Our Table offers a local option for southsiders looking for a more upscale, yet still friendly, experience.
When Joe Miller and Ginger Miller started talking a few years ago about opening a new restaurant in Johnson County, ultimately landing in Bargersville, they knew they wanted it to be a place that locals could come with their families for a casual night or for a special occasion. Regardless of the reason, they wanted their clientele to feel like they were part of the family.
They had also hoped to be so convenient that they could be a walkable option. Although there aren’t many residential areas nearby, guests have told the owners of their plans to ride their bikes to Our Table when the weather is agreeable. They also didn’t plan for it to be a destination restaurant, but more of an alternative for southsiders who normally would travel a decent distance for a steak or market-rate seafood.
At Our Table, since November 2021, the Millers and their team have consistently filled their 24 tables with locals and hungry travelers, mostly with reservations but a fair share of walk-ins, who are all seeking a warm ambiance of dark wood, including a bar made locally by Marc Adams and other pieces by students of the Marc Adams School of Woodworking; warm lights and a cozy corner fireplace reminiscent of a friend’s living room; fresh baked loaves of French bread, courtesy of Executive Pastry Chef Tanya Smith; hearty meals from burgers to steaks and seafood; and topped off with the fan-favorite Smith’s apple pie.
For the warmer months, they are planning to expand seating options to an outdoor seating area. This spring, they started offering a carry-out market, where guests can pick up Tanya’s daily-baked pastries or breads to take home. They will also offer coffee and other options during breakfast hours for guests to sit for a while and enjoy their mornings.
While they might also offer catering or more options for private parties, for now, the main focus is on the restaurant, which, for some of their guests, has been their first indoor dining experience in two years due to the pandemic.
Owner and Executive Chef Joe Miller has worked in restaurants since his high school job with an Indianapolis caterer he started when he was 14. He later attended culinary school at Ivy Tech, including studies in France, and has participated in culinary competitions with Chef Alex Darvichi in California, New York and Germany.
Prior to Our Table, he spent two decades at Meridian Hills Country Club, but had been wanting a more personal experience where his friends, family, and neighbors could meet up. He would even host dinner parties at his home, most memorably a birthday party for his sister, where they brought in tables and chairs and set the lighting and the mood just for the occasion.
His wife and co-owner Ginger Miller — the two have also been working with business partners and family, Laura and Ken Fikes — started discussing the enterprise of their own restaurant in earnest in 2019. They ultimately found the available space thanks to Mike Duke when it was still an empty box. They essentially started from scratch.
While COVID took a hit on them, as it did on all restaurants due to supply chain issues and staffing concerns, the Millers took it all in stride, saying the timing worked out just right.
“Now that we step back and look, it all came together at the time it was supposed to,” says Ginger Miller. “As far as our kids, as far as getting Tanya on board. There were delays, like booths we ordered and didn’t come for almost a year, and the supply chain stuff, and we’re still dealing with some of that.”
“And Tanya, too, was a big part of this,” adds Joe Miller. “That was one of my stresses because I knew what we wanted to do here. And the food we wanted to do. And a big part of that included the breads. We needed someone with the skillset and the production needed for that.”
While a fan of the idea from the first she heard of it, Smith said she had met the Millers when their restaurant was in very early stages.
“Every time they shared something on Facebook, I ‘liked’ it. Or every time something just popped up, it was like something was tugging at me. I think I was just ready for a change. I met with them and I was really just planning on meeting with them to talk about their vision. Then I quit the next day. I thought, well, why not, and I was fine,” she says.
Smith, originally of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, has a degree in accounting, which led her to an accounting job “working for a fine dining and catering company in Milwaukee,” she says. “Working with the chefs and my love for baking from a young age drew me in to want to change careers. So I found a local bakery in Wisconsin and started what I thought was just working on the weekends, and quit my job two weeks later.”
She later moved to the southside of Indianapolis in 2011, closer to her brother and his family, and attended culinary school at the Art Institute. While in school, she started at Circle City Sweets, where she was ultimately head baker. It also just so happened that her sister-in-law and Ginger Miller grew up in the same neighborhood, and they all attend the same church, St. Barnabas Catholic Church.
The Millers say they consider themselves lucky to work with her.
“I think working with someone else who cares, Tanya cares, she’s passionate about what she does, and she has a sense of purpose in everything she does, and that’s good for me. It’s refreshing to me. Just someone you want to be around,” says Joe Miller.
“She’s someone who matches your passion and excitement for this,” adds Ginger Miller. “There are a lot of people who are clocking in and clocking out and that’s not Tanya.”
Smith says that her role has been a collaborative process she has enjoyed.
What’s on the menu?
As for the overall menu, Joe Miller says, he spent two or three years working out the specific items. He would show Ginger Miller, who would provide feedback, but one of the biggest challenges was narrowing it down.
“I’m trying to be true with what I enjoy making, but also trying to be aware of what I thought people wanted or needed here. Working in a country club, you have to be everything to everybody,” says Joe Miller. “My inspiration is whatever we put on there we can get behind it, that it’s on there for a reason. We have a menu where a family with kids could come in. If they want to just have sliders and a good burger, they could come in. Or if they wanted to splurge, they could have a good steak or a seafood special. We wanted to be able to provide that as well.”
As for sourcing ingredients, adds Ginger Miller, “he’s all about supporting local, but also sourcing the best ingredients he can get his hands on. So just because it’s in the backyard doesn’t mean it’s the best ingredient for that dish.”
There are also future plans of starting a garden for the restaurant, but they aren’t quite there yet, says Ginger Miller.
Ultimately, says Joe Miller, everything has been a hit, but they plan to make seasonal changes depending on availability of ingredients. This would also include lighter fare in the spring and summer months, and seasonal vegetables when they are available.
For instance, Joe Miller mentioned they planned to have fresh salmon for a salmon caprese salad in the summer months. He was also hoping to offer other seasonal seafood, including oysters in months that include the letter “R.” Perhaps an oyster and beer pairing for a happy hour, he says.
They also planned to change up the desserts, but when Ginger Miller mentioned to a guest they were thinking of adding something summery, like a strawberry shortcake, at least one guest requested they keep Smith’s apple pie year-round.
When you’re here, you’re family
As for the feel of a neighborhood restaurant, the Millers say so far, the restaurant has exceeded their expectations.
“While we knew we’d have support from St. Barnabas and our family and friends, and it’s always been fun seeing them come in, but I really enjoyed, which I wasn’t expecting, people who live in Center Grove or in the neighborhoods near the restaurant, they’re coming in and recognizing other people they know, and they’re talking to each other. And I have no idea who either group is! They know each other, and they’re calling it their place,” she says. “Something else I wasn’t anticipating is a table will take the tab for another table, and it happens nightly. It’s really cool to see that.”
They also insist it’s not a typical “white tablecloth” experience, even though guests have asked about the dress code.
Ginger Miller says when people call and ask, she tells them, “‘Whatever you want to wear.’ We don’t want a pretentious feel. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable. It’s an attention to detail that isn’t at every place.”
Guests might also see the owners’ actual families working in the front or back of the house. During spring break, they brought in reinforcement from their older nieces and nephews — one of whom even got her liquor license to help serve alcohol.
“One of our nieces at the end of the night said, ‘Everyone just got along,’” says Ginger Miller. “I’m witnessing it every night, but for her to pop in on a night where we were probably more stressed than normal, and people were still helping each other out and smiling, that’s pretty good.”
“I love the people we have here, our team. It’s been enjoyable,” says Joe Miller. “I just wanted more fulfillment. We wanted to be around our family. We wanted to be where our friends could come. We wanted to create a place where we’re trying not to call this ‘work.’ Even when I talk with my family and my kids, we say, ‘We’re going to the restaurant,’ not ‘We’re going to work.’”
“He had a vision,” says Ginger Miller. “He wanted the soft lighting, he wanted a walnut bar, he wanted the fireplace, and it all came together. He wanted it to be like when we do have those parties at home and people feel like it was set up just for them, and welcomed, and he was able to do that here.”