Text and Photos
By Loren Shaum
ROANOKE — The area that is now Roanoke was first the hunting and fishing grounds for the Miami Indians but that changed in the 1800s.
The construction of the Wabash & Erie Canal in 1848 included a lock at where Roanoke is today, and that led to an influx of workers. Later, railroads dramatically affected canal traffic, but Roanoke continued to prosper.
school system was developed, and the area became known as a wonderful place to raise a family. The growth led to the town being incorporated in 1874.
After World War II, Roanoke saw a decline. However, in the 1990s, a revitalization movement to restore the historic downtown gained traction. One of the companies spearheading the movement was American Specialty Services founded in 1989 by Pete Eshelman — a former pitcher in the Yankee minor league system.
The Joseph Decuis Empire
As Pete’s business grew, more clientele cane to Roanoke, but there was few dining and lodging options. So, the old bank building in downtown was purchased and converted into a world-class restaurant. Named after a distant relative, Joseph Decuis (day-QUEEZ) opened in 2000 for the company’s clientele but later opened to the public. Today, it is an award-winning destination.
For lodging, a circa 1912 house on Main Street was converted into an elegantly appointed, four-bedroom bed and breakfast. We have stayed there, and the Innkeeper’s breakfasts are top-shelf. We also enjoyed a cocktail in the Drawing Room before strolling to the restaurant for dinner. It takes you back to a glamorous era.
Today, the Eshelman’s empire not only includes the restaurant, but also the Emporium wine shop and café, and the Joseph Decuis Farmstead. The latter grows Wagyu cattle, Mangalitza pigs, herbs, vegetables, and chickens.
Also at the farm is the Farmstead Inn. They completely restored a circa 1884 Farm House, Carriage House and Barn establishing a six-bedroom Inn each with a private bath.
More Roanoke Restaurants
For a small town, there are a bevy of attractions that make Roanoke a destination. The Roanoke Village Inn is one of those. This 70 plus year-old establishment features hand-cut steaks, fish, ribs, chops, colossal pork tenderloins, burgers and great soups and salads.
On one lunch visit, I had a delicious Tuscan Bean and Sausage Soup and the house salad covered in blue cheese crumbles and a poppy seed dressing. The soup was classic Italian with the crumbled sausage having just enough spice to make your nose drip on almost every spoonful. The onion rings are also worthy.
Gayle enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich with very tasty, lightly battered onion rings.
Those were satisfying lunches!
Another must-stop is the Parker Grace Tea Room. It opened a couple years ago in the oldest house in Roanoke. Built in 1855, the house make-over features elegant European influences throughout.
Named after the owner’s granddaughter, this special location offers both sachet and loose-leaf teas. On one visit, tea from Harney & Sons of London was available.
The menu offers breads, muffins and scones prepared specifically for tea. Then there are three side salads with the creative apple-cashew with poppy seed dressing being a must-have. For entrees, there are nine choices, including the tempting meatloaf-cheddar baguette.
On this visit, I wanted to sample several items, so I went with the Parker Grace Trio. You can choose three of the seven side dishes or two with soup. The unusual potato-dill-cheddar soup looked interesting, so I chose that, their signature chicken salad and creamy cucumbers. Everything was spot-on!
Shopping Brings Folks From Afar
Main Street has several interesting, boutique-type shops. Besides the Emporium, there are:
- The Little Shop of Spinning; wood products
- Peony & Rose Boutique; women’s clothing
- Paper Moon; antiques
- Revival Décor; home goods
- Ella Chic; boutique
- Flourish & Flounce; home goods
- Katharos Art & Gifts; gallery
- Magnolia + Moss; boutique
Other shops are on and off Main Street. Check the Discover Roanoke website for all stores.
Seven Sons Farm
A trip to the Roanoke area is not be complete without a visit to the Seven Sons Farm for free-range, humanly raised beef, pork, and poultry. Located about six miles from downtown Roanoke, the farm store offers fresh eggs, artisan cheeses, and frozen beef, pork, and chicken products.
The Hitzfield family converted their conventional farm to a multi-animal, sustainable, pasture raised farming and marketing operation. Their philosophy is to preserve the land, apply stewardship and responsibility to build trust.
For those that want to treat themselves to fresh and healthy products, check-out the simple farm store. There is a table of produce, a couple of refrigerators for the eggs and cheeses and six freezers for meat and poultry choices. You select what you want, add-up the total (calculator provided) and put your check or cash in a slot. On this visit, we selected two beautifully-marbled Delmonico steaks and a pound of ground chicken. It is comforting to know where your food is raised.
If You Go
Roanoke is half-way between Fort Wayne and Huntington just off of US 24. Store hours during the off-season vary, but most stores are open Tuesday through Saturday. Others open Thursday through Saturday.
Joseph Decuis: 191 N. Main St. Hours: 5-7:30PM, Thursday through Saturday.
The Inn at Joseph Decuis: 492 N. Main. Call the restaurant.
Joseph Decuis Farmstead: 6755 E 900 S, Columbia City.
Parker Grace: 138 First St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Seven Sons Farm: 15718 Aboite Road. Visit www.sevensons.net for hours.
Roanoke offers plenty for the entire family, and if you want to learn about sustainable, farm-to-fork goods provided daily, there are two of the best farms in Indiana nearby. Moreover, the Wagyu cattle-raising process at the Joseph Decuis Farm is an amazing science!
If you reserve a table at the restaurant, make sure you schedule a farmstead tour.