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As other small family eateries are succumbing to financial difficulties, Our House Restaurant is preparing to celebrate five years serving home-cooked meals.
“I think serving real food made here at the restaurant has kept us going while others have closed their doors,” owner Sherry Burkhardt said last week. “Not too many places have that anymore.”
Our House Restaurant first welcomed hungry customers into their dining room on Sept. 14, 2003, just one month after Burkhardt purchased the property on Hwy. 421 North near Milton Elementary School from Jack Webster.
Although she had no previous experience in restaurant ownership, Burkhardt said she loved to cook, had fond memories of working at Farmhouse Restaurant in Bedford, which her parents, Jimmy and Janet Tharp, owned for 13 years, and had often thought about giving entrepreneurship a try. So after 10 years working at a Madison, Ind. factory, she discovered the white block building in Milton was available and decided the time was right.
“I tell people the only thing worse than restaurant work is factory work. But I was a single mom when I started over there and the pay was good. It had good benefits and I was able to take care of my kids. But after 10 years, I saw this place was empty and decided I had nothing to lose,” she said.
Burkhardt said renovations to the restaurant were few, as it had previously housed another diner, Jack’s Place, under Webster’s ownership. Therefore, after completing the technical tasks required, she moved on to adding the touches that would make it her own, including decorating the dining room with a variety of items previously displayed at the Tharps’ restaurant.
“I brought lots of Mom’s things in. That made it real for me,” she said.
Burkhardt said she never had any doubts as to whether the business venture would be successful and has no regrets about her decision to become her own boss.
“There have been hard times. One time when some of the girls were sick,” she said referring to her small staff of cooks and servers, “we just put a sign out asking customers to order at the bar because we didn’t have anyone to serve the tables. My daughters and daughters-in-law have all worked here and my husband, too. But I fired him so now he says he won’t come back to work,” she said with a laugh.
Asked what the specialties are at Our House, Burkhardt said they are best known for their comfortable atmosphere and “old time cooking,” such as beans, cornbread and fried potatoes. Homemade deserts, including coconut cream pie, bread pudding and apple dumplings, are also popular among regulars and new customers alike.
“We cook like your mom or grandmother would have. That keeps people coming back,” she said.
The restaurant is open Monday – Wednesday from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Carryout orders are available, as well as whole pies, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance by calling (502) 268-0076. Additionally, catering, which includes many of the same items found on the restaurant’s daily menu, is now available.
Now through Sept. 14, Our House customers may register for weekly drawings, including free pies or meals.