LORDTHAVEMARCY is there some food worth driving around for in both of these locales in central Indiana.
My first mistake was making a listicle of great burger joints and not including the Greenwood staple Between the Bun. BtB fans then lit up my article and Twitter encouraging me to visit the restaurant and realize the depth and breadth of my fuck-up. I really and truly owe these rabid fans a debt of gratitude, because had the response not been so overwhelming, I might have let the opportunity pass.
Down there in Greenwood, in a little storefront that appears to have, at one time, been a home, was one of the best (fucking) burgers on a bun I've ever had. Greenwood, I fucked up badly, and I'm awful sorry.
The long at the short of Between the Bun is something closely akin to a real, backyard, cooked-exactly-to-order, juicy as all getout, slap-yo-mamma patty of beef dressed up in any number of ways. We asked our server which was the best burger and without a moment's hesitation, she said, "Spitfire Ranch." We blinked, fully expecting the typical dodge of "Oh, they're all good, really." She quipped, "I'm not going to be one of those people that's like 'Ohh, I like them all. There's a best burger and it's the Spitfire Ranch."
We got the Spitfire, served on Texas Toast, and a Boss Hog, a supermonster of a burger with a generous helping of barbecued pulled pork. And thanks to another great suggestion by our server, we tried the famous fried pickles.
Two things to note here: if you are an establishment serving burgers and there isn't an option to eat it on Texas toast, you are ruining everything for everyone. Correct your wrongness immediately. That Spitfire burger combines everything you like about burgers with everything you like about butter-toasted bread. We ordered them medium and medium rare, and I'm so happy to report my burger came out with a nice pink center all the way through with a nice coating of char on the outside. Glorious.
A few days later, I was invited out to The Mug in Greenfield. It sits in a cute little building, flanked by drive-up parking spots and picnic tables out front. Just down the street from Greenfield's main drag (I think), the restaurant is supplied by Tynder Pond Farms, Chris Baggot's post-Exact Target passion project where he is raising some incredibly high-quality meat and eggs.
So perhaps it's no surprise then that The Mug's pork tenderloin was easily one of the best I've ever had in my lifetime. The food is prepared fresh at this spot, despite its fast food appearance. So when the tenderloin is ordered, it's battered and fried fresh right there. The breading crumbles into your plate as you eat, and the whole huge piece of glory crunches with every bite.
This is all beside the point, however, because The Mug serves the best hot dog in Indiana. Let me tell you why.
The Mug's Tyner Pond-raised hot dogs are stuffed with high-quality, pasture-raised meat, then they are smoked. And when you order one, it's fried in lard and then finished with some char on the grill. When you bite into one of these dogs, they do that extra-crisp thing where they make a "pop" sound when you first bite into it (and then you realize the search is over).
Both The Mug and Between the Bun are proof that food that takes a little more time and care will always taste better than food turned around as quickly as possible by the fewest number of hands. Or in the case of smoked, fried, and grilled hot dogs, it might take you on a spiritual journey inside yourself.
The Mug's menu was tweaked by chef Thom England, who, among many titles, is been an Ivy Tech instructor and a cookbook author. Little things like a few shaves of pickled jalapenos and the extra-huge crunch of cabbage instead of lettuce when you get the tenderloin done "Mug Style" show England's stamp of creativity on the diner-style menu.
He also knows that coleslaw is a condiment, damnit, not a side, and we shouldn't let this one thing that our neighbors in the Deep South have consistently done right go uncelebrated. That's what they top their pulled pork sandwich with, like good Americans.
Whether or not you fold your trip to either Between the Bun or The Mug into some larger ruse (antique shopping is a good one), or if you just want to be honest with yourself and admit you'll drive anywhere for great food like me, the journey is absolutely worth the arrival at Flavortown, USA. And there's a reason their reputation reaches far beyond their county line, and it's a simple one at that: it's really, really good food, and it's only about a quarter-tank away.