There’s a long fine tradition of going to a place that served burgers and beer and taking in a ballgame. Even before sports filled half a dozen cable networks 24 hours a day, gathering a sports-themed place was part of our culture.
But the culture keeps changing. What people watch and how they gather does too. Now Phil Schreiber, a veteran of the local restaurant industry, is trying to reinvent a place.
In northern Indiana, Between the Buns has been one of the longest standing and most popular sports bars. The original in Osceola opened in 1985 and others followed. Phil Schreiber was the face of the restaurants, appearing on television and radio. His co-owner, Tom Wilson, prefers not to be public.
Some places came and went. A Granger location didn’t make it. A property at 3407 Lincolnway East, Mishawaka, was a Buns for a while, but is now The Curve Cafe, focusing on breakfast. The location at 1803 South Bend Ave., just east of Notre Dame — now the Taphouse on the Edge location — continued as a sports bar with loads of memorabilia on the walls and buckets of beer heading to tables. The Elkhart location opened in the former Matterhorn Restaurant, 2041 Cassopolis St., in January 2007 and continues to operate.
A while back, Schreiber appeared to leave the business and became a partner at the Chicory Cafe. Whether it was a bit of a shell game or not, Schreiber never left. He was still a partner, though a silent one.
He was pushing to leave the company and sever the relationship. “I wanted to be done,” he said.
What they worked out was for Schreiber to take over the South Bend location and his partner to get The Curve and the Osceola and Elkhart Between the Buns locations. All those will continue operating as what they have been.
“Now he doesn’t have to consider me in anything and he doesn’t have to give me a check,” Schreiber said. Jeff Morauski is Schreiber’s partner at Taphouse and Chicory and Phil’s wife Julie is also a partner at Chicory.
Since Schreiber was leaving the Buns family, he had to make some changes, including changing the name and the menu.
It’s now Taphouse on the Edge and the new menu launched Wednesday. Much of it still looks like the Buns menu, but five items got overhauls and five new items went on.
One of them is jambalaya, the most popular item from Chicory Cafe. Blackened shrimp tacos have landed on the sandwich part of the menu along with Reubenesque, a chubbier reuben with pastrami and rye from nearby Breadsmith bakery.
The burgers have gone from six ounces to eight ounces and now have ground prime rib. There’s also a “Bite Your Face” burger with a bunch of hot additions, including frizzled jalapenos.
Taphouse on the Edge has tater tots. I happen to love tater tots. I once argued with a co-worker years ago that I ate vegetables because I ate tater tots. I no longer believe they’re really a vegetable that counts the way kale does, but I’m happy to see Taphouse serving them.
The appetizer menu has a “mug of bacon.” That’s five different bacons served in a mug for $9. The salad list has a new Hipster Salad with spring mix, goat cheese, toasted almonds and other items.
The hot burger, the mug of bacon and the hipster salad are all items you wouldn’t have found on many menus a decade ago. You wouldn’t have heard someone like Schreiber say that he’d hired a chef, that handcrafted cocktails will be on the menu soon and that he’s adding craft beer taps. Instead of serving just big-brewery domestics, a cooler is being changed to allow 20 taps and three more will serve beer using a nitro system that changes the carbonation. Those are all changes, evidence of evolving tastes.
While Schreiber is thrilled to be next to Notre Dame, he’s not only trying to get students in the door. Or sports fans. “I’m really looking at filling this place with people who are 21 to 35,” he said.
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This is a taphouse that will emphasize beer brewed nearby at Greenbush or one of the other local or regional breweries that didn’t exist a decade ago. There will be more vegetarian items on the menu because people ask for them now. And the Moscow Mule coming from the bar is something you may have come to expect from just about any place that had a bar, though how many were ordering them even a few years ago?
There will be less sports memorabilia on the walls because we’ve seen sports bars and aren’t wowed by them like we used to be. They aren’t new. Many are still cool and vibrant. When the Cubs win the World Series, it’d be fun to watch it in a sports bar in northern Indiana or Chicago.
Times change. Places evolve. Those who work in the food business try to adapt and give different options to the next generation. That’s evident at Taphouse on the Edge, but it’s certainly not the only place locally. It just happens to be the most recent one.