Food, Fun and Favorite Sons

Readers choose their ‘bests’ of Indiana

Posted on Aug 29 2019 in General

Readers rallied around fave businesses — and notables — from the southern part of Indiana in this latest round of voting. But the great thing about compiling a “best of” list is that it’s ever-evolving as you discover new must-visits around the state to add to your current top spots!

Since 2002, readers of this magazine have cast their votes for their favorite people, places, products and events (among other categories) in our recurring Readers’ Choice Awards. 

This year marks the seventh time we’ve asked you to share your picks in a variety of categories. Categories this time around include bakery, barbecue, drive-in theater and water recreation site. We also asked who your favorite Indiana musician/singer was and who you felt was a “hometown hero.”

Best Bakery

Williams Bakery
1051 N. Clark Blvd.
Clarksville, Indiana 47129

Williams Bakery is an institution in Clarksville, serving all manner of baked goods for over 115 years. Many of their patrons have been stopping there for sweet treats all their lives. The bakery’s offerings are spelled out on its white board menu: cookies, pies, cakes, doughnuts, long johns, and breads. 

Chicken salad, Italian cannolis and French crullers are also available. To wash ’em down, Williams Bakery offers coffee, milk, orange juice and sodas. Since the bakery offers seating, you can grab a spot and get your sugar rush immediately — then get a dozen doughnuts “to go” to share with your family. The bakery also does custom cakes and serves commercial accounts — making the daily bread for a Louisville deli and sub shop, for instance. 

The bakery may be a tad off the main drag, on a side street with more residential and commercial area than bustling retail, but customers still beat a path to door (or through its drive-thru window, unique for bakeries). Operators Monica and Chaz Ritenour say it’s a hot spot in the morning. Fortuitously situated between Clarksville High School and Providence High School, the bakery is a popular stop for students before or after school.

The Ritenours, both 27, took over operation from her grandfather, Ernie Polston, a couple of years ago. Polston was an employee at the bakery when he purchased it from the original Williams family decades ago. Though Monica says she grew up at the bakery — being babysat by her grandmother there and working there in high school — she never planned to take over the family business.  She and Chaz were both studying music at the University of Evansville where they met. But after graduation, the opportunity to operate her family’s business presented itself, and they went for it.

While still providing the traditional goodies everyone might expect — like the popular apple fritters and deep-fried chocolate danishes — the younger couple has tried to mix in some new trendy baked products, like adding crazy toppings and trying new decorating techniques. 

Asked about any new additions to the bakery line, Monica thought for a second then quipped, daughter Charlotte. Now 8 months old, Charlotte is definitely in line to carry on the family-owned business in which her parents and great grandfather take great pride. And when Charlotte leaned from her mom’s arms as if to take a swipe at a colorful cake in front of her on the counter, they were asked if Charlotte has already developed a sweet tooth. 

“She actually has two coming in,” winked her dad. And that’s a good sign for our family-owned Readers’ Choice bakery.

Monica and Chaz Ritenour take great pride in continuing the family-owned legacy of the century-old full-service Williams Bakery. A new addition to the bakery lineup, besides trendy baked goods, is perhaps the future baker, daughter Charlotte.

Best Barbecue

Carriage on the Square Smokehouse
117 N. Broadway St.
Greensburg, Indiana 47240

711 W. Main St.
Paoli, Indiana 47454

Indiana Connection readers love their barbecue but as for their favorite spot to indulge in smoky deliciousness, they couldn’t agree. Two eateries, 100 miles apart, tied for making the state’s best barbecue. 

At Carriage on the Square, the onsite smoker flavors favorites like pulled pork, brisket and chicken. Corned beef is another customer favorite. Menu items like smokehouse burritos and the Walking Pony and Running Pony nachos allow diners to try barbecue staples in a whole new way.

Customers say it’s worth the drive — no matter where you’re heading. Tim and Cathy Looper were heading home to Markleville from a vacation in Tennessee when they detoured off I-65 to try Carriage’s barbecue a second time. “We enjoyed it so much, we thought we’d stop for lunch on the way home. We hit Columbus and cut across country to Greensburg. It was that good.”

As you’d expect, a lot of customers come in off I-74, which goes right by Greensburg, and are from Cincinnati, Indianapolis and points east and west. 

Farther south in Paoli, Porky’s specializes in dry-rubbed smoked meats including pulled pork, ribs, chicken and brisket — all smoked in house.  Another specialty — apropos for a restaurant by its name — are the homemade pork rinds, served fresh from the fryer. The Loaded Porky Potatoes prove that fried spuds and pulled pork are a match made in heaven especially when cheese and onions are part of the deal.

It, too, is situated on a well-traveled highway, U.S. 150/Ind. 56, that is a popular route for folks heading toward the French Lick/West Baden resorts. 

A sliced brisket sandwich, topped with coleslaw on a pretzel bun, is one of the menu items that made Carriage on the Square Smokehouse in Greensburg a “Best of Indiana” for 2019.

Best Drive-In Theater

Georgetown Drive-In
8200 IN-64
Georgetown, Indiana 47122

The days of enjoying movies under the stars haven’t disappeared in the Hoosier state. Indiana is home to several drive-in theaters including our readers’ favorite, Georgetown Drive-In. The drive-in, which premiered in 1951, also topped this category in our 2013 Best of Indiana poll.

Two facing screens show different movies simultaneously so movie-goers have a choice in what to watch. With a playground for youngsters, a concession stand, and special family-friendly attractions, Georgetown Drive-In is a fun destination for all ages. The ticket price of $11 for adults (over 13) and $6 for kids 6-12 (those 5 and under get in free) covers the entire evening’s movies. (Four movies are shown; two per screen.)

Best Water Recreation Site

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Santa Claus, Indiana

This Southern Indiana treasure — recently lauded by (Hall of Fame), Popular Mechanics (Best Roller Coaster in Indiana), and USA Today (Best Water Park in the Nation) — was voted Best Water Recreation Site by Indiana Connection readers. Previously, our readers have named Holiday World the Best Place to Take the Kids (2002 and 2003) and the Best Family Vacation Spot (2009).

Splashin’ Safari is home to Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster. It towers seven stories high and covers over three acres. Meanwhile, the Wildebeest is billed as the world’s number one water park ride (voted on by Amusement Today magazine readers) and is the world’s second longest water coaster just behind the Mammoth. It spans one-third of a mile and takes riders on a two-and-a-half minute thrill ride of drops, twists and turns.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is renowned for its value. Its guests receive unlimited free soft drinks, free sunscreen and free parking. Experience our readers’ favorite water park for free. Enter to win four 2020 season Holiday World tickets at

A scene from Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari. Photo Courtesy of Holiday World.

Favorite Indiana Musician/Singer

John Mellencamp

Ever since his breakout hit “I Need a Lover” 40 years ago, Seymour native John Mellencamp has topped the charts, filled countless concert venues and made music that struck a chord with its raw honesty. Mellencamp has been honored with a Grammy, a Billboard Century award, the  Woody Guthrie Award and the John Steinbeck Award, and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among other prestigious honors. Indiana Connection readers also recognized this Hoosier son as their favorite musician/singer.

Back in 1985, with Willie Nelson and Neil Young, Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert to raise awareness of the loss of family farms and to raise money to keep farm families on their land. He continues to serve on the Farm Aid board and will perform at the next Farm Aid concert Sept. 21 in East Troy, Wisconsin.

A prolific painter as well as a singer, songwriter, musician and performer, Mellencamp founded the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour. The center has a permanent exhibit of his artwork.

Mellencamp splits his time among residences in Bloomington, Indiana; New York City; and South Carolina. He has a recording studio outside Nashville, Indiana.

John Mellencamp, a name synonymous with small town Indiana, performs during the 2001 Farm Aid concert held at Deer Creek Music Center, now Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, in Noblesville. Photo by Richard G. Biever.

Hometown Hero

Larry Bird 

Indiana Connection readers are just wild about Larry! Larry Bird has been a “Best of Indiana” winner since 2002, when readers chose him as their favorite Indiana sports figure. He repeated that designation in 2013 and last year, he was named readers’ Favorite Famous Hoosier. This year, he topped the Hometown Hero list. 

Currently the advisor to the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, Bird has excelled in all facets of basketball throughout his life: as a player, coach and team executive.

But through it all, Bird, who grew up in French Lick, hasn’t forgotten his small town roots and humble beginnings. He may be known as “Larry Legend” but to his Hoosier fans, Bird will always be one of them.