Bonge's Tavern in Perkinsville has a new executive chef and owner - (left to right) renowned Indianapolis Chef Dean Sample and FoxGardin in Fortville's Jake Burgess. Photos by Charles Justin Sicking

Legendary Locale – Bonge’s Tavern

In the heart of Perkinsville sits the beloved culinary gem Bonge’s Tavern, which captivates locals and visitors alike with its rustic charm and carefully crafted dishes. From the iconic Red Gold mural gracing the side of the building to the chalkboard menu listing each entrée, the quaint haunt has gained a cult-like following, with guests tailgating in the parking lot until their table is ready.

When Jake Burgess was in college he realized he wanted to do something different, and that something different was breaking into the restaurant industry as a chef. Burgess says his father told him that if he wanted to be a chef, he needed to study at a pinnacle establishment – Bonge’s Tavern.

“I was bright eyed and bushy tailed when he first brought me to Bonge’s, and I held on to what he said to me when I opened my first restaurant, FoxGardin in Fortville,” Burgess says. “I paid homage to Bonge’s by creating a chalkboard menu and the intimate Americana atmosphere.”

Burgess expressed his deep admiration for Tony Huelster, the owner of Bonge’s, and the incredible establishment he had built in a seemingly remote location. Viewing Huelster as a mentor, Burgess approached him with a business proposition four years ago, expressing his interest in purchasing the historic restaurant if Huelster ever decided to sell. Although Huelster wasn’t ready at the time, he eventually reached out to Burgess with the idea, leading to the successful closing of the deal in September 2023 by Burgess Restaurant Group.

Burgess has a diverse background in the restaurant industry and began his journey at Mozzi’s Pizza in Fortville when he was just 15 years old. Despite abandoning college, he dedicated himself to honing his culinary skills by training with renowned chefs across the country. His talent and hard work paid off, and he eventually became the corporate chef for Prime 47, where he played a pivotal role in opening five additional concepts for the company. However, after seven years Burgess felt a strong desire to pay homage to his hometown, Fortville, and spread his wings by opening FoxGardin in 2015. Since then he has opened five more restaurants, including FoxGardin Family Kitchen, Smoky’s Concession Stand, The Den by FoxGardin, and now Bonge’s Tavern.

Bonge’s Tavern is located at 9830 West 280 North in Perkinsville. For more information, visit
2024-02-29 Bonges

Understanding the concerns of Bonge’s loyal following, Burgess wants to assure devotees that he has no intention of fixing something that isn’t broken. He recognizes the greatness that Huelster has already achieved, and only plans to make minor adjustments to enhance the experience. The beloved Perkinsville pork, the iconic chalkboard menu and the cherished tailgating tradition will remain untouched. However, Burgess has obtained a three-way liquor license to introduce a spirits menu, catering to the preferences of a wider audience.

Additionally, he has brought in renowned Indianapolis Chef Dean Sample as executive chef to further elevate the culinary offerings at Bonge’s Tavern. Sample’s lengthy resume once led Indianapolis Monthly to call him “Indy’s darling.” His restaurant experience includes roles at coveted spots like Oakleys Bistro, Meridian Restaurant, Northside Social and Big Bear Biscuits.

“I told someone the other day that running a business is hard, but running a restaurant is fun,” Burgess says. “I love getting in here and meeting our customers. Dean and I work so well together bouncing ideas off each other.”

Burgess wants guests to understand that while the setting is intimate, with only 12 tables, Bonge’s Tavern isn’t exclusive. He says while the small interior can make reservations hard to come by, he can almost always make something work if guests call. He will work to find every customer a seat at his table.

“The biggest misconception I think that has been ingrained in the DNA of the people of central Indiana is the exclusivity of Bonge’s,” Burgess says. “I think sometimes the intimate atmosphere keeps people away because they think they can’t get a reservation. I want people to know I almost always have something I can do to work around the reservation system.”

Burgess values his family above all else. The presence of his cherished mother resonates as she takes on the role of a dedicated pie maker, baking around 70 pies a week for his restaurants. The memory of that significant conversation with his father has stuck with him through the years, filling him with a sense of pride, knowing his achievements would have indeed made his father proud.

“My dad would be ecstatic knowing I now own Bonge’s,” Burgess says. “He spent most days just coming in and hanging out. He was everyone’s best friend and biggest supporter. I can just envision him with joy, laughter and almost disbelief. Bonge’s was a place he held to such a high standard.”

Bonge’s Tavern is located at 9830 West 280 North in Perkinsville. For more information, visit

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