OLDENBURG, Ind.– A small-town Indiana restaurant is now a recipient of one of the most prestigious awards in culinary.
Wagner’s Village Inn earned a James Beard Award for its fried chicken and the owner thought it was a prank until someone sent him an article yesterday.
“It was a big surprise,” said owner Daniel Saccomando.
Wagner’s Village Inn won an American Classic Award from the James Beard Foundation. It recognizes locally owned restaurants for their timeless appeal and quality food that reflects the character of its community.
Saccomando didn’t even know he was a candidate.
“We didn’t apply, didn’t even know we were nominated,” he said. “I still don’t really know how prestigious this is. It’s only been a day, and I don’t know how to feel.”
Wagner’s Village Inn is one of only six classics recognized — winning for the Great Lakes Region for its fried chicken — cooked in a cast-iron skillet.
The good news about the chicken is already spreading. Greg Watkins drove all the way from West Lafayette to try it.
“I am excited about the process and the fact that MapQuest allowed me to get down here in one piece,” Watkins said. “Just seeing somebody else that has come down here to try the fried chicken. This is fun.”
Daniel’s grandparents started the restaurant in the 1960s. They’ve been pan-frying chicken the same way ever since — without a recipe
“Pan-frying chicken is much more difficult than deep frying it,” Saccomando said. “It takes a lot of experience and attention to really cook the chicken because it takes half an hour for us to maintain it to be juicy while still crispy and not overcooked.”
A crisp that is loved by the Oldenburg community of less than 700 — which might be seeing more visitors with this news.
“It’s just a wonderful area for food that people don’t know about,” Saccomando said. “ I look forward to at least seeing an increase in everyone’s business, and the visitors can come to the town.”
As for what’s next for the local favorite?
“I don’t know what comes next other than we are going to keep frying chicken and serving people,” Saccomando said.
Wagner’s Village Inn said they’re preparing for a surge of customers over the next few weeks. They’re asking customers for a dash of patience while they wait to try the famous fried chicken.