Enochsburg, Indiana: Home To A Family Tradition Called The Fireside Inn
Photo: Dan Kinker, owner of The Fireside Inn, stands outside the restaurant's entrance in Enochsburg, Indiana. Photo Credit: C.J. Miller / WIBC.
ENOCHSBURG, Ind. – On a typical Saturday night, you’ll likely find far more people visiting Enochsburg than living there.
You’ll find Enochsburg along a narrow county road off of I-74, Exit 143, in an area on the map that is centrally located between Greensburg, Rushville and Batesville. This tiny town in Franklin County only has about 10 houses and a Catholic church, but what drives folks through a windy and hilly path to reach the area is a restaurant that has been a staple of this southeastern Indiana community and owned by the same family for more than 66 years.
The Fireside Inn opened Dec. 22, 1950 by Joe Kinker, a World War II veteran who returned from duty to his hometown and wanted a place for his friends to eat, play cards, drink beer and hang out. Joe and his mother Mae started serving fried chicken, cole slaw, shrimp and French fries, and quickly the word-of-mouth of the restaurant’s simple menu spread among those who lived in Decatur, Franklin, Rush and Ripley Counties.
Joe ran the Fireside Inn until 1994 when one of his family members Tom and Judy Kinker bought it and started managing the restaurant. Tom decided not to fool with the menu, since its fried chicken recipe is what the restaurant is best known. In fact, when you order off the menu, you have the unique option of asking for a “half” chicken or a whole chicken as part of your meal. Also, when you ask for a soda, your server will bring you a can with a glass of ice instead of a fountain drink.
Tom continued the tradition until he retired in Sept. 2009. The restaurant had closed its doors for a few months during the holidays until Tom’s son Dan bought it and reopened it on Jan. 1, 2010. Dan says he gave it a lot of thought before deciding to bring The Fireside Inn back to life after a brief sabbatical.
“It’s more than just a restaurant, it’s a family tradition,” says Dan who also works another full-time job on top of owning the restaurant with his wife Becky.
When you step inside The Fireside Inn, you’ll see the same wood paneling on the walls, as well as the same curtains, decorations, tables and chairs that have been part of its décor for more than 30 years. Also on its walls are photos, newspaper articles and posters of Coach Bob Knight and the Indiana University men’s basketball team dating back to the 1970’s.
“Joe Kinker was a serious IU fan and we continue that tradition today. We have a group of probably 10 to 15 IU fans [who] frequent our restaurant in the bar when the Hoosiers are playing,” says Dan, who also considers himself an IU fan even though he went to Purdue University.
How much does the Fireside Inn mean to the people who live or used to live in the area?
“We had some chicken that was airmailed to Florida. [Some of our customers] were living in Florida for the winter and their son sent some down to Fort Myers so they could enjoy it,” according to Dan.
“We get a lot of people who come back to town from Arizona [or] California especially around holiday time and this is a stop they want to make,” says Dan, who says he hopes the tradition that The Fireside Inn brings to the community continues for several more generations.
“Hopefully I have something to hand on to my children someday if it’s something they feel they want to do. [Enochsburg] is a unique area and its part of what keeps us doing what we do is pride in our area and pride in the people who work for us.”
CLICK BELOW TO HEAR DAN KINKER, THE OWNER OF THE FIRESIDE INN, TALK WITH 93 WIBC’S C.J. MILLER ABOUT THE RESTAURANT’S HISTORY, TRADITION AND WHY PEOPLE WILL DRIVE OUT OF THE WAY TO GET TO THE TINY TOWN OF ENOCHSBURG FOR ITS FRIED CHICKEN.
93 WIBC’S C.J. MILLER REPORTING.