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Goshen Dining Days 2015: First-time event celebrates a dining scene that's come a long way

Goshen’s dining scene used to be pretty simple.

It centered around meat and potatoes at places like the Dutch Cooker and Yoder’s Restaurant. As a teenage grill cook, I used to make liver and onions on Thursday nights for dozens of diners at Yoder’s.

As a child, a big night was going with my parents to Burger Chef, where the KFC now is at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Pike Street. Later, Rax was a big destination. All of those places are gone, but the current crop of restaurants is pretty darn good.

Goshen Dining Days, which starts Friday, April 17, and continues through Saturday, April 25, will highlight some of the best Goshen has to offer.

Nine restaurants are in the mix for the first-time event. Center For Healing and Hope has done dining events and First Fridays touts food, but this is the first time there’s been a restaurant week for the Maple City.

Based on the success we had at Flavor 574 with Elkhart Dining Days last fall, we’re trying to do something similar in Goshen.

Nine eateries will offer specials. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Share the Bounty program at the Goshen Farmers Market. The program gives fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income folks who come to shop at the market. (In full disclosure, I’m president of the farmers market board, but that’s not why we picked that as the charitable entity. Others were in favor of supporting the food-centric program for those in need.)

Jesse Shoemaker, soon to be chef at the Goshen Brewing Co., said he remembers South Side Soda Shop as one of the few places he loved going as a boy. That was about the time I got back to Goshen and became a reporter, and coincidentally about the time things started changing.

The Electric Brew opening in the early 1990s put the small city on the path to hipness and all these years later, there’s a different vibe.

After Dembufsky closed, Jason Oswald opened Constant Spring as a nonsmoking bar with organic food. It’s become a stalwart downtown, along with Kelly Jae’s Cafe and Pizzeria Venturi.

South Side continues to make great food. Dandino’s new owner Chris Stoller is working to update the decades-old supper club without changing its charm or inexpensive prices for steak and seafood.

At Dana J’s Deli, Dana Gall and his family have been making flavorful comfort foods and I’m looking forward to what they come up with for Goshen Dining Days.

Here’s what else I’m looking forward to trying in the coming days:

  • Electric Brew. This has become my second office. I’m often there on Tuesday mornings and will take advantage of the two specialty drinks and two baked goods for $10.75. I’ll share. Trust me. Owner Myron Bontrager is also offering office dessert trays and after-dinner coffee drinks and desserts. I like how he’s thinking.
  • Honey’s is offering some interesting drinks, including pour-over coffee, and the chance to fill a 12-ounce cup with a frozen yogurt or other frozen treat with toppings. That’s a deal.
  • JoJo’s Pretzels have the right texture and flavor. I’ll be there for a pretzel and a drink for $5.
  • Dinner at Kelly Jae’s. For $25, you can get a Jae’s salad, pad thai and creme brûlée. You could choose gelato for dessert, but that would be a mistake. The creme brûlée is among the best you can find anywhere. There are also $10 bottles of wine and an $8 strawberry mojito. If you haven’t had the mojito, try it. It’s money.
  • Dinner at South Side Soda Shop. For $30, you can get a seafood dinner for two in a couple of combinations. And at the end comes pie. South Side makes amazing pie. Nick Boyd’s amazing cheesesteak, which he’d rather make than a hamburger, is just $6 next week. You’ll struggle to find a better cheesesteak in the Midwest. Boyd, who is from Philadelphia, and his crew make them with passion and care. Fresh oysters are $1 each, so order a bunch.
  • Venturi is doing a dinner for two for $28 that includes a salad, pizza and dessert. That’s a great deal. The margherita pizza that’s part of the special is simple and good. The salad and desserts are great.
  • Constant Spring will have an appetizer and two entrees for $25 or an appetizer and an entree for $15. The pad thai salad, different than Kelly Jae’s pad thai, will be one of the entrees, but so will two new sandwiches and the great pesto burger. I’m curious about the chicken sandwich with smoked mozzarella and ghost pepper/blueberry barbecue sauce as well as the Asian pork sandwich in the works.

We’ve come so far from liver and onions at Yoder’s to pad thai dishes at two Main Street restaurants.

We’re excited about this event. I hope you’ll try some of the best Goshen has to offer. I’ll be doing just that.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

Marshall V. King is community editor for The Elkhart Truth and food columnist for Flavor 574. You can reach him at 574-296-5805,, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Subscribe to the Dining A La King email newsletter 

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