Continuing our journey to inns and taverns in the surrounding area, we found the Carriage Inn in Haubstadt to have good food and a comfortable atmosphere at the end of a pleasant drive.
Like many of the long-standing food and beverage businesses we’ve visited, the Carriage Inn has relatively new owners who have taken over after long-time operators were ready to retire but who came in with the mission of keeping things the same as always.
Cindy and Chris Scheller have owned the Carriage Inn for just over three years.
“We bought it from Jenny Kramer who had owned it for 17 years,” said Cindy Scheller. “And before that, the Elpers family had owned it for 15 years or so. The building was built in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, and it has been a restaurant for a very long time. Many years before that it was a livery where you would rent your horse or carriage. So that’s how it got its name, the Carriage Inn. You’ll notice the floors slant a bit because 100 years ago they kept horses here.”
One of the best things about these old restaurants is that the employees are often long-term as well, with years of experience and skill at cooking good old-fashioned recipes.
“Our cook Linda Haley is going to turn 70 in August, and she has been working here since she was 18 years old,” said Scheller. “She does all of it. She has taught me how to make gravy, and she’s fantastic at what she does, and she can do anything. She’s fried all the chicken here forever. She’s a master at it.”
“Basically the recipes have stayed the same. When I first started it was just a tavern — we did all the cooking in a little room up in the front; it’s the storage room now, and we call it ‘the jail,'” Haley said. “So back then we didn’t have as much room and the menu wasn’t as big. It’s become more of a restaurant.”
Many of the house recipes had come from former owners’ homes or from various women who have worked in the kitchen over the years, she said. Some are newer, and Haley and the current cooking staff experimented and tweaked until they got it just right – for example the meatloaf, which they decided was best with cracker crumbs instead of the bread crumbs used once upon a time.
New or old recipe, however, just about everything on the Carriage Inn’s menu is made from scratch.
“We would not let a bagged gravy into this building,” laughed Scheller. “The country milk gravy is made from bacon drippings. We roast beef on the weekends, and we slow cook it for six hours. And we take the drippings to make the brown gravy with. The soups are homemade, the tenderloins are hand-cut and tenderized. The only things we don’t hand-make are the breaded appetizers; we get those already breaded.”
Even the bread is purchased as a dough and raised and baked daily to ensure freshness.
Scheller noted that the Carriage Inn is well known for plate lunches, which offer a hearty meal at a very reasonable price.
“On Tuesday we do pork chops, and Wednesday is cook’s choice,” said Scheller. “It might be spaghetti, meatloaf, country fried chicken, we might do a taco casserole. We try all kinds of different things. Thursday is fried chicken and Friday is catfish and homemade mac-and-cheese.”
Many of the meat and cheese products, such as the ham, German bologna and pepper jack cheese, are sourced from Dewig’s, which is right up the street… and another good reason to get up to Haubstadt during business hours.
The Carriage Inn has a fairly extensive menu with burgers and sandwiches, soups salads and entrees including their very popular chicken livers and gizzards, which diners can order in six or 12-ounce portions. Steaks and chops are available as well alongside some seafood and pasta options. Sides are traditional Midwestern fare and include French fries, American fries and German fries, mashed potatoes with milk gravy (or just a bowl of gravy, because gravy), baked potatoes, German potato salad….. an assortment of veggies, both vinegar and creamy cole slaw and more.
If you are coming with a group of four or more, consider trying the family-style meal, in which the table chooses two meats and three vegetable sides along with vinegar slaw and bread for all to share.
If a group calls ahead to let the staff know they’re coming for family-style, the food can be on the table within 10 minutes of their arrival. Roast beef is cooked only on Friday and Saturday, so if a group desires roast beef for a family-style meal on a weekday, they should let staff know ahead so a roast can be cooked fresh for the party.
The Carriage Inn also is a popular off-site caterer for weddings and parties for up to 200 guests. The restaurant is closed on Sunday but can accommodate larger groups inhouse on those days with notice, such as class reunions and sports banquets.
If you go
The Carriage Inn is located at 130 E. Gibson St. in Haubstadt.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 4-9 or 10 p.m. Saturday, Closed Sunday and Monday