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10 Indiana and Michigan food gems to try this year

Holiday festivities, including plenty of parties at restaurants, mean that it’s a slower time for restaurant news.

So instead of conventional Quick Bites this week, I’ll give you a list as Christmas approaches.

The Elkhart Noon Rotary Club asked me to present “hidden dining gems of our area.” I spoke to the club Monday, Dec. 15, and presented 10 places. There and here, I’ll add these caveats:

A lot of great places aren’t on this list. This is a list of great places I know a lot of people haven’t yet been to because of their location when they opened. That’s based on conversations when people ask for recommendations and they say, “I haven’t been there yet.”

I could think of 10 other places that could easily be on the list of hidden gems. You could argue for or against almost all of these. Feel free. Tell me what’s on your list. What do you think it’s just sad that I left off?

Have a merry Christmas and holiday season. I hope you eat well.

Here’s the list.

Lucky’s Donuts, 700 W. Bristol St., Elkhart, 574-266-1313. This donut shop’s Asian menu keeps expanding as Roeum Dim and her husband, Lucky, keep adding to it.

Ricky’s Taqueria, 57995 C.R. 9, Elkhart, 574-389-7441. It’s gotten love before, including winning Burrito Quest, my search for the best burrito in Elkhart County. The tiny taqueria is busy and sometimes tough to find a seat in, but the flavors continue to be great and the food is cheap.

Maple Indian Cuisine, 127 S. Main St., Goshen, 574-533-0000. The only Indian restaurant in Elkhart County is on Main Street in Goshen. The flavors are good and the service issues are mostly gone.

Noa Noa Wood Grill & Sushi Bar, 310 Eastlake Drive, Warsaw, 574-372-3224. The Warsaw restaurant helped put Warsaw on the culinary map and now others have followed. Scott Woods offers fresh seafood and sushi with some flair (and the New Year’s Eve party will have a James Bond theme).

Venturi, 123 E. Lincoln Ave., Goshen, 574-485-2985. This pizza place has been in town four years and offers a type of pizza that’s rare. The Neapolitan pizza has a thin crust and is made in a wood oven. The mozzarella is made fresh at the restaurant. And the cocktails are really good.

Rachel’s Bread, 212 W. Washington St., Goshen, 574-534-0769. Elkhart County has a true European bakery. The breads and pastries are a bit different than the great ones you can get elsewhere and it’s worth a visit.

Dominic and Sarita Cataldo’s house, 2807 Johnson St., Elkhart. This isn’t a restaurant at all and it’s not technically open to the public, but Sarita is one of the best cooks in Elkhart and the two of them oversee ordering grapes for dozens of winemakers every fall. Their grape-ordering party is a potluck that’s one of the best meals of the year.

Food Dance, 401 E. Michigan St., Kalamazoo, Mich., 269-382-1888. Julie Stanley’s restaurant brings local ingredients to a place with giant vegetables painted on the walls. This restaurant is as Michigan as it gets, with nearly all the ingredients sourced from nearby farms.

JW Chen’s Asian Cuisine, 1835 South Bend Ave., South Bend, 574-271-2777. In a region that has improving Asian food, Jean Chen’s restaurant continues to be solid with a big menu and her own brand of hospitality.

Butcher shops such as Martin’s Processing, Charlie’s Butcher Block, Yoder’s, Old Hoosier Meats, Local. The region has a lot of great butcher shops. Small towns and big ones have great places to get bacon and fresh or frozen meat. It’s not a restaurant, but if you’re going to eat meat, these places can provide some great stuff to make at home.

And, just for good measure, I’ll give you a No. 11.

Artisan, 505 S. Main St., Elkhart. The reason it’s still a secret is because it isn’t open yet. It was to open this summer, then fall, and now in early January. Why’s it on the list? It’ll offer a tasting menu. It may be the highest-end restaurant in Elkhart. It’ll likely be very good.

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