With just one glance, it's easy to detect the former life of the building that houses Pickles Cafe. The large front display windows, parapet roof and squeaky narrow porch are dead giveaways. The Dunfee General Store was founded in the late 1800s; it's now known as Dunfee Plumtickled Junction. There's still a general store that sells old-fashioned candy and jams; antiques are for sale on the first and second floors. I had such a good time shopping that I ended up buying an antique dresser.
My daughter loves pickles, I mean really loves pickles. She was in pickle heaven after a tour at Sechler's in St. Joe a few years ago. Bringing anyone else as my guest to a restaurant called Pickles would have been unforgivable.
It was a beautiful spring day with a gentle breeze, so we opted to dine outside on a screened-in side porch. In addition to the historic building, part of the charm of Pickles Cafe is the mismatched tables, chairs and dishes. I was thrilled to see all the vintage tablecloths and the use of Ball jars for our drinks (they're a nice reminder of my alma mater, Ball State).
After we were seated, I noticed a wooden red “Eat” sign on the wall. You may remember that I have a fondness for old “Eat” signs and found myself wondering whether it was for sale. I also noticed that the roof over the porch was corrugated metal. I almost wished I had come here on a rainy day just so I could hear the raindrops on the roof. You might also be lucky enough to be serenaded by the trains passing on a nearby track.
As I perused the menu, I smiled at the cheekiness. The names of dishes like the “Porky's Revenge” and “Cheese Louise” sandwiches, as well as “Hippie Hash” and “Rainbow Omelet” tickled me. I also chuckled that kids' meals are listed under “Little Cucumber Plates.”
In the spirit of the fun theme, I tried the “Chicken Lickin Salad” sandwich with a cup of carrot soup that would have excited any Easter rabbit. It was still bubbling hot when it was served – so hot that it would have burned a bunny's nose. It was earthy and zesty from the spice. I wasn't sure I liked it, but after a few more spoonfuls, I was hooked.
My Chicken Lickin' salad sandwich was prepared panini-style. The buttery bread was nicely grilled and toasty. Sliced almonds, Craisins, Mandarin oranges and crunchy celery accessorized the chicken salad. But the star of this sandwich was the lemon dill dressing, which was was fresh and light. I'd pick this sandwich again and again.
Pickles Cafe's tomato basil soup was outstanding. It had the right balance of the acidic tomato and the pungent basil. It was creamier than the carrot soup. Both of us really loved it, making it a must-have during a return trip.
Along with the soup, my daughter had the Italian pasta salad special. Conchiglie (shell-shaped pasta), peas, onions, herbs, ripe tomatoes and chunks of cheese were coated in a sweet dressing. She said it “tasted like spring.”
A wedge of watermelon and pickles (of course!) garnished our luncheon plates. I don't need to tell you who gobbled up the pickles, but the watermelon was a nice palate cleanser for the best part of our meals – dessert.
I chose Pickles' pistachio layer cake. The minute I took a bite, I felt transported back to my childhood. This is the kind of cake I remember from potlucks. The pistachio flavor also reminded me of family Jell-o salads and Christmas desserts. The crumb was dense and moist. The white frosting and coconut topping were delicious. Every bite of this cake was satisfying and full of comfort. (If anyone at Pickles wants to share the recipe, put me on your call list!)
The chocolate peanut butter pie is nearly beyond words. It tasted like a creamy, fudgy version of a buckeye candy. The Oreo chocolate cookie crumb crust, smooth peanut butter layer and thick blanket of chocolate left us speechless. It was decadent and so, so good.
Breakfast options are available, but only on Saturdays.
I may not be able to wait for the next rainy day before returning to Pickles. But rain or shine, I'll be guaranteed a full tummy and a good time. And I just might leave with another piece of antique furniture, too.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Laura Weston-Elchert at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 461-8468.
Where: 5310 South, 800 East-92
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Closed Sunday-Monday
* Twisted Swisster omelet: $7.25
* Horseshoe omelet: $7.25
* Hot mess hash: $7.95
* Fruit plate: $7.65
* Kim's kale salad: $8.65
* Steak salad: $8.95
* Big hammy & cheese sandwich: $6.95
* Cheese Louise sandwich: $7.25
* Chicken Lickin' salad sandwich: $7.25
* Pistachio Cake: $3.95