5 minute read

Sampler at The Sycamore Saloon

With the arrival of spring and a general post-pandemic lightness of heart, restaurants around the county are filling up for a little dinner. Sometimes, we must wander a bit farther afield to experience new dining destinations.

The new Sycamore Saloon, located just a short scenic drive down State Road 135 South, is worth the effort of finding it. Look for the sign on the old red Ford truck that says “Harmony Tree Resorts.”

We found the place lively, welcoming, and ultimately satisfying on a busy weekend evening.

The large dining area has a wall of windows on either end, revealing beautiful Brown County just beyond. A forest of ceiling lights adds to the warmth of the room. There’s a long bar that runs down one whole side of the room, with a stage on one end—where a single cowboy-looking crooner did his best against the roar of the large, happy crowd.

When I am embarking on one of these little gustatorial adventures (we do it all for you, dear reader) I like to bring along some other convivial witnesses—amateur samplers. I invited my brother and his wife, who are not only delightful company, but well acquainted with the ways and means of these important dining expeditions.

It’s a big menu, and with four people at the table, you get a good cross section of what any average diner might order, not just what I am going to order—the steak.

There is a rhythm and a pace to these things; we order drinks, we get an appetizer, and during this process, we study the menu, offer suggestions, opinions, and insights.

Since the full bar is available, I was encouraged to pursue my ongoing quest for the perfect Old Fashioned—one just like dear old Dad used to make. The ladies had white wine.

I thought the service was outstanding considering that the place was packed on a Saturday evening, and it looked like everybody there was having a good time.

When it comes to appetizers, I can’t really help myself. I know that, usually, by the end of the meal, I will be wondering why I started out by stuffing my face—but that’s just the way it is.

The Sycamore has an “onion stack,” thinly sliced deep fried onions; seasoned “tater kegs;” and “mushroom fries,” fried strips of portabella mushrooms served with a sriacha ranch sauce. I also wavered briefly over the jumbo bone-in wings before settling on a big tray of nachos with shredded chicken and bacon. Everyone agreed they were delicious.

Among the many wonderful menu items (which did not get a fair tasting on this particular outing) are the sandwiches; a brunch burger topped with bacon and an egg; a BBQ burger; a tenderloin breaded in Fire Cheetos and deep fried; and a caprese chicken sandwich with Buffalo mozzarella, seasoned tomatoes, and fresh basil drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

But most fearsome of all is a culinary monstrosity known as “The Sasquatch”—the Sycamore’s signature brisket chuck burger topped with a four-ounce breaded tenderloin, two strips of bacon and pepper jack grilled cheese, all on a potato bun. The thing arrives at your table secured with a steak knife driven right down through its heart.

There’s been a lot of loose talk and speculation about bigfoots (bigfeet?) roaming around down there in Van Buren Township. But once you’ve conquered The Sasquatch, you’ll never have to prove your bravery in any other way.

The Sycamore Saloon has a classic brick pizza oven. Pizzas are loaded with cheese, with just the right crisp on the crust. My brother opted for the “Tree Hugger” vegetable pizza with spinach, tomatoes, and ricotta cheese, while Mrs. Sampler availed herself of the “Hoosier Handful” a Build-Your-Own-Pizza deal where you pick any four toppings from a twelve-item list.

All pizzas are twelve-inch and wood fired. These pies came to the table looking great and—just in the interest of accuracy, mind you—I had to try a slice. It was excellent.

When it comes to entrees, the Sycamore Saloon has plenty to offer the hungry and curious. There are pork chops with cinnamon apple chutney; lightly breaded raspberry chicken; and a grilled chicken smothered with mushrooms, cheddar jack, and bacon under a honey mustard glaze.

My brother’s wife opted for the salmon steak grilled on a cedar plank with a bourbon glaze and topped with green onion. It was big, beautiful, and delectable with wild rice and bourbon-bacon-jam Brussels sprouts on the side.

I chose the Rawhide Ribeye, expertly grilled with sauteed onions and peppers. I added a tasty little salad and mashed potatoes from a generous selection of side dishes.

What does a person want out of everyday life? What could be better than a wonderful, tasty meal, expertly cooked and served by hospitality professionals, and shared, not only with your nearest and dearest, your kitchen companion, and your blood kin, but with a whole large room full of boisterous, happy people having roughly the same experience on a weekend evening?

Dessert was on offer (cheesecake, s’mores pizza), but not necessary. I was already profoundly satisfied.