Monday, August 13, 2012
Last Saturday, we somehow managed to wedge in our annual day trip to Stone Lake between our numerous out-of-town voyages this summer. As always, we stop for dinner on the way home and opted to try a new place this time instead of our old standby (Don Quixote in Valparaiso). Although the summer around here has been exceedingly hot and dry, we drove through what turned out to be quite a bombastic thunderstorm streaking its way across northwest Indiana, featuring high winds and opaque sheets of rain so strong that I actually had to pull the family truckster over to the road's shoulder amongst the riven cornstalks and tree branches at one point. Once Mother Nature's sanity had restored itself, we continued relatively unfazed to our dining destination: Strongbow Inn (SI), another of Valpo's finer restaurants, just on the outskirts of town near U.S. 30. SI has a long history in the area serving meals, hosting weddings, and churning out tasty baked goods since the 1940s. The complex was originally a turkey farm that eventually morphed into a motor inn/diner and gas station to support hungry travelers passing by on the old Lincoln Highway. As one might expect from a restaurant attached to a turkey farm, turkey in all of its glorious forms was and remains the mainstay on the menu (although FDA poultry processing regulations eventually put the kibosh on the use of turkeys direct from the farm). Third-generation chef Russ Adams and his crew crank out prodigious amounts of roast turkey, turkey noodle soup, turkey pot pie, turkey schnitzel, turkey oscar, and a select number of non-turkey dishes to feed the local masses.
Looking a little bedraggled (and a tad underdressed) from an afternoon at the lake/storm encounter, the family and I staggered in the front doors and sat down in the hopes of snagging a good meal. Mrs. Hackknife received with her entree (the full turkey dinner) an appetizer portion of the turkey liver pate, which was decent if not indistinguishable from the more-common chicken variety. I also ordered the roast turkey dinner and was presented with a full plate (see photo above) of white meat turkey atop corn niblets, mashed potatoes, and homemade stuffing, with sides of gravy and cranberry relish. Sadly, I'd say we were both a little disappointed with our choices - the turkey was a bit dry (although improved with the gravy) and the sides pretty much uninspired, especially the stuffing, which was surprisingly bland (I've had many better versions). For a place boasting about their prowess with turkeys, I would have expected better. Tastier was my mother-in-law's schnitzel, featuring a turkey cutlet in lieu of veal. I saw a large selection of attractive desserts in the bakery case in the lobby; however, I never got to sample anything as I was designated to accompany a cranky and tired Hackknifette back early to the family truckster. Maybe next year, we'd have a better experience here, but I suspect that we'll be returning to Don Quixote again....