Rusted Silo Southern BBQ and Brew House made me cry.
It wasn’t the barbecue, although that did elicit a few involuntary groans of appreciation.
It wasn’t the beer cooler, despite my desire to swing open the doors and dive right in.
No. I cried because of pie.
Let me step back a moment. Visit Hendricks County brought me to this magical land of low and slow during my last visit to Central Indiana.
They didn’t know this: I adore barbecue. Smoked meat and sweet, smoky sauce with a touch of tang makes my tastebuds sing.
Making it sounds easy enough – take some beef, pork, or chicken, add lots of spices, slather on some sauce and voila – you have the most American of American cuisines.
It’s nowhere near that simple, of course. In fact, perfecting barbecue is an art, and Rusted Silo Southern BBQ and Brew House is an edible museum of ribs, briskets, pork butt and smoked chicken.
The smell of smoked meat floats over the parking lot of this joint in Lizton, Indiana, twenty miles outside of Indianapolis. It’s intoxicating, drawing hungry diners into a small building that used to contain a liquor store.
Run by husband-and-wife team Tina and Rob Ecker, Rusted Silo is almost a caricature: it’s literally by the side of the tracks, and the interior is filled with wood and tin reclaimed from a century-old barn.
Because Visit Hendricks County knows what it’s doing, I expected the food to be good.
I did not expect pie that would make me cry.
Related: see why Hendricks County, Indiana, is one of my favorite places to visit.
Inside, Rusted Silo is small and dark and the wall to the left is that magical cooler filled with beer, with room for ribs, chickens, and briskets all waiting for their spin on the Ferris wheel o’ meat.
That contraption, which ensures even cooking, is just past the cash register, which is just past the cooler. In the back is a narrow room with seats facing the walls. No need to worry about smearing sauce all over your face; it’s just you and your ‘cue.
And you’ll want some alone time with your brisket and the ribs. That brisket reminded me of Oscar Lee’s in Libertyville, Illinois, which up to that point had been my favorite. Now, it’s a tie.
If this by-the-tracks spot sounds like a Disney-fied version of a bbq joint, there’s a good reason for that. Rob had been a chef at the Polynesian and at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney World and helped to open Euro Disney.
Disney is known for its perfectionism, which is the reason it excels worldwide. Rob and Tina clearly follow that same mindset.
The ribs are perfect, with the right balance of chew and tenderness. You can add some housemade sauce, but only if you want some of that zing; the ribs certainly don’t need it. The beans are like chili, the mac and cheese is creamy, and the sausages are what encased meats should be.
And then, there’s the pie.
I’ve never really considered myself a “pie person,” but I think I may need to change that assessment. I’ve brought cherries home from Traverse City so I could make my husband’s favorite pie. I jumped with glee when Shipshewana’s Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery gave us a whole raspberry pie, and then shipped a cherry one to Mr. TLT as a surprise.
And then I visited Rusted Silo, took one bite of pecan pie, and cried.
I might be a pie person.
My grandmothers, both of them, were not the best cooks. What they put on the table was serviceable. We could eat it, but there were no moans of gustatory pleasure or begging for the recipe. One was famous for her burnt toast. The other, her dry pot roast.
Except, they were also known, both of them, for their pecan pies. Somehow, these two women made the best pecan pies in the entire world. They weren’t too sweet, as pecan pies often are. The crusts were always perfectly flaky vessels.
My mom can replicate it. I do alright. But, until I tasted the pie at Rusted Silo, no restaurant or bakery has ever come close.
“This is my grandmas’ pie.”
Tina sat down next to me and I looked at her in wonder. Actual tears began to cloud my vision. Both of my grandmas are gone, but one bite and it was like they were right there with me.
“I have never…Nobody makes…This is my grandmas’ pie.”
Tina had made this wonder, this memory, and although her restaurant is a barbecue shack by the railroad tracks, I wasn’t there anymore. I was far away and long ago.
The Eckers don’t have any family ties in Central Indiana, so how did they end up in Hendricks County?
After Disney, Rob took about a decade away from restaurants. The couple moved a lot because of Tina’s job, and one of those moves brought them to Hendricks County.
They loved it. They loved it so much that they stayed and made it their home.
Rob had always wanted his own place, and it was always going to be barbecue. Tina said she gained twenty pounds the first year they met. After moving to Hendricks County, the couple went all-in, using their savings, severance, everything to turn this dream into a reality.
The proof is in the banana pudding (another one of Tina’s masterpieces). Since opening in 2018, the Eckers’ dream has become the place for ‘cue in Central Indiana. In 2019, readers of the Indianapolis Star declared Rusted Silo Southern BBQ and Brewhouse the “Best Barbecue Restaurant” in its Indy’s Best Things competition.
It’s worth a detour. It’s worth going out of your way. It’s worth planning a trip to Lizton, Indiana, so you can visit this shack by the tracks and dig into some destination-worthy ‘cue.
And pie that’ll make you cry.
Rusted Silo Southern BBQ and Brew House is located at 411 N State St, Lizton, Indiana 46149 – (317) 994-6145. They’re open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm. Visit rustedsilobrewhouse.com/ to see the full menu.