BEER CLINIC:: Our Local Bars

by Dr. Carol Westbrook on August 15, 2011

It’s fun to discover a good bar in an out-of-the way place. Quaint, charming, great to visit once. But what if you actually have to live off the beaten path? How in the world do you find a good place for a beer? Let me explain. When I took a job as a doctor in Goshen, Indiana, I was looking forward to living in a quiet rural community…a town surrounded by farms and orchards…where I could get local produce and farm-raised beef…a town which values family and church…where restaurants are closed on Sunday…where I could hear the clip-clop of Amish buggies…OMG! I’m 150 miles from Chicago! What am I going to do?? Where am I going to find a place to get a good draft beer?

Worse yet, will I have to drink at home?

The search began for a suitable bar. Requirements: good beer on draft, open late, good food, interesting patrons to chat with, and good bartenders who remember your name. In other words, beer and ambiance. And oh, it had to be close to home. I won’t tell you about all the sad, smoke-filled joints we visited. “Irish” pubs without Guinness on draft, bars with no taps, only bottles. Lousy pizza and thin beer, cigarette smoke everywhere. Wonderful home-cooked Mexican restaurants with Mexican draft beers, but which closed at 9. Finally, we narrowed it down to two bars: Constant Spring, and The Landmark. Here’s the lowdown.

Constant Spring, Goshen IN

1) Constant Spring does everything right, and it could hold its own against any good Chicago pub. CS has been open for five years, started by proprietors Mark and Jason, graduates of Goshen College. Goshen College is a conservative Mennonite institution where drinking is not as widespread as in other colleges. Jason and Mark had no experience managing either restaurants or bars, but they knew what they wanted and created it in Goshen, IN. First of all, CS is clean, healthy, youthful, organic, and the only smoke-free bar in Goshen. The draft list is outstanding, with a changing selection of regional and national microbrews, and a few imports. You can always find Bell’s Two-Hearted on draft, and always something from Left Hand and Three Floyds. PBR is on draft, but no Bud. The food is very good for a bar, stressing local produce and organic ingredients—even the burgers. Jason and Marc know my name, as do most of the bartenders. The ambiance is first rate: Free popcorn. Trivia night on Tuesdays, Karaoke on Wednesdays. Occasional live rock on Fridays. Best of all — great conversation with whomever is sitting next to you at the bar.  The most interesting people hang at CS, from college students to old geezers, from farmers to laborers to artists, and all with a story to tell. Downside: CS is not open on Sundays, and the kitchen closes at 10.

Landmark Bar & Grill, New Paris IN

2) The Landmark Bar & Grill is 5 miles from Goshen in New Paris—a town which is neither New nor Paris. There’s little industry left in town, and folks don’t have much to spend. This has probably been the case since the bar opened, which I’m guessing was in the 1920’s–before prohibition? It certainly IS a Landmark. By the look of the old pictures on the wall, it has changed little since then. The Landmark is everything Constant Spring is not. Smoking is permitted. The draft beer list has only the big brands, e.g. Miller and Bud Light, though there is an acceptable selection of bottled beers. The bartenders don’t know us. The bar has no web site, though it is on Facebook. The food is, well, fried. Fried: chicken, fish, pork chops, gizzards (yes, gizzards). What it lacks in fresh organic ingredients it makes up for in cheap and plentiful. Ambiance? Live music tends to country and western. There are poker nights and karaoke nights.  The clientele are older, bearded, or bikers. The grease monkeys and stockers from New Paris Speedway are frequent guests, and rave about the food. Landmark doesn’t pretend to be a dive bar, it IS a dive bar. Bar fights break out (or so I’m told). But if you get to the Saturday night prime rib special before 5 pm, you’ll see families, and a table or two of oldsters from the local retirement communities. And that’s why we like Landmark so much. It feels so homey. It is the only gathering place in a relatively poor town, where everyone tolerates everyone else.  It has the feel of an old-time saloon, down to the swinging doors. It doesn’t meet our sophisticated “beer and ambiance” criteria, above, but it’s a great place to go. You can always get a beer and a meal, cheap, and you’ll always feel welcome.

Vignettes from our favorite bars

Constant Spring
Two ministers walked into the bar (CS). Rick asked the first one if he believed in God. Three beers later, at the end of the night, he still was not sure about the answer.
-We won the couples trivia night one Tuesday, the prize, a free beer.
-We saw Pete Best and his band live (he’s the fifth Beatle)

Landmark
-We spent New Years’ Eve at Landmark in 2010, didn’t know a soul, but we danced the night away to country and western band.
-I often see my cancer patients, who come early for dinner and bridge.
-The first — and last — time we tried the fried chicken gizzards they were hard as rocks and unchewable.

Sadly, my stay in Goshen is over and I’ll be leaving in the fall. But we’ll be back to Constant Spring and Landmark whenever we can.

Ed.: While some of the above ‘vignettes’ might be better described as musings while self administering a handful of Tums, we found and loved the following review of The Landmark on Yahoo Local

  • 05/26/2011 Its the most wonderful place in the world. great food, awesome service, and bar stools and carpet and tables and a dart board and a ceiling and walls and salt and pepper right at your table! Man, its a nice bar.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack Higgins August 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I’m writing in response to the post on the Landmark Bar & Grill in New Paris, IN. I’m a frequent guest there, 34 years of age and a non-smoker. Many of my friends & family have frequented this restaurant over the past 5-10 years. I do not feel this is a “dive” bar as you called it and it’s not full of bearded men and bikers. They have a HUGE age and clientel range, which makes this place just that much better. Fried food is what works for this establishment and guests feel at home and that they are part of a family. If you haven’t visited or haven’t visited inawhile..stop in. They have a large menu with plenty to choose from & reasonable prices. This is NOT a place where fights occur and I have always felt very comfortable and at ease. Every bar with live entertainment has their share of problems after midnight. I think Landmark has handled any and all of those situations with poise and respect to all involved. The Landmark is an old building with a lot of history and is worth the trip to New Paris. All in all I just felt it my duty as a Landmark patron to respond to your post. And by the way…the bar was established (per the sign) in 1997, has a non-smoking family room and carries Coors Light, Miller Light, Killians & Old Style draught. And for someone who enjoys live entertainment, they have country western bands twice a year and typically do classic rock & rock all other nights.

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Carol August 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm

thank you for the insight. i was hard pressed to find ANY history about the Landmark. Sadly, no web site or posts from other sites that i could locate. Except postings by the pit guys at the stock car racetrack. The bar in its current reincarnation may have opened in 1997, but it clearly has the look of having been around a long time, under other ownership. (I tried to contact the owners, and posted on their web site, but no luck). The feel of having been around a long time is one of the nice things about it. You feel like you’ve gone back in time, to the saloon days. And don’t take the term “dive bar” as being a negative; it has a connotation of being a bit rough and ready, at least to a Chicagoan. As I pointed out in the article, it’s truly a family place which serves a variety of customers. And sorry, i disagree with you: Coors Light, Miller Light, Killians and Old Style on draft do not comprise a good beer list, though it’s a sight better than having only these choices, and only in bottles. Thanks for reading and keep posting, Jack. PS about the rock and roll. Darn hard to find out what’s on with no web site.

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