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* 1/2
Out of a possible five

Vince’s entrées fail to fly

Folks with Ball State University or Muncie connections have been inquiring about one of the newest restaurants on the north side of Fort Wayne.

Vince’s used to be all the rage when it existed at Delaware County Airport in Muncie. Its new location, in a former Uno Chicago Grill in Chapel Ridge, doesn’t have a runway or terminal, but the restaurant’s heritage can be seen on its vintage aircraft-adorned sign and on its propeller-shaped door handles.

But what this new location didn’t show me was a link to the old place in terms of quality. I guess you could say Vince’s sort of left me waiting on the tarmac.

Its former tenant left Vince’s with an upscale, Italian steakhouse atmosphere that needed little changing. It still looks brand new, featuring subtle lighting and a red-and-black color scheme accented by wood that creates a relaxing mood.

The unique appetizers were mostly met with approval. The Blackened Seared Ahi Tuna was coated in a peppery spice rub and served with a mustard sauce that accented the spices much better than the Sriracha and pickled ginger, which were also on the plate. It was seared perfectly and every piece was succulent. The Zing Zang Shrimp was great, also proving to be much more than “just, shrimp,” which is how a slightly rude server described it. A dozen sweet little rock shrimp were lightly battered and fried crisp, then served atop chilled iceberg lettuce with a creamy, orange Sriracha dressing and garnished with Mandarin oranges.

The soups also were all winners, with the slightly chunky tomato-herb edging out the sweet, tangy French onion and hearty vegetable beef. The only appetizer that I did not care for was the S.S. Cheesecake. What was intended to be a savory seafood cheesecake with a pecan crust was basically a seafood quiche. The flavor was OK, but I was confused as to why it included toast points, which I saw no way to incorporate.

The only entrée I did not have a problem with was the Rome pizza – Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, artichokes and mushrooms atop a lightly grilled crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Although the chewy, bread-like crust could have been charred a bit more, it was above par overall.

The Seafood Diavio pasta was inedible. The penne was cooked fine and there looked to be plenty of crab, shrimp and monkfish in it, but the sauce was gelatinous and tepid, and sort of reminded me in flavor and texture of day-old, refrigerated, takeout Chinese lobster sauce that wasn’t reheated enough. I sent it back after just a few bites.

The Chicago Porterhouse Pork Chop was better, but not much, especially considering its rather salty $17.99 price. The decent-sized chop was coated in a sticky red wine glaze that was charred black over half of the bottom. And it was flanked by some of Vince’s “smashed” potatoes, which were more like whipped potatoes with a few tiny lumps, and frozen broccoli that was overcooked to mush.

The baked potato with my Vince’s New York Strip Cajun Style wasn’t much better than the smashed as it was tiny and tired looking. The steak was OK – tender, juicy and flavorful with a spicy-sweet rub – but it was missing the Cajun compound butter described on the menu.

The Hoosier Pork sounded promising and had me thinking upscale Indiana tenderloin with its center-cut loin pounded thin, parmesan crusted and sautéed with a lemon-white wine sauce. The loin was fatty and moist, and perfectly breaded and pan sautéed to be a little crisp. But where I expected a lemon-white wine sauce to be sort of like picatta – clear and light – this “sauce” was more like gravy for a chicken fried steak with a hint of lemon, which didn’t work at all.

The dessert offerings are rather mundane as all are brought in frozen. The chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cake was better than the boring key lime pie, which came instead of the Vince’s Flying High Turtle Pie I actually ordered. I received the desserts gratis from the manager to make up for the seafood pasta, which I appreciated.

In the end, the combination of poor service – the rude server who glossed over her many mistakes sarcastically, not being served complimentary bread until halfway through my entrée during one visit and long waits for my bill and desserts – and poor food at upscale prices hurt Vince’s.

I probably won’t be flying back in anytime soon.

Restaurant: Vince’s

Address: 10460 Maysville Road

Phone: 748-0390

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: S.S. Cheesecake ($9.99), Ahi tuna ($9.99), Zing Zang Shrimp ($8.99), Hoosier Pork ($16.99), Cajun N.Y. Strip ($22.95), Rome pizza ($9.99), pork chop ($17.99), Key lime pie ($4.99), chocolate cake ($5.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and you can hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.