Spring seems to bring more than budding trees and flowers. Every year, it brings a fresh crop of restaurants too.
This year’s crop is looking good. News broke last week of an old spot getting new owners and a former Elkhart chef returning home to open his own place.
The purchase of the Carriage House Dining Room & Gardens by former employees Rodney Fields, 36, and Joshua Bishop, 31, will likely give the place new life.
The historic building on the west side of South Bend is is beloved. For the last 40 years, a family has owned and operated it. Now, it’s the turn of two young men who not only want to carry on the tradition, but also want to add their own touch.
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Carriage House, 24460 Adams Road, has been a Wine Spectator award winner the last 27 years and a AAA Four Diamond winner the last 23. Fields said this year they expect to win again.
The fine dining scene has gotten more crowded in Indiana in recent years. Kurt Janowsky’s Cafe Navarre and Artisan have changed the scene in downtown South Bend and Elkhart.
Fields and Bishop are backed by Bishop’s mother and stepfather Mary and Pat Heller, but the two men will be the primary operators. Pat Heller said he just wants to be able to continue to eat there and wants to give his family an opportunity.
The building was constructed in 1851 as a Brethren church. In the 1930s and 1940s it was a Grange hall, Fields said. It became a banquet hall in the 1960s and a restaurant in the mid-1970s.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been to Carriage House. Talking to Fields and Bishop last week made me want to visit this summer. They’re passionate about the food and service. They sell the place they’re buying because they’re excited.
The property, with its gardens and old building, is a lot to manage, but if it works as well as they hope, it’ll be a cool place to eat.
In Elkhart, Zach Lucchese left Lucchese’s Italian Restaurant in 2012. He was formally trained and then became the head chef at the restaurant his grandparents John and Kathy Lucchese founded.
Family businesses, including restaurants, are tricky places to operate. His departure and what led up to it were messy, but he’s continued to make food. He went to work at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth and opened a restaurant there called Dickie’s.
He’s continued to look for a way to get back to Elkhart and found his way by taking over a property on the northeast side of Elkhart with his brother, David.
They announced last week they plan to open Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub, 4000 E. Bristol St., Elkhart.
The new restaurant in the former Firehouse location could be open by May.
Like Fields and Bishop, the brothers have a sense for what they’d like in a restaurant and a fresh way of doing it. You can get a sense for what they want to do on the Bacon Hill Facebook page.
They intend to offer southern food rather than Italian, but mostly they hope to have a place that neighbors on the northeast side of town, as well as others, frequent.
If Zach Lucchese is focused on creating good flavors and the others involved create a warm environment with good service, the place should do good business.
Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub’s arrival will be highly anticipated as the owners do the work to get open in the coming months.
Aside from those two spots, 41 Degrees North in Middlebury is close to opening, new breweries in the area are gearing up and more changes in the local dining scene are sure to follow. It’s what happens as a food culture continues to grow and develop.
Part of that food culture is cool events that promote restaurants and good food.
Look for details in the coming days on another Dining A La King food trip on May 9 and Goshen Dining Days April 17-25. You’ll be able to read about them on flavor574.com and then in The Elkhart Truth.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.