Who said that? That would be me during our first visit to Horsefeathers/the wild hare café. (See our blog on May 17th). We didn’t have time to stop for lunch that day, but I resolved that we would return before our Springfield visit came to an end.
“The wild hare cafe in Elkhart isn’t the kind of place where you chomp down a quick sandwich and run out the door. It’s the type of restaurant that invites diners to linger, to savor, to converse, to enjoy” (email@example.com).
The store and café are owned and operated by Andrea Niehaus and her Dutch-born husband, Peter Niehaus. He’s an engineer and woodworker who met Andrea when both were living in Capetown, South Africa. Peter is also head chef. On our first visit, I overheard Peter describing his recipe for potatoes with another customer. I didn’t catch all of the details, but I did hear the words “cream cheese” and “pour melted butter over the top before putting them in the oven.”
Andrea’s "... sister, Renee Sisk, makes all the desserts—pies, cobblers, carrot cake, angel food cake, cheesecake, cookies, and biscotti. ‘I couldn’t make a pie crust if my life depended on it,’ said Niehaus (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Old family recipes are used so all our dishes tend to be old-fashioned comfort food seldom seen in restaurants today. The crockery, decorative pressed glass, and general clutter are all vintage pieces from our private collection. The unusual décor and hand-painted murals are unique to the wild hare and create a cozy welcoming environment” (from the café’s menu).
So on a beautiful May day, the three of us (Dora, Chuck, and me) took the drive from Springfield to Elkhart, IL, for lunch. We forwent the two small dining rooms that were once the bank vaults and found seats in the larger back dining area with heavy mis-matched dining furniture and modern art hanging on the exposed brick walls.
The menu is a combination of soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. The day's specials included potato and bacon soup, Tuscan vegetable soup, asparagus quiche, and a BBQ pork sandwich with potato salad.
Both Chuck (bowl) and Dora (cup) started with the potato and bacon soup that was thick with chunks of red skin-on potatoes and bits of bacon. The soup was topped with house-made croutons and was served with seasoned oyster crackers. This was a rich, creamy, and hearty soup, and I especially liked the smoky flavor from the bacon. This is an addition that we will copy next winter when we make potato soup.
My choice was a cup of the Tuscan vegetable. Each spoonful brought forth a different vegetable (zucchini, yellow squash, carrot, green beans, garbanzo beans, and celery) plus cork screw pasta in a tomato and beef broth. And it came topped with the same croutons and with the herbed oyster crackers. As good a photographer as Chuck is, the photo can only hint at the goodness of this soup.
Dora’s soup came with the soup and half sandwich combo and her sandwich choice was the Turkey BLT with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
Instead of ordering a sandwich, Chuck decided to order a side of their homemade potato salad (with eggs, celery, onions, and mayo)
and the black bean salsa salad (black beans, corn, peppers, and onions marinated in a cumin tomato and garden vegetable salsa).
I chose the Salad Sampler which came with a small portion of each salad on the menu. Centered by a scoop of the herb-roasted chicken salad made with nuts, celery and dried cranberries, the sampler included: potato salad; black bean salsa salad; carrot salad with baby carrots and onions in a Catalina Island style dressing; Moroccan wild rice salad with wild rice, celery, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, and scallions in a ginger and sesame dressing; three bean salad with garbanzo beans, green beans, kidney beans, and green peppers in an oil and vinegar dressing; Greek salad with pasta, feta cheese, and vegetables in a basil pesto vinaigrette; and pasta primavera in a creamy dressing.
In order not to mix tastes, I elected to eat this one salad at a time, and with one exception, each was more delicious than the last. The three bean and carrot salads did, in fact, take me back to Midwest summer picnics. The one exception was the wild rice salad. Yes, I know that it is expensive. Yes, I know that it is a delicacy. But I just don’t care for wild rice.
None of us wanted a lot of dessert, but we did want to try one of the wild hare’s desserts. So we decided that the three of us would share a slice of the key lime cheesecake, which came decorated with three mini-bunny shaped cookies. This cool and slightly tart dessert was the perfect end to a terrific lunch.
Sometimes you can’t explain why a place will reach out and grab a hold of you. That will speak to you in a special way. But the wild hare and its charming owners and whimsical décor have certainly done that with Chuck and me. We hope that sometime in the future we’ll be able to return to this 5.0 Addie café.