By Corinne Minard
“A Friend may well be reckoned the Masterpiece of Nature.”
This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the first things you see when you enter the dining room of the Butcher Shoppe Bar & Grill at the Walhill Farm. It’s written in large gold calligraphy over the fireplace and it’s just one of the oddities of this Batesville, Ind., restaurant.
George Hillenbrand intended the farm to be—of all things—a horse track. “But the time was the late ‘60s and it wasn’t legal in Indiana and there was a push to have it legalized and it never was. I think that meant basically the end of the horse racing,” says Pat Voegele, restaurant manager.
“[He] found a chef who had sort of the same vision as far as very farm-to-table kind of stuff. It’s growing in our garden today, it’s going to be on our table tomorrow,” says Voegele. Hillenbrand also owns the neighboring farms and the livestock.
But Walhill Farm doesn’t stop its farm-to table philosophy there. “We’ve got a licensed butcher house right up here in our sausage house where chefs butcher the animals, prepare the animals, [and] smoke all the meat. We make our own sausages and pepperoni and bacon, all that kind of stuff. They do all of our breads, rolls [and] buns,” says Voegele. “It all comes right out of there. So we buy as little as possible.”
Executive Chef James Bogart likes to take what many would consider typical southeastern Indiana fare and turn it on its head, like his sausage and mashed potatoes made with a South African boerewors sausage and a German frikadellen.
“This is southeastern Indiana. Ninety percent German people here. Sausage and mashed potatoes is what they see,” says Voegele. “Everything we do is the same but with a little bit of a twist.”
Other surprises include the Porky’s Revenge burger (beef, pork and bacon), Creole sushi roll and persimmon bread pudding.
“We do push boundaries for sure. We’re in a more rural area so you can’t go so far contemporary that nobody understands what you’re doing,” adds Bogart.
Someone asks Voegle for a tour every day. “They want to look around and they want to see and they want to hear about it.”
And there’s lots to see. There’s the western art hanging on the walls and the original ‘60s woodwork. Horse bits hang over the ceiling near the bar with an eclectic collection of beer steins nearby. And then there’s the hallway covered in hundreds of restaurant menus from all over the world.
Everything in the Butcher Shoppe Bar & Grill is a little different, down to their fries.
“We don’t have fries, we have what we call Walhill chips, which are lotus root, parsnips, Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes. Almost all that we grow here, slice, fry [and] season,” says Voegele. “Even if you went and got chips somewhere, you’re not going to get these chips.”