A path, a track, a trail: They all lead to somewhere, to something.
Food trails lead people to the places that help them better understand a destination through traditional cuisine, signature dishes and historical fare. These food trails allow visitors to discover areas that have flavors all their own.
Hoosier Pie Food Trail
The saying is “It’s as American as apple pie,” but in Indiana, it would be sugar cream pie. Sugar cream pie is known for its caramel-like filling, made using brown sugar, maple syrup or both. Although sugar cream pie is not officially Indiana’s state pie, it was popularized in the heart of northern Indiana’s Pennsylvania Dutch country and can be found at all 19 of the Hoosier Pie Food Trail’s stops.
In the town of Shipshewana in northern Indiana, the Blue Gate Restaurant is an Amish establishment famous for its family-style dining, and it recently opened a buffet that features all the same foods; both options work well for groups, said Lindsey Skeen of the Indiana Foodways Alliance. Many of the restaurant’s cooks and bakers are Amish, and they use Amish recipes. The Blue Gate is known for its pies, and the dessert menu features a plethora of options, among them Dutch apple, butterscotch and coconut custard. The raspberry cream pie “is one of their most popular” next to the sugar cream pie, Skeen said. The Blue Gate Bakery also sells homemade Amish specialties such as cookies and jams, and the attached Blue Gate Theatre features live music and concerts.
Also in Shipshewana, the Bread Box Bakery serves up slices of homemade pies along with saucer-size cookies and gigantic cinnamon rolls visitors can enjoy inside or at the outdoor picnic area that includes cafe tables under a white gazebo.
Wicks Pie Company is an Indiana institution. Duane Wick parlayed his restaurant business into a pie-making empire, and in 1961, he bought the building where the company continues to make more than 12 million pies and pie shells a year. After touring the factory, groups can walk across the street to Mrs. Wick’s Restaurant to get a slice of one of 36 varieties the cafe makes every day.
At the Gaither Family Resource Center, groups can tour the recording studio of the famous Christian gospel singing and songwriting duo Bill and Gloria Gaither and grab a slice of pie in their Pure and Simple restaurant.
Texas BBQ Trail
The Texas BBQ Trail highlights five communities surrounding Austin, all within an hour’s drive, and in those communities, the trail features “the legends; the barbecue joints that have been around the longest,” said Gena Carter, president of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce.
Elgin is home to both Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse and Southside Market and BBQ, which claims the title of the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. A local butcher started selling beef and pork from the back of his wagon in 1882, and now, nearly 135 years later, Southside continues to serve up Texas barbecue made with four key ingredients: high-quality meat, dry rub, Texas post oak wood and time. Visitors can buy barbecue by the pound on butcher paper or get a plate meal with all the sides. Southside just opened a second location in Bastrop, which in turn landed the town on the trail. The new location features a private dining room and an enclosed patio, and the original Elgin location also works well for groups, Carter said.
In Lockheart, four restaurants are on the trail: Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market. Both Kreuz and Smitty’s are quite large and can handle big crowds, and they share an interesting tie. Kreuz began in 1900 as a grocery and meat market, and today the restaurant is housed in a red-brick and tin building with open cooking fires and chimneys inside. Nina Schmidt Sells’ father owned Kreuz Market for 50 years, and she opened Smitty’s in 1999 in the former Kreuz building.
In Luling, Luling City Market serves its barbecue on butcher paper — no forks, only fingers — and Luling Bar-B-Q dishes it up at its cafeteria-style restaurant. Taylor is home to four more barbecue havens. Taylor Café and West End Café are local favorites for brisket, sausage, chicken and ribs, and the not-so-secret ingredients at Davis Grocery and Bar-B-Q are “patience and mesquite wood.” Louis Mueller Barbecue, which has been in the Mueller family since opening in 1949, is the best for larger groups, Carter said.