A hauntingly good meal

A Waynesville haunt you’ll want to haunt Strolling down the main street (unsurprisingly called Main Street) on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon in Waynesville, there’s nothing that feels remotely haunted. The hamlet of Waynesville is absolutely picturesque, replete with gracious Victorian charm. It’s named for General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, a Revolutionary War veteran whose military […]

Homestyle hospitality at Hammel House Waynesville


Hammel House Inn’s Fried Chicken Sunday Dinner platter is comfort food perfection (available Sundays only)

By Paula Johnson

A Waynesville haunt you’ll want to haunt
Strolling down the main street (unsurprisingly called Main Street) on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon in Waynesville, there’s nothing that feels remotely haunted. The hamlet of Waynesville is absolutely picturesque, replete with gracious Victorian charm. It’s named for General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, a Revolutionary War veteran whose military exploits and fiery personality earned him the moniker.

The village, located at the crossroads of U.S. Route 42 and State Route 73, is known for its wealth of great antique stores, proximity to Caesar’s Creek State Park, and the town’s annual sauerkraut festival. It’s also been named as one of Prevention Magazine’s “Most Walkable Cities.” Strolling and antiquing is what PIP (Palate In Progress) and I had in mind as we poked around from shop to shop, eventually needing to stop for a reviving bite. What we didn’t know was the rich and haunted history of our dining destination, The Hammel House Inn.

We were seated on the lovely (and pooch-friendly) veranda patio spanning the building’s length, where we read the Inn’s story, beginning in 1787 as a log tavern called The Jennings House. After many renovations and additions, it was taken over by township trustee Enoch Hammel. Despite his upstanding personal reputation, the Hammel House was decried for its “bacchanalian revelry and ribald conduct.” A scandalized matron across the street ordered a large wagon to be parked in front of her cabin so that her children would not witness the daily debauchery. (That didn’t stop President Martin Van Buren and his vice president from staying there.) The haunting comes in with the murder of a wealthy traveler by an unsavory innkeeper. The Hammel House does a seasonal program, Stories of Hammel House Hauntings, along with a town walking tour (apparently the whole village of Waynesville is awash with restless spirits). We sensed none of this as we sipped our delicious and refreshing mint julep tea on a lovely afternoon. What we did sense was that we were restless with hunger and practically everyone around us was eating the same thing. And we wanted it, too.

Country comfort
What was it that nearly every table was having? “That’s our Sunday Dinner,” said Miss Marilyn, who has been serving as host for 16 years. (Many of the service staff have been with the Inn for many years). For an incredible $16.95, Hammel House Inn serves up a comfort food platter like none other: iron skillet fried chicken, whipped potatoes, ham-seasoned green beans, a potato roll with peach brandy butter, a beverage, and a dessert. I’ll talk about the food first, then we’ll get to the desserts. Our server let us know that everything, including salad dressings, are house made, and we could really tell that what we ate was made from scratch. First up was the roll, which was served not on a plate, but in a bowl to accommodate the sweet and delicious buttery peach syrup—nearly a dessert itself.

A heapin’ helping
Four pieces of crispy perfectly seasoned fried chicken arrived piled alongside a mound of truly fluffy potatoes (whipped, not mashed, just as the menu said) topped with thick home-style brown gravy. The third element in this tasty triumvirate, the ham-seasoned green beans, boasted an ample amount of hearty savory ham chunks perfect with the sweet taste and tender texture of the beans. This is the comfort food Sunday dinner you’ve been yearning for. Then there’s dessert. That day the list was coconut cream pie, chocolate pie, Key lime pie, blackberry cobbler, bread pudding, southern spice cake, and the seasonal special, sweet cream sugar biscuit strawberry short cake (this dessert had a slight additional charge). We chose that, and a slice of coconut cream pie, finding the pie crust perfectly flaky and wonderful, and the biscuit divine.

Taking one for the team
Now is where I get to tell you how devoted I am to doing the best job I can for my readers. The Sunday Dinner is available only on Sunday, and what kind of critic would I be if I didn’t report on Hammel House’s daily menu? Sandwiches, soups, and salads are the bulk of the offerings, with an unusual and interesting assortment of BLT’s. One that sounded particularly tempting is the Fried Green Tomato BLT with avocado and rémoulade on a crusty French loaf. But PIP was helping me out on this, and he spied a grilled Italian sandwich with various meats and cheeses, which also happened to be our server’s favorite. So for you, dear readers, I ate again, thinking we’d pack up the rest for later. (We ate the whole sandwich.) That’s how devoted I am, and how tasty it was.

So despite the restaurant’s scary history, there was nary a ghost to be seen or heard from on the day we visited. I am planning another Sunday outing to the Hammel House. The innkeepers these days seem pretty darned nice, but even if they weren’t, I’d risk it for that fried chicken and potatoes.

Hammel House Inn
121 S Main Street
Waynesville, Ohio
513.897.3779

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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