Pork Chops, Cottage Pie and Cabbage
Never repeat.” That’s the motto bestowed upon Toby Miles’s restaurant, Rail. Since opening in April 2014, it has had 24 menu changes but a lunch special has never been duplicated. “We get bored very often,” says Miles, referring to himself and his wife, Melanie, who co-own the restaurant.
After he graduated Ball State University with a journalism degree, Miles found that his print-design background didn’t translate well into what is now a digital-oriented profession. So, he channeled his roots—and it made perfect sense. His mom, after all, was a caterer and he had always enjoyed cooking.
“I fell in love with the challenge of it,” he says. “I started to bound from kitchen to kitchen to kitchen. I had this terrible resume of eight months at this place, eight months at this place.”
He and his wife, who met when they worked together at the now-closed Kelties, drove by an old, beat-up barn a few years ago. The red structure stood out in the middle of town. “It didn’t make much sense,” he says. No power. No water. No heat. No air. When the couple approached the landlord about turning the barn into a business he said, “No way, it’s not going to work.” About a year later, the first floor of the farm-to-table eatery opened.
Cooking with what’s available
Until age 9, Miles lived in a small English town of about 60 people. And of those 60 people, about 50, he guesses, were farmers. Residents would trade goods with neighbors, rarely visiting the grocery store. “It was all about getting what we needed for couple days and cooking with that,” he remembers. “We had a milk delivery man, cobblestone streets, thatched roofs. That was my childhood. I don’t think I had a cheeseburger ’til I was 9 or 10.”
Dishes would usually focus on four to five ingredients. He remembers learning to love lamb and Brussels sprouts. He would often eat a combination of these two things, plus carrots, in his youth. Some of these British-style dishes found their way into Rail. The challah melt, a sandwich on the Fall 2017 menu, consists of pear preserves and the familiar mini cabbages.
But despite the two dozen menu changes, two dishes have stayed the same: pork chops and cottage pie. “The pork chops are my babies,” Miles says. He uses what is actually a British preparation of ham—a traditional brining and cold smoking method.
“It’s the dish that means the most to me, not only because it’s our top seller,” he says, adding that even if it was the worst selling item on the menu, he’d still keep it.
When asked about the future of Rail, Miles’ response aligns with the restaurant’s mantra: never repeat. “Our regulars are the best damn regulars you could ask for,” he says. “I know their kids’ names, their pets’ names. They call and ask what I have planned for this week. I don’t think we could re-create that anywhere if we tried. If we ever decided to do something it would be very different.”
Rail | 211 Park St., Westfield | 317.804.8555 RailEpicureanMarket.com
What’s in it?
Take a bite out of some of the dishes that make Rail stand out from other farm-to-table style restaurants.
Challah melt: (upper left) Out of the six sandwiches on the menu, this one might show the deepest of Miles’s roots. Challah, a braided bread, holds together the unique combination of pear preserves and shaved Brussels sprouts. A little brie and cracked pepper tops off the sandwich, along with mustard from Local Folks Foods. | $8
Cottage pie: (center) Miles compares this dish to shepherd’s pie. Rather than containing lamb, the cottage pie at Rail is infused with lightly fried, and then stewed pot roast. Vegetables—including mashed red potatoes—and gravy finish off this traditional English meal. Diners can even find this dish on the kids’ menu, priced at $6.50. A smaller plate? Sure. Less flavor? Not a chance. | $13
Pork chop: (upper right) This 13-ounce slab gets smoked and grilled before it is served with wild mushrooms, creamed spinach and shallot gnocchi. Rail owners and visitors consider it the house dish. “…the most tender chop I ever recall eating. Great flavor, great combo of flavors with the rest of the plate. The absolute star of the evening,” one Yelp reviewer said. | $21
Bleu rarebit: (on the board) The appetizer channels a dish called Welsh rarebit. Much like its inspiration, Rail’s version includes cheese sauce baked onto a piece of French bread. Rail uses Bier Brewery beer and a bleu cheese–cheddar hybrid. This “small plate” is complete with wild mushrooms. | $8