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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Ryan DuVall | The Journal Gazette The signature Pollo Asado at Pepe’s Pollo Loco on Decatur Road

  • Chicken gizzards and hearts from The Golden in the Ash Skyline Plaza downtown.

  • Ryan DuVall | The Journal Gazette Dairy-free bread pudding from Trubble Brewing on Broadway.

  • God’s Butter Roasted Bone Marrow with duck fat toast and bacon jam at Tolon in downtown Fort Wayne

  • Classic British Fish & Chips at Payne's Restaurant in Gas City.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Owners of The Golden, Aaron Butts, left, holding a McGolden burger, and Sean Richardson, right, holding Chicken-Fried Offal

  • Upside-Down Rhubarb Cake at Tolon in downtown Fort Wayne

  • A filet with bearnaise sauce at the new Rib Room on East State Boulevard.

  • Vegetarian Risotto at Old Crown Coffee Roasters on Anthony Boulevard

  • A meat pie at Nella's Coffee & Grill Bosnian Restaurant on Parnell Avenue.

  • The Black Forest Cake from The Berg Ale Haus in Huntington.

  • The house-made blueberry soda made for a great float when combined with some of Antiqology's vanilla ice cream.

  • Canadian Poutine at Mitchell's Sports & Neighborhood Grill in the Westland Mall off of West Jefferson Boilevard.

  • Ginger pot de creme with plums at The Golden in the Ash Skyline Plaza downtown.

  • The PBJ Dog at Summit City Brewerks in the old Wayne Bun Candy factory.

  • The McGolden cheeseburger from The Golden in Ash Skyline Plaza downtown

Saturday, December 31, 2016 10:12 pm

The best of 2016

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

It was a great year when it came to restaurants in the Fort Wayne area.

Downtown continued to explode with new, exciting places and some favorites returned in stunning fashion.

And as I look ahead this year, I already have a long list of targets as this area just keeps blessing us all with great places to dine.


Best places


The Golden, 898 Harrison St. – Former Joseph Decuis chef Aaron Butts and his partner, Sean Richardson, opened what may be the best restaurant I have ever been to in Fort Wayne. A dining room that is welcoming to everyone combined with an approachable, but upscale, menu makes it the gold standard.

Tolon, 614 Harrison St. – Former Eddie Merlot’s chef Matthew Nolot and his wife, Nicky, have done pretty well on their own, too. A foodie’s dream with a local-heavy menu of upscale dishes.

Mitchell’s Sports Bar & Grill, 6179 W. Jefferson Blvd. – After it burned to the ground in 2013 in the Marketplace of Canterbury, original owner Todd Smith brought back what was –and again is – the best sports bar in the city.

Cindy’s Diner, 230 W. Berry St. – John and Cindy Scheele handed the reins of this downtown staple to longtime server Angie Harter and it hasn’t missed a beat. It is impossible not to love.

Rib Room, 1235 E. State Blvd. – After this legendary spot closed last year, Chris, Matt and Kurt Henry brought it back and brought it up date in terms of atmosphere and menu.


Best starters


God’s Butter Roasted Bone Marrow, Tolon – The best marrow I have ever had with an herbaceous chimichurri to cut the richness of the fat. But it was the bacon jam that was the icing on the cake on this masterpiece. It is worthy of God’s stamp of approval.

Chicken-Fried Offal, The Golden – Taking chicken hearts and gizzards, braising them and then perfectly frying them made these bits so mild you won’t even believe they are innards.

Vegetarian Risotto, Old Crown Coffee Roasters, 3417 N. Anthony Blvd. – Chef Jeremy Selvio made the risotto with the perfect consistency and an almost velvety texture that was perfectly seasoned. House-made vegetable stock and European butter gave it that rich, creamy texture. It had asparagus, red peppers and meaty little crimini mushrooms and was finished with some shaved Parmesan and a pinch of parsley.

Poutine, Mitchell’s – A different spin on the traditional Canadian dish, Mitchell’s had slow-cooked pork, a silky white queso sauce and a touch of beef gravy.

Meat Pie, Nella’s Coffee and Grill, 4606 Parnell Ave. – These pies were the crown jewel of this Bosnian restaurant that opened this year and had plenty of jewels on its unique menu. Dough is rolled out super thin and then filled with seasoned beef before being rolled up and sort of braided like a pretzel. It is baked until the exterior is golden brown and crisp, but the interior of the bread is still tender and moist.


Best mains


McGolden, The Golden – Two patties of beef from Hawkins Family Farm in North Manchester were seared to be just a little crispy and were topped with beer cheese, lettuce, pickles and dijonnaise. The beef in this spin on a Big Mac was rich and flavorful and it was allowed to shine, just picking up a little flavor from the sauce and cheese. Probably the best upscale burger in town.

Fish & Chips, Payne’s, Gas City – Owner Stephen Payne is a native Brit so it makes sense he knows how to make this across-the-pond favorite. But just to make sure, he spent some time volunteering in chip shops across the Atlantic to master his technique. "They thought it was odd," Payne said of his free labor. "It would be like someone from over there coming here and working for free at McDonald’s." The big cod fillet was encapsulated in a crispy, light and perfectly seasoned batter. The fish inside was super moist and almost buttery. It was easily the best fish and chips I have found in this region.

PB&J Hot Dog, Summit City Brewerks, 1501 E. Berry St. – A big, beefy, salty, jumbo Angus hot dog smeared with a heavy dose of peanut butter and grape jelly. I add bacon to mine because it just seemed like the right thing to do. And it was. The mix of the sweet jelly, the peanut butter and the crispy salty bacon made me fall in love with it.

Pollo Asado, Pepe’s Pollo Loco, 5010 Decatur Road – This bright-red, grilled chicken marinated in adobo sauce is the restaurant’s specialty. It had the flavor of sweet peppers with just a hint of spice.

Filet Mignon, Rib Room – This 6-ounce cut of beef was perfectly seasoned and cooked to a spot-on medium rare. I had mine slathered with béarnaise sauce and found it to be one of the best filets I have had in years.


Best desserts


Ginger Pot de Creme, The Golden – Smooth custard that had just the right zing of ginger. It was topped with thinly sliced, super ripe plums and a honey-black sesame granola.

Black Forest Cake, Berg Ale Haus, Huntington – Made by the owner’s mother, this cake was beautiful with its fluffy white icing, chocolate shavings and a plump red cherry on top. It had a light, but still very chocolaty, base sandwiched around a chunky cherry filling with a nice tart edge to it.

Floats, Antiqology, Huntington – Just around the corner from the Berg, this antique store and craft soda shop is a real gem. The ice cream from a Michigan creamery is delicious and I love pairing it with one of their house-made, on-tap sodas. The fresh strawberry and blueberry seasonal sodas made great floats. But even if they are not available, you have only about 500 other bottled sodas to choose from – I highly suggest the Brownie Caramel Cream Root Beer.

Pudding in Paradise, Trubble Brewing, 2725 Broadway – This dairy-free bread pudding – yes, dairy-free – really surprised and took a backseat to no-dairy, inclusive versions. The crunchy toasted almonds on top were the perfect accents to this gooey, tasty concoction with pineapple, lime and ginger incorporated in it.

Upside-Down Rhubarb Cake, Tolon – It was just like the pineapple upside-down cake my mom makes except with rhubarb – sweet, tart and delicious.


Welcome


New restaurants this year:

The Golden

Nella’s Bosnian Restaurant

The Rib Room

Junk Ditch Brewing Company, 1825 W. Main St. – The owners of the popular Affine food truck started a brick and mortar.

Rosati’s, 4240 W. Jefferson Blvd. – The newest pizzeria is offering Chicago-style pies opened in Jefferson Pointe.


Goodbye


Restaurants that closed this year:

Marco’s on 2nd, Decatur – One of my all-time favorites went away when one of my all-time favorite chefs, Mark Graves, closed its doors.

Deli 620, 110 W. Berry St. – The downtown lunch favorite that I loved for its fantastic soups and that was forced to find a new home a couple of years ago has bid us adieu.

Big Rick’s BBQ, 2461 Hobson Road – It is gone, but Rickey Jordan is still selling his barbecue goodies at Acme Bar & Grill, 1105 E. State Blvd.

Switta Thai, 5820 Challenger Parkway – It had long been my favorite Thai spot, just off Lima Road along Washington Center Road. The Facebook page mentioned a new location was being sought, but I have heard nothing since that post in April.

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.