Ever hear of Perkinsville? Few have but this village in the middle of nowhere goes back to 1821 when the first white settler pitched a tent near the White River. In 1825, William Parkins arrived and built a cabin.
In 1837, Perkinsville was platted. The filing was supposed to be Parkinsville.
Later, the A. J. Applegate General Store opened. It sold everything!
In 1934, Chuck Bonge bought the original store and opened a tavern. Eventually it set empty for years. In the mid-1990’s, local restauranters, Tony Huelster and Don Kroger, discovered the property. They had a vision to restore Bonge’s Tavern to a destination restaurant.
After extensive restoration, the vison became a reality when they opened in 1997, and a legend was born. Soon thereafter, Tony and his wife became sole-owners.
Initially, the tavern took no reservations, but as the reputation grew, people came hours before the 4:30 opening to tailgate in the parking lot while hoping to capture a table. The tavern installed a port-a-pot and encouraged patrons to bring tailgating goodies.
The legend grew, and tailgating turned chaotic. So, the tavern changed to reservations-only. Still folks arrive early and sit in the beer garden until their table is called.
As you turn off Ind. 13, you meander along the White River to the tavern. What immediately catches your attention is that it’s a throw-back. The restoration retained the original tavern décor including nostalgic signs of the time everywhere.
When your name is called, the door is unlocked, and you walk into a time capsule! The décor is a mash-up. Pennants adorn the walls and funky light strings dangle across the ceiling. The wood floor, bar and bar back-drop are original. There is no seating at the bar, but there are five booths and six tables. With the party room behind the bar, the tavern’s capacity is 68. You would never imagine that you are about embark on an amazing culinary journey.
Chef Tony continues to exceed expectations. That’s why people drive for hours to sample his seasonal menu that’s posted on the chalkboard behind the bar. On the table is a wine bottle. The label is the wine list.
We settled into a booth with friends, and Dee, greeted us. First-up, what to drink? They only serve beer and wine, so we perused the wine choices. Our friend chose a Zinfandel from Wild Hog Vineyards. It was a great choice.
Onto appetizers. The house-smoked salmon is a signature, so we went for it. It was exceptional. Perhaps the best lox I’ve had. Served with toast points, capers and a fiery, house-made horseradish that clears your sinuses, it was quickly devoured.
For entrees, the first item on the chalkboard is “Perkinsville Pork”. It’s the most popular dish. Others listed were two steaks, Harger duck, pork BLT, lamb chops, Norwegian sea trout, Tuscan chicken, the signature barbeque brisket, and a fish of the day — swordfish.
On weekends, they feature prime rib.
I immediately leaned towards the Norwegian sea trout (something I’ve not seen on any menu), but the wine choice made me steer towards the chops. The serving is three double chops — seared medium rare. Served with Israeli couscous and a grainy Dijon mustard cream sauce, it was a perfect dish! Gayle, my wife, and one of our friends also ordered the chops.
Each entrée comes with your choice of a wedge salad or their signature tomato soup. I chose the salad, while Gayle selected the soup. Both were exceptional.
Our other friend ordered the Tuscan chicken, which is served with spaghetti, capers, roasted red peppers, Meyer lemon and a tarragon aioli. All were quite satisfied, but the ladies decided to share a dessert.
The signature dessert is the sugar cream cake. The serving is clearly enough for two and was slammed.
Bonge’s Tavern is one of the better luscious locations we’ve visited. People come from afar to consume culinary treats that exceed high-end Indy restaurants. It’s only a two-hour drive from Lake Country. You won’t be disappointed.