Jim and Betty Dodd started serving good food to the public at the Flagpole Restaurant back in the 1940s. Twenty years after that, they moved to the Town House, a 150-year-old former tavern in a residential neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis. Since opening the Town House, the Dodds have developed a sterling reputation near and far for pan-fried chicken, thick steaks and farm-fresh pies. Jim and Betty retired a few years back, and their son David took over. The last we tasted, the 20-ounce T-bone was delicious and the pie crusts as flaky as ever.
The Dodds skillet-fry their steaks, so they develop a wickedly savory crust to pocket all their juices. Slice into that T-bone, or the pound-and-a-half porterhouse, or even a smaller 1-pound strip or "ladies' ribeye," and the natural juices spurt, then ooze out onto the plate. That's just fine, because it is a delight to fork big hunks of chewy-skinned baked potato, or even one of Dodd's toasty french fries, along the plate to mop up all the juices. On the side of these all-American vittles comes a suitably all-American salad - a mound of iceberg lettuce with a good sweet-and-sour garlic dressing, or creamy coleslaw.Nobody dresses fancy to dine at Dodd's, but somehow everyone who bothers to come out to this place looks nice and acts polite. Service is fast but never brusque; and there is a feeling of well-worn familiarity about the whole experience. Most customers are regulars who have been dining with the Dodds for years, as well as a loyal clientele of out-of-towners (ourselves included) who wouldn't think of coming to the heart of Indiana without a visit to this wonderful old eatery. Here is the culinary equivalent of coming home.
No matter how much steak and potatoes or fried chicken you eat at Dodd's (and you will eat plenty), it is required that you have dessert. Pies like these you don't find too many places any more: real blue-ribbon beauties, with feathery-light crusts and fillings rich with cream and butter, or with locally grown berries in the summer. You never know which pies will be available any particular day, but among the well-known specialties are chocolate, blueberry and buttermilk.
Buttermilk pie, a heartland farm favorite, is a study in lush simplicity. There are hardly any ingredients, and it is easy to make. The only trick is to not overcook it or make the crust too brown. You want it as pale as sweet cream with a lemony zest. It will rise up in the oven as it cooks, then deflate as it cools. It is best served slightly warm, less than an hour out of the oven.
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Dough for a one-crust 9-inch pie
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line pie pan with dough. Prick with fork and press a piece of aluminum foil snugly into the pan, covering the dough. Bake 6 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 4 minutes more, until edges of crust begin to turn pale brown. Remove from oven and cool.
Mix together sugar and flour. Beat in eggs, then melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest.
Pour filling into cooled shell and bake (at 425 degrees) 10 minutes. Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes more, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool. (Center will deflate as pie cools.) Serve lukewarm, but refrigerate leftover pie.