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The Dish

  • Updates continue on Lima
    If you drive along Lima Road, it's hard to miss the changes to the restaurant scene.
  • Updates continue on Lima
    If you drive along Lima Road, it’s hard to miss the changes to the restaurant scene.As I wrote in a March column, LongHorn Steakhouse is opening a restaurant at 5050 Value Drive in front of Costco.
  • Vanilla Bean shifting to orders only
    In most cases, closing up shop is bad times.  But for Sandra Wharton and Debbie Smith, the move from retail to production is a good thing for their business, Vanilla Bean Unique
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If you go
•Club Soda, 235 E. Superior St., Fort Wayne
•GridIron Grill and Sports Bar, 1001 W. North St., Kendallville
•Albasha, 544 Fairview Blvd., Kendallville
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Club Soda loads iPads with facts on drinks

It’s no secret that the martini list at Club Soda can be overwhelming (in that fantastic, “I’ll have one of each, s’il vous plaît” kind of way). In an effort to give customers a little more info, Club Soda has taken its martinis – and reserve wine bottles and craft beers – and included them on three iPads to circulate in the restaurant and two to remain at the bar.

“There are so many wines out there, and we have just a handful of servers who are wine junkies,” says co-owner Jason Smith, who came up with the new menu idea.

The iPad menus give customers more information than they probably want. Customers can swipe through the lists and enlarge what interests them. Want to know more about that chardonnay? Check out the wine maker’s notes, tasting notes and food pairings. And, if you’re feeling wanderlusty, pull up a Google map of the vineyard. Soon, the menus will include one more feature: a 30- to 90-second video of Sam Beck, Club Soda’s wine sales rep, talking about each wine for people who don’t want to scroll through the notes and pairings.

Smith borrowed this idea from a restaurant near Atlanta that saw a 16 percent increase in reserve wine bottle sales after its iPads were introduced. Club Soda introduced these digital menus early last month, and the restaurant has seen an increase in bottle sales, Smith says.

Wine’s all well and good, but when it comes to Club Soda, I’ll stick with the Timotini.

2 restaurants open in Kendallville

With so many options in Fort Wayne, it can be easy to forget about restaurants in neighboring small communities. In the past month and a half, Kendallville has seen at least two restaurants open.

Avilla residents Nelson Smith and Denny Mast worked in restaurants when they were students at East Noble High School, but neither took it much further than that.

Years after graduation, they met up again when they worked at Symmetry Medical in Avilla, Smith says. They realized each had an interest in food, and the men eventually got on the barbecue competition circuit, participating in about a dozen events in Indiana and Michigan.

After awhile, Smith says, the men started to place. The dish most often recognized? Their brisket.

Today, Smith and Mast own GridIron Grill and Sports Bar. GridIron, which opened Nov. 15, is a sort of two-in-one restaurant. Walk in the building on the corner of U.S. 6 and Indiana 3 and see a dining room full of settings with white tablecloths – a fine-dining kind of atmosphere. To the left is the bar, spacious and clean, with about a dozen tables and eight flat-screen TVs.

In addition to brisket, GridIron offers other barbecue staples such as pulled pork, ribs and broasted chicken. The restaurant grinds its hamburger onsite, hand-cuts steak and offers fresh-cut, twice-cooked french fries.

“This town really needed another restaurant option,” Smith says, adding that if a Kendallvillian wants a nicer local option that isn’t Mexican food, she needs to go to St. James Restaurant in Avilla.

Case in point: As I turn out of GridIron and head toward downtown, I take note of the restaurants I see: a KFC/Long John Silver’s conglomerate, Arby’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s and El Patron, a local Mexican restaurant.

Kendallvillians have another ethnic option to add to the Mexican restaurants in town; Albasha Mediterranean Restaurant opened Dec. 15, owner Mohamad Alokam says. It offers a mix of Mediterranean, Lebanese and Middle Eastern food, including kabobs and hummus.

Introducing the new columnist

I like to eat.

It seems like an important trait for a woman taking over a column about restaurant news, as folks who read about restaurant news probably like to eat, too.

I’ve lived in Fort Wayne for 3 1/2 years, and one of the most obvious things to me about this city from the get-go was this: The town knows food.

How else can you explain how a city of 250,000 people – not small, no, but not exactly Chicago, either – can boast two amazing staple sushi restaurants, with at least three new ones open in the last year and another slated to open any day now? Or more amazing Mexican joints than you can count on two hands? Or so many incredible locally owned bar and grills in all corners of the city?

I hope to keep the restaurant news flowing, with maybe a bit of a personal twist from a gal with an unpicky palate. (Except for red, green, orange and yellow peppers. You keep those things away from me.)

If you hear of any new openings or changes or restaurant stirrings, give me a call at 461-8462 or e-mail me at jyouhana@jg.net.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears every Wednesday. Fax news items to 461-8893, email jyouhana@jg.net or call 461-8462.

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