Redwood Firewood Grill eager to reopen in larger lakeside digs

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By: Jeff Parrott
jparrott@flavor574.com

Jason Bryant/Flavor 574

After doubling their sales last year, Jose and Heather Espinoza are doubling their space.

That has them more excited than ever for the relaunch of Redwood Firewood Grill and Bar at a new location, 937 N. Detroit St. in Warsaw, overlooking Center Lake. After closing for the past week to put the finishing touches on a renovation that began in late December, they plan to re-open on Friday, Feb. 6.

After a slow first year in 2013 that Jose attributed to a tucked-away location behind a strip plaza at 2604 Shelden St., he said his upscale South American-influenced “fusion” restaurant started hitting its stride last year as word spread. 

“We have 12-foot windows and every seat in the house has a view of the lake,” Jose said. “We’re feeling good. We love the location.”

The lunch menu features Argentinian empanadas, which are crescent-shaped, baked turnovers stuffed with a variety of seasoned meats, vegetables and cheeses. All empanadas are served with Peruvian aioli, or peppers and Argentinian salsa verde.

Varieties include the carne, which is beef, Spanish olives, hard boiled eggs, onions and parsley; and the Cuba novo, which contains roasted pork, onions, cilantro and Grand Marnier, an orange liqueur.

If you go:
Redwood Firewood
Grill & Bar

937 N. Detroit St., Warsaw
574-267-7004

Hours: Weekdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dining, bar closes later.
Saturday 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday CLOSED (but will open in summer)
Reservations recommended

An assortment of paninis includes the Argentinian chorizo, served with onion, peppers, Monterey Jack cheese and spicy aioli; and the Cubano, with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickle.

Also served at lunch are 10-ounce gourmet burgers and several pasta dishes, including toasted cheese ravioli, cheese manicotti and homemade lasagna.

Espinoza said he buys fresh pasta from a Chicago-based distributor that serves high-end restaurants in the region.

Espinoza, the chef, was born in Honduras and grew up in New York City and Maryland, and you can find influences from all three locales in his menu.

Ask Espinoza about his dinner offerings and he becomes more animated.

“That’s where it gets exciting,” Espinoza said.

“Small plates” – they don’t like the term “appetizers” – include the panko calamari with golf sauce, tender hand-breaded calamari, lemon juice with Peruvian rocotto aioli; smoked salmon rolls laced with herb cream cheese, capers, fresh dill, lemon juice, truffle oil and balsamic vinaigrette; and panko fried deviled eggs with spicy aioli. Panko is essentially Japanese bread crumbs, he said.

“It’s a passion for the food, the service, making people happy.”

But what Redwood Firewood Grill has become known for in Warsaw is its premium steaks, cooked over an Aztec firewood grill, Espinoza said. Marinated with South American spices and fruit juices, and served with a fresh thyme Grand Marnier glaze, the cuts range from a 7-ounce filet mignon to a 24-ounce Porterhouse. In between is a 16-ounce cowboy cut, a bone-in ribeye that’s frenched, meaning the fat has been cut away so that the bone protrudes out from the meat.

Espinoza said he sources ingredients locally as much as possible, including duck from Kosciusko County, pork from Mentone and buffalo meat from Bremen. He’ll try to find locally grown produce in the summer.

The bar boasts some locally crafted beers, such as Mishawaka-brewed Evil Czech, Zombie Dust and Gumballhead from Three Floyds in Munster and Upland from Nashville, Ind.

He said his 55 to 60 craft beers is the largest selection in Kosciusko County, along with 16 draft beers, to be upgraded to 25 draft lines this summer. There’s also a large selection of wines from Michigan, Indiana, Spain and South America — especially Chile.

The average dinner should cost anywhere from $10 to $30.

The building measures 8,600 square feet, up from 4,200 square feet at the prior location. It includes two banquet rooms equipped with flat screens and wireless internet, which should draw interest from Warsaw’s many orthopedics firms looking to stage meetings, he said.

The restaurant will seat about 150, and in the summer, another 150 people can eat on the deck that overlooks the lake.

Espinoza said that while he has some great help, he runs the kitchen and Heather works the front of the house. But he also tries to get out and talk to customers as much as possible.

“I think it’s important,” he said. “People absolutely love talking to the person that cooked their food.”

He was asked what drives him in such a competitive field.

“I won’t tell you it’s the money,” he said with a laugh. “The money is OK but it’s a passion for the food, the service, making people happy. That’s very important to me.”

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