Do you know what a “thrift barn” is? Do you even want to know? If so, all the evidence you’ll need is here in the Indiana Historical Society’s new library case exhibitEat + Drink. Among thousands of menus collected by Hoosier restauranteur Reid Duffy, the Rabbit Patch restaurant in Speedway stands out as the only fast food rabbit outlet among them. Opened by furrier Marvin Dale Mace in the early 1980s, the Rabbit Patch offered what it called “the meat of the future … golden Hoosier Fried Rabbit.” A super-size 15-piece thrift barn (the Rabbit Patch equivalent of the chicken bucket) sold for $10.95, and a half pint of rabbit livers went for 95 cents.
“Skeptical?” asks the front of the menu. Yes, perhaps. Speedway customers somehow failed to materialize, The Indianapolis Star accused Mace in 1983 of defrauding small-time ranchers, and the restaurant eventually shut its doors.
The case also features a crowded 1930s Ayres Tea Room menu. Those who were lucky enough to have escaped the financial ravages of the Great Depression could pause their shopping to enjoy such delicacies as caviar sandwiches, baked frog legs with chips, and marshmallow mint sundaes. It was a far cry from today’s floppy food court pizza and thousand-calorie Cinnabons. Operating within the Ayres flagship store from 1905 to 1990, the Tea Room has since been reconstructed at the Indiana State Museum complete with Ayres’ famous chicken velvet soup, which had yet to make its appearance at the time of this menu.
Xenia Simons Miller’s party planning book is another delightful piece of the exhibit. As a noted philanthropist and wife of Cummins Engine Chairman J. Irwin Miller, she took party planning seriously. When the Millers invited David and Peggy Rockefeller to their Columbus home for dinner in 1970, she chose every dish carefully, from the beef tenderloin to the strawberries Romanoff. In her post-dinner comments, she raved about the wine (“delicious!”) but noted that conversation with the Rockefellers was only “fair.”