About the Indiana Foodways Alliance
Indiana Foodways Alliance™ Helps Foodies and Travelers Find the Best Local Eateries
Since 2007 the Alliance has promoted restaurant trails winding throughout the state that are devoted to certain foods. The organization lists restaurants that serve a specific type of food, lines them up on the map by location, and encourages people to follow the trail, eating their way along. Membership requires restaurants to be locally-owned and approved through assessments that confirm a level of quality.
Whether pies. tenderloins or ice cream are your go-to food, or something else. there is likely a trail for it. Following a food trail is a fun way to discover new-to-you establishments, taste some of the most scrumptious food and drinks around and get motivated to explore different communities. Currently, more than 350+ member food-and beverage-places in Indiana have been divided into 21 trails. The Hoosier Pie Trail, Tenderloin Lovers Trail, and Sweet Temptations Trail are most popular, and several have won awards. In 2018 the Tenderloin Lovers Trail was ranked 7th in "10 Best Food & Drink Trails in America" by PopSugar. USA Today's "Best Food Trails in America" ranked the Hoosier Pie Trail '" 4th place in 2015 (beating out Kentucky's Bourbon Trail). among many other awards the trails have won.
"Indiana Foodways Alliance'" (IFA) represents some of the best local food in Indiana," said Kristal Painter, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Partnership and president of Indiana Foodways Alliance. "It's experiencing the food but also the story behind the food. For instance, Superburger in Paoli named their Triple Newk burger after a local teacher. Parke County's Mecca Tavern is owned by the local football coach. Catello's Mozzarella Bar in Pendleton is true authentic Italian and one of few places that make their own cheeses daily."
"Most of these locally-owned restaurants started out as pipe dreams and turned into a way of life through dedication, hard work, and perseverance. In restaurant translation, that equals blood, sweat. and tears," says Lindsey Skeen, executive director for IFA. She cites a great example in downtown Shelbyville, where 83-year-old Shirley Bailey opened the Chaperral Cafe more than 50 years ago. Today, Shirley still runs her restaurant with the same passion she did back in 1968.
IFA is a nonprofit run by a volunteer board of directors and trail membership continues to grow. Restaurant members pay fees to join or some area visitors bureaus pay the fees on their behalf.
"We have increased membership by 40 percent in the last two years and have projected 30-plus additional restaurants in 2019," Skeen said.
The organization conducts visits to the restaurant locations before a member is approved. Each member restaurant is exceptional, as determined by on-site assessments and tastings.
"We are not restaurant critics but story tellers. We meet with the owners/managers and find out the story behind the food," Skeen said. "That's the best part of my job, connecting with the local restaurant owners. We also find out pertinent information on the restaurant like seating, group seating, do they use locally-grown products in their food, etc. Once the restaurant or business is assessed then they are officially a member of the organization and placed on trails."
The original seeds of IFA's history were sown by a group known as the 1-69 Cultural Corridor, founded in 1989 to promote activities to increase tourism along Interstate 69. For about fifteen years, sometimes off and on, various members worked together from visitors bureaus and other organizations in Madison, Grant, DeKalb, Allen, Huntington, Delaware and Hamilton counties. They brainstormed, tried programs to attract more tourism, conducted research, and created a long-range development and marketing plan for the corridor. Ultimately, the group was renamed and IFA was born.