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Overlook changes hands

Marengo couple hopes to build on restaurant's tradition

January 06, 2010
The Overlook Restaurant, one of the most widely known businesses in Crawford County, with one of the best views in Southern Indiana, has new owners.

Roger and Karen Haverstock, of Marengo, bought the Leavenworth landmark from Doug Breeden for an undisclosed amount and closed the deal on Dec. 31. They officially took over the business on Jan. 1, and the restaurant never missed a beat, remaining open during the transaction with the same employees and management.

Roger and Karen Haverstock, shown above with manager Chas Pierce, left, assumed ownership of the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth on Friday. The couple will operate the restaurant with their two sons and daughter. Photo by Lee Cable
The Haverstocks, with their grown children, Nick, Brandon and Bianca, plan to operate the business as a family enterprise and make a few changes they believe are needed to modernize it in hopes of bringing in more local patrons.

"I've never been in this kind of business before," Roger said. "But I first came here to eat in the 1970s when I-64 was being built and I was working as an inspector for the state highway department. There was something intriguing about it — I think it was the view as much as anything else. But it's a great location, only 3.2 miles from the interstate, and I don't know of a better view anywhere in this area. And my mother and Annabel Breeden, Doug's mother, went to school together, so we have local roots in common."

The Haverstocks plan to keep the present staff of more than 22 people, including Chas Pierce, the restaurant's manager.

"Most of the staff have been here a long time," Roger said. "When I talked to them, I found out some of them have been working here 15, 20, 25 years — it's amazing. But they work together like a big family and help each other out, and we appreciate that."

The new owners are planning several changes, including to the menu.

"We don't want to change a lot till we know what we're doing," Roger said. "We have no plans to change the name, but there are a few things we've already decided to do like put tables on the lower deck so it can be used for dining during good weather. We'll also put in a new bar downstairs with a large screen TV and serve things like chicken wings and pizzas on the deck and lower level with full meals inside. We'll still maintain the dining room upstairs, but the downstairs will be more casual.

"And we want to bring back the locals. We want local families to come here on Friday and Saturday nights instead of driving to Corydon or Louisville. Instead of standing in line at O'Charley's, they can stand in line here with a beautiful view. We won't rest until we build up our local business. That's one of our goals."

The Haverstocks want to give the restaurant a more modern feel, to give patrons a place to relax, enjoy a good meal and "add a little life to the place."

"We want a better selection of wines," Roger added. "We're in an area that has been producing a lot of good wines so we feel we should develop our wine inventory, and educate our servers about them so they are informed and can make wine recommendations to our patrons. We want an enjoyable, relaxed, comfortable atmosphere and we want families to be a part of that."

"I hate to drive an hour to eat," Karen said. "Crawford County is no different than any other place — people like to go out to eat. Why not make it the best experience possible for them? We want people to give us a chance — try us — before they drive somewhere else."

The Overlook, long an attraction for tourists and travelers passing through Southern Indiana, was built on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and first opened in 1948 as a cafe and grocery store. The original owners were Russell and Ellen Breeden. Through the years, there have been four other owners including the last ones, Doug and Josie Breeden.

"I've seen people drive up here, get out of their cars, look at the view and go, 'Wow!', Roger said. "There's places in Louisville, like the Galt House where you can see the river, but it's nothing like the miles of beautiful river, farms and countryside you can see from the Overlook.

"And we want the menu to have that same 'wow' factor. You can get meat loaf and fried chicken at almost every place in the area. We want to offer more than that. This place rivals any place in Louisville, and we want to make it even better."

The Overlook is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant also has rooms available for banquets, anniversaries and business meetings. For more information or for reservations, call 739-4264.

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    Good Luck: Great Place!!
    January 06, 2010 | 10:54 AM

    I lived in California for 57 years, and was a waitress all over the USA.and one day when I was "Home" West Fork" I hadnt had anything to eat and decided to go to the Over Look. To my surprise there was a line out side and when I inquired what was going on, they told me there was an article about the place in the Courier Journal, and they were stuck with not enough help to handle it-Well being a Crawford countain, I vollenteered to help and was given a uniform and went to work. This was after lunch and I worked till we ran out of food about 7 pm. Not even enough for the "help"to eat, so I drove on to White Castle in New Albany and that was my lunch and dinner----At that time a Dr and wife owned the place and they tried to pay me but I wouldnt take any money----I made good tips and I was helping back a neighbor that had helped me during the depression in my own mind.
    A few days later with my 2 sisters with me to visit cemeteries, we stopped to eat at the Overlook-------I really didnt expect to be recognized, but to our surprise there was NO check and Dr and his wife came to thank me. It has been my familys favorite place to eat for a long time and I wish The Breedens great luck on their retirement----Clara Mae and I grew up together at West Fork and her family were our dear neighbors!! Nadine Shoemaker Arnold In Fl

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    January 06, 2010 | 11:19 AM

    Good luck

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    Couple Suggestions
    January 07, 2010 | 08:38 PM

    The place already has one of the best views in the state when looking outside but it needs some things inside to make the whole experience worth the trip. Different music, maybe some tvs, and the menu can be altered just a little I think. Not real impressed with the steak there, so that could be one item that needs to be improved. Adding the bar sounds like a great idea if trying to lure the younger folks over there. I will be giving The Overlook another shot in the next month or so just to see if the new ownership is actually trying to change anything or not. I wish them luck with their new business venture.

    Richard Smoker
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    Congratulations Karen & Roger
    January 10, 2010 | 08:45 AM

    I talked to Zoetta yesterday and she told me about your purchase. I use to love to eat at the overlook when I was a kid, but about a year ago my husband and I stopped in, and smoking wasn't allowed so we went to the Marengo Tavern for a burger. Hopefully you will allow smoking in the Sports Bar and/or patio. No matter what I wish you the very best.

    Tammy (Williams) Frymire
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    Please Make the Food Quality Match the View's
    January 12, 2010 | 08:53 AM

    Great food (not great views) is the basis of a good restaurant. Personally, I've never totally understood the popularity of the Overlook (other than it's one of the few places to eat in the county) and we have been there twice and been disappointed twice. The interior and service was fine for the type of establishment, but the food was really lacking. Far too much fried food on the menu and the salads were the same basic iceberg lettuce that Wendy's serves. I can make far better food at home, so why should I get in my car and drive to the Overlook for overpriced, so-so standard eatery fare? If the food matches the view's quality, you will have a much better destination, however, I'm not sure the locals will understand the difference between a good wine and a lackluster one.

    Johnny Settenbrough
Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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