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Fireside Cafe has drive-thru, house-smoked sandwiches

Shipshewana just got its first drive-thru restaurant — but it doesn’t come with the fast food you might expect.

Fireside Café, a family-owned sandwich, barbecue and ice cream shop, just wants to give locals two easy ways to enjoy hand-smoked eats: either inside or on-the-go.

Owners Marsha Gill-Dunker and Corey Dunker opened for business June 2 in Yoder’s Shopping Center, 300 S. Van Buren St. The restaurant is a long-standing dream for the couple, made possible by a move back to Shipshewana, where Dunker grew up.

Both have always enjoyed cooking and coming up with recipes, and after leaving Illinois, “the opportunity came along,” Gill-Dunker said. “We’re looking to bring something different, something that we want to eat and are proud of serve. We’ve purposely been very quiet because we opened at the beginning of tourist season, but business has been good.”

Fireside Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, both at the drive-thru window and inside the café. The space is “woodsy and cozy,” thanks to a working fireplace that runs full-time and gives the café its name. “It seems a little silly, but it’s too pretty not to have on,” Gill-Dunker said.

The menu has a variety of sandwiches made with meats smoked in-house, salads, sides like brisket chili, baked beans and smoked potato salad, plus 28 flavors of ice cream from Madison, Wis., like butter pecan and salted caramel. Customers can also get a $5.99 combo with a slider, drink, side and scoop of ice cream.

The most popular options, Gill-Dunker said, are the smoked turkey club and vegetarian-style smoked black bean wrap. “These are not typical cold cuts you’re used to finding,” she said. A ’Fireside Freeze,’ made with in-house coffee syrup and frozen yogurt, has also been a best-seller.

Dunker is the primary chef, creating recipes for the sandwiches and smoked meats with a local baker, while Gill-Dunker, who worked in food service management for many years, runs the café.

As for the popularity of the drive-thru, the café is working to increase traffic at the window. Until July 19, drive-thru customers get a free hot or iced coffee from 7 to 9 a.m. with the purchase of any breakfast sandwich. The coffees are all custom roasts by Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee, a family-owned business in Sturgis, Mich.

“Before, there was nowhere in town to get a cup of coffee in your car,” Gill-Dunker said. “We wanted to bring the idea to the area. But dining in is still the most popular option. Shipshewana is used to coming inside.”

Fireside Café is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the drive-thru, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. inside.

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