The writing is officially on the wall and the readers of Evansville Living have spoken. Each year our readers cast ballots and we, as editors of the magazine, share some favorites, too, as we learn the people, restaurants, stores, and more that have made their mark as Evansville’s best. Ron Rhodes
January / February 2015
Scot Wichser, a Darmstadt, Indiana, native who still calls the incorporated town in Vanderburgh County home, watches a lot of weather online and on television and reads — and puts stake in — “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” It’s part of his job, and, “I don’t want to take a chance of kids getting hurt,” he says.
While researching times for the latest installment of “The Hobbit,” I had so many choices: stadium, 3D, IMAX, and the Royal Suite. Watching a movie in a recliner while someone brings me food and drinks — where do I sign up? I told my fiancé we had to go because Showplace Cinema’s Royal Suite isn’t just a theater; it’s an adventure. The Scoop At the corner of Morgan Avenue and Green River Road, the Royal Suite took the place of Harbor Bay Restaurant in December 2014.
More than a century ago, when the bricks that paved the streets in the residential area just east of Downtown were still new, gaslights burned each night, providing a soft, yellow glow for the surrounding homes. Over time, those lights were removed in favor of electrical crane lights, which cast a bright glare high above the streets. But because the area has a thick growth of trees, the lights were mostly obscured, leaving the streets and sidewalks dark after nightfall.
Eight years ago, Old National Bank, headquartered in Evansville at 1 Main St., set out to offer more charitable help to the communities it serves. Already a philanthropic-minded corporation, its new CEO, Bob Jones, wanted to see its contributions expanded, its focus broadened, so he launched the ONB Foundation in the spring of 2006. Today, its footprint extends across four states, pumping more than $3 million annually into not-for-profit organizations.
When Scott Poynter’s father Jack died in 1994, Scott pledged to not only take over his father’s business but his dream of its success. In 1978, Jack opened The Glass Factory of Owensboro, Kentucky, as a part-time business while he worked as an art teacher and football coach at Owensboro High School. He ran the business, which primarily offered stained glass work, for extra cash and also for a creative outlet with Scott helping on the side from time to time.
When Meg Diekmann realized her husband’s grandparents’ farmhouse in western Vanderburgh County was to be theirs — for her and Doug to restore and in which to raise their three boys — she immediately thought of filling it with lots of young people. “It’s been my dream to have high school and college kids welcome here,” says Meg.
If secrets pique your interest, Sarah Bruggeman, the pastry chef at Vecchio’s Italian Market & Delicatessen, will have your mouth watering. She refuses to reveal the recipe for the chocolate ginger cookies, which are the most popular cookies sold at Vecchio’s, located at 14 W. Jennings St. in Newburgh, Indiana.
The Vault 329 has an extensive bar and a menu as rich as the venue’s history. Evansville native Chris Calhoun owns the Downtown restaurant and says the diversity of his other restaurants is evident on The Vault 329’s menu. Next to more traditional bar food like wings and nachos, the restaurant offers up items like Chicken Rangoon.
You’d probably assume Dan Nix knows a thing or two about making beef kabobs. After all, Nix owns Western Ribeye & Ribs on Evansville’s East Side. And if you’d like to know his secret recipe, all it will cost you is a $25 purchase of the new Lighting Up the Historic District Cookbook.
When I entertain, I like to keep things simple. That way it’s easier to execute everything on time before and after the guests arrive. But that doesn’t mean the flavors still can’t be complex, even with so-called “party food.” Reducing the steps and time required for preparations helps to reduce pre-event stress, and also allows enjoyment of a cocktail or other adult beverage before guests arrive (further reducing stress levels). Remember, parties are supposed to be fun.
Soups and sandwiches — it’s a combination that rivals some of the greats — salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, and cheese and crackers. In Southern Indiana, we embrace this pairing at our many local and chain restaurants that transform this staple comfort food into a must-have delicacy. Here’s where we head when we think of soups and sandwiches.
Like most cities, Evansville is made up of neighborhoods. From the long-forgotten Babytown to the often-discussed Jacobsville, the city’s history comes from its small but distinct districts. For the first time, the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development, with help from Matt Wagner Design, has compiled a map showing all the known historic and contemporary neighborhoods within the city limits. From Independence to Boxtown, it’s a history lesson and a piece of art all at once.
Center of Attention
When it first opened to students in September 1965, Indiana State University Evansville was cramped inside the old Centennial Elementary School building, constructed in 1876 on Evansville’s West Side. A total of 412 students enrolled that year in an experiment to see if the idea of a public institution of higher education could succeed in Evansville.
I hope the year 2015 is off to a great beginning for you. Again this year we bring you the Best of Evansville. This is the 16th year of publication (Volume 16, Issue 1 is printed on the spine); with the March/April issue we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the magazine; and we’ve had 14 Best of Evansville issues.
Chew On This
Salad World Grill and Deli East, 724 N. Burkhardt Road, is now open. The location serves salads, wraps, potatoes, chicken dishes, soups, and more. La Cabana, 821 S. Green River Road, has reopened to offer authentic Mexican entrees and seafood. Crazy Sake, 5720 E. Virginia St., is open in the former Nagasaki Inn location. The restaurant offers Japanese hibachi and sushi. An outpost of Angelo’s has opened in Newburgh, Indiana.
Ambartaj (4951 W. Lloyd Expressway) is now open on Evansville’s West Side. The Indian restaurant serves lunch and dinner buffets daily and offers carry-out and catering. Fester’s Sportsbar & Grill (10301 Old Highway 62 E., Mount Vernon, IN) opened in December. The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, wraps, soups, pizzas, salads, and more. The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmer’s Market (204 Main St.) welcomed Lucid, a coffee shop, in early January.
Check It Out
Each year, the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Annual Gala grows bigger — and better — says Christine Gilles. “It’s actually a lot of fun,” says Gilles, Holy Rosary’s volunteer and stewardship director. “Everyone looks forward to it every year, and each time we try to make it bigger.”
Evansville resident Tammy Jacobs and fellow members of the Evansville River City Bop Club wanted to bring a dance convention to Evansville. Similar events are common in bigger cities like Nashville and Louisville, but nothing like it had ever taken place in town. Now in its fourth year, the Swing Fling, which started as a one-day event, will take place over three days, Feb. 26 to 28, at the Holiday Inn North.
The last time we checked in with Marx Pyle, he was helping make movies like “Silence of the Belle” and Michael Rosenbaum’s “Back in the Day” in Newburgh, Indiana. But the independent filmmaker has plenty of his own work to show off as well.
One has to be at least 60 years old to remember driving Evansville’s Main Street as a two-way thoroughfare with four lanes, regular streetlights, and lighted department store windows lining the wide street. Main between Second Street and what was known as Seventh (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) was officially closed to traffic in 1971.
Evansville Hose House No.9 was once manned entirely by African-Americans. Zerah Priestly Carter was the first African-American woman to graduate from Evansville College in 1938. George Buckner was born to a slave woman, but later came to Evansville to serve as a doctor in 1890. And though they are integral parts of Evansville’s history, most city residents have probably never heard of them. The Evansville African American Museum would like to change that.
I have a client who some people might refer to as a plant hoarder if they saw the amount of plants delivered to his house on a yearly basis. I like to refer to him as a “plant collector,” but I have joked with him on numerous occasions that he may have a problem.
Father Time eventually catches up with us all. Every year, we mourn the passing of members of our community who have made contributions to their jobs, their families, to civic organizations, and much more. And it is altogether appropriate that, as we turn the calendar to 2015, we celebrate some of those who died in the past year. We poured through death records and obituaries to find notable men and women who helped make the Tri-State a little bit better when they left than it was when they were born.
When the Great Chicago Fire raged furiously, killing 300 people in early October 1871, more than 100,000 residents were left homeless. Chicago residents found refuge 90 minutes north in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The first recorded sighting of Lake Geneva, which is the second deepest lake in Wisconsin at 21 miles around, 3 miles wide, and 9 miles long, was in 1831. But the Chicago fire helped create a building boom as visitors, many who were wealthy industrialists, were drawn to the crystal clear water.
Behind the political force of Frank Underwood on the Netflix original series “House of Cards” is the stoic and ever-present force of Edward Meechum. University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow plays Meechum, a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and his wife Claire, portrayed by Robin Wright.
A slice of New York City culture has made its way to the big screen in Evansville — but it’s far from the only way to get some world-class viewing opportunities on the local big screen. Even as huge blockbusters dominate the headlines, venues like AMC theater and the Evansville Public Library are offering movie and special event screenings that give patrons a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy something completely different.
One glance around textile artist Laura Foster Nicholson’s studio reveals her love for fabrics. Pieces of cloth, thread, and draperies occupy every corner. As she apologizes for the mess of her creative workspace, the Chicago native says she finds her peace at the loom.
When we asked WEHT and WTVW Eyewitness News Meteorologist Ron Rhodes to be photographed for the cover of Evansville Living, little did he know that he was voted the Most Colorful Community Character in the Best of Evansville 2015 contest.