Cuisine with a Latin American flair comes to Lake Country

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By: Loren Shaum

Loren Shaum

Warsaw is known for many things besides just being the Kosciusko County seat. Arguably the orthopedics capital of the world, Warsaw attracts folks from all over the world. This diversity is seen in the many restaurants in the area each focusing on something unique to differentiate themselves from all others.

At the Redwood Firewood Grill and Bar, owner Jose Espinoza has established the restaurant as a place to go for a myriad of diverse flavors, many with Central and South American twists.

Espinoza’s story is truly one of living the American dream. He came from his native Honduras in 1984. He moved around from New York to Louisiana to the Washington, D.C., area before landing in the middle of Indiana. His family was very poor so Jose worked wherever possible but mostly in restaurants. In 1992 he moved to the Warsaw area and took part in the Winona Village renovation going on then. After becoming a U.S. citizen in 1996, he realized the Lake Country area was a good place to settle. Now his entire family is in the U.S. except his father, who refuses to leave his native land.

In 2008, Espinoza partnered in his first restaurant, but when the opportunity presented itself he decided to open his own. The Redwood Firewood Grill and Bar was born in a strip mall north of Warsaw on January 6, 2013.

Finding a New Home

Since the original opening Jose has been on the fast-track. In February of this year, he moved the restaurant to the home of six previous restaurants at 937 North Detroit St. on the shore of beautiful Center Lake just north of downtown Warsaw.

He was initially hesitant to make the move as some said the building is jinxed. Voices have been heard in the kitchen and spirits seem to roam the building. A bartender once claimed to see a lady dressed in white sitting at a restaurant table after closing. 

He moved forward with his dream of developing a fine dining experience based on Latin American flavors. The setting on Center Lake is absolutely spectacular, and he continues to develop new and interesting dishes by implementing fresh and mostly local ingredients — but with a flare for the unusual.

Famous Business Lunch Options

The Redwood Grill is very popular with the business lunch crowd. He offers ten different empanadas, all of which are extraordinarily popular. These crescent-shaped turnovers, so common throughout South and Central America are stuffed with a variety of goodies, ranging from Argentine Chorizo (a mixture of fiery chorizo, peppers, cheese and onions) to Cuban Nova (a mixture of roasted pork, onions, cilantro and Grand Marnier). Unlike conventional empanadas, “ours are baked, never fried” according to Espinoza.

Another popular lunch item is the Kobe Gourmet Burger. Redwood offers elegant, half-pound burgers in four varieties on a pretzel bun. One of the favorites is the Crei’do (The Snob). This monster includes the of bourbon-roasted pears, caramelized onions, crispy pancetta all covered with a chunk of melted brie cheese – truly a snob’s delight!

Also on the lunch menu are various quesadillas, pastas and salads. The Redwood Salad is particularly popular. It incorporates a medley of greens mixed with grilled artichoke hearts and grilled hearts of palm. These are combined with red onion, cherry tomatoes and served with a balsamic vinaigrette. All dressings are house-made. Hearts of palm are very popular in Central American cuisine and used in many dishes besides salads. Grilling them offers a unique twist to this salad.

The Redwood offers two soups daily: Buffalo Chili and Maryland Crab Soup — the latter influenced by Jose’s stay in the Washington D.C. area.

A Truly Fine Dining Experience

Start your Redwood experience with a couple of the seven different small plates. The most popular is Rio Rancho Peppers – a mix of prosciutto and mozzarella stuffed into a fresh poblano pepper, wrapped in bacon and baked.

Then there are the Panko Fried Deviled Eggs. These unusual, flash-fried delights are a twist on a southern dish but served with a spicy, house-made aioli.

One of the unusual salads on the dinner menu is the Maraon. This combination of Israeli couscous (pea-sized pasta), corn, green pepper and onion is served hot or cold.

Steaks are the house specialty

The grill at Redwood uses the mesquite wood and produces steaks marinated in spices combined with fruit juices (pineapple juice stands out). All five steaks, ranging from 7 to 24 ounces, are served with the Redwood’s signature thyme-laced Grand Marnier.

Not on the menu, but often served as an evening special is their Shane Kline Farm bison filet from Bremen. This 8-oz. hunk of pure goodness is beyond borders with the demi-glace flowing perfectly with each bite. To take this dish a step further, Jose tops the filet with an avocado butter and gorgonzola sauce. This dish is an explosion of flavors fulfilling anyone’s taste buds.

• RELATED: Where to buy locally raised bison meat, July 16, 2015 

On occasion, the Redwood offers a bone-in, 10-oz. prime beef filet served with papas ralladas (a mashed potato ball stuffed with mushrooms and flash-fried) and a mushroom-Madeira demi-glace.

Besides steaks, the Redwood also offers the Bourbon Pear Pork Chop, Redwood Sizzler (8-oz. skirt steak), Maple Leaf Farm Cajun Duck Breast (featuring flavors from his stay in Louisiana), and burgers. Other dining favorites are listed separately on the menu and include Pollo A la Brasa (Peruvian fire roasted chicken half), Redwood Beef and Guinness (a Guinness broth served with a filet and topped with a baked French pastry puff) and Honey Smoked Ribs.

The Buffalo Meatloaf is enough reason to visit Redwood. This stack of meatloaf slices are seared to form crispy edges then finished with the Grand Marnier demi-glace. The secret is the slow-roasted mirepoix (mixed vegetables) that Jose combines into the loaf, adding tremendous depth and flavor.

Then, if this isn’t enough, and if you want to walk on the wild side, there is the Parrilladas. A dinner for two featuring cilantro rice, creamed plantains, babyback ribs, chicken, skirt steak, Argentine chorizo, jumbo shrimp and morcilla (Argentine blood sausage). This feast requires extended prep time so plan accordingly.

Redwood has prime rib on the menu each weekend. The whole rib is seared then roasted about an hour and half on a bed of vegetables. To serve, they finish the prime rib by cooking to your selected temperature and place it on a medley of tri-colored potatoes.

Bartenders Theresa, Dillon and Ryan offer 27 different craft beers including two nitros on draft, a variety of craft scotches and whiskeys and the wine cellar stocks over 70 wine varietals with more than 20 offered by the glass. One of the popular Latino drinks served-up by the tenders is the Portuguese favorite, caipirinha, made of cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane brandy) and fresh lime juice.

Something for all food lovers

The Redwood Firewood Grill & Bar has brought together many Central and South American flavors. Chef Cesar Garcia and sous chef Eric Ebert make everything fresh daily. “I create the recipes and the chefs do the rest”, said Espinoza. With gorgeous views and seating for 60 to 80 inside, a meeting room upstairs with audiovisual equipment, and summer deck seating for 72, there is a spot for any event. A special take-out menu also caters to the busy business crowd.

Coming this winter is a special brunch on Thanksgiving Day featuring all the traditional fixings, plus the new prime rib. During the Christmas holiday season there will be an additional brunch or two then for New Year’s Eve a special menu is planned.

As the restaurant and its 24 employees settle in at this new location, expect more special events, menu changes and even catering.

The Redwood Firewood Grill & Bar will make any occasion very special. It is worth the trip to Warsaw.

Redwood Grill
937 N. Detroit St., Warsaw
574-267-7004
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