Indiana | The Best of the Indiana Foodways in Lafayette-West Lafayette

I had so much fun when I was in Indianapolis that I didn’t want to leave. Luckily, before I returned to NJ, I had one more day full of fun and food. I went on a tour of the Indiana Foodways trails in the towns of Lafayette and West Lafayette, home of Purdue University. We had a super-packed schedule but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of the places we visited or any of the foods we’d tried. Though I feel like I ate 1,000 things that day, there were a few dishes and treats that stuck out:

Triple XXX Family Restaurant

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Get your mind out of the gutter – this is a family place. Triple XXX has been around since the ’30s, when the XXX meant the highest quality rating of food instead of whatever you’re thinking about right now. I was excited for the whole day, but especially about starting out here, because I learned that my aunt’s father had worked at Triple XXX in the 1930s as a busboy. Way back in the day, this drive-in had waiters and waitresses on roller skates, just like you’d see in the movies, who’d bring their famous root beer and burgers to people in their cars.

Triple XXX Root Beer

The recipe for Triple XXX’s homemade root beer is from 1895. On Thrillist’s map of “The Most Iconic Soft Drink of Every State in America,” Triple XXX Root Beer is the winner in Indiana, on the menu as: Enjoy a frosty mug of this original 1895 pure cane sugar recipe. Rich, creamy with full-body flavor and incredibly smooth finish. Caffeine free – Gluten free!

The Duane Purvis All-American Burger

It sounds incredibly weird and it was nine in the morning, but this time, I wasn’t missing out on the specialty just because it was early (like I did on my Hendricks County tour). I made sure we had a Duane Purvis burger on the countertop because it’s topped with (wait for it) PEANUT BUTTER. I don’t know why it works, but it works SO WELL (just like my UD Homecoming 2009 experiment of whipped cream on a hot dog). We had the burger cut up into fourths so everyone could try it, but I snuck an extra quarter. I can barely finish half a burger if I order it elsewhere and the fact that I finished this one while also filling up on everything else on the counter as well says something. The burger is on the menu as: A 1/4lb. chop steak (meaning made of 100% sirloin, ground in their own kitchen), thick, creamy peanut butter, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle & onion on a toasty sesame bun. Duane Purvis was a star football player at nearby Purdue University in the 1930s.

The Short Stack Special

I didn’t want to fill up for the day too early, so I attempted to pace myself. “I’ve had a lot of pancakes in my day,” I said to myself, taking a small bite of the pancakes, but ermigod, I could not resist taking a bigger bite of these fluffy pillows of paradise. And another big bite. And maybe two or three more big bites. I’d ruined my strategy, but it was all worth it.

Indiana Foodways

Triple XXX is on the following foodie trails of Indiana Foodways:

Nine Irish Brothers

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Especially since I’m heading to Ireland the day this is being published, and my name is Erin, and I’m 51% Irish, I felt at home at Nine Irish Brothers. Of course I sampled a Guinness because it’s only good at places like this. Nine Irish Brothers has been ranked as one of the best 25 Irish pubs in the U.S. and I discovered why quickly:

Fish and Chips

I always say, IRL and on this blog that I don’t like FISH FISH, only shellfish, but the truth is there are a few exceptions. One of these exceptions is fish and chips. I only have it about once a year, though I suspect I’ll indulge in Ireland this week. Nine Irish Brothers’ fish and chips (a hefty haddock fillet battered in lager and served with a bountiful portion of delicious pub chips) really hit the spot. If I lived nearby, my fish and chips per year statistic would go up exponentially.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin

When in Indiana, do as the Hoosiers do, and the Hoosiers have a (strange!) thing for pork tenderloin. I’d never even thought of it as something I wanted to try before heading out there in June, but suddenly it was all over. I finally got a chance to sample some at Nine Irish Brothers and I totally get it. I now understand why it’s one of their state foods and why there’s an entire Indiana Foodways trail devoted to it. The tenderloin is traditionally served with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, all on a soft bun.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding is not what I would normally choose from a menu with other desserts on it, but this version was made with Irish soda bread. This was a delight for me, because my dad bakes it for St. Patrick’s Day. This dessert also had a little kick, a “light drizzle of Irish whiskey sauce.”

Indiana Foodways

Nine Irish Brothers is on the following foodie trails of Indiana Foodways:

Arni’s

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Both Arni’s and Bruno’s (a little further below) are famous in Indiana for their pizza, and while I enjoyed each square I’d had at both establishments, these dishes were what I keep thinking about from Arni’s:

Arni’s Junior Salad

I typically have to be in the mood for salad (and it’s probably when my body is like, “hey, Erin, for the love of Justin Timberlake, please have some vegetables today!”), but Arni’s Junior Salad was something I could get used to, with fresh greens covered with chunks of turkey, tender ham and crumbled mozzarella, garnished with sliced radishes, green onions, and croutons. Arni’s regulars try to replicate the salad all the time but it has never been done properly. There’s definitely a secret somewhere here. If you figure it out, let a blogger know.

Magnificent Mushrooms

I only discovered I liked mushrooms in the last few years and up until this day, I’d mostly just had them on pizza. But Arni’s “Magnificient Mushrooms” (big, beautiful Select caps stuffed with a blend of cream cheese, sausage, onion and spices, topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella, baked to perfection) were a wonderful surprise.

Hot Sicilian Sandwich

Arni’s Hot Sicilian Sandwich is something I’m going to try to replicate in New Jersey, though there may be a secret here, too. This sandwich has everything – ham, salami, pepperoni, bacon, onions, banana peppers, melted mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, Italian dressing, and my heart. Fo’reals.

Indiana Foodways

Arni’s is on the following foodie trails of Indiana Foodways:

Wildcat Creek Winery

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It’s not often I’ve been to a winery, or a brewery for that matter, where I’ve liked every sample I’ve had, but either I made some awesome choices or Wildcat Creek is the place to be. Wildcat Creek had a perfect outdoor area that I wished we could have spent time in, but it’s a reason to return on my next trip to Indy.

All of the Wines!

Of the Dry Wines category, I chose Prophet’s Red Rock {full tasting red with flavors of berry, with hints of vanilla and oak}. Of the Semi-Dry Wines, I sampled Traminette {Indiana’s signature wine, distinctively fresh and crisp with fruity aromas – 2012 Indiana Traminette of the Year}. Of the Semi-Sweet Wines, I tried both the Steuben {a delicate, crisp blush wine with cranberry and strawberry flavors and aromas – 2012 Indiana Grown American Wine of the Year} and the Lafayette Red {made with rich, juicy Concord grapes, enjoyable on its own or as a spritzer or sangria}. The final wine I tried was a Fruit Wine, specifically Bicentennial Blueberry {Named in honor of Indiana’s 200th anniversary of statehood. This mid-harvest wine has a deep blueberry color and a natural sweetness}. If I’d had any room left in my Lo & Sons Catalina, I would have taken home a bottle of each of these delicious wines, all perfect for the summer.

Bruno’s

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As I mentioned above, most people go to Bruno’s for the pizza, and we did try four delicious kinds while I was there, but I couldn’t help but fall just a little more for these three dishes:

Bruno Dough

Bruno’s is famous for its dough and this appetizer was one of my favorite finds of the day. Though the menu description is “our famous pizza dough, deep-fried, brushed with garlic butter, sprinkled with parmesan,” I thought they tasted sweet. Not only was their excellent cheese dip just what I needed, but they also came with a delicious homemade marinara sauce. The combo hit me in all the right places.

Lasagna

I have never ordered lasagna at a restaurant and probably only have it once a year (just like fish and chips), but Bruno’s lasagna {layers of pasta, ricotta cheese, ground beef, meat sauce, covered with mozzarella, then baked} is a dish I could get used to. I took the smallest piece of this, just to try it, but I went back for seconds and thirds.

Wienerschnitzel

I’d had wienerschnitzel in Vienna because it’s practically illegal not to have it there, but Bruno’s was much better than the larger-than-the-plate, breaded and flattened dish I’d only been able to eat half of in Austria. I didn’t know until writing this post that that’s because it was real wienerschnitzel, as in breaded veal instead of the pork wienerschnitzel I’d requested in Vienna. Wienerschnitzel is a funny word.

Indiana Foodways

Bruno’s is on the following foodie trails of Indiana Foodways:

Igloo’s Frozen Custard

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By this time, my stomach was super full, but there’s always room for ice cream when I travel. If you know me at all or have visited my Instagram account, you know I eat ice cream on more days than I don’t eat ice cream. I was absolutely charmed when we arrived at the adorable Igloo Custard and they started bringing out trays of ice cream in plastic cups for us to try. Typically when I go to an ice cream parlor as long as the line isn’t too long, I ask to try two flavors and then order two different flavors in a cone, but this time, I got to try over 20 different flavors in one sitting. Could I have been more happy?

All of the Custard!

Igloo’s custard was seriously the most flavorful I’ve ever had – the strawberry tasted more like strawberry than actual strawberries. Even the vanilla custard, which I would *never* order ever, was worth a few more tastes than I expected. I unfortunately had limits after such a productive food day, so I had to start making decisions and separating them into ones I needed more bites of and ones I had had enough of. My favorite? Airplane cookie which, again, tasted more like an airplane cookie than the package of Lotus Biscoff I had on Delta the next day. I don’t know how they do it, but I sure wish they shipped to the east coast. (Edit: They do! Will have to look into this!)

Indiana Foodways

Igloo’s Frozen Custard is on the following foodie trails of Indiana Foodways:

While You’re in Town, Don’t Miss:

Purdue University

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I was a little skeptical about visiting a university that I didn’t go to, because my own alma mater is so close to my heart, but I did enjoy the visit to Purdue. It helped that we were riding in a golf cart with an entertaining student guide and that the campus was adorable. Fun fact – 23 Purdue graduates have become astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, whose moon-landing footsteps you can walk in on campus. Of course, I tried myself.

McCord Candies

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McCord Candies is famous for its candy canes around the holidays. We stopped in the old-fashioned corner shop for  homemade chocolates and gummies. Did you know that 40% of the world’s gummy candy is made in Indiana? Of course you didn’t.

Haan Mansion

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The most unexpected delight of the day was the Haan Mansion, an incredible collection of Indiana art and antiques in the state of Connecticut building from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Bob and Ellie were the cutest guides possible and showed us around their former home. My favorite piece in the mansion was an Orchestral Regina, a 27″ Disk Music Box, circa 1900 which played the Star-Spangled Banner on a giant metal disk in the way a music box catches the notes on a small scale. I also loved the new sculpture garden out back and the large collection of Native American artwork.

People’s Brewing Company

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I was excited about this stop because I’d had a People’s Ol’ Tavern beer with my sandwich at Goose the Market in Indy. Owner Chris provided us with a quick tour of the brewery and a flight of our choosing. I mostly picked beers based on the names, including Space Cowboy {an Imperial IPA}, Phantom Assassin {a White IPA}, Notorious B.I.P. {the beer of the week, an IPA of some sort}, and Hopknoxious {Summer Wheat} which was, no surprise, my favorite.

LE Originals

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Linda of LE Originals is the only person in the world who can put a photograph on glass. With this skill and secret, she creates beautiful, meaningful, custom jewelry. We were able to observe her at work, sticking her perfectly-manicured hands in the fire while making gorgeous glass beads. We then went home with glass flowers on sharp stems that I almost accidentally left in my carry-on when flying home.

Grateful Heart Gallery & Gifts

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At Grateful Heart Gallery & Gifts, Diane showed us her creative pottery, including a series of clay musical instruments, a series of flowers with individually crafted petals, and a porcupine with real quills. I took a few pottery classes in NYC a few years ago and know how hard it is, so I think I was even more impressed than the rest of the group. I wish I had Diane’s level of talent in something, anything.

Even if you’re not a Boilermaker or if you have no clue what a Boilermaker is, there’s plenty to take in and be charmed by in the Home of Purdue. Add Lafayette and West Lafayette to your roadtrip map, stat. Bring your appetite.

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For more on Indiana, including posts from my fellow Bloghouse participants, visit this page.

Many thanks to the team from Visit Indiana, Indiana Foodways, and Home of Purdue / Lafayette / West Lafayette for the most delicious day. Bloghouse Indy sponsors were Visit IndyVisit Indiana, and J.W. Marriott Indianapolis. Opinions are always my own. 

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