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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 1:00 am

Prepare when eating out this time of year

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

Christmas is nearly here, and the New Year's holiday is close behind.

With the season comes family, friends and special holiday hours at area restaurants – and sometimes family and friends meeting at area restaurants during those special hours.

If you are planning on dining out over the next couple weeks, keep a few things in mind:

• Many restaurants will be taking reservations, even if it's not the norm, as seats fill up fast. Be sure to call and check when planning on a meal.

• Moving with the industry norm, some restaurants will charge up to 20 percent gratuity for parties of six or more – not eight or 10 as it used to be. Some restaurants will print the policy on the menu, but it doesn't hurt to ask when making reservations or being seated.

• Restaurants are being designed with special occasions, like this time of year, in mind. The newer restaurants, especially, have party rooms and private dining areas available. If you have a larger party, ask about such a space.

Area restaurants with special hours over the holidays include:

Granite City Brewery will host two meals on Sunday. Its Christmas Eve brunch will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the holiday feast will be from 4 p.m. to close.

Brunch includes carved meats, smoked salmon, Reggianno hash browns, Chef's choice entrees, vegetables and assortment of select pastries.

The dinner buffet will feature roasted prime rib, candied-apple stuffed pork loin, pasta primavera, roasted turkey, Chef Will's potatoes, green beans, soup, salad and dessert. Reservations can be made online, and last I checked there were some available.

For New Year's Eve, the Coldwater Road restaurant will host a four-course brewer's dinner for $39.95. The meal will include lobster toast, citrus salad, steak de burgo or prosciutto-wrapped chicken and Broad Axe mousse. All courses include a beer pairing. Reservations are available from 5 to 10 p.m.; call 471-3030.

Don Hall's Restaurants will be closed on Christmas Day but will be open on Sunday. However, hours will vary depending on the location. At Don Hall's Guesthouse on West Washington Center Road, meals will be served until closing at 8 p.m.

The hotel and restaurant will also host a party on New Year's Eve. In the grand ballroom, there will be a live band, buffet dinner, cash bar and complimentary champagne toast at midnight. Tickets cost $69 plus tax. An all-inclusive package that includes an overnight at the hotel, party and breakfast New Year's Day begins at $209.

Casa Restaurants will have limited hours on Christmas Eve and will be closed Christmas Day. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Casa restaurants will be open for cold carry-out. Salads and pans of cold lasagna are available for pre-order and can be picked up then.

Junk Ditch Brewing Co., 1825 W. Main St., will be open for brunch on Christmas Eve. It will be closed for Christmas. On New Year's Eve, the restaurant will be open for its typical Sunday brunch in the morning and will offer its pub menu until it closes at 8 p.m.

Trubble Brewing, 2725 Broadway, will host Stuck in the '90s on Christmas night. The party will go from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it includes Christmas cookies, beer, 1990s hip-hop music. There will be a spot for a dance floor, so it might be time to polish up your old-school moves. There is no cover.

• As Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, Lucky Moose, 622 E. Dupont Road, will offer its regular brunch buffet but will have specials from 2 p.m. until the restaurant closes at 6 p.m. Diners can get a pizza, flatbread or an order of wings for $7.77, and that includes the salad bar. On Dec. 31, the restaurant will have a brunch buffet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a New Year's Eve party for wimps in the evening. In addition to the champagne toast at 10 p.m., there will be a buffet from 5 to 9 p.m. The line, which costs $15.77, will feature royal red shrimp, coconut shrimp, boom boom shrimp, house-smoked salmon cakes, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, roasted red potatoes, soup and salad bar and chocolate cake.

For those who might want to celebrate the New Year a day early, Lucky Moose will also have specials Dec. 30.

Reservations are recommended; call 490-5765.

Grabill loses Inn

Known for handmade noodles, from-scratch pies and “lighter” dishes such as pot roast, Grabill Inn has been a staple in the community just north of Fort Wayne.

So it was a hard hit and bit of a surprise when the family who owns the restaurant announced last week that it would close. The spot at 13706 Grandview Drive will serve its last dishes on Dec. 30.

It's bittersweet, according to staff, who say they support their boss in the decision to close. Cindy DeCamp, whose family has owned the building since 1977, will retire. The property and parking lot are for sale.

Since the announcement on Facebook, business has been brisk as longtime patrons get their favorites for the last time and say goodbye to staff.

Adios, Salud

December brought some bittersweet news for brothers Chris and Jerry Rongos and their family.

The owners of Salsa Grille, whose father founded George's International Market, opened a fourth location of Salsa Grille on St. Joe Center Road, near Maplecrest Road.

But in the same week, it was also announced that Salud Tapas N Tequila will close Dec. 30.

Salud, 5735 Falls Drive, offers a more upscale concept for fans of Rongos' fast-casual Salsa Grille. It offered tequila flight, small plates and tableside-prepared guacamole.

A Facebook post reports that there is another restaurant planned for the spot. There's no word yet on what it will be.

Burger spot open

The award-winning burger concept BurgerFi opened its doors Monday.

The fast-casual restaurant is in the Coldwater Place Shopping Center at 7777 Coldwater Road, just north of Northrop High School.

The local franchise is owned by Gavin Hart and Mike Catalogna, restaurant-industry veterans in the area who plan to add more BurgerFi locations.

“We're excited to bring the first BurgerFi location to the residents of Fort Wayne and provide them with a place where they can enjoy our unrivaled better burger offerings in a fun, family dining experience,” Catalogna says. “We are a fast-casual restaurant for foodies, where there's something for everyone to enjoy whether you're a meat eater, vegetarian or vegan.”

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant has a seating capacity for about 72 inside its dining room and patio seating for 36.

BurgerFi will offer its chef-driven menu items, including a variety of craft burgers, hand-cut fries and onion rings served with house-made sauces, and its proprietary Veggie Burger.

In addition, the Fort Wayne restaurant will serve the chain's newest menu item – the Beyond Burger, a plant-based burger that looks and cooks like traditional beef.

The restaurant will also serve various regional and local craft beers on tap including Bell's Beers and 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Bakehouse gifts

Krystal Vega and her crew at Zinnia's Bakehouse are still taking orders for the holidays.

Breads are $2 to $6; pies, $18 to $27; macarons, $2 each; cupcakes, $2.75 each; cookies, $1 to $2 each; and baklava.

Macarons, cupcake and cookies have vegan and/or gluten-free options.

The location at 1320 E. State. Blvd. will be open from 7 a.m. to noon Sunday for order pickups. The store will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Orders can also be placed at the City Exchange location, 127 W. Wayne St., or call 483-4765.

Trip to Ireland

J.K. O'Donnell's patrons need to get their passports ready.

As a way to say thank you to its guests over the past 10 years, the downtown Irish pub will be hosting a contest that will send one diner and a guest on a seven-day, six-night trip to Ireland.

While the official rules are being hammered out, participants will be given a passport.

Beginning Jan. 3, each visit to the restaurant will earn a stamp in a passport (only one stamp per day). When participants have five stamps, they are given an official entry into the giveaway.

J.K. O'Donnell's is partnering with Vera Bradley and Fort Wayne International Airport for the giveaway.

Vera Bradley will gift the winner a set of luggage, and FWA will provide the airfare to Dublin.

The winners will also go on several tours, including to the Guinness beer factory and the Jameson whiskey factory.

Co-owner Cari Bean says the contest, as well as its participation in Savor Fort Wayne, will take the restaurant into St. Patrick's Day, which is always a fun time of the year.

Around town

Hobo's Bar & Grill has opened at 2701 W. Jefferson Blvd. The restaurant, which is in the former Red Rok BBQ, serves loaded potatoes – hobos – and crab boil among other dishes. Call 209-2179 for hours and information.

Bravas is hosting its first-ever kids night on Friday. The burger joint, 3412 Fairfield Ave., will have a special children's menu, face painting, a magician and special games. The fun will be from 6 to 9 p.m.

Cerulean will close the doors to its downtown Indianapolis restaurant, according to the Indianapolis Star. The closure will not affect the Warsaw location.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8304.