History, comedy and culinary discoveries abound in Vincennes

by | Places, Featured Destinations

The Chupacabra burger and fries at Franks in Vincennes.

Along the eastern banks of the lower Wabash River, a natural border between the states of Indiana and Illinois, sits the historic town of Vincennes. With a population just under 17,000, the community offers a cultural wallop as the birthplace to entertainer Red Skelton, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, Indiana’s first public university, Vincennes, and, the site of the state’s oldest settlement. Named after a notable European fur trader in 1732, Vincennes boasts a delicious dining scene, too.

Begin the food trip with caffeine and a housemade breakfast sandwich at Impressed Coffee Company on the Hallmark movie-like Main Street. Plenty of seating allows guests to sip java to fuel their stroll through the impressive George Rogers Clark NHP and the classical-style memorial building with Doric columns and dome. It’s the perfect old-school Revolutionary War experience with heroes carved in granite and bronze. Travelers can even saunter across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge to the neighboring state and time zone. 

Then, it’s an easy promenade down the road, lined with retail shops, overflowing flower baskets suspended from faux-luminaires and aromas from neighboring bakeries, to Jenna’s Bakehouse and Pea-Fections. At the first location, Jenna Simmons opened in 2022 with sumptuous housemade goods. A family affair, the baker, her mom and aunt run the female-centered operation. A few doors down, Becky and Bob Pea own the latter, which has served and catered the community for nearly 30 years. Diners feast on artisan breakfast, lunch and desserts in a Midwest eatery while shopping for confectionary supplies.

Head across the street where longtime friends Mike Murawski and Will Peppers operate Frank’s, named after the former’s grandfather. Started as a food truck, the brick and mortar launched on Thankgiving 2021. Alumnus of the Vincennes University culinary program, they call the establishment a “smokehouse” using Indiana grown beef, butchered at Dewig’s Meats in Haubstadt. The partnership grind their meats daily in their burgers and braises. It’s best to get there on the early side as they sell out of many of their items. However, the Chupacabra, a hefty ground patty, provides a spicy repast, topped with a jalapeno popper dip-like sauce and fried jalapenos. Cut to order and piping hot, well-seasoned fries served in a brown bag, make the meal complete. 

And, for good measure, it’s a five-minute waddle to the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy, a not-to-be-missed attraction. A star of the golden days of the Hollywood studio system, Skelton, born in Vincennes in 1913, was a master entertainer who started in vaudeville, and one of the few who made the leap to movies and TV. The collection, donated by his family, provides artwork and commentary on his years in the spotlight. At one time, his paintings allegedly made Skelton more money than his television variety hour, which ran for a decade. 

Ultimately, Vincennes provides delicious dining against an engaging covert backdrop of Indiana history.

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