Carol Meehan hopes South Bend is ready to try something new.
The Fiddler’s Hearth co-owner and her husband, Terry, are in the process of opening another restaurant — this time, a wine and tapas bar that will replace The Vine on Colfax Avenue.
The restaurant, which will be called Tapastrie, will feature small plates of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and wine tasting, all in an effort to encourage a social atmosphere.
“It’s all small plates. We’re encouraging people, if it’s your dinner, order two or three, and that way, you can sample different things,” Meehan explained. “If you’ve got a party of four, order 12 and put them all in the middle of the table and everybody gets to taste a whole bunch of stuff.”
That same philosophy will carry over to the bar, where visitors will have the chance to try a variety of different wines before ordering a full glass.
“One of the plans is to have an automatic wine dispenser mounted on the wall in the bar, and people will be able to purchase a card and go with a glass and swipe the card and get tastes of whatever they want,” Meehan said. “And we’ll have little descriptor cards for each one, and they can take it with them if they decide they like one and they want to find it at the grocery store.”
Meehan said small plates and wine tasting are the perfect match for Tapastrie’s location next to the Morris Performing Arts Center.
“The city felt the format would blend well with the theater-going crowd,” Meehan said. “You don’t want to sit down and have a big meal right before you go and sit in a theater for two hours, so a small plate before and maybe even afterwards, just stop in and have something to drink or another small plate or something sweet after the show.”
Meehan said the idea for Tapastrie came from Tom Welsh, a South Bend native and Fiddler’s Hearth regular who is moving back to Indiana after years of coordinating large hospitality events around the world. Meehan said she interviewed Welsh for a general manager position at Fiddler’s, but given his extensive experience, she thought he needed a more challenging role.
“He said if we ever want to open another restaurant, and maybe have a few different places, he could look after for us. He would be our guy,” Meehan said. “I said ’we had actually talked about it, and if you could have any sort of restaurant what would you do?’ And he said a wine and tapas bar.”
Tapas originated in Spain, where the savory appetizers would be served on top of a glass of wine or other alcoholic drink (in Spanish, the word “tapa” means “lid” or “cover.”) Tapastrie will certainly serve Spanish-inspired dishes, but Welsh decided the restaurant should not limit itself to the Iberian Peninsula.
“He wanted to stay away from the traditional tapas, where it’s primarily Spanish, and instead feature all of the Mediterranean,” Meehan said. “I think is a good idea, because then you can include some of the North African flavors and spices and change things up.”
Meehan says the restaurant still needs to obtain a liquor license and finish renovations, but she expects to open some time in January of 2015. In the meantime, she and her husband are busy bringing an “old world” feel back to the space. They plan to expose the brick and stone walls and install old-fashioned furnishings. Meehan said she also intends to bring her collection of Mediterranean ceramics to the restaurant to give it a more authentic feel.
“I’ve got a beautiful, big, leaf platter that’s hand painted from Italy,” Meehan said. “Put it out, and let the people going to the Morris see the display that just immediately takes you back to the Mediterranean.”