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Fireside Inn: New Family Tradition Begins 

Updated: May 23

Restaurant will close on May 30

This story originally appeared in the May edition of The 812 Magazine:


(ENOCHSBURG, Ind.) – It’s a Friday afternoon at Fireside Inn and I’m sitting at the bar with owner Dan Kinker a few hours before the restaurant opens. 


During our conversation, the phone rings continuously with people requesting reservations and asking about their hours of operation. 


The Kinker family had announced a few days earlier that the 73-year-old business would be officially closing on May 30. 


“I knew we would be busier once we announced, but I Never expected to be this busy. We kept this very close to the vest and nobody outside of our family really knew,” Dan said. 


When Dan and his wife, Becky, took ownership of Fireside Inn in 2010, they gave it the slogan “A Family Tradition.”


It was a tribute to the founders of the restaurant, Joe and Mae Kinker, who were mother and son and opened the business on December 22, 1950. 


Joe had served in World War II and created Fireside as a tavern that served as a place to hang out, play cards and drink beer. 


It eventually became a restaurant and several dining rooms were added over the years. 

By the 1970’s and 80’s, it was a destination where people would travel from 60 miles away to get the popular fried chicken, french fries and cole slaw. 


“They would have upwards of two hour waits, people sitting outside and just drinking beer until a table opened up,” Kinker said. 


“And I hear it all the time about how people have come here for 45 or 50 years.”

Joe owned the restaurant until 1994 when it was sold to Tom and Judy Kinker. The couple ran it for 15 years before closing in August of 2009. Dan reopened it the next year. 


Fireside Inn is a “Family Tradition” for the generations of customers as well as the current staff. Dan and Becky have six kids who are all involved in the operations, and several of their employees are related to them. 


Why Is It Closing?


“To be honest, this was the hardest decision of my life,” Dan admitted. 


The closure is not due to the usual factors a restaurant closes.


It’s a decision that Dan & Becky prayed about for six months and had countless conversations with his family. 


“Many of our team members are family and we feel like everyone that works with us are family. We knew that this decision would have an impact on all of their lives,” Kinker said.


“The kids love being here but they are growing up and have their own lives and dreams to pursue rather than being here all the time,” he said. “We’ve missed so many events, graduations, weddings, and ball games.”


The family made the decision to go public and announce the closure in early May. Dan said he came to peace with it and says you feel a sense of relief from his kids. 


Kinker understands that Fireside is also a family tradition for their long-time customers.


“We’ve had people celebrate baptisms, wedding rehearsals, anniversaries, 50th birthdays, 80th birthdays and so many special moments. That is where it is hard for me because we’re probably going to affect people’s traditions,” Kinker said. 


For the Kinker’s, this is a new season in life and an opportunity to see what lies ahead. 


Southeast Indiana Fried Chicken  


We all have our favorite fried chicken restaurants. Whether it is Fireside, Wagner’s, the Brau Haus or somewhere else. 


For Dan, it has never been a competition and seeing other restaurants thrive is a great thing. 


“I want all restaurants to be successful, when we are all busy it is a good thing. People used to say what about Wagners, and I would say good for them when they are packed full,” he said. 


The local fried chicken craze is a unique part of our area and Kinker believes it is a reflection of our heritage. 


“Go north of Indianapolis and look for fried chicken. You will not find it. I got a buddy in Iowa, pretty similar place as here right? He asked me once if we actually eat fried chicken on purpose,” Kinker laughed. 


The reason fried chicken has become a staple in our specific area is likely due to immigrants who brought their recipes over from Germany. 


“This part of the world is unique and it goes back to our German heritage. There were people from similar walks of life and faith that settled here for a reason, because it was similar to their homeland. And that is where the fried chicken comes from,” Kinker said. 


He added that it is one way that makes Southeast Indiana unique and people need to cherish it. 


“Look at all the church festivals. They are proud of their fried chicken, I take that as being proud of your heritage,” he said. “I think this is way bigger than the little restaurants in Oldenburg, New Alsace, and Millhousen. It is a bigger part of the story because we’re all connected in this unique way.” 


The Kinker’s look forward to spending more time in the community and visiting some of the other fried chicken restaurants. 


You can still get Fireside’s chicken until May 30 and you can check their hours of operation by clicking here.

2 Comments


Disheartening when I read this but Unfortunately, There will come a time when there are no Mom and Pop type restaurants that provide this type food and service. The big chain restaurants care only about money rather than the quality of food.

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Just sad that so many places are closing; it will lend to the demise of the area.

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