When I first showed up to work in Elkhart, the first thing I asked everyone was “Where are the hot spots to check out and eat?” The one restaurant that stuck out among everyone’s suggestions was 523 Tap and Grill.
Fast forward and I have been to 523 Tap and Grill for drinks, lunch and a few business meetings. The food and atmosphere keep me coming back. I had to see what they were doing for Elkhart Dining Days.
For some of you who might not know Elkhart Dining Days is a nine-day celebration of Elkhart’s independent dining scene, brought to you by Flavor 574 and Lochmandy Motors. You have until Saturday, Nov. 7, to enjoy specials at some of Elkhart’s best restaurants, cafes and dessert shops. When you participate in grabbing a meal from participating restaurants, 10 percent of your meal will go to Church Community Services to help our own neighbors and friends with food, financial assistance and job training. Good food and a way to help the community — I’m in!
When you walk into 523, you are greeted with a charm of classic-meets-modern style from the cozy bar to the intimate dining booths. The lights are a subtle accent and are low enough to give you that comfortable feeling while providing enough light to see what you’re eating. Passing through the bar area, I tend to always see those number crunching businessmen that can’t wait to loosen up their tie and sit down for a cocktail with their colleagues. The hostess walked me to my booth and as I sat down in the comfortable cushion seats, already the Elkhart Dining Days menu on the table. Time to get this party started.
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My first choice was either the hot and sour soup or the house wedge/caesar salad starter. I’ve had salads here before and I loved it, but I knew for this taste test, I wouldn’t let them off that easy by picking a simple salad.
I chose the soup and waited patiently trying to remember the last time I had a sweet and sour soup. It wasn’t long before the waitress sat down some soft, hot bread slices with butter so I have something to nibble on before I went traveling down my meal path. I am not a person to eat bread before a meal since most of the time it fills you up, but I couldn’t resist the urge and I was happy I gave in.
As I nibbled on the bread, the waitress dropped the soup in front of me and told me to enjoy with a confident smile. I took a big spoonful of the soup while trying to collect everything it had to offer and I was immediately surprised with the amount of kick the soup had. The flavor was something, at first, that hit me really hard — it was different in a good way.
Next was the main course. I chose the 8 ounce pork ribeye served with a side of rosemary mashed potatoes and apple compote. How can you NOT get excited for a dish with meat and potatoes? The dish came out hot and fresh with the smell of apples and grilled meat in the air. The presentation was great, the ribeye was resting gracefully on the potatoes as the apple compote spread across the place just inviting me to mix it in where needed.
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I always start with the first bite being the meat just to make sure it is cooked to my liking. When I started to cut into the meat, it practically tore itself apart, the juices escaped and mixed into the pillowy potatoes. The first bite I took, I knew I made the right choice.
I started to mix in the apple compote more and more, you know, to live on the edge a little and loved the results. I mixed in the potatoes here and there for some different texture and couldn’t get enough of the combination. Close friends know that I do not mix my food and normally go through each part of the plate one at a time, but I couldn’t help myself this time. Kudos, 523.
For the final piece, I was presented with what could be considered artwork in some cities. The coconut cake topped with toasted almonds sat at the very end of a line of beautifully shaved chocolate ganache bits resting on a metal plate which gave it some good presentation points. I will say this right up front: I am not a cake eater at all. I try to get out of my shell when I can and try new things.
At this point in the meal, 523 has won my trust and I was thinking maybe this could be the cake that made me change my mind. I took my fork and scooped up some chocolate shavings and added them on top of the cake, then I trimmed down my first bite-size slice.
I knew I would be tasting coconut but had no idea the amount of rich flavors that would accompany it. You could taste each layer alternating between soft and nutty to gooey and rich. I had to mentally remove all the bells and whistles of this cake to get down to its natural cake form. I believe this cake without all the essentials would be great, but the magic comes from all the delectable sweetness and texture surrounding the cake. Hey 523, you made me eat cake and I liked it. Kudos!
Thank you, 523 Tap and Grill, for delivering something awesome for Elkhart Dining Days. I can’t wait to see what you have for the menu next year!