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A trip to Michael’s Italian Restaurant in Elkhart to sample wings

I moved to Elkhart from Northwest Indiana only 13 years ago. Since my parents are not from here, my knowledge of the history of the area has come from three sources: Wikipedia, the I Grew Up in Elkhart, IN Facebook group, and the many nights sitting at the old Bulldog at the corner of Jackson and Middleton Run Road drinking beers with the locals.

One night, the discussion came about on the best place to get pasta in Elkhart. Many places were mentioned, but the consensus seemed to lean towards a little place in the old Italian area of Elkhart: Michael’s Italian Restaurant.

At the time, I had been to a Michael’s. It was the first restaurant located in the plaza space which is now the old Fat Tomato. (If you look in Google maps street view, you can still that that place as Michael’s). But I was corrected in that the north location was an expansion and I’d have to go downtown to check the original out.

RELATED: These wings are hard to find, but they’re worth it, May 12

As I walked in, the building reminded me of many restaurants from the larger Italian neighborhoods in Northwest Indiana / South Chicago, such as being in an old building on the corner of a residential part of town and having sloping padded seats in the booths. The pasta is great there, and the pizza is just like from my hometown. It has become my favorite choice out of all the great places to eat Italian food in this city. In fact, I had been so distracted that I failed to notice the last entry in the a la carte at the bottom of the menu that simply stated, “Wings ………. 65 cents each.”

The exterior of Michael's Italian Restaurant in downtown Elkhart. Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko
The exterior of Michael’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Elkhart.
Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko

The wings come out pretty basic. Like Michael’s chicken, they are breaded and fried up. You are offered a side of hot sauce if you would like. At first glance they look like the wings at one of my favorite places to get them, Rulli’s. The wing is large and the chicken inside is juicy with a crispy breading on the outside. Although the hot sauce was a good addition to dip them in, I felt the breading could use a bit more seasoning. They also leave the nubbin on the “wing” piece of the wing. I’m not a fan of that the nubbin as it is inedible and just gets in the way.

The price is great for some quality wings, and you don’t have to wait until a certain day to get a deal at this place.

By itself this would be an excellent wing. The chicken is fresh, the breading is crispy, and the price is right. But compared to the pizza and the other pasta dishes served up by Michael’s, you would be wasting a good meal out by just getting the wings. In fact, you might as well just skip the wings altogether and eat another slice of pizza before you head out the door.

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