Brewpubs in general are pretty cool, and craft brewing is the fastest growing segment of the drink industry. But there's a lot to be said for the newest player in northern Indiana.
First, Evil Czech Brewery and Public House is just plain cool. And that's saying something since it's a brewpub.
Generally speaking, brewpubs have become the place where the hip gather to eat the funky bar food, to taste the recrafting of American beer. The tanks used for brewing or holding the beer are placed alongside dining areas, both functional and decorative. The beer that comes out of them is often dark and bears strange names. The menus combine peanut butter with burgers, pork belly with corn dogs.
Evil Czech opened in March, but had its grand opening April 1. It's now open for lunch and dinner.
It's the third location for owners George and Tammy Pesek. He got the nickname "Evil Czech" from his mother and it's followed him through his culinary career.
The Peseks started with Corndance Cafe in Culver, and Corndance Tavern in Mishawaka has been a big success. The original Evil Czech brewery in Culver will stay open, but because it can't grow there, they chose to open a second location in the space formerly occupied by Mishawaka Brewing Co. at 3703 N. Main St., Mishawaka.
The building's rehab was handled by Ancon Construction, starting with a full gut. Now, the kitchen, dining room and brewing area fill 10,200 square feet of space and murals painted by an employee fill the walls. The interior is "industrial meets modern," as general manager Shawn Erickson describes it.
At the bar, plenty of glasses are being filled with Evil Czech's beers, which range in styles. They're more aggressive than some places and the names can be edgy too, but the beers are well balanced. Gypsy, an American wheat beer made with chamomile, is selling well. So is Voodoo, the vanilla rye porter. But with 20 taps backed by a 15-barrel (about 450 gallons in a batch) brewing system, there are plenty of options, including house-made root beer.
If you want a growler filled, a machine will fill the jug with carbon dioxide, then beer, and then carbon dioxide so that the beer will stay fresh inside for months. Plus, it doesn't tie up the taps at the bar, Erickson said, noting that the Alred Gruber machine delights the beer geek in him.
The food that people have come to love from Pesek and his restaurants is now presented as dishes made for a pub. A pizza oven is a key part of the kitchen and can even create a "pizza bowl" to hold a salad in a crust. Brioche buns are made in-house, and the mac and cheese comes with a wide range of add-ins.
The pastrami is the best he's had anywhere, Erickson said. It can be put on a burger, which is appropriately named Hog and Heifer. There's also a 574 burger with sharp cheddar, butter lettuce, roasted garlic ketchup, tomato and mustard mayo.
Much of the food, including all the bison, is sourced from the farm behind all four restaurants. And the rest is sourced locally when possible.
The new spot has 55 employees, making drinking local a win on at least the economic and personal satisfaction fronts, if not more. And this is already shaping up as a hip new player in the Mishawaka dining scene.
Evil Czech Brewery
3703 N. Main St., Mishawaka