“Le’s go a-visitin’ back to Griggsby’s Station/ Back where we ust to be so happy and so pore!” Thus reads the refrain of Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley’s poem, "Griggsby’s Station". The poem’s theme is a common enough one that has been used in novels, plays, and films like the beloved Orson Welles masterpiece, Citizen Kane
. “It is about a guy who moves to the city, becomes wealthy, but he still misses the benefits of his small town home,” explains Chris Baggott, owner of the soon to open Griggsby’s Station in Greenfield. “It hit home with me and I just knew it was the perfect name for the place.”
It hit home for Baggott because it mirrors his life almost flawlessly. Chris comes from a small town in Pennsylvania and for years he worked to accrue a sizable amount of wealth, first in Chicago and then in downtown Indianapolis where he co-founded ExactTarget. He and his wife moved to her hometown of Greenfield (also Riley’s hometown) in the 90s and since then Chris has called the small town his home.
“When I first moved here there were a lot of people out here that aren’t anymore. The community has changed so much. We used to have a lot of the people from Eli Lilly here and the doctors from the hospital lived here. And then it all changed.” The people moved out and despite having major corporations like Covance and Elanco housed in the city, the majority of workers for those companies make a commute everyday.
Chris came to the conclusion that this is because “We’re lacking in amenities that are found in nearby communities. Amenities like this,” he finishes, gesturing to the rustic, industrial restaurant around us and the fresh, locally-sourced carnitas tacos in front of me. So, in the years since coming to this revelation, he has worked on revitalizing the town and making it more than a row of chain restaurants.
This began with the opening of Tyner Pond Farm in 2011 — a beef, pork, and chicken farm that focuses on “the growing, processing and marketing of sustainably raised, antibiotic free [meat].” Greenfield is a farming community, less-so than it was twenty years ago, but it still is home to dozens of farms. The issue is many of these farms don’t supply the city in which they reside.
Tyner Pond set out to fix this by keeping their products here in Central Indiana. If you live within 70 miles of the farm, you can have Tyner Pond Farm meats delivered fresh to your door, with free delivery. You can also find their meat at Chris’ second step toward revitalizing Greenfield, the incredibly popular drive-in, The Mug.
“When I started selling Tyner Pond products to restaurants, I quickly realized I was competing with other like-minded farmers, and they’re not the enemy," says Baggott "Tyson and Monsanto are the enemies. It’s not Greg Gunthorp, I love Greg and Gunthorp Farms and I didn’t want to take away from them. So I decided to make the pot bigger by opening The Mug and allowing everyone to succeed.”
Through his opening of The Mug, Chris was able to keep his product within Greenfield and give the people of Greenfield a true “farm-to-curb” experience. It was an immediate success and since their opening in 2014, masses of people have traveled to Greenfield simply for a taste of their Mug Double (which was just named “Indy’s Best Burger” on the Indy A-List), their giant tenderloins, and root beer floats.
Despite the popularity and importance of The Mug, Chris knew he had to do more. So, two years ago, when he purchased a closing antique shop on Greenfield’s Main Street (aka US-40), he knew he wanted to bring a nice, trendier restaurant to his new-found home and he had to make it accessible to people of all walks of life. From this was born Griggsby’s Station.
The two-year process of construction, getting permits, gathering a team, and creating a worthwhile menu and drink list, has given Chris and the entire Griggsby’s Station team the chance to make sure every single aspect is accounted for.
Executive Chef Mike Tambasco (also the chef from The Mug) has created a small 12-item menu, but each dish has been thoroughly thought out and keeps with the idea of allowing the top-notch, farm-to-table ingredients to shine through. The menu consists of creative plays on pub food favorites like Asian barbecue wings and beer-soaked chili cheese fries made “from hand-cut potatoes soaked in a wheat IPA, which we found crisps-up the fries a lot more, and then topped with a five-pepper roasted chili and queso.”
Right now, I’m taste testing their phenomenal carnitas tacos. Mike explained the process of making them: “We get the pork from Tyner Pond and confit it in lard [from the farm as well] for about 4-hours, then we use a dry rub of chipotle, ancho, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. We then top it with a roasted serrano and poblano sauce with garlic, onion and heavy cream. All on a corn tortilla and topped with cilantro, white onion, grilled green onion and lime.”
Alright, ‘nuf ‘splainin, I can attest that these are some badass tacos, the flavor-packed meat melts in your mouth. You truly can tell that this pork is high quality and I’m glad Mike and his team (which includes Sous Chef Marcy Breckenridge, former Sous
Chef of R Bistro) allow the meat to be the star.
The drink menu is set to match the quality of the food menu, and to be accessible for any bar patron. It features eight Indiana beers on tap, including brews from Three Floyds, Powerhouse Brewing, Upland, and Greenfield’s own Wooden Bear Brewing. Chris was able to get “[His] favorite bartender from the Columbia Club,” Jason Ammerman to join the team as bar manager. Jason, through his knowledge of beer, wine, and spirits has been able to form a bar selection for most any palate including a decent wine list and some classic cocktails. While I’m sitting in the dining room chatting with Chris and Mike, Jason is at the end of the bar running through a training session with his bartending team.
“It’s really coming together,” Chris says, looking at the trainees and Jason. It really is, the downstairs is complete (including the entire poem of "Griggsby’s Station" printed on the wall) the upstairs is nearly there, only a few more days, the patio has been approved by the city and the food and drink are beyond ready.
It couldn’t come at a better time, the city is ready as well. The town plans on running an off-shoot of the Pennsy Trail directly next to the patio, making Griggsby’s a great place to stop for bicyclists. “Next summer they’re putting the farmer’s market in across the street. The town is really working on making this a place to be, and it has to,” Chris says.
I’m thinking about how much he is doing for the area, “57-percent of people in Hancock County commute to Indy, we have the second highest income outside of Hamilton County … it’s a great county and a great city and it’s time to make it that much better.”
I’m finishing up my second taco, sipping on a Powerhouse Ceraline Cream Ale and talking with manager Ian Rossman, and director of operations Abi Tabasco (she and Chef Mike are married), when the mayor of Greenfield, Chuck Fewell, walks in. He takes a seat next to Chris and starts to chat candidly with him. “So are the people of Greenfield excited?” I ask him. He laughs, “Oh yes, they’re very excited, and they’re not the only ones. I have people ask me all the time, 'When is it going to open!?' I always say, well he only has one more permit to get passed.” Everyone laughs, it has been a long time and many permits in the making, but they are finally ready to open, with opening day set for June 14.
More people make their way through the door, an elderly couple that thought the place may be open. Chris talks with them and gives them the opening date, Abi tells them they can have a drink on them when they come back in. It reminds me of one of the lines in the poem, “Le’s go a-visitin’ back to Griggsby’s Station … [where] ever’ neighbor ’round the place is dear as a relation.” These people care about their patrons. They care about this little town; they see its potential and little by little, they’re helping it take the steps to reach it.
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