Warsaw’s Downtown Eatery and Spirits, better known as the Downtown, is one of those establishments that will always feel like home.
You know what I’m talking about. No matter how long it is between visits, it’s going to be the same as it was the last time you visited. It may have dressed itself up in the meantime, but in nearly a quarter century, its essence hasn’t changed.
A recent spate of return visits to the Downtown had me reminiscing about special life moments we celebrated between those walls, located in – yes, you guessed it – downtown Warsaw.
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From closing on homes to birthday bashes to celebrating pregnancies with friends and family, the Downtown has been there for us. It’s where I learned how good a simple cocktail like a vodka tonic could taste (over a decade later, it’s still my go-to drink) and where I realized just how good bar food can be.
The Kaiser’s Italian sub is by far the most popular food item at the Downtown. Named after the Kaiser family who owned the Kaiser Inn, the previous occupants of the building, the sub consists of sliced ham, salami, lettuce and mozzarella cheese drizzled with Italian dressing and comes with onions, pepperoncini peppers and a pickle. Coming in at just under $6, its relatively inexpensive price belies just how tasty it is.
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As popular as the Kaiser’s Italian sub is, though, it will never replace the spot in my heart for the chicken cordon bleu. With a grilled chicken breast that seems seasoned to perfection each time I order it, topped with Swiss cheese, ham, lettuce, tomato and mayo, it’s a sandwich that just makes my tummy happy.
Its skinless chicken breast also lets me fool myself into thinking that I’m sticking to my diet, never mind the side order of onion rings that always accompanies it. Fanciful and trendy food-drink pairings may come and go, but the chicken cordon bleu with vodka tonic (in a pint glass, please) will always be my favorite couple.
The phrase “bar food” might make people think of greasy, high-fat dishes served with nary a thought to presentation. While acknowledging that the Downtown is a bar, I prefer to think of it more as a clean, affordable alternative to the image that people typically have of bar food, more like a restaurant that is required by law to only allow people age 21 and over.
With a menu that offers everything from pizzas to burgers and wraps to subs and includes grill classics like Jamaican chicken, chipotle chicken and breaded tenderloin sandwiches, the food offerings would make any restaurateur proud.
If you have a favorite dish, however, make sure to order it. The menu at the Downtown gets revamped every quarter, with the most popular daily and weekly specials taking the place of the two lowest-selling items.
The Downtown remains a popular spot for businesspeople at lunch, gets packed during the week with the after-work crowd and includes a renovated beer garden offering outdoor street views you won’t find at any other place in downtown Warsaw.
Newer trendy spots might have popped up, but the Downtown simply adjusts herself, renovating her interior and adding a new façade, and remains to me and many others what it always has been — home.