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The Dish

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If you go
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, 3411 Sherman Blvd., 427-6800
Qdoba, 4716 Illinois Road, 432-1361; and 700 Coliseum Blvd. E., 471-0040
La Charcuterie Restaurant, 4111 Paul Shaffer Drive, 482-3800
Barr Street Café, 1200 S. Barr St., 467-1031
Captain Ron’s Corral, 4530 Bluffton Road, 478-0591

New menus on tap for zoo restaurants

Every year, a half-million people trek to the city’s beloved zoo – that’s equivalent to 140 percent of the population of Allen County – and this summer, they will have entirely new recipes for their food options.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo eateries will now be run by Denver-based Service System Associates, which has been in charge of the zoo’s retail operations for three years.

The company will create new menus for the restaurants, zoo director Jim Anderson says, which will be found in the same locations throughout the zoo. The menus will shrink a bit in an effort to speed up service, and the Dairy Queen will no longer be open.

“One of the challenges is that Sunday, we’ll see 5,000 people, and the next day it’s 500, so service design becomes a huge issue,” he says.

Food options will include basic amusement park fare: burgers, chicken tenders and, new to the zoo, pizza by the slice, says Christine Jamison, a general manager for Service System Associates.

To make up for the missing Dairy Queen, the zoo will have some soft-serve ice cream options, as well as cotton candy, popcorn, fries and soft drinks.

Qdoba offers free meal for Valentine’s Day kiss

Qdoba restaurants are making sure they will be full of lovers – of each other or free food – this Valentine’s Day.

The chain is offering a deal where you can buy one entrée and get one of equal or lesser value free. All you have to do? Smooch for the cashier.

Bring a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, close friend or stranger to one of the Fort Wayne-area Qdoba restaurants Tuesday for the deal.

I wonder what the beau is doing for lunch on Tuesday. Ahem.

Sausage dishes on menu from students

Once a week for a 10-week period, the regular staff at the Holiday Inn’s Mastodon Grill is replaced by a class of 10 to 14 students.

As part of their coursework, upper-level hospitality management students at IPFW have to create their own menu and run the grill.

“They manage the thing completely,” says John Niser, the chair of the consumer and family science department who is in charge of the course. “A lot of schools have got restaurants and hotels, and they kind of do it within the campus. Here, we’re open to the public, so it’s a real, real, real kind of thing.”

Students create their own menu based on a theme Niser provides, assign themselves jobs based on their skills – from marketing to managing to food prep – and run the restaurant with their “staff” and the regular Mastodon Grill staff.

This semester, Niser looked to the movement in restaurants some call “sophisticated street food.” The idea is to create cheaper menu items by dressing up less expensive ones.

Niser’s class created a menu based around artisan sausages, including duck breast sausage and kielbasa.

The student-run restaurant, La Charcuterie Restaurant, opens Tuesday.

Also opening Tuesday is the Barr Street Café, the restaurant run by culinary arts students at Anthis Career Center. The menu features beef, chicken and shrimp dishes.

Openings, closings at local restuarants

•Captain Ron’s Corral’s grand opening was last past weekend. The bar and grill is owned by Ron Layton, whose background is varied: He’s worked in the bar industry, in mom-and-pop restaurants and in “the finest dining country clubs outside Chicago.”

Captain Ron’s has a country flavor, Layton says, and he hopes to showcase country bands on Friday and Saturday nights. The menu features staples such as burgers, pasta and barbecue.

In the short time the restaurant has been open, Layton says, the beef and chicken kabob appetizers have become an instant hit.

•Century Chinese Buffet on East Dupont Road appears to have closed. Though the buffet’s website was still up and running as of Tuesday afternoon, no one answered the business phone. Reader JT Osborne wrote in that the restaurant is locked with a lockbox, and the inside is devoid of tables and chairs.

•House of Greens on Jefferson Boulevard also appears to be closed, as the restaurant has been emptied of tables and chairs. The phone number is no longer in service.

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