Sometimes you just have to say, “Ahh, what the hell?”
Having been privileged to attend the historic investiture of the Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, I was able to learn the secret as to how one esteemed judge of the Southern District decides difficult cases. The Hon. Sarah Evans Barker quipped at the ceremony that sometimes with a difficult case you just say, “. . . ahh, what the hell?” and then decide. Taking a stab at the 7th Circuit appellate jurists, Judge Barker opined her reasoning is often better than theirs.
So, one brilliant autumn day Jenny and I employed Judge Barker’s philosophy. We, along with our associate Tyler Helmond, had a rare day with no afternoon court commitments. We decided to make the trek to Zaharakos, a recently restored historic landmark restaurant near the courthouse in Columbus, Indiana.
Zaharakos first opened as a candy store in 1900 and it quickly evolved into one of this country’s finest ice cream parlors. It eventually matriculated into a full-service restaurant in addition to its ice cream and soda specialties. Greeted by a smiling staff, an impressive 50-foot onyx bar, and deeply rich mahogany walls, from the moment you enter it is like taking a step back in time.
Jenny ordered the corn chowder soup du jour, while I went with a cup of chili for starters. I know Jenny pretty well. She typically is a loquacious sort. When she is silent when eating, aside from a few muffled groans, she likes her food. When she incessantly talks, that means she doesn’t. It is safe to say this was a relatively quiet lunch.
My chili reminded me of Mom’s. Meaty and laced with stewed tomato chunks and beans. Not overbearingly spicy, just a flavorful, uncomplicated dish. In short, it was wonderful.
Next came the entrees. Jenny ordered the Gom sandwich; basically a flavorful Sloppy Joe with cheese, a.k.a., Gom Cheese Brr-Grr, grilled Panini-style between two slices of thick white bread, which I think was sourdough although the menu represented otherwise. Again, more silence from her with the exception of her offering me a taste. I was glad she did. This was far from Manwich® and Wonder® buns.
Tyler went with the Artisan Grilled Cheese and Avocado. This sandwich was again served Panini-style and consisted of provolone and parmesan cheeses along with avocados and tomatoes. Another far cry from your basic grilled cheese.
I ordered off the small appetite menu and selected a Coney dog with cheese. How they concluded this was for small appetites is beyond me because the dog was a full quarter-pound, beef frank, remarkably similar to a Nathan’s Hot Dog®. Topped with a meaty Coney sauce that stood apart from the chili, this would have been satisfying enough on its own if it weren’t for the fabulous fries that we ordered with the sandwiches. About a quarter-inch thick and golden brown with the skin on these perfectly complemented the sandwiches.
Despite not being hungry, in the best interest of you, the readers, we had to order ice cream. I chose an ice cream float, comprised of vanilla ice cream and raspberry soda. Tyler opted for a root beer soda and while Jenny eyed the five-scoop “Big-Z,” we talked her down to a brownie sundae. My only criticism of the sodas and the drinks in general is their authenticity. Just as the restoration of this historic landmark is painstakingly detailed, that same historic character translates to the sodas. The straws they use for the drinks are truly old-fashioned paper straws that, well, taste like paper. So these straws distract a bit from the experience but in a strange way add to the historic significance of this place.
So, someday employ Judge Barker’s philosophy and say, “ahh, what the hell?” We were there and back in about two hours, easy enough for those practicing from Indianapolis southward to accomplish. Better yet, it is only 3 miles off Interstate 65 so if you are traveling with your family at some point, take a small detour and go for lunch or dinner. Experience a bit, and bite, of Indiana history. Zaharakos, 329 Washington Street, Columbus, IN 47201. (812) 378-1900. www.zaharakos.com.•
Fred Vaiana and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. Vaiana is a 1992 graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Lukemeyer earned her J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1994 and is active in the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indianapolis Inn of Courts, and the Teen Court Program. The opinions expressed in this column are the authors’.