GAS CITY, Ind. (WTH) — If there is anyone who knows his way around this state, it's my good friend Chuck Lofton. So when he told me Payne's in Gas City is probably his favorite restaurant in Indiana, I knew this would be a winner.
From the mismatched plates to the menu's tucked-in story books, this place is a gem.
It's right off of I-69, tucked away behind a massive chain restaurant surrounded by cornfields. We visited Payne's a few weeks ago, so the summer gardens up front were already turning brown.
Honestly, from the outside, it's hard to judge this place. You're not sure what you're going to get. But once I stepped inside, the place oozed of charm and comfort, with a menu and staff to match.
Steven Payne moved to Indiana from England more than 20 years ago. He says he grew up idolizing two American legends: Muhammad Ali and James Dean. The latter of which, grew up in Fairmount, Indiana just a few miles from where Steven built Payne's 12 years ago.
"One of the things we try to achieve here at Payne's, every experience, when you are looking across the table to the person you love, or a family member, laughing, then you are provided the experience of the room and the ambience, and the food is amazing, it's a great thing," said Payne. "It's a part of what I am all about here. I'm really trying to make experiences happen for everybody."
And the food is certainly memorable. On my visit, I tried the most popular dish, the fish 'n chips.
An obvious nod to his roots, Steven said it was always the first dish he would seek out when getting off the plane at home. He said he surprised himself when he finally realized he should put it on his own menu at Payne's. "It feels strange and one of those weird things where, you've been searching for something for a long time and you find it in your pocket. It was right there the whole time."
I also got to try one of the things Chuck told me is his favorite on the menu, the sticky toffee pudding, served with homemade custard. Well, it's simply divine! I am more of a savory person, and can usually pass on sweets, especially if it's not chocolate. But let's just say I have been craving this dish since visiting Payne's, and can't wait to go back. And maybe I'll even start with the pudding, just to make sure I have enough room.