Enjoy ice cream, onion rings, history and more in Shelbyville

by | Places, Featured Destinations

Just Peachey Cafe, 52 E. Washington St., in Shelbyville.

Shelbyville, known more for pristine farmland than as a food destination, offers delicious surprises while providing a healthy dose of Hoosier history. Situated where the Big Blue and Little Blue rivers converged, the town has the distinction of being the one-time home to Indiana’s first railroad transporting passengers and goods to Indianapolis, 30 miles northwest.

The downtown serves as the cultural and culinary center of the city with restaurants, shops, annual festivals and the location of the area’s farmers’ market. A picturesque elliptical-shaped city center, redeveloped in 2022, allows locals and visitors to hobnob together while enjoying the walkable destination.

The Cow Palace, a dining institution for residents and the curious traveler for 40 years, can’t be missed. The charming barn-shaped signage alone beckons, and a menu of sundaes, sandwiches and breakfasts doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, the ice cream concoctions are meals unto themselves. It’s also the former site of the home of 19th century author Charles Major. Born in Indianapolis, Major relocated to Shelbyville, and many of Major’s novels were set in this community, including the notable Bears of Blue River. Head over to the Joseph Fountain, a 1923 refurbished landmark, and view the sweet bronze statue that features the book’s protagonist, Little Balser, and his two pet bears.  

If you didn’t gorge on dairy at Cow Palace, perhaps Just Peachy Cafe, opened by Charity Elliot in 2019, provides a tasty stop. Exposed brick walls, Americana and a 1950s bike decorate the space but the menu features plenty of sandwiches, soups and homemade pastries, cakes and desserts. A Purdue graduate, Elliot features a sophisticated take on restaurant stalwarts such as the vegan burger on flatbread or the grilled cheese your way with combinations of feta, provolone, roasted red peppers. Diners can even find gluten-free bread and brownies baked on premise. 

Not to be missed though may be Pudder’s, a family-owned bar and restaurant that features live entertainment on the weekends, and upstairs, Blessing’s Opera House, a special event venue which has been at 18 Public Square since 1869. The unassuming restaurant, purchased by Bryan and Kim Rice in 2022 and named after a previous owner’s grandkids, offers tin-clad ceilings and an expansive dining area in a three-story cast iron historic building. While the menu features straightforward bar fare, there are surprises such as a bacon jam burger, mozzarella sticks, hand-cut from a “big cheese block” and revelatory onion rings. (“We dip them three times,” says Bryan Rice, “first in the wet, then the dry and back to the wet.”)

The second floor features the historic Blessing’s Opera House. By appointment,  peruse the antique exposed brick walls, with some of the original 19th century plaster and murals.

Other notable Shelbyville stops include the Grover Center Museum & Historical Society, which celebrates the county’s history, and the Skyline Drive-in movie theater, which shows current films and offers an extensive concession stand menu. Just outside of town on I-74, the Horseshoe Casino offers plenty of gaming, dining and live thoroughbred and quarter horse racing.

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