Walhill Farm (Review)

The Restaurant at Walhill Farm’s local emphasis and tasty combinations are worth the drive

click to enlarge The cozy fireplace room at The Restaurant at Walhill Farm.
The cozy fireplace room at The Restaurant at Walhill Farm.

T

here is something eerie about a cornfield at night.

Maybe it’s just the time of year, but as we drove down the winding road that led to Walhill Farm in Batesville, Ind., on a recent Friday night, we couldn’t help but wonder if we had taken a wrong turn into a scary movie. Fortunately, the twinkly white lights soon came into view and our destination was before us. And it was exactly what we hoped it would be.

The Restaurant at Walhill Farm exudes wholesome Midwestern-ness. The staff is friendly and smiley; the decor seesaws between hackneyed and homey. There is nothing spectacular about the seating or the service, but there was something about being there on a cold night that made us blissfully happy. It could have been the napkins (which reminded us of tiny, cozy blankets), or the live cover band. More than likely, however, that something was the food.

The executive chef at The Restaurant at Walhill Farm, Nick Gladding, is a big fan of all things seasonal and housemade. By using what is readily available from the 250-acre Walhill Farm itself and local farms nearby, Gladding is able to provide his guests with higher quality products at a lower price point.

“We like to keep the money local,” he says. “Our goal is to keep the quality up and the costs down for our guests.”

In keeping with the cost-saving theme, the menu “doubles up” on several of their housemade items by using certain sides more than once. While the prices are not low, they are extremely reasonable, especially considering the portion sizes.

To start, we opted for the fried pork belly with braised cabbage and warm pear butter ($9). The pork belly was thick cut and seeping with fatty flavor; our ravenous selves devoured it far too quickly. The real star of the dish, however, was the braised cabbage. I could not stop eating it. Braised in a concoction that includes red wine vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and pork fat, it paired quite well with the juicy pork belly and lip-smackingly good pear butter.

Our next course was the Down to Earth Salad ($7), featuring red and gold beets, goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette. As a true beet person, I almost gasped when the salad arrived. Where were my cubes of juicy, roasted beets? Walhill’s beets were served raw, cut in carrot-like sticks. Gladding takes a very simple approach to salad making so as not to overwhelm his staff, but more goat cheese and a more purposeful treatment of the beets would have perfected this particular dish.

Choosing an entree from the many appealing options was challenging. Walhill Farm raises Black Angus cattle, Berkshire pigs, chickens and other animals sustainably, free from antibiotics and fed with crops from the farm’s acres of pasture. They even have a butcher shop on premises, where they prepare most of their cuts. We settled on the Walhill Pork Chop (Gladding describes pork as the “state meat of Indiana”) for $24. Served alongside a pile of my now-favorite braised cabbage, the boneless pork chop was superb. Gladding’s grill cook, an 18-year-old Indiana native, cooked it absolutely perfectly. Each pear butter-smothered bite was so tender, and the tiniest bit of fat on the edges melted in my mouth.

We also enjoyed the Gnocchi and Rabbit ($24), a stew-like combination of potato dumplings, rabbit meat, carrots, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. The sauce was thick, salty and bursting with herby flavor (almost overwhelmingly so) and the little dumplings just screamed “home.” The rabbit meat, though sparse, was tender and flavorful. Though not as intoxicating as the pork chop, the dish provided a filling, tasty option for a chilly night.

Our meal was accompanied by selections from The Restaurant’s cocktail menu, all under $7. Though our two first choices were unremarkable, it is worth mentioning that “Butterbeer” was one of the options. To avoid over exciting Happy Potter fans, it is important to relay the unbearable sweetness of this drink, a combination of butterscotch schnapps, cream soda and vodka. It stood untouched on our table after the first sip.

Though dessert was hardly necessary, Walhill’s version of a s’more ($5) looked too interesting to pass up. Unfortunately, the graham cracker crust that served as the foundation for the layered dessert was thick, very difficult to cut and not particularly tasty. The housemade marshmallow was toasted and yummy, but the chocolate in between was smeared on like a spread and not at all reminiscent of the melty sandwiches from my childhood.

Dessert missteps aside, we found ourselves giddy and satisfied after our time at Walhill Farm. The food is unquestionably worth the drive (about 45 minutes each way from downtown Cincinnati) and there is something about driving through dark cornfields on a Friday night that feels adventurous and brave and not the slightest bit ordinary.


Go: 857 Six Pine Ranch Road, Batesville, Ind.

Call: 812-934-2600
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

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