By Loren Shaum
WABASH – Situated on Market Street in historic downtown Wabash, this circa 1920 brick building opened as Hotel Indiana – an eighty-room conventional hotel. In 1946, ownership changed and the hotel was renamed the Red Apple Inn. The hotel operated under this ownership for 60 years, but the property deteriorated dramatically.
Seizing upon an opportunity with a vision for the future, Wabash philanthropist, Richard E, Ford from the Ford Meter Box empire, purchased the hotel and invested $15 million to renovate the property into a quaint, boutique hotel. The renovation was extensive. Rooms were reduced to create more spacious quarters providing 23 guest rooms and 7 suites. There are no two rooms alike and many rooms are named after universities, local celebrities and historical events. Each room is furnished with antiquities or replicas of Victorian, French and Regency styles. There is no commercial furniture in the hotel.
The circa 1920 Mezzanine Lobby is named after Ford’s sister, Virginia. A second-floor balcony surrounds the entire lobby, so characteristic of the architecture of that era.
Charley Creek Inn – named from a Miami Indian Chief and a creek running through town – opened in May 2010. This year, the hotel is celebrating its 100th anniversary with year-long events, including a New Year’s celebration on December 31. A 100th anniversary time capsule will be sealed for future generations.
The Cloud Club
The Cloud Club was added during the renovation to provide space for private events and is unique to the extent that it has a truly green roof. Low maintenance vegetation was planted to enhance energy savings. The Cloud Club hosts wedding receptions, corporate meetings, showers and special dinners. In 2013, the hotel’s chef at that time did his own version of recipes from my book, Seasons in Lake Country, each with a wine pairing from the hotel wine shop. The Cloud Club was the final station in a series of stations. What a gorgeous setting for a finale!
Charley Creek Inn has two shops open daily. The Ice Cream & Candy Shoppe takes you back to another era offering old-fashioned sodas and other drinks, over 500 candy varieties, South Bend Chocolate Company chocolates, gourmet popcorn, ice cream and gift items.
The Wine & Cheese Shoppe just across the hall offers boutique wines from Indiana and major labels from around the world, craft whiskeys, bourbons and ryes, craft beers, cheeses from Indiana and Wisconsin, culinary gifts and regional cookbooks, including mine.
Many of the selections in the shop cannot be found anywhere else. Before Breckenridge bourbon became nationally distributed, the shop had it on the shelf. Recently, I purchased “B” bourbon from Dancing Pines Distillery in Longmont CO. This single barrel, small batch is so smooth, it could be one of the best bourbons out there!
Executive Chef Eric Wilson grew-up in Kalamazoo and honed his skills at restaurants in Chicago and Detroit. He emphasizes local farm sources and makes most everything from scratch. Being an Inn, the kitchen has to be at the top of its game for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and the many special events the Inn hosts.
His breakfast menu includes build your own skillet or omelet, where you can choose from a myriad of ingredients. There are also one, two or three egg dishes, but the Benedicts are stellar, especially the eggs Chesapeake, which features a crab cake, two poached eggs, English muffin, hollandaise sauces and fried potatoes.
Chef Eric’s signature French onion soup highlights the lunch menu. It’s unusual because it’s made with a rich veal stock. Salads of all types are also featured, but the walleye sandwich is one to come back for!
One salad that stands out is the Greek salmon salad. It comes with 8-ounces of Faroe Island grilled salmon on top of romaine with tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onions and soaked in a lemon dill vinaigrette.
Half-pound ground sirloin burgers are always featured, including the burger of the week. There are also four pasta dishes, including the most popular lobster mac & cheese. Then there are four pizzas, including a pizza of the week. Various wraps are available, as well.
Dinner Menu Sets Twenty Apart
A featured appetizer is Maple Leaf Duck Farm drumettes served with Asian plum sauce and spicy slaw.
On the lighter side, there are eight dinner salads including a shrimp and avocado salad. You can select from many options to build your own. Guests can then choose from twelve dressings.
The dinner entrees stand-out. Their steaks are done to your liking, and Twenty is the only place locally that serves flat iron steak. They also serve an unusual pork porterhouse with apple butter. I’ve got to try this!
Desserts Another Matter
Pastry Chef Marcus Barber is from Huntington and bakes fresh items daily and creates some highly unique desserts. The classic crème brulee is the most popular but seasonal, as is the cheesecake The Charley Creek Inn molten cake is also highly recommended. Other desserts are the Red Apple Inn galette and the Hotel Indiana sugar cream pie. And, there’s always a weekly dessert special.
Green Hat Lounge is Retro Classic
The Green Hat is a Hoagy Carmichael-Cole Porter influenced lounge that comes complete with a grand piano for entertainment on weekends. With the 20’s era murals, this speak-easy is a classic era bar.
The lounge serves seasonal $6 martini specials, but the signature drink is the bloody Mary. Besides these specials, 20 different wines are available by the glass. The wine cellar has over 200 bottles, so your favorite must be there somewhere.
Trip Advisor awarded the Inn its Certificate of Excellent in 2016. Also, in 2016, the Inn received the booking.com Guest Review Award. Last year, the Inn received the Paper of Wabash County Reader’s Choice Best Hotel award.
Charley Creek Inn is a place to visit more than once, especially with the seasonally changing menu. There are always concerts and plays ongoing at the Honeywell Center just a block away.
The restaurant and lounge seats approximately 150, but for overflow and special occasions, the Richard E. Ford Dining Room seats an additional 50. The room features an elegant wine cellar décor and three temperature-controlled wine cabinets.
We love to hang at the lounge especially after an event at the center. Then head-up for a great night’s sleep in one of the spacious rooms. A light breakfast in the morning is a fine way to start the day for the short trip back to Lake Country. Everyone should try this!