“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 at 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.
In 2004, George’s grandnephew, Peter, bought the farm at an
auction and turned it into a fine dining, farm-to-table restaurant.
“[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
“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
That twist on Midwest dining can be seen in the décor as well.
It’s a down-home restaurant with some international influence.
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 at Walhill Farm 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.”