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November 14, 2012

The Taste Bud: Get your boots muddy

Sitting in the oddly cozy Muddy Boots Café in Nashville, Ind., recently, I couldn’t help thinking the place was almost a smaller and slightly less funky version of Lynn’s Paradise Café. The pastel walls and mix-and-match tables complemented the soda-counter-style bar, and the hutches and other oddities sprinkled throughout took me home.

Of course, funky décor can’t mask mediocre food, so I waited to reserve judgment. But then I saw a menu item called Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Sandwich and suspected all was well. This little nook in picturesque Brown County, about an hour’s drive north, was already headed in the right direction, and it delivered with its tasty fare. Where do I even begin?

First off, the sandwich drew my attention because I have, on a couple of occasions, seen Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Our server explained that the Reverend is a Muddy Boots regular, and that he invented the sandwich that bears his name.

In addition, when I later asked for some hot sauce for my home fries, the server directed me to a “tub” of hot sauces from which I could choose. Inside this tub (actually, it was a wooden box), I found everything from Blair’s Death Sauce to Dave’s Scotch Bonnet Sauce. I was so happy that a tear nearly came to my eye.

My girlfriend Cynthia ordered a bison burger (which she gave high marks), while I opted for a cup of the house bean soup and the Big Damn Sandwich. Oh, and I was not disappointed. The soup was packed with four different types of beans — great northern, black, kidney and pinto — in a vegetable-based broth that featured subtle seasoning that neither of us could quite identify.

Regardless, it was delicious soup. Cynthia asked for a bite, and then ended up taking 10. Who can blame her?

But onto the Big Damn Sandwich. The word unique is overused, but I don’t mind dropping it in this instance. This concoction was half hillbilly, half gyro in its blend of spiced lamb, feta cheese, sweet barbecue sauce and bacon on toasted wheat bread.

I’ll give you a moment to wrap your brain around that flavor combination. And yes, it was as odd and interesting as you think it was.

You see, certain bites burst forth with the assertive lamb flavor, and in those moments, it tasted quite like a traditional gyro. But other bites were dominated by the barbecue sauce and/or bacon, which gave it a more traditional, homestyle bent.

“Basically, you’ve got a Greek redneck sandwich,” Cynthia said.

Yeah, basically. Smart aleck.

Interestingly, on a chalkboard hanging above the Muddy Boots Café’s tiny stage (yes, the Boot features live music during the evenings) was a quote from a regular customer: “I come all the way from Louisville to eat here — nobody ever gets a haircut, but they sure make good food.” (Our server explained that the kitchen staff tends to keep its locks a bit long.)

And for good measure, just as I was about to ask the significance of the restaurant’s name, I noticed this quote on the menu: “You cannot see all the beauty the world has to offer by watching her through the panes of a window; to truly appreciate nature, you must get your boots a little muddy.”

I can’t recommend the Muddy Boots Café enough. Heck, I don’t even care if the kitchen staff never gets haircuts.

Bar hopping, foodie style
Like variety? How about surprises? Tonight is the launch of the Louisville Dishcrawl, wherein you pay one reasonable price and get to restaurant-hop to four locations, enjoying a dish at each place. And half the fun is that the stops are surprises.

Tonight’s Dishcrawl is sold out, but I have it on good authority that (spoiler alert!) the stops are: North End Café, De la Torres, Asiatique and Coco’s Chocolate Café. Look for another Dishcrawl coming Dec. 11, with all new locations. Until then, check out dishcrawl.com/louisville for tickets and more information, or contact Leslie Erwin at leslie@dishcrawl.com.