Pie. Wine. Home-grown tomatoes. Coffee.
Hamilton County is home to more than 310 thousand people and is located smackdab in the middle of Indiana. In June 2008, Forbes.com named it America’s Best Place to Raise a Family—and it’s no wonder, given the top-ranked schools, bustling economy and affordable housing … add to that the abundance of shopping, dining and outdoor recreational opportunities and it’s easy to see why so many call it home. But since you can’t always stay at home, we’ve complied a short list of a few locally-owned hotspots to visit when you’re out and about—and when you do, make sure you tell them Edible Indy sent you.
“My father-in-law started the business in 1968,” says Judy Wilson of Wilson Farm Market. “He started selling eggs with a muffin tin and a table and chairs out of an itty-bitty building by the side of the road.” And it’s at that same location, right off U.S. 31 and about 15 miles north of Westfield, where Judy along with her husband Bill Wilson and son, Scott Wilson, now run the longstanding family business.
“My in-laws would be amazed,” says Wilson of their growth and expansion. “People stop in from all over the state, even from other states, when they’re traveling up and down U.S. 31.”
When you take a look around, it’s easy to see why people are attracted to their store. Offering everything from nostalgic items “like grandma and grandpa used to have” said Wilson, to farm-fresh produce, locally grown meats, baked goods, hand-dipped ice cream and Amish cheese—which you can sample before you buy—Wilson’s is bustling with grocery shoppers, travelers, even local folks on their lunch break … many of whom stop in for their “chickalicious” fried chicken.
“We started frying chicken when we did our last remodel,” says Wilson of the mouthwatering, made-fresh-daily, served with a biscuit and choice of side including coleslaw (my personal favorite), mac and cheese (my son’s favorite) and jo jo potatoes (my daughter’s favorite). “People come from miles away for the chicken,” she said. And after one bite, I can attest that it truly is THE BEST fried chicken I have ever had.
Also known for their Amish fry pies—a hand-held pastry stuffed with fruit, then fried and glazed like a doughnut rather than baked like a traditional pie—their homemade fudge, pull-apart pretzel bread, jams and jellies, Wilson Farm Market is a destination stop not to be missed.
INTERESTING FACT: Wilson Farm Market provides every kernel of corn served at the Indiana State Fair. So this summer, when you visit the fair, be sure to buy a piece of sweet corn and enjoy the Hoosier-grown goodness.
1720 E. 256th St., Arcadia | WilsonFarmMarket.com
Directly off State Road 19, and less than a mile over the Red Bridge and Morse Reservoir, lies the town of Cicero—a small town with a total area just over two square miles, less than 5,000 residents, and (believe it or not) plenty of unusual and interesting-flavored coffees.
“The peanut butter cup is our low-cal option,” jokes Tharp, owner of Cicero Coffee Company. “It comes with peanut butter and chocolate. Everyone likes it,” he says with a big smile. But if a regular ol’ cup of joe is more your style, you can get that too.
“We have a lot of specialty coffee,” said Tharp pointing to the café’s espresso machine. “We have a variety of flavors brewed everyday but if you want something we don’t have ready, we can make it for you. Just ask.”
Known for their coffee and friendly service, Cicero Coffee Company has been steaming lattes and pouring coffee for customers for over 12 years now. In addition to their daily brewed offerings, they also serve breakfast and lunch.
“The favorites are our baked oatmeal, Cindy Loo Hoo’s smothered eggs and the big white omelet,” which, says Tharp, weighs over three pounds, is stuffed with a plethora of ingredients and served piping hot with a blanket of sausage gravy.
For lunch, they serve traditional deli sandwiches, but you can always order off the breakfast menu—no matter the time of day.
INTERESTING FACT: The walls are covered with art made by local artists—most of which is for sale—and Tharp encourages people to bring in their pieces. Tharp himself makes Native American-style flutes and sells them at the Indiana Artisans store in French Lick.
150 S. Peru St., Cicero | facebook.com/CiceroCoffeCco
“I don’t like pie,” says Lisa Sparks, owner of Lisa’s Pie Shop in Atlanta. At first, she said, she wanted to open a cake shop because she loves cake, but she kept hearing the word “pie” over and over again, as if God himself was trying to tell her something. But could he really be telling her she should bake pies?
After a life-threatening battle with cancer, she had recently made a promise to herself to take life seriously and listen to God—but, she had her doubts at first.
“I thought, oh no God, you have to be wrong. You picked the wrong girl for this! But then one day, a group of girls brought me some apples from a local orchard,” she said. “So I baked an apple pie, entered it in a contest and wouldn’t you know it, I won the grand champion prize out of 154 people.”
And that’s when she figured He must be right. So Sparks quit her factory job, and dedicated herself to the fine art of pie baking. And 32 years later, Lisa’s Pie Shop is a thriving business built on customer satisfaction. One glance around the shop, located in northern Hamilton County off U.S. 31, you can’t help but notice the excess of blue ribbons that hang over walls and drape over pie-filled cases.
“These ribbons,” says the ever-humble Sparks, “are the customers talking. Not me.” Still, she smiles proudly and seems to radiate pure joy when she talks about her shop and the people she bakes for.
“I make all my pies daily and whatever doesn’t sell within 24-hours I give to the church, local charities … it’s a promise I make to my customers; I won’t sell them a day-old pie.”
Along with sweet pies, she bakes savory quiches, cookies and cinnamon rolls that look and taste divine. As for her best sellers, Sparks says it depends on the time of year.
“During the holidays, we sell a lot of pumpkin and pecan, but now I’m making rhubarb and strawberry.” But just know that even though you can stop by during open hours and purchase from the case, it’s best to order in advance—especially if you want a specific flavor because once the pies are gone, they’re gone for good.”
INTERESTING FACT: Lisa doesn’t pay for any advertising, but her pies are renowned throughout the country and have earned her segments on both the Food Channel and Good Morning America—word of mouth, and word of taste buds, is all she needs.
5995 U.S. 31, Atlanta | lisaspies.com
Deb Miller and her husband, John, are no strangers to good wine. Originating from the West Coast, they used to live near some of the country’s more well-known wineries and, says Miller, they’ve always been interested in winemaking.
“We moved here about eight years ago and since we finally had the acreage (their property spans close to five acres) we decided ‘why not’. We joke,” she added, “that it’s a hobby that got out of control.” And for many years, it was just that—a hobby; something John enjoyed doing while working his day job in the semiconductor industry. Nowadays though, he is the winery’s full-time winemaker and carefully oversees the production of what his wife calls, dryer wines than those typically found in central Indiana wineries.
“Our wines aren’t as sweet as what you usually find throughout the state,” says Miller. The winery uses a combination of locally-grown grapes including the American concord and the French-American hybrid, Maréchal Foch.
“It’s similar to a Syrah,” she says of her personal go-to red. “It goes with everything … steak, salad, spaghetti, chicken …” and it grows well in the soil here and is conducive to the Midwest climate.
“The more common varietals like cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc, for example, don’t grow well here.” But she says, there are plenty of others that do, and it’s those regional grapes that make up Blackhawk’s wines—wines that are aged in their tasting room using both American oak barrels and large stainless-steel bins.
One thing that sets Blackhawk apart from other wineries, other than their wine, is their labels. In a partnership with Nickle Plate Arts, last year the winery launched a competition where local artists submit artwork; the winning design is then recreated as a bottle label for one of their annual releases. Last year’s theme was “romance of the vineyard” and the winner’s design graced the estate-bottled cayuga white wine. This year’s theme has yet to be announced but says Miller, she’s looking forward to seeing what local artists come up with.
INTERESTING FACT: Blackhawk Winery & Vineyard is a winery, a vineyard and a farm—when you pull in chances are you’ll be greeted by any one of the long list of animals that inhabit the virtual menagerie. Deb, a veterinarian by trade, tends to a wide variety of farm animals on the property including sheep, geese, roosters, turkeys and many others.
28153 W. Ditch Rd., Sheridan | blackhawkwinery.com
Have a local hotspot you think we should include? Drop us a line as we’re looking to expand this list these are just some of the first few we chose to visit first with our friends at Visit Hamilton County. So long as it’s in Hamilton County we’d love to know about it. ManagingEditor@edibleindy.com