Just about every neighborhood has one — the old house with potential, the building that you just know could be cool if someone showed it a little love. Well, for everyone who has looked at one of those buildings and wished for a transformation, chef couple Toby and Melanie Miles should offer some inspiration.
This April the couple opened Rail Epicurean Market in an old barn in the middle of a Westfield neighborhood. The structure, located at 211 Park St., has undergone a complete renovation; in fact, it looked so spiffy and new that I wondered why someone would build a barn on a residential street.
They didn't, of course, and the barn (which, according to what I've read about it, was moved from a farm to a lumberyard to its current location), really has been there in the Park Street neighborhood for more than 50 years. And even though it looks new on the outside, the interior is appealingly rustic, with touches of old tin and repurposed barn siding.
Wood tables and chairs, bar seating by the open kitchen, a chalkboard beer and wine list, and cupboards stocked with local products combine to create a cozy spot to enjoy lunch or dessert or a glass of wine. The owners also offer occasional private dinner events.
So the place is seriously charming, and when Westfield completes its nearby Grand Junction Park project, Rail will likely be perfectly situated as a go-to dining spot.
For now, it's a little hard to find. There's a lot of street work being done in Westfield — not to mention the construction on nearby U.S. 31 North — but the little market and cafe is definitely worth the effort it takes to find it.
I stopped in last weekend for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Nearby neighbors come and go or pass the time on porch swings, so when you're dining on the patio, you really feel that you're in a neighborhood. A few tables were occupied indoors, where you order and pay at the counter, but beautiful weather and a spacious patio convinced us to have lunch outside.
Rail offers a small menu of several sandwiches, a soup and a salad, along with baked goods and pastries as well as beer and wine. We opted for the ham and brie sandwich (with LocalFolks mustard) and a savory chicken salad sandwich, both $8, as well as a cup of the asparagus and leek soup.
We carried our plates outdoors, where a fellow diner offered a recommendation of the Rail's vegetable soup, which she watches for on Facebook. ("When he posts the vegetable soup, just head over," she said. "It's amazing.") We certainly enjoyed our own soup, though we did wish that the leek flavor had come through more. And the sandwiches, served on soft, chewy baguettes, were generous and hearty. We especially liked the ham and brie, though I might ask to have it toasted next time. The savory chicken salad is a straightforward take on a classic with none of the nuts or grapes that often appear in sweeter versions, and it was certainly good, though I would have preferred more robust seasoning.
With a couple of glasses of wine — a nice Pinot Grigio and a Cotes du Rhone, reasonably priced at $7.50 and $6.50 — our tab totaled more than $30. Yes, it was a bit of a splurge for lunch, but we were out exploring on a holiday weekend, and the food was good and the patio dining was pleasant, so we certainly wouldn't quibble about the cost.
We didn't spring for any additional items, although there's a cooler with local products and shelves with tempting jams, candies, popcorn and other treats, like the popular B. Happy peanut butter that's made in Zionsville. Maybe next time.