True to old Indiana
Brookville's Case House fare as 19th-century authentic as building it's served in

BY POLLY CAMPBELL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sunday dinner at the Case House in Brookville, Ind., made me think of the novel Time and Again by Jack Finney. The hero of this time-travel mystery surrounded himself so completely with authentic items from life in 19th-century New York that he was transported back to that era.

I wonder if that might happen at the Case House. After sitting for a time in the parlor of the 1875 building, eating the kind of foods available in a small Indiana town of that day, I envision all the satellite dishes in town disappearing and the sound of cars whizzing by on the street outside changing to the clip-clop of horses.

The Case House
***
Food: Good.

Service: Good.
Atmosphere: Excellent.
Value: Good.
What: Home cooking with integrity in a historical small-town house.
Where: 801 Main St., Brookville, Ind.
When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch with omelette and Belgian waffle station 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sunday.
Recommended dishes: Corn muffins, pan-fried chicken livers, baked trout, maple-glazed pork chops, Yankee pot roast.
Vegetarian choices: No entrees on the menu; a few side dishes, appetizers, corn fritters.
Prices: Appetizers $3.75-$4.95; dinner entrees $8.75-$14.25; desserts $1.25-$2.25
Sound level: A fairly quiet 65 decibels. (Most restaurants range from 60 decibels, a dignified calm, to 90 decibels, a din).
Reservations: Suggested.
Miscellaneous: One dining room for smoking, beer served except on Sunday, high chairs, booster seats, children's menu, parties of 12-60 in upstairs dining rooms, first-floor dining rooms and restrooms wheelchair-accessible.
Paying for it: American Express, MasterCard, VISA, Discover.
Phone: (317) 647-3463

No such luck. But I did feel transported in one important way -- I'd gone back to a time when people knew how to cook without a freezer, a microwave or a can opener.

Couples' project

Tully Milders, Brett Miles and their wives, Marcy and Denise, opened the restaurant last November in the National Register-designated brick house on the corner of Main and Eighth in Brookville.

Not only did they restore the building and decorate it in the style of the year it was built, they created a menu based on foods and recipes that were available then.

It's not a strict interpretation, but there's no Jell-O, french fries, canned soup, or portabella mushrooms.

The result is a ''home cooking'' restaurant that puts some meaning back in that debased label. Mr. Miles cooks traditional food with integrity -- not groundbreaking, but simple and imaginative.

Case House is a must to combine with a canoe outing on the Whitewater River, a day at Brookville Lake or poking around Metamora (though Case House is much classier than Metamora.) But clean up first. I'm sure they wouldn't kick you out for informality, but it's too nice for muddy cutoffs.

The renovation retained the building's interior: individual rooms along with a beautiful central staircase, tall ceilings, stained glass and fireplaces. Antique prints and a collection of framed fans decorate the walls.

Start with moist muffins

I was sold on this restaurant as soon as they brought a basket of warm corn muffins, hefty but moist.

They're baked in-house using cornmeal ground up the road at the Metamora Grist Mill. They don't just have the pleasantly gritty texture of corn bread, they're full of corn flavor, too, and aren't too sweet.

They're served with maple-sweetened whipped butter.

What the heck, we tried the corn fritters, too ($3.95) -- the same whole-grain batter with added kernels of corn, fried crunchy coating, like a hush puppy.

I thought I wanted a glass of wine, but they don't have a license.

Nevertheless, the fresh minted iced tea turned out to be even better with this meal.

The cornmeal showed up again in a crunchy coating on the greaseless, pan-fried, meltingly done chicken livers we ordered as an appetizer ($4.95; $8.50 as an entree).

They're cooked in cast-iron skillets that belonged to Mr. Milders' great-grandmother. She used them in her restaurant, Milders in Hamilton.

Mr. Milders uses the same skillets when he leaves the front of the house for the kitchen on Wednesday nights and makes fried chicken.

The roasted half-chicken with almond sauce ($10.75) must have been the height of elegance for some Brookville hostess in 1880. The cream sauce is bland but rich and extravagantly full of slivered almonds.

Yankee Pot Roast ($9.75) is a dish found surprisingly seldom in restaurants.

The meat, falling apart but not stringy, fills half the plate, with a rich, thickened gravy full of potatoes and carrots. Mashed potatoes are the right side choice for the sake of the gravy.

Daily specials change with the day of the week, and may feature more contemporary dishes than the regular menu.

The Sunday baked trout ($11.50) fit the traditional theme, though.

It was exemplary: the herbed bread crumb topping crisp and buttery, doing its job of keeping the fish sweet and moist.

Maple-glazed pork chops ($8.95) was another simple entree done well. Pork's richness always is good contrasted with something a little sweet, and the maple syrup-brown sugar glaze fits the bill without exaggerating the sweetness.

A few of the side dishes are too sweet for me, like stewed apples with too much cinnamon.

The sage dressing is heavy. But the applesauce, stewed tomatoes, cole slaw, green beans and whipped potatoes are all above-average.

And the house salads are also excellent, with lots of vegetables and a choice of seven homemade dressings.

Dinners come with a salad and two sides, plus corn bread, which makes dinner a bargain at prices that range a few dollars on either side of $10.

Too much food

One problem with all this food is that it doesn't fit on the small tables, which are sized to go in the small, cozy dining rooms.

I felt a little close to the other diners. Fortunately, smokers are segregated in one room.

I was surprised desserts weren't better.

Peach cobbler ($1.75) seemed like a sure thing, but it had a tough crust.

The raspberry pecan bar ($1.25) was the best -- a cookie with layers of shortbread, raspberry jam, chopped nuts and maple sugar.

Devil's food cake ($2.25) was deeply dark with a white frosting, standard but it made the kids happy.

When the dogwoods are in full bloom, I'm thinking of driving out to Brookville again and trying the pie.

Reviews are done anonymously at Enquirer expense. Ratings take into consideration quality of food, service, presentation and atmosphere, balanced against price.

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