck (from Ohio)
Gravy has always been a staple at my Mommy’s house (don’t worry, Daddy would call it ‘Mommy’s house’ too). Growing up I could count on gravy for breakfast at least once a weekend. Fresh biscuits too, if you were lucky. Although in a pinch Grands would suffice. My Daddy would always (and still does if given the chance) enjoy a pickled beet or two with his gravy. If you have never seen this (you probably have not – I did not realize it was not the norm until I was an adult) it turns the gravy a lovely shade of lavender. It is pretty. And unusual.
Before we go too far here, you must understand that there are rules about gravy at Mommy’s house. One, white gravy only goes with breakfast. Two, gravy should move. Three, dinner gravy should not come from a jar or can. Four, there is no recipe for gravy – you just know.
At home there are two places that I will eat gravy – my Mommy’s table and the Dairy Queen. Seriously, the Dairy Queen at home makes amazing gravy. I used to eat it everyday in elementary school but only a half order – a full order would require a nap.
So, why am I talking about gravy? Well, I recently read an article in Garden and Gun magazine about Southern Food in Chicago, specifically fried chicken. Inspiring, right? Yes, everyone around the world loves fried chicken and waffles (together or alone). I can personally attest to this – two years ago I saw first hand that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a favorite fast food chain of the Chinese – KFC and Starbucks litter the China landscape.
This article, my love of Southern cuisine, and my need for a gravy fix prompted me to initiate a search for Southern food in FW. We already know that the Amish folks cook like the South and there is a Cracker Barrel in town, but I needed to expand. And, my friends, I found it. I found it at Pickles Cafe in Dunfee, Indiana.
Pickles is most definitely off the beaten path. Dunfee, Indiana is barely a wide spot in the road. It seems that the only people who know about it are those that regularly travel County Line Road between State Routes 30 and 14. But very few of those folks have had the opportunity to experience Pickles. Why? Because it is only serves lunch Tuesday through Friday and only serves breakfast and lunch on Saturdays.
I was informed about Pickles by my dear FW friend Globetrotter. And I am thankful. We went to Pickles on a Saturday morning for brunch and we found a down home, country cookin’ experience. The building itself looks like it was once a country store. It is now perfectly weathered and covered with farm implements, what-nots, and country-inspired goodies. The inside is much the same, complete with store counter and old fashioned candy with a horse tack stop upstairs. The dining room is tiny, no more than 10 tables, and is flanked by a narrow outdoor (fenced in) patio with six tables of varying sizes. The day was perfect and the patio was comfortable and relaxing. We had a view of a green field and a happy fern outside of our area of the patio. If we did not know it you could not have convinced us that we were in the middle of miles and miles of cornfields. It seemed like home.
The breakfast menu was tough. We had choices that included omelets, blueberry french toast, something called Hot Mess Hash (which was enormous and looked tasty) and, yes, biscuits and gravy. The lunch menu was also an option but we ignored it (although it looked great). Also note that the desserts are freshly made daily and include amazing pie selections. I selected a Mexican omelets (complete with refried beans and jalapenos) and we decided that splitting a half order of biscuit and gravy was a must.
Now, I have to say that this gravy was not nearly as pour-able as my Mommy (or I) would have liked. However, it was truly the most sausage-y gravy I have ever eaten. When Pickles says sausage gravy, they mean it and they do not short you on sausage. But it as good. And their biscuits were not an after thought, they were flaky and good. Somebody’s momma knows what they are doing in that kitchen.
As for the name, I do not know how it came about but they do serve a trio of sweet pickles with every dish. Sadly, I do not like sweet pickles.
After brunch we took a spin around the property and found a shop out back. Two sisters have put together a collection of treasures, flowers, and decor for the perusal of Pickles’ guests. It is a creative little spot with some pretty little things. We did not leave with anything but it was pretty (and tempting).
It is always nice to find a little piece of the South elsewhere. While Ms. Bombeck enjoyed a lot of gravy in Ohio and Pickles in Indiana does a great job, I still think the best gravy you can get is at my Mommy’s table and at that little Dairy Queen in Southwest Virginia. And, of course, as a general rule the best Southern cuisine is most certainly found in the South, but, as it is, I will happily accept these Midwestern representations.