“If you don’t pick a good concept, don’t call me wondering why it didn’t work out.”
A food-industry friend’s advice regularly rolled through Lee Stanish’s mind as he weighed how to turn his weekend-warrior BBQ expertise into a (nearly) 24/7 endeavor of running a restaurant.
“Lots of people make great barbecue,” Stanish said. “I knew we had to really mix it up.”
The result? Eddie Joe’s Icehouse, a Tex Mex-infused BBQ joint in West Point inspired by Stanish’s trips to Texas, where many rural icehouses that stored ice prior to modern refrigeration have since become eateries. The name stems from a service station Stanish’s grandfather ran at his Pennsylvania farm, where Stanish’s passion for cooking took hold at a young age.
“My grandparents were also butchers, and I had a 4-H leader who hooked me up with a smoker, so it was a natural progression,” said Stanish, who smokes all of Eddie Joe’s meats himself.
The Icehouse opened in May at the former West Point Steak House, where Stanish once slung BBQ on the side for almost a decade while in information technology at Purdue University’s College of Agriculture. (Stanish stayed in Indiana after earning a degree in agricultural economics from Purdue.)
Stanish has transformed a stately steakhouse into a tangibly Texan oasis of good grub, cold brew (Shiner for true Texans, Indiana craft beers to keep it local) and Hoosier history. In the spirit of icehouses as community gathering places, Stanish pays homage to West Point’s vast champion rodeo-rider history and incorporated decor from down the road.
“The tin on the walls comes from a Darlington farm, and a lot of stuff came from people saying, ‘I have this thing’,” he says, referencing an old-time piano in the corner that works … but needs tuning.
There is nothing off-key about Stanish’s menu, however. BBQ traditionalists can enjoy platters of brisket, chicken, ham or pulled pork, with plenty of sides and a sweet potato muffin for sweet-to-heat balance.
But Stanish’s Tex Mex creations stand apart, namely the West Texas four-stack enchiladas. Yes, four enchiladas stacked with pulled pork, pulled chicken or brisket. The latter is the heartiest enchilada you’ll ever encounter.
Four wing varieties offer good afterburn. Savor ginger teriyaki for flavor and sweet/spicy for the fire. And while portion sizes make it difficult, leave room for the state fair bananas foster, a deep-fried bread pudding made with Lafayette’s own Mary Lou Donuts and topped with bananas, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. It’s shareable, even if what you just read rendered your salivary glands selfishly.
“It’s kind of like learning to live again in a new world,” Stanish said of his restaurateur transition. “But it’s rewarding to lead a group of people in a whole different ballgame and serve up something new.”
Nick Rogers lives in Lafayette with his wife, Abby. When he isn’t coordinating communications for Purdue Extension, he’s likely at the movies, competing at (or hosting) trivia, or otherwise out and about enjoying greater Lafayette.