The kitchen garden at Shakertown at Pleasant Hill was full of corn, tomatoes, and more produce during our August 2012 visit.

A stroll down restaurant Memory Lane

By Robin Garr

Covid, Delta, Omicron, BA.5, bah! Sometimes it seems as if the pandemic will never end. In fact, the experts say, it’s more likely to shift from pandemic to endemic status, which isn’t much better since it’s essentially acknowledging that it will always be around, like the flu or common cold.

While in some ways the pandemic has shown the resilience of the restaurant business, I sometimes wonder, too, how long that can last. We’ve lost too many favorite places, and those that remain are struggling with rising costs and shortages of both labor and food. Everyone is tired of Covid. Hardly anybody wants to wear a mask any more.

And yet, with the latest variants pushing Louisville back into the scary red zone, it’s all too tempting to skip dining out for a while, or at best to grab takeout or have something delivered to the relative safety of our homes.

It’s not a happy scene, and rather than dwell on it further – we all know too well what’s going on – I decided to spend some time this week escaping Covid-driven frustration with a trip down Memory Lane.

What was I doing on the restaurant scene 10 years ago this month? Perhaps revisiting my views of Louisville dining back when the biggest worries on our minds were, well, continuing recovery from the Great Recession and whether Obama could old on for a second term. At least those things weren’t contagious.

Gas prices were only about $2.60 that summer, which may explain why road trips were on my mood in August 2012. That month I reported on a day trip to two roadside stands in Southern Indiana and an overnighter to Shakertown at Pleasant Hill. I enjoyed re-reading snippets from those reports, and I hope you will, too.

Road Food Road Trip In Southern Indiana!

I know this is hard to believe, but a couple of generations back, when our parents and even our grandparents were young, a road trip took some planning. There were no Interstate highways and nothing like McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King. What was a hungry traveler to do in those days of winding two-lane highways and no familiar burger logos glowing in the distance? As it happens, though it may have taken longer to get to your destination, but our forbears arguably enjoyed a finer, tastier and better quality of road food in those days gone by.

The familiar neon parrot at Polly's Freeze has long lured visitors to the Southern Indiana road trip destination.
The familiar neon parrot at Polly’s Freeze has long lured visitors to the Southern Indiana road trip destination.

Let’s take a road trip to Southern Indiana this week, where it’s still possible to get off the Interstates, onto the “blue highways,” and within a very short trip from Louisville get a taste of something akin to the goodies that Granddad and Grandmom enjoyed when they fired up the old Rambler and hit the road.

Head west on I-64 from Louisville on the freshly renovated Sherman Minton Bridge. Drive through New Albany, haul the long Floyds Knobs hill, and a couple of exits later hop off at the Georgetown exit, Indiana Hwy. 64. Here you face a delightful decision: Head to the right for a delicious gyros at A.J.’s Gyros? Or hook left under the highway for ice cream delights at Polly’s Freeze, celebrating its 60th anniversary in business this year?I highly recommend doing both.

(I still do recommend Polly’s, although sadly A.J’s closed several years ago.)

Peace, Calm And Good Eats At Shaker Village

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, also known as Shakertown, may be my No. 1 favorite spot for a quick getaway road trip with a quiet, calm and peaceful rest at the destination. And, by no means least, good things to eat.

Shaker Village, pictured at the top of the page, is a beautiful, peaceful place where you can stay overnight in the original 19th century buildings and dine very well indeed in the Trustees’ House building that has been offering rest and restoration to weary travelers since the early 1800s. I’ve been visiting Shakertown since I was a teen-ager and think of it as a very special place.

This memory made me shed a wistful tear, as I’m still mourning the loss of Palermo Viejo, which closed in 2015 but was still going strong when I reviewed it in August 2012:

Back Home Again In Argentina At Palermo Viejo

Think globally, eat locally: I can hardly think of a better place to do both of these things than Palermo Viejo, Louisville’s only Argentine restaurant and a perennial favorite among ethnic eateries.

Where is Argentina? If you answered “Down past Mexico somewhere,” you’ve probably come closer than many Americans, sadly, to locating this major nation that runs down the southern part of South America, below Brazil between the Atlantic Ocean and the Andes mountains.

Let’s take a bold step toward geographical literacy through a fine dinner at Palermo Viejo.

Over on the HotBytes forum, one viral post dominated the August 2012 conversation:

Papa John says he’ll pass along Obamacare costs to consumers
So “Papa” John, not long after hosting Mitt Romney to a little at-home fund-raiser at his Anchorage manse, is now declaring that the cost of providing his employees Obamacare will require him to pass along the costs to those who consume his pizza, in order to protect the shareholders’ interests?

I find this fascinating, first because of his apparent priorities: Shareholders first, employees second, and his customers, it seems, dead last. But it’s also curious because of his apparent limited command of simple business economics: Raise prices, sales drop off, shareholders suffer all the same.

Deliver a quality product, John, and shareholder profits should follow.

Whoa, I was salty that day. Thanks for joining me on this little nostalgia trip. It you enjoyed it, let me know, and we’ll do it again sometime.