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Elkhart Dining Days 2015: What looks great on the menus

I’m making peace with the fact that I might eat too much and yet, it won’t be enough.

Elkhart Dining Days started Friday, Oct. 30. There are 20 restaurants or bakeries involved. A few have just one special, but most have multiple items.

Just as there’s no way to order an entire menu before reviewing a restaurant, there’s no way to enjoy everything Elkhart Dining Days has to offer before it ends Saturday, Nov. 7, but it’ll be fun trying.

The annual celebration of independent restaurants in the city features great local places offering a special and donating part of the proceeds to Church Community Services, which does so much to help people in need in our community.

At lunch Friday, a few places hadn’t yet cranked up Dining Days offerings, but Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern had.

Pete Kilgren bought it in 1970 and Merle and Linda Anderson have operated the place for years. But long before that, it’s been a bar on the shore of Simonton Lake. Merle said Friday it’s been a bar since right after Prohibition.

This is a place where I wish the walls could talk. They have stories. The Andersons have a few as the most recent operators.

But the walls don’t have much to do with the food. What you’ll find is good bar food. It’s one of the few places around that serves fried frog legs.

On Friday, I was in a mood for fish and opted for the fried perch. A plateful of the lightly-breaded former swimmers came with a side of fried potatoes (fries, buffalo chips or sweet potato) and a piece of garlic bread for $10.

Every so often, I get that itch for a plate of fried goodness. It’s not something to do too often, but this was a fine plate of fish for the money. Anderson said the perch and bluegill “basket” is always on the menu, but the price is a bit lower for Dining Days. Anderson said they’re also offering a half-pound Prime burger (which you shouldn’t order past medium) as a special this week to try out as a regular on the menu. Every one of those sold will send a dollar to CCS.

Our staff will be fanning out to eat the food and tell the stories of Elkhart Dining Days. During the coming days, we’ll be enjoying the restaurants and their specials and hope you do, too.

Here are some other things I’m looking forward to eating based on the menus the restaurants have created:

The VooDoo BBQ Pizza at Iechyd Da: It comes with either smoked chicken or smoked cauliflower. I’ll get it with the vegetarian option. Creative vegetarian cooking isn’t an easy thing and the notion of smoking a big ol’ white head of the vegetable intrigues me.

The three-course dinner for $15 at Callahan’s: I’ll take the saganaki and mull whether to take the Greek pork chops or Green chicken with Greek potatoes. I expect oregano and lemon, but we’ll see what comes. Then there’s soup or salad and rice pudding for dessert. I expect there will be a to-go box at the end of the meal.

Sesame seared ahi tacos at Sports Time Family Pub & Grill: The fish tacos were stellar last year and I look forward to trying this year’s version.

Maple marscapone cheesecake with roasted pears at Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub: The desserts at Bacon Hill are gaining acclaim and this one sounds really good.

Poutine at New Paradigm Brewing: The burgers at New Paradigm have become stellar and the Dining Days menu has one made with meatloaf, but there are two poutine options. This is a Canadian dish with fries, cheese curds and gravy. Bars this side of the border are playing with the item and the Dining Days menu has either chicken or pot roast. I look forward to one of them.

The big breakfast at Stacks Pancake House: I plan to take someone along to help eat the 10 ounce steak, two eggs, American fries and pancakes or toast. Or at the very least, I will get a take-home box.

Deconstructed s’more at Artisan: This has been on the menu since the beginning, but has changed a bit in format. It’s just a lovely mix of chocolate mousse, marshmallow cream and other flavors.

There will be desserts from Baker’s Nook Cafe and visits to other places. I could go on, but I’m out of room and we’ll see what the week brings. It better bring strapping on the running shoes in addition to the feedbag.

Hope to see you at your favorite restaurant. Come join us in eating for a cause.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

Marshall V. King is food columnist for Flavor 574 and community editor for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805,, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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