“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf
State 7: Indiana - July 10, 2017
We woke at Red Roof Inn, Merrillville, IN and decided to take full advantage of their amenities until the 12:00 pm check out, and then attempted to find a mechanic to address Rosie’s check engine light. When I lived in my Connecticut apartment, I knew exactly where my mechanic, grocery store, library, and pharmacy were. Since we are in a new town every day, we have to continually find new places to meet our needs. The places we visit range from ghost towns to major metropolises. Therefore, the first thing we do when entering a new area is to quickly access the business we see in case we require their goods or services. If a need arises during our visit, we then look at online reviews to find a reputable business. We prefer to patronize small businesses who have at least a 4-star rating on google and yelp with at least 20 reviews. As a vagabond on July 10, 2017, home is Merrillville, IL. I need to find an honest mechanic, who has the expertise to work on my Promaster, and can fit a high-top van in their garage. Last time servicing Rosie required a 30-mile tow over the mountains of West Virginia to the nearest repair shop. This time we fared better as Merrilleville, IN is a mid-sized suburb with all of the businesses one would expect.
We went online to read the reviews of the local auto repair shops, and they were all absolutely atrocious. We both started to get really nervous. Here we are in need of someone to fix both our vehicle and home, and per the reviews we are surrounded by “swindlers, liars, and thief’s”. After weeding through the awful reviews of over 15 garages, we found a quaint family garage M&M Car Care Center with 4.7 stars and over 49 reviews. We immediately called, and the owner Jason said he was familiar with working on Promaster vans, could accommodate Rosie’s size, and had immediate availability. We arrived at the garage shortly thereafter, and the first thing we noticed was the walls of the waiting room were covered with pictures of 2 beautiful young blonde girls. (Not “those” type of pictures! Get your mind out of the gutter!) Since this was peculiar décor for an auto body shop, we questioned the owner Jason who explained the pictures were of his two daughters. He went on to say the M & M in the name of his business was an acronym for the first initials of each of his two daughters first names. It was time to see if he was as good of a mechanic as he was a father. He spent about 30 minutes checking Rosie out. (Come on guys let’s not be fresh! Remember Rosie is our van!) We waited in anxious anticipation to learn what ailed Rosie while we imagined the worse case scenario. Jason finally returned and said the oil pressure sensor was broken, and Rosie’s engine was fine. He didn't have the part and suggested that we order it through a Dodge dealer. We thanked him profusely and Lori asked Jason what form of payment he accepted? Jason said there was no charge, and refused my repeated offers to pay him for his time.
We decided to go out to eat to celebrate Lori’s discharge from the hospital, and Rosie’s clean bill of health. It is very challenging to eat out as a vegetarian, and we spent 45 minutes driving around looking for a place to eat. By chance we happened upon Roxana’s Restaurant, which had a sign outside advertising vegetarian options. The restaurant had a 4.6 stars rating with 107 reviews, so we decided to give Roxana’s a shot. We still had no idea what type of food they served. With a name like Roxana’s we were expecting an 80’s tribute bar, but what we walked into was nice, clean, family run Afghani Restaurant. Neither of us had any knowledge about the cuisine of Afghanistan, but we were about to find out. Many restaurants close on Mondays because it is usually a very slow day. We immediately noticed that Roxana’s was packed during our Monday visit. Our waitress, and the daughter of the owners, was pleasant, prompt, perky, and passionate about the food she served. Lori, and I decided to order the vegetarian sampler plate, which consisted of a chopped salad, creamed spinach, curried cauliflower, stewed eggplant, basmati rice, and a piece of bread. When the food arrived we tried each component of the plate separately. While each was tasty, when we both tried the stewed eggplant, we were shocked beyond all belief. I said to Lori “This eggplant is the most delicious thing I ever tasted in my entire life”, to which Lori responded with a big smile across her face, “This eggplant is pretty fucking amazing”! It was so good in fact, we put in a second order. I am not very knowledgeable in Afghani cuisine, but I will try my best to explain it as the mother/chef explained it to me. The dish is called Badinjan, and is pan seared then slow oven roasted eggplant, seasoned with tomatoes and fresh spices, drizzled with yogurt garlic sauce, and topped with a mint garnish. Stewed eggplant usually does not result in our excessive salivation, and usually grosses us out as it tends to be slimy. However, the presentation, textures, complexity and melody of flavors merged in tranquil unison. It was absolute perfection! It was also a very old secret family recipe that the mother would not share! So the only option we had left was to end our cross country trip on the spot, and declare Merrillville, IN our new home. That may have been a little hasty, but we may fly back to Roxana’s Restaurant for Afghani “Badinjan” eggplant at some point in the future.
After an early dinner, we headed over to the local library to catch up on blog posts, and found a nearby Walmart to spend the night. Indiana had been very good to us so far, but we still have a lot more to exploring to do.