The two-level building with the old-fashioned well and covered patio in the front yard sure doesn’t look like a restaurant. Only a lighted “Open” sign and a small strip over the door reading “Off the Grid and Grill” really gives it away.
But the log structure in historic downtown Corydon, Ind., is alluring, no matter what’s inside. When I discovered it was a restaurant, well, I had to check it out.
My girlfriend Cynthia and I went for a late lunch and found only a handful of other people inside. The main dining room features a few random items, including a wood etching that depicts what the old farmhouse might have looked like in its heyday.
A fire flickered in a stone fireplace on one wall, with a few booths and tables littering the floor. As you walk into the place via the elevated front porch, you pass a handful of rocking chairs where you can imagine American settlers passing an evening with family.
A wooden staircase in the main room leads to a loft with additional seating; the lack of a full ceiling gives the main room a spacious feel, almost making it feel like a cross between the log cabin it is and a small church.
In the back corner behind the stairs is a small bar with a bar top that was handmade by restaurant owner Robin Montgomery. The décor in the small bar — which had a few taps, a lot of longneck bottles in a cooler and a chalkboard touting $2 mimosas — focused on NASCAR. Shirts for sale on one wall revealed a slogan for the restaurant: “Cabin Fever.”
Our server told us the cabin was built sometime in the 1840s — that’s probably a best-guess assessment — and that it was moved to its current spot from Mauckport, Ind., close to a decade ago. It became a restaurant a couple of years ago under Montgomery’s direction.
The menu is pure Americana, nothing fancy: steaks, chicken tenders, fried fish, the Cabin Burger, a few salads, sides and so forth.
Many of the dishes have personal names like “Dad’s Pulled Pork,” “Billy’s Whitefish Sandwich” and “Kelly’s Reuben,” giving the menu a homey feel, no doubt to match the atmosphere.
If your sweet tooth calls out, you can get Jill’s Dessert of the Day or a slice of Cabin Pie, a signature sugar-cream pie.
We were quite hungry, so choosing wasn’t easy even though the menu isn’t terribly large. It was a Friday, though, prompting Cynthia to get the fish sandwich (it’s Lent, after all).
For my part, I just really wanted some seafood, so I ordered Shannon’s Seafood Platter. For an appetizer, we chose Jeff’s Greenies, which are fried green tomatoes.
The tomato slices, six of them, came out still sizzling and paired with a cup of Cajun aioli. They were coated in a light cornmeal batter and sprinkled with sea salt, fried crispy enough that a few of the edges were dark brown. The tangy tomatoes were a nice balance for the saltiness of the batter and the light spice in the tasty aioli.
Nothing special, per se, but it was a good start to our lunch.
Our meal wasn’t far behind, and like the tomatoes, our fried seafood came straight from the fryer to our table. Cynthia’s sandwich featured an ample piece of fried fish on a toasted bun, topped with lettuce, pickles and tartar sauce.
A hush puppy addict, she had meant to order a side of hush puppies — the sandwich came with basic ruffled chips — and had forgotten. When she asked the server to add those to the order, Montgomery sent out a couple on the house.
The whitefish wasn’t greasy and had the expected mild, clean flavor. Certainly, it was fish-fry worthy.
“It tastes like Friday,” Cynthia said.
My platter was stacked with a piece of fish, sans bun, just like on the sandwich, along with two pan-fried oysters, two large fried shrimp, a whole lot of fried clams, and thick, skin-on steak fries. House-made cole slaw came on the side.
The clams looked a tad overcooked, and many were, but the flavor was still good, and the extra minute in the fryer apparently kept away the rubbery texture clams can sometimes have. I ate every morsel.
The fish was solid, as described, and the shrimp were as well. The oysters were nicely breaded and prepared, and the whole shebang was served with a cup of the requisite cocktail sauce.
The fries turned out to be more tasty than they looked to the eye, and I had a tough time leaving five or six behind after I’d gotten too full to continue on.
In short, this is a place your grandparents would love. The food was right over the plate for general audiences, and both the menu and atmosphere are family friendly. Our friendly server told us Montgomery not only handmade much of the décor, including the wood cut on the wall, but also apparently is the restaurant’s sole cook, for the sake of consistency.
Off the Grid and Grill is worth the 30-minute drive west if only for the experience of the cabin, and there’s plenty of history and some shopping in the little downtown surrounding it.
The restaurant, located at 116-120 S. Capitol Ave., is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.