2014 full of great meals, flavors, in northern Indiana

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Marshall V. King/ Flavor 574

On the first Monday of January, I wrote that I wanted 2014 to be full of meals to savor and relish. “I want to sit with family and friends and laugh and taste.”

I got my wish.

The flavors in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan keep getting better and more global.

Elkhart County netted an Indian restaurant and another Asian restaurant this year, as well as a shop that can help you make your coffee better.

Elkhart Dining Days, an event which drove traffic to 23 Elkhart restaurants and bakeries, included curry, pork rillettes and fish tacos – not dishes you would have seen at an Elkhart County restaurant even a decade ago.

Restaurants came and went. Good ones are preparing to open. Here’s 2014 at a glance:

Open for business

Cubby Bear Pizza made news all year. Steve and Frank Hill confirmed in January they would open in the former Mad Anthony’s/State Theater at 526 S. Main St., Elkhart. It had a rough start, but has stayed open and is making changes to move forward. It’ll be called Krave, but may be more of a nightclub than a restaurant.

Maple Indian Cuisine, 127 S. Main St., Goshen, opened on Sept. 5. Service was rocky at first, but evened out and the food has been great since the beginning.

In July, Bill’s Bar-B-Que opened at second location at 2426 Benham Ave., Elkhart, and Asia Market opened a restaurant at 3405 S. Main St.

Evil Czech opened a brewpub in Mishawaka and proceeded to take brunch and then lunch a new direction by serving small plates with tastes of nearly the entire menu.

A number of chains came to the county. Wings Etc. opened March 20 at 23222 U.S. 33, Dunlap. It has 28 televisions, an Elkhart address and is part of the city of Goshen. Culver’s opened in Goshen in February and Dunkin’ Donuts and Penn Station Subs are along C.R. 6, Elkhart.

Other openings included:

Closings

The year started with Noodle Heads not reopening after the holiday break. The Asian restaurant in Goshen was much anticipated in 2013 but only lasted a few months.

Fat Tomato revamped its menu, finishing early in the year, but didn’t survive the year. Chef Bill O’Brien’s restaurant closed in October at 4100 E. Bristol St., Elkhart.

In late March, Sauk Trail on 17 came to end of the road. The owners decided they were done at 56039 Parkway Ave., Elkhart. Still customers asking about how to get refunds on gift cards, but they may be out of luck.

The Bacon Strip, 561 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart, had a rough year. Owner Jason Curtis tried a variety of options, including apologizing in August to guests. It closed in November and breakfast started on weekends at Five Star.

The Vine in South Bend closed in May after failing to pay rent, though the Elkhart Vine continues operating on Main Street.

Angkor Wat House of Pho, 319 W. Lusher, closed in early summer in Elkhart. On the southeast side of Goshen, Sawadee opened in May and closed in August.

After nearly 40 years in the restaurant business, Wok Inn owners Steven and Joann Mark retired in September and closed at 2820 Elkhart Road, Elkhart.

Happy Dance Cupcakes is gone from Goshen after its operator Margaret Potuck left for California.

Transitions

Tilted Kilt became Rocky River Tap & Grill, which opened in July. What was a sport bar became a farm-to-table restaurant in Granger.

Steve and Kelly Fortier purchased Flavor Freeze, which started in 1966, and continued both locations in Elkhart.

Golden Egg moved its breakfast and lunch business in Elkhart from 3421 Plaza Court to 305 N. Nappanee St. in March and April.

Mike Lucchese took over Crimaldi’s, 117-9 E. Jackson, Elkhart.

The Ice Box in Middlebury became Northridge Pizzeria.

Honey’s at Linway Plaza in Goshen added ice cream, frozen custard and coffee to its frozen yogurt offerings.

Adam’s Bistro had left Concord Mall in 2012 and reopened this fall at 1600 W. Beardsley Ave., Elkhart.

Newsmakers

Aside from the openings and closings, 2014 had plenty of other news.

Ben’s Soft Pretzels kept growing, this time into Walmar stores. The Goshen-based pretzel company will keep making dough and making dough as it expands.

Iechyd Da opened its patio in June. Though it wasn’t the most significant brew of the year there, Truth Serum marking the Elkhart Truth’s 125th anniversary this fall was a nice tip of the hat.

Rulli’s made a 23½-foot calzone in July that had 30 pounds of cheese and 25 pounds of pepperoni.

Simonton Lake Drive-In, 51602 S.R. 19, Elkhart, was open for its 50th year. Jason and Amanda Hoff are the third generation to operate the business.

County Seat Cafe, Hunter’s Place and Callahan’s all marked 30 years in business and Rachel’s Bread celebrated 20.

Alton Brown, the “cablebrity” from Food Network, came to South Bend in October. His live show was way cool.

New Flavor

Truth Publishing Co. started this great new thing in 2014. Flavor 574 launched in the spring with a website, vibrant social media presence and digital magazines. By year-end, the Monday food section of the Truth reflected the rich range of writers contributing to Flavor. Editor Gwen Ragno and a bunch of others here do a great job making Flavor fly.

The Hoosier State Press Association honored Flavor in December with the James W. Brown Innovation Award and it’s also been getting national attention in journalism circles.

In the coming year, we’ll expand our coverage in St. Joseph and Kosciusko counties. People from Elkhart County have always traveled a short distance for a good meal and we’ll provide more information about food in the region.

Northern Indiana Burger Wars

Though there wasn’t a Dining A La King search for a best-of this year, Northern Indiana Burger Wars did a search for the best burger in these parts.

Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission asked for my help and I asked for readers’ help. They then picked eight Elkhart County places and started voting in May. Voting ended in July.

After winning Elkhart County Burger Wars, Stella Moo from Flippin’ Cow went up against the Becky Burger from The View Tavern. Becky won, but Moo sales soared. Aside from the Flippin’ Cow burger, people were trying and talking about their favorites at other restaurants. I hope the commission does another “war” in 2015.

Elkhart Dining Days

Flavor 574 took on the third annual event and we had some fun planning and promoting the nine-day event to benefit the businesses and the Food Bank of Elkhart County.

  • 23 eateries
  • 2,770 meals
  • $4,100 donated to food bank

Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern and Cappy’s were the busiest, but others places were also big winners and the offerings were very good.

Look for more the return of Elkhart Dining Days this fall and perhaps other events around the community this year.

Tummy Travel

Dining A La King readers went along on trips to California and Michigan this year.

A dozen people traveled with Jay Fields of Indiana Wholesale Wine & Liquor and myself in February.

Tablas Creek Vineyard showed off its amazing Rhone varietals. Beckmen Vineyards and Laetitia Vineyard & Winery were also good and some of the food around Santa Barbara was amazing. Reel Inn on the coast near Malibu made some great fresh fish.

In October, 36 of us went north to Traverse City for a long weekend. The scenery was beautiful, the flavors were great and the group was just a lot of fun.

Traveling with new friends as you seek adventures offers a chance for great conversations and flavors. Remember that goal I had for 2014? Yeah, these trips accomplished that.

In the coming year, we’re talking about a trip closer to home this spring and perhaps one to Oregon in August or September. Stay tuned.

Recalling flavors

Some of my favorite tastes of the year came on those trips. I finally got a Spudnut in Santa Barbara. The doughnuts made with potato flour are a taste of childhood for me.

At Higher Grounds Trading Co. in Traverse City in October, two different beans were made in a French press and in a Chem-ex, resulting in four very different sets of flavors.

I’ll savor those last hot dogs at Hot Doug’s, Chicago, in August. We waited four hours. The sausage sandwiches were worth every minute.

During Elkhart Dining Days, the fish tacos at Sports Time Family Pub & Grill and walleye at Cappy’s were highlights and proved that you can have great seafood in Elkhart County.

The pork belly sliders at Kelly Jae’s with steamed bun, lightly pickled cucumbers and sriracha were amazing too.

I got to take a great Kiwanis trip in July to Turkey and Japan. Those days were filled with amazing meals, but the lamb at an Istanbul restaurant and the fresh tuna in Tokyo were so good, so delicious. The memory of those meals with friends will always be with me.

What’s next?

Opening restaurants and getting permits nearly always takes more time than an owner expects. I’m learning to ask a restaurant owner when they expect to open and silently add at least two months.

The biggest opening that will happen soon is Artisan. Kurt Janowsky’s new place at 505 S. Main St., Elkhart, will open in the coming weeks after months of delays.

Other announcements that have been made but aren’t yet open include:

  • 41 North, 104 S. Main St., Middlebury will open in the former Winner’s Circle. Remodeling is underway.
  • Sakura Japanese Steakhouse will open along C.R. 6.
  • Rise ’N Roll Bakery will open Mishawaka location at 3915 Grape Road

Hydraulic Ale House, if it is to open as a brewery in Goshen, won’t be in the Hawks Building at this point. The developer of the project pulled out, according to Goshen and LaCasa officials.

Next week’s Dining A La King will include predictions for 2015 on trends and happenings.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

For more restaurant news and commentary from Marshall V. King, sign up for the Dining A La King email newsletter.

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