What do you get when you cross an abandoned school gymnasium in the Waynesville/Harveysburg area and a veteran of butcher of 40 years. No, this is not the plot of a bad horror movie, but an incredibly unique restaurant called Papi’s by the Lake. Located near Caesar’s Creek, as in salad, this “everything from scratch” restaurant is located in the antique, sauerkraut and Renaissance Festival mecca of the world. Food Adventures will now think of good food when we hear the words Waynesville or Harveysburg.
For the past couple of months, our friend Kim has been telling us that we have to come to Papi’s by the Lake, and try their homemade food. She would know, Kim works there as a waitress. We finally decided to take the plunge and dive into the lake. So, we got into our cars to find out where the heck Harveysburg is located. Eventually, we found our way to the restaurant, which is near the Caesars Creek bridge.
When we pulled up to the restaurant we gasped. This was not like any place we have ever seen. The modest handmade sign, guarded the entry to an old abandoned high school gymnasium. We noticed immediately that the parking lot was packed with customers. We knew at this moment we were in for a seriously good Food Adventure! As we walked in, to our surprise the restaurant and kitchen were inside the gym! We strolled into the gym like the King and Queen of the prom (please post your comment on who you think the Queen would be). We were greeted by an antique moonshine still, that to our dismay was not in operation. Our friend Kim took us to our table, and introduced us to owner Mike “Papi” Hatfield, who promised us a great homecooked meal. “Papi'” explained to us that he was a former butcher for 40 years, and after cooking at various festival booths, he decided to open his own place. The city of Harveysburg welcomed the new restaurant with open arms.
Why the name Papi’s? Because his grandchildren call him Papi, and let us tell you, this restaurant has a family feel to it. Some of the friendly workers are family members, and the patrons are as jovial as the staff. We interacted with various customers and staff alike, and not one person was offended by us, in fact they all participated in our Food Adventure.
First we were given a basket of hot, homemade dinner rolls drizzled with butter, that would have made Paula Deen proud. As or food arrived Papi explained he likes to serve large salads since his homecooked meals can sometimes take a few extra minutes to prepare. We enjoyed our salad under the basketball nets and scoreboard, and out came the parade of entrees.
Keep in mind we only ordered 2 dinners, salmon and a cheeseburger. Those meals were followed by samples of fried shrimp, a pulled pork sandwich, and a grilled butterflied porkchop. The large piece of lemon pepper salmon was cooked to perfection, and would rival any restaurant. Ragu went the more casual route and tried the cheeseburger, which Papi’s himself ground in the back from black angus top rounds. Ragu was again for murdering the hamburger with condiments, and he even involved Papi in the argument. If the school was still in function, Papi would have given Ragu detention for sauce violations. Ragu also enjoyed the freshly cut fries that were sliced and cooked minutes earlier.
The couple of fried shrimp we had were good, but you will have to ask our waitress how they were, as she sat down at our table and ate most of them. Papi’s also offers chilled shrimp cocktail with his own homemade cocktail sauce. This was a great treat.
The “sample” porkchop we received compliments of Papi, was a huge butterflied chop, that carnivore we dug into. and left his baked potato unfinished. Not only was this dish good, but Papi’s pulled pork sandwich was incredible and we would put it up against any BBQ in the Dayton area.
As we talked with Mr. Hatfield, we walked up to the kitchen carving area, which was located near the visitors bench. They had incredible looking prime rib, large grilled steaks, carved whole turkeys, and whole roasted chickens coming out of the kitchen. Their chicken is never frozen, they use a local bakery for their bread, and they buy local produce whenever they can. The staff told us every Thursday is sausage gravy night with Papi’s own hand ground sausage gravy.
The front of the kitchen and cashier area is a table display of homemade desserts. Papi’s wife, Lynne, makes the pies and cakes from scratch. They had berry pies, pumpkin pies, carrot cake and our favorite, the peanut butter cake. This peanut butter cake is one of the greatest creations known to man. An already stuffed Food Adventure Crew still could not stop eating this rich cake, and it made Lynne smile.
For those penny pinchers, you will like Papi’s as well. Every item on the menu is under $10 except the nightly specials which are around $15. For homemade, fresh from scratch meals, it is a great deal.
Papi’s on the Lake is a perfect example of why we do Food Adventures. People need to know about good places like this. This is a mom and pop place in a friendly small town, that is a hidden secret. Papi’s by the Lake is a one of a kind, home cooking restaurant. Whether you are near Caesars Creek for the day, or live a good 20 minutes away, this place is definitely worth a visit. Do not be put off by the fact it is in a high school gym, in fact it give Papi’s its charm. It has personality, and substance. Papi promised us a great home cooked meal, and he delivered. We would gladly go back to this eatery in a heartbeat. As for the restaurant in a gymnasium, Papi scored a slam dunk on this one. Light up the scoreboard!
Comment below, have you been to Papi’s on the Lake? What did you think?
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