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Fill 'Er Up
The giant deer head continues to reign over the fireplace at the Porter, Ind. TA restaurant, but that’s one of the few things that have stayed the same.
Virginia Myers, assistant manager of the Buckhorn Family Restaurant and someone who has considered the TA “home” for about 10 years, relishes talking about all of the changes.
Part of the overhaul of the entire TA on the stretch of I-94 between Gary and Michigan City, the Buckhorn is wooing back drivers who may have found other places to eat during the renovation.
One of the big draws is the aroma put out by the all-you-can-eat pasta bar, built by Buckhorn general manager Mike O’Malley.
“Just the smell makes me hungry,” Myers says of the Tuesday-Thursday offering. “I think we’re the only TA to have this. My boss built it from scratch. It has a built-in-well, so we can keep all the pasta sauces: Alfredo, marinara, clam sauce and meat sauce. And we have four different types of pasta, fresh garlic, green peppers, onions and mushrooms sautéed and ready for the guys to add.”
The Buckhorn also has an all-you-can-eat menu, a new feature now available at many TA restaurants. Myers says that the drivers who used to enjoy the convenience of loading up a plate from the buffet are getting accustomed to the new, fresh-from-the-kitchen fare. Of course, these guys are hungry and often in a hurry. The staff has learned to be ready for this happy challenge.
“We have to be speedy about it,” says Myers. “The quality has to be good and the plate presentation has to be beautiful.”
The all-you-can eat menu also includes a salad bar with eight prepared salads, fresh-baked bread and soups on one side. A variety of green salad offerings on the other side allow you to make your own favorite mixture. With the winter weather, the number of soups has increased from two to four, with heartier fare like bean-and-ham and clam chowder. “And chili will be there about every day,” says O’Malley.
Chicken on the way
Proof that Buckhorn management listens to the customers is in the fact that when drivers began saying how much they missed the fried chicken that was on the old buffet, the bosses listened. “The fried chicken dinner is being tested in several sites and we may see it on the menu by the beginning of October,” says O’Malley.
Brand new from top-to-bottom
It’s not just the food and service that is new at the restaurant. The kitchen has been completely renovated, right down to the drain lines. Countertops and stool covers in the dining area have been replaced. The change can be seen both above (new ceiling tiles) and below (new carpet).
Historic photos of the surrounding area cover the walls of the restaurant, a remnant of the previous design rearranged for easier viewing. “It’s something for diners to walk around and look at while they are stretching their legs after eating,” says Myers.
Cleaning up in style
The restaurant wasn’t the only area to get a makeover. Drivers are sure to be equally impressed by the new showers, which are both big and beautiful. There is more to the updated facilities than mere looks, though. The toilets, soap dispensers, taps and towel dispensers all do their jobs automatically, adding an extra level of sanitary precaution to the always clean area.
A perfect place for a date
Among the steel haulers who stop by the Porter TA regularly is Virginia’s husband of about a year, Rick Myers. “His whole family is into truck driving,” says the proud wife. “He’s the only truck driver I ever dated and I ended up marrying him. He still eats here all the time. I see him more here than at home.”
Porter, Ind. TA
Where: I-94, Exit 22B
Phone: (219) 926-8566
Fax: (219) 926-7584
Truck Parking: 212
Restaurants: Buckhorn Family Restaurant, Subway, Popeyes, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut