Wherever I travel, whether it's France or French Lick, I always look for Chinese restaurants.
I was delighted to see the China Garden sign as I entered French Lick, and returned for dinner time after my tour of Larry Bird's hometown.
China Garden is a traditional American Chinese restaurant with chop suey and chow mein on the menu. As the single Chinese restaurant in French Lick, it fills the need for fried rice and wonton soup in a town where you might expect quail and rabbit to be the most popular meals. They have what appears to be a buffet table but I was told that it is only used for private parties.
Yet what I was most interested in discovering was whether Larry Bird ever ate here, because if you're in French Lick and you want Chinese food then China Garden is your only option. The manager told me that indeed there was a Larry Bird sighting, as he had once used their "carry out" service. I thought I should have asked what Larry Bird ordered, to see if he chose one of the many spicy items on the menu, but instead the conversation became focused on where I learned Mandarin as the restaurant sees few Chinese speakers.
Favorite Dish: I was surprised to see so many spicy dishes on the menu, and asked if the Chinese cook was from somewhere in China where the local cuisine uses a liberal amount of peppers. Nobody working at the restaurant is from Hunan province, though several of the dishes have "Hunan" and "Yu Xiang" in their names.
I had the Peking Shrimp with steamed dumplings and sat at a chair facing the door so that I could see any Hall of Fame basketball players that might suddenly walk in. The food was actually quite good so if you want to eat where Confucius and Larry Bird have dined then China Garden is a wise choice.
There are two restaurants, a bar and an ice cream parlor in the French Lick Springs Hotel. We did not try Jacks Steakhouse which is only open on weekend evenings. Our choice for dinner was Le Bristo, just off the Grand Lobby. We liked the fact that there were lots of windows overlooking the grounds and domed pool The prices were reasonable..
Favorite Dish: The offerings on the buffet were good but not quite so fine as we would have expected in such an elegant hotel.