Carl Duncan, Tony Gazzana and Rick Conway wanted a place to park their bikes, put away a few beers and belt along to some quality karaoke. So, naturally, they teamed up and opened their own place.
The Smokestack Brew, newly opened at 100 Center St. in Mishawaka, may be the trio’s ticket to quitting their day jobs.
“We started the bar because our dislike of the way karaoke is run (at other establishments),” said Duncan. “You’d be waiting for service, waiting for beer, and the servers seemed unhappy.”
Since opening March 6, the renovated space balances a brewhouse-like atmosphere with the functionality of a live music venue. The building was once home to Dorothy’s 100 Center Cinema, Club Bed and the recently closed Sky Lounge.
Featuring a rotating list of beers on a 16-tap draft system, 18 flat-screen televisions, generous portions from a barbecue-based menu and a wall-to-wall stage stuffed with four 18-inch sub-woofers, Smokestack Brew, in Duncan’s words, “was designed as a destination.”
Plans are in the works to have karaoke at the location as well.
”We wanted to stay away from the idea of an actual brewery,” said Duncan. “We’ll let the brewmasters do what they do and then feature the best of the best.”
The owners anticipate hosting bike nights for motorcycle enthusiasts, in addition to partnering with other 100 Center tenants for future events on the bar’s outdoor patio.
“From front to back, this place has great people,” said Smokestack executive chef Thomas Douthart, an Ivy Tech graduate who spent eight years at The Skillet in South Bend. “This is a ‘we’ kitchen, not a ‘me’ kitchen.”
Douthart and his crew have concocted variations of traditional pub plates, like the Supreme Smokestack burger, an artisan roll shouldering a ground sirloin patty topped with pulled pork, coleslaw, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, barbecue sauce and an over-sized onion ring.
Flatbread pizzas, barbecue pork ribs, and fish and chips all average around $7.99.
The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. until the bar’s usual 2 a.m. closing time. Beginning at 12:30 a.m. each Friday and Saturday night, Douthart assembles an omelet station for patrons looking to leave the LED-lit dance floor for re-fueling.
Stage designer Chris Woods installed the perimeter’s light strip, capable of projecting nearly 800 different patterns to pair with musical performances inside the 295-person capacity club.
A second-floor seating area overlooks the main room, level with the mounted main speakers of the in-house PA system.
After recalling a few logistical mistakes made prior to opening, Duncan was quick to make note of the city’s guidance and assistance during the development of Mishawaka’s newest venue.
“We’re thankful for all the hoops the city jumped through for us,” said Duncan. “They could of cut us off at the knees, but they didn’t.”