Little spot in the middle of Barnett draws rave reviews from its loyal restaurant customers.


Located on Route 52 between Eldon and Versailles, most people drive right past the town before ever realizing they were in one. But locals know, and word is quickly spreading, about the one spot you have to stop – the Super Sweet Inn.   The patrons say the restaurant is going to put Barnett back on the map in big, bold letters.   Larry and Gail Schmitz moved to the area from Iowa and looked for a renovation project to keep them busy. As both lovers of antiques and collectables, they had ideas of buying an old barn. They didn’t realize with the area’s growing population of Mennonites, there aren’t any.   Gail Schmitz said they took a shot in the dark and purchased a feed mill in Barnett built in 1903 for $10,000 cash.   It took almost a year to clean out almost a century’s worth of grain and dirt built up during the mill’s operation in just the three rooms the restaurant operates out of now.   As the mess was getting cleaned out, the two had ideas of opening an ice cream parlor in the space. That plan also was scrapped when residents convinced them to sell food as well.   Gail said the whole community came together for the restaurant.    Neighbors dropped off dishes, pots, silverware, even boxes of food so opening day could be a little sooner.   Five years later, she said not much has changed, the three 1960s stoves still sit side by side, cooking up breakfast and lunch for the crowds.   Each day features a different lunchtime special, from pork chops to the crowd’s favorite – Gail’s famous iron-skillet fried chicken, served with mashed potatoes and white gravy.   The recipes are all made from scratch with many of the vegetables coming from Gail’s garden, especially during the summer.   There’s seating for less than 30. Seats are found wherever there’s one available, even if it means sharing a table, she said. Friends and family are made that way. Even those who come in wanting to blend in the background can’t help but be drawn into the crowd and conversation.   Most walk in already knowing what they’re craving, and it gets thrown on the stove before they have the chance to take off their coat. For others, the staff rattles off the menu from memory or makes suggestions.   Gail’s daughter helps cook three days a week, and her granddaughter can be seen waiting tables, though she’s barely in school.   Other locals wait tables and help out on Saturdays and during the summer season.   You won’t find a listing for Super Sweet Inn in any phone book, and Gail hasn’t paid for any advertising. Instead, the restaurant relies on the Barnett community and word-of-mouth to keep its doors open.   So far it’s worked.   Gail said vacationers and weekenders far and wide have found their way to the restaurant. They create a stir when they walk in, because in a town of 200, everybody recognizes the stranger.   The place will remain local and community-oriented, she said.   Extras from the day and baked goods are left on doorsteps and mailboxes of the town’s elderly and others. She welcomes in the town’s youth, though warns them about getting rowdy in the restaurant.   She found old pictures of Barnett, photocopied them and hung them on the walls. Patrons pick out great-grandmas and great-grandpas hanging on her wall and still bring her new pictures. Memories of old Barnett, perhaps of the old mill, are swapped around the tables.   Gail and Larry now live in the other part of the mill and spend their time restoring and refurbishing bits and pieces they pick up along the way. Their home is a showroom of their collectables.   Gail insists it’s still a work in progress, but she’s not afraid of hard labor and putting elbow grease into a project.   There’s the staircase from the Morgan County courthouse, the bathtub found on the side of the road near Wonderland Camp, the window saved from a Mennonite church, probably thousands of items bought at auctions, she said.   She’s not used to inviting in anybody off the street, but cross your fingers, her place will be on the Newcomers/ Longtimers annual home tour in the spring.   She’s also working on the paperwork to have the mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   The Super Sweet Inn is open 6 a.m-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call ahead for the lunch special at 573-392-5268, though. Thursday is dedicated to the fried chicken special. Just make sure to tell Gail you want the good chicken.   Contact this reporter at