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The Dish

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Longing for more local cuisine options

Many people call Fort Wayne a city of churches; I always thought it seemed more like a city of restaurants.

For the city’s size, Fort Wayne residents have a seemingly endless array of cuisine choices, from Italian to Cuban to Thai.

But still, we can’t be happy. Still, there are restaurants we want to see find a home in our city. In some cases, folks have cared so much about it that they’ve started Facebook groups for their wishes.

Here’s a list of restaurants people (or I) would like to see open in northeast Indiana:

•Anything German. Although some restaurants do offer German options, most residents need to wait until Germanfest, currently happening, or other German-related events for their fill of German potato salad and weinerschnitzel.

The Facebook group “Fort Wayne Needs a Beer Garden/German/Oktoberfest style Restaurant” has 70 members, as of Tuesday morning, who periodically gripe about the lack of German fare in the city, and they remember previous failed German attempts. They name drop the failed Guesthaus Winfried, which Bob Anweiler names as the most recent former German restaurant in town.

Anweiler is a member of the local German Heritage Society and on the Germanfest board, and he has a few thoughts about why German restaurants don’t seem to succeed in town: For one, some people are cooking German food, they just don’t consider it as such, like pork and potatoes. An ethnic cuisine such as Chinese, for example, is much different from typical dishes a restaurant that is not a Chinese or Asian restaurant would serve.

Also, people are partial to their way of making dishes. If they try something that isn’t like grandma used to make, well, they don’t want it.

“People are a little territorial about their grandma’s recipes,” Anweiler says. “So maybe it doesn’t taste exactly like what they’re used to. ‘It’s not German.’ Well, it is German. It’s just a variation.”

Where to get it: The Venice (2242 Goshen Road) has a German night the third Friday of every month, and St. James Restaurant (204 E. Albion St., Avilla) has a German section on its menu. A German restaurant has also filed for a permit with the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, but e-mails to the contact person were unreturned. Stay tuned for more info as I get it.

•P.F. Chang’s. This is another restaurant with a Facebook presence. The page “They need to open a P.F. Changs in Fort Wayne!” has 144 likes as of Tuesday morning. The September 2011 issue of “Fort Wayne Monthly” had the restaurant listed as the No. 3 most-wanted business in the city.

Where to get it: There are a number of sit-down Chinese restaurants in town, and your closest bet to P.F. Chang’s – something with a full bar and that sort of menu variety – might be The Noodle Bowl (10350 Coldwater Road). The cuisine isn’t “Chinese” so much as Asian, with noodle bowls, hibachi meals and more, but the full bar makes it more akin to P.F. Chang’s than other Chinese restaurants in town.

The closest P.F. Chang’s to Fort Wayne is in Maumee, Ohio, at the Shops at Fallen Timbers (2300 Village Drive).

•Cheesecake Factory. This came in at the No. 8 spot in the “Fort Wayne Monthly” list, and it’s an opinion I can fully throw my support behind. I’ve never seen a Cheesecake Factory that wasn’t crowded. Like Olive Garden or Red Lobster, this chain always has a wait. You’d think some business savvy restaurateur would have seen Fort Wayne as a potential goldmine by now. The sheer size of the menu – I really think their servers have to be geniuses to memorize that thing – makes it pretty hard to name a comparable location, especially in keeping with the Cheesecake Factory’s price range.

Where to get it: The closest location is at The Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis (8701 Keystone Crossing).

•Spanish tapas bar. Tapas are a variety of appetizers that can serve as a main meal in Spanish cuisine. The idea is that you get together with a group of friends, order a variety of tapas and share.

It’s much more of an event than the eat-’em-and-dash atmosphere of much of American dining. This simply doesn’t exist in Fort Wayne.

Where to get it: Chop’s Wine Bar (6421 W. Jefferson Blvd.) does have a small-plates menu, but the food is more American than Spanish. Cerulean (1101 E. Canal St.; Winona Lake) also offers a variety of small plates.

•The Melting Pot, or other fondue restaurant. Maybe it’s because the restaurant is so uncommon that going to The Melting Pot seems like such a treat. I’ve been three times, and the experience – from the smells, to cooking your own bites of meat in the oils, to the cheese … oh, the cheese – is unlike any other dining experience I’ve had.

Where to get it: The Melting Pot of Indianapolis (5650 East 86th St.) is the closest to Fort Wayne.

Opening

800 Degrees Three Fires (5215 Illinois Road) opened Saturday and, one day later, set an all-time sales record for 800 Degrees restaurants, according to general manager Matt Rogers on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

The second location for the popular 800 Degrees restaurant, the first of which opened on Lima Road in August 2009, features three fires used to cook its wood-fired pizzas: two wood-fired ovens, similar to the one in the restaurant’s first location, as well as a wood-fired hearth, which Rogers calls the first of its kind in Fort Wayne.

In addition to its specialty pizzas, the new restaurant offers a variety of small plates and a broader selection of regional craft beers. Soon, Three Fires will also have a seasonal menu with wood-grilled entrees.

Brew tasting

Tickets are on sale for the June 16 Home Brew Tasting at Cerulean (1101 E. Canal St.; Winona Lake), which features nearly 30 home brewers.

The restaurant held its first home brew tasting last year with 15 to 20 brewers from Kosciusko County, owner Caleb France says. The Kettleheads, a group of the county’s home brewers, approached Cerulean to see if it would be interested in hosting the fundraising event, and France figured it would be a good way to piggyback on the craft beer movement.

“It’s really educational,” France says. “(They) work through the beer list from light to dark, talking with customers about how they make and brew their beer. It’s the whole process.”

Only 200 tickets are available. They run $20, and all proceeds will go to Combine Community Services, which collaborates with local churches, businesses and more to help low-income residents of Kosciusko County achieve self-sufficiency.

To purchase, call Cerulean at 574-269-1226.

New menu items

Pembroke Bakery (300 E. Main St., in the Auer Center for Arts & Culture) debuted a variety of new menu items Saturday.

The bakery now offers breakfast on Saturdays, including waffles and a tofu scramble.

“We’ve had people coming in, begging for breakfast, and we had really not been set up to do that,” owner Angie Quinn says. “(We figured) let’s do a vegan breakfast on Saturday mornings.”

During the ride-your-bike-to-work day in May, Pembroke offered free coffee to bikers who showed up with their helmets from 7 to 9 a.m. The bakery offered the tofu scramble then and saw how well it was received. It will now be available daily, and waffles will be available on Saturdays. To accommodate its new offerings, Pembroke now opens at at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Though Saturday and in conjunction with Germanfest, Pembroke is also offering a Black Forest cake. The cake will be available only through Saturday, though the German rye breads on special are featured occasionally, and the schnecken – a type of German cinnamon roll – is available daily.

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

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