Almost two years ago, a food club was born. June 10th, 2008 a hand full of “Smoosiers” decided to get together at WorkingMan’s Friend on the West side to network and eat at a place none of them had dared venture before.
“WorkingMan's Friend…was a mind blower. A lot of people had been there, I guess. It's a local legend, but I never, ever would have discovered it on my own. I pulled up in the gravel parking lot of this place that looked, from the outside, like a beer joint and saw Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses, and Jaguars in the parking lot. I knew that I was about to meet something extraordinary,” recalls founder of the club, Rae Kridel.
22 following monthly meetings and 587+ members later, the Hole in the Wall Eating Club still eats on. No, not all 587 members actually dine together. Participants can vary from 3 to 30 depending on the location and busy schedules, but numbers aren’t the point. Member, Andrew Ball said it best, “HITW means finding new places to eat, breaking bread with friends, and making new friends to break bread with.”
And if you can make a business connection while you’re there, well, that’s just one more bonus. The club was formed on networking site, SmallerIndiana. “HITW is a food club, but so much more. As a group we network, but we have also become friends. There is a core group of us that meet up more than just once a month. We have little group outings all the time. We always laugh and enjoy each other's company," member, Shawn Quick-Raflik reports. "But, keep in mind, this isn't a regular lunch. It usually lasts about two hours."
Dives, Mom and Pop shops, hole in the walls…any thing goes here except for chains. The opening line on group’s SmallerIndiana page reads, “No chain restaurants allowed! If you have a favorite dive of a restaurant in Indy or surrounding areas, we want to hear about it. Bonus points for your personal recommendations on the menu.” The inspiration for this club happened after an epiphany from Kridel. She had lived near the Greek-style family restaurant, Paragon, for four years before she decided to step foot inside. She found that the food was delicious, the portions generous, the prices low, and the dessert to die for. From this moment, she learned to get out of her dining comfort zone to explore new, local culinary treasures.
Kridel formed to group to share her experience and to learn about other new-to-her restaurants. New Indy residents got to experience a real Hoosier fried tenderloin sandwich from Murphy’s Steakhouse, and those were used to having sweet waffles had their world turned upside down at Maxine’s Chicken & Waffles. The third Friday of every months marks the day for a different place to meet. Zest! Exciting Food Creations, Tie Dye Grill, and La Piedad are just a few of the places they’ve visited. The most memorable for Kridel, Ball, and Doug Thesis was an early meeting at Vee’s Diner when it was behind the Speedway gas station downtown. Kridel remarked that the place was so ramshackle that it looked more like a chicken coop than a restaurant, but the food more than made up for it. Theis recalls fondly of their time at Vee’s, “the thought of the fried perch, cabbage and sweet potatoes make me smile.” New friends, new food, new experience; now that’s what I call going out for lunch.