On the way to an engineering alumni dinner at Purdue last week, we decided to venture on the wild side to see one of Wabash County’s famous covered bridges in Roann (the other is in North Manchester.).
Historian Ron Woodward summarizes Roann’s history at the Roann library: “Joseph Becker settled along the Eel River in the 1830s, then opened a tavern on what was called the Chippewa Pike — the main artery between Rochester and Wabash. The first bridge across the Eel was built in 1841, and later replaced by the current bridge in 1873. Soon thereafter, the Detroit, Eel River and Illinois railroad came through, and the town grew. Eventually, a school was built, a bank established, and with three saloons, the place rollicked.”
Today, Roann has less than 500 residents, but thousands show up every year for the Covered Bridge Festival the week after Labor Day. This year, there were concerts, tractor pulls, food, car shows, arts, a parade and other activities. It’s big deal for the area.
Roann also has a funeral home (and a cemetery with likely more graves than residents), a town hall, antique stores, a pizza joint, Todd’s Corner (a gas station) and Lynn’s Restaurant.
Now located in what was once a hardware store and lawn mower repair shop, Lynn’s opened in the early ’50s at a location that is now the town hall by Robert Lynn’s grandfather. It has become a must-stop for both adventurers and locals. Being in the middle of farm country, many farmers are regulars.
As we sipped on a cold draft, in strolled one of the local farmers, exclaiming, “Must be new folks in town!” When we pulled up in front of Lynn’s, there were no cars on that side of the street, and on the other side, cars were parked parallel. We were quickly informed that there is angle parking on Lynn’s side of the street, so our car was obvious evidence that there was a new kid in town.
The farmer, Randy Schipper, perched at an adjacent table, and we quickly discovered that he’s an icon in these parts. He graduated from Akron High School and Ball State, taught school, then became a farmer. He expanded from a single farm and now owns more than 2,000 acres. Although he is experienced in dairy farming, he now focuses totally on raising beef cattle.
As the conversation flowed, Melissa, the bartender and waitress extraordinaire, who grew up in Lake Country, asked, “The usual Randy?” And indeed, it was his “usual” lunch of a side salad with Thousand Island dressing and two pieces of their famous white fish.
I thought Chubbies had great whitefish, but Lynn’s is better. Lightly breaded, it’s flash fried resulting in an extremely flaky slab of delightful fish.
The menu is full of house-made goodies. For salads, there are four types of chef salads and their house-made chicken and egg salads, both of which were highly recommended. Side choices also included house-made macaroni and potato salads.
Chili is the only soup, but they highlight sandwiches. The specialties are the gargantuan Big Angus, clubs and melts. The latter can be had with a beef or turkey patty and are very popular. There are an additional 14 sandwiches, but I decided to test the pork tenderloin, which can be grilled or fried. I went with the former and was not disappointed. The tenderloin was pounded thin and grilled to perfection.
Also noted was that you could order whitefish by the piece, which caught my wife Gayle’s eye. She ordered two pieces, and they were huge. She also ordered a half order of fries, which was enough for both of us. I, too, got fries, and my serving was overwhelming. Talk about french fry overload, but they were excellent.
Also, the macaroni salad couldn’t have been made any better. Simply macaroni with a mix of mayo and sour cream and bits of onion and red bell pepper, it was a perfect side.
Roann is worth the drive, and we will go back for breakfast at Lynn’s. Also, just down the road is the Stockdale Mill, an active grist mill that’s open on Saturdays.