By Sarah Davis | Echo
Oriental Pearl - Gas City
Off the road and tucked behind a Dollar General is a little place still adorned with Christmas decor. If you can get past the present bows on the walls and buffet-table-turned-fish-tank, you're in for a treat. Owned by married couple Mei and Jackie Zhu, the Oriental Pearl serves a large menu, always fresh, and they know returning customers by name. This is a perfect place to try sushi for the first time or to get late-night takeout. Stay away from their drinking water, though. Just . . . stay away.
The Historic Wilson-Vaughan Hostess House - Marion
A stunningly beautiful piece of the past, The Wilson Vaughan Hostess House is an Indiana gem. Built by a wealthy banker for his wife in the early 1900s, the house was salvaged by the community and turned into a venue residents could enjoy. This historic home and restaurant also has a gift shop upstairs and a consignment store in the basement. But here's the thing: they're only open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, serving mostly sandwiches, salads and fancy pastries. So if you have time to get lunch off campus, this lovely place might just make the tricky hours and pricier bill worth it.
Richard's Restaurant - Hartford City
This could very well be the next Taylor hotspot. Just as charming on the outside as on the inside, Richard's offers a huge all-American menu for cheap. Complete with booths built for two and a party room, this place is perfect for a quaint date or a wing dinner. With friendly service and a quiet atmosphere, Richard's is a darling place for breakfast, lunch or dinner on a budget.
Vera Mae's Bistro - Muncie
The dining style here is "casual elegant," as it is settled in the historic downtown district of Muncie. The bistro is filled with artwork from mainly local artisans, and live jazz piano plays on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Borrowing from traditional European, Asian and American foods, Vera Mae's is more expensive than most but perfect to try on a fancy weekend outing.
Thai Smile 2 - Muncie
It's weirdly named, but don't let the number at the end deter you. If you're looking for gigantic portions of American-style Thai food, this is your place. It's hard to find an authentic place in Muncie, but American Thai has a flavor all its own. It's not fancy, but the kind staff, clean environment and unique cuisine make this restaurant one of the better kept secrets in town.
Pizza Junction - Huntington
Step back in time with this little diner, hidden away in an old railroad depot. Toppit and Pizza Hut are great for fast delivery, but Pizza Junction is the place to go if you're up for a little drive. Their breadsticks, subs and wide variety of pizza options are tasty and sadly underrated. This restaurant makes for a cozy place to eat traditional favorites. They also have an assortment of vintage cream sodas and outside seating in warmer months.
The Barking Cow - Gaston
Ice cream meets sweet, small town hospitality at The Barking Cow. Of course Ivanhoes has our hearts, but if you're looking for a new ice cream spot to try, look no further than little Gaston, Indiana. Right on the intersection, it's hard to miss with its bright blue sign and colorful, Midwest interior. Nestled next to a T-shirt company and a funeral home (what else?), the Barking Cow is a yummy place to "treat yo self."
Niko's Gyros - Gas City
Chances are you've passed this place on your trips to Walmart and never tried it. With a classic small-town interior and friendly service, Niko's offers hearty platters for those who love the classic gyro or traditional American food. A taste of Greece is hard to find in a tiny Indiana town, but Niko's comes surprisingly close. Go here just to say you've gone-you might just want to go again.