How did Artisan do on its opening weekend?
As Kurt Janowsky closed Artisan about 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning, after its first two nights of business, he had a big smile and said he couldn’t have been more pleased.
The new high-end restaurant at 505 S. Main St., Elkhart, opened on Friday and served about 100 people in its first two nights, he said in a phone interview Monday morning, Jan. 12.
“We had some good traffic. We worked out some kinks,” he said, adding that he was both happy and excited.
The dining room was full in the middle of the evening Saturday. After people had dinner, they came into the bar to extend their stay.
The food coming out of the kitchen headed by Chef Matthew Jay “looked beautiful going out,” Janowsky said.
He’s right. It did. I could see it from my seat at the bar Saturday night. And the Artisan salad, bison dish and chocolate souffle tasted great too. Jay was already on his game.
Artisan ran out of the bison, which had been braised for six hours, late in the evening. Same for the snapper that I heard other diners gushing about. That’s as it should be at a restaurant focused on fresh ingredients at the end of a week, Janowsky said.
Artisan may be the only restaurant in the market to offer tasting menus. Janowsky said he told Jay not to expect to sell many.
Janowsky was wrong. About half the diners got tasting menus. One couple split the nine-course offering.
At other restaurants, tasting menus are offered if an entire table of customers participates. Janowsky didn’t want to do that, but realized this weekend that it’s difficult to time dishes when half the table is ordering getting the six or nine courses and the others are ordering a la carte. “We’ll have to learn how to do that better or we’ll have to not do it and we’ll certainly start with learning how to do it,” he said.
Jay was sweating in the kitchen, but showed calm. The array of servers were calm and pleasant. Janowsky said they’ll add some equipment to make kitchen operations a bit smoother, but the overall things went well.
“I preached to the staff too that we want the food to be outstanding and the service to be attentive, but it’s really something that’s a little harder to get your arms around in that it’s a feeling that it’s fun,” he said. “If people are having fun, that’s what they remember.”
People were clearly having fun when I was there Saturday night. Friends were chatting and laughing both in the dining room and bar.
Chuck Grodnik told me that it didn’t feel like Elkhart. It felt like New York City.
He meant that he’d had what felt and tasted like a big-city dining experience. He’s right, except for the fact that Elkhart isn’t that big a city and many of the people there this weekend knew each other and had fun together.
Many, but not all, of the people who dined at the restaurant had reservations. You can make them via Yelp, OpenTable or by calling 574-355-3355. Janowsky said it’s possible to stop in and eat without a reservation or visit the bar, which opens at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. The dining room opens at 5 p.m. and will be open as late as needed.
505 S. Main St., Elkhart
For more restaurant news and commentary from Marshall King, subscribe to the Dining A La King email newsletter.