Queen of Sheba

Savor Fort Wayne season came around again, and it’s one of our favorite times to go out to eat. It can be a chance to eat at what is usually a big splurge restaurant, or to get a great deal at a tried & true favorite, or to try something new to you, which is what we did this time, heading to Queen of Sheba. The fixed price menu seemed like an opportunity to try several different options at the Ethiopian restaurant.

(Note…I really want to have a movie clip here, but I can’t find the right scene, probably because there are so many more famous scenes from “When Harry Met Sally,” so instead you’ll just get the quote.)

Harry Burns: We’re talking dream date compared to my horror. It started out fine, she’s a very nice person, and we’re sitting and we’re talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, “Hey I didn’t know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I’ll order two empty plates and we can leave.” Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile.

You kind of want to watch “When Harry Met Sally” now, don’t you? That’s cool, you can do that, this will still be here when you get back.

Oh hey, you’re still here. (Or you’re back. How was the movie?) Want to hear about our dinner? Dig it.

One of the first things we noticed at Queen of Sheba was that there was a bit of an adorable language barrier, in that the special menus they gave us proudly declared, “Save Fort Wayne” at the top. But if eating Ethiopian food is what it takes to save our city, we were willing to give it a shot. There weren’t any descriptions of the menu items, but the server covering the dining room patiently walked through all of it with us, making note of spicy things and directing the lightweight (Wendy) to non-spicy selections. For $30, we each had our choice of an appetizer, soup, entrée, and dessert.

Maybe we should explain why all of our food looks green. The dining room has fluorescent lights, and each fixture had a different colored filter or lens or cover or whatever they’re called. (Beth and Wendy like food, not lighting.) So overall the room had a bit of a festive rainbow vibe, but our table had a greenish hue. Perhaps not the best lighting for eating.

2017-01-21-19-26-27
Sambussa

Wendy: I started with the Sambussa, a triangular pastry stuffed with beef, and boy did it start the meal off on a high note. The pastry was crispy but still flaky, and not at all greasy. The filling was savory and delicious and I knew I should pace myself because more food was coming, but I ate every last bit of it.

 

falafel
Falafel

Beth: I opted for the Falafel, which came with a side of Hummus. It was good. Honestly, I always think I like Falafel more than I actually do, so I can’t accurately speak for whether this Falafel was better than other Falafel. And since we are quoting “When Harry Met Sally,” I’d think I would have liked to look over at Wendy and say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

 

 

tomatosoup
Fresh Tomato Soup

Beth: Second course was soup. And as we know, soup is good food. At the moment I have a bit of an obsession with tomato soup, and so I decided on the Fresh Tomato Soup. It was not what I expected. It came with mint on top and that was the overriding flavor. I like mint, but didn’t expect it and therefore it seemed kind of off-putting. I guess I should have chosen foods that I had no familiarity with so I wouldn’t have been disappointed.

lentil
Ezekiel Soup

 

Wendy: I opted for the Ezekiel Soup, with sixteen kinds of beans and grains. I’m not usually big on bean and/or lentil soups, which I think is a mental block stemming from the lentil soup of my childhood (sorry, Mom). But this was quite tasty, with lots of flavor and so many beans and a slight creaminess to it. The bowl was enormous and again I ate too much of it.

2017-01-21-19-47-45
Chicken Tibs

Beth: They call me Chicken Tibs. Okay, if you’re not old enough to have seen “In the Heat of the Night,” you’ll not get that joke. And even if you are, I admit, it’s pretty lame. However, when I ordered Chicken Tibs, I knew I’d be using that reference in this review and since we’ve been quoting movies, well there you go.

Because I am diabetic, I’m always looking for dishes that are protein heavy. This one was, and it was, wait for it… delicious! It was spicy, tasty and filled with Ethiopian goodness. In addition to the chicken, onions and peppers, the sauce was comprised of Berbere, a common spice mixture usually made from chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, radhuni, nigella and fenugreek, commonly found in Ethiopian food. I sound like I know what I’m talking about, right? Yes, thank you Wikipedia. Anyway, it made my nose run, which is always a sign that a spice has done its job. Excellent!

2017-01-21-19-49-20-copy
Siga Alicha Wot

Wendy: For my main course, even though I was by now plenty full, I had the Siga Alicha Wot (I think…omg…I forgot to write it down), a thick beef stew with peppers and onions, served with traditional Ethiopian flatbread. I thought I had ordered the chicken version, but apparently I ordered beef, which was cool. The beef was really tender, and not fatty or chewy at all, which is why I would normally order the chicken version of something: beef pickiness. I really enjoyed the dish, and the leftovers made a mighty fine dinner again a few days later since I went to town on the first two courses. It finally happened, though: I found a bread I don’t care for (Beth here — totally agree with Wendy on this). I’m not a fan of the flatbread. I’ve had it once before at another Ethiopian restaurant, and the spongy texture does not do it for me at all. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor and I know it’s traditional to eat with one’s hands and use the bread to do so, but I’ll stick with my fork.

baklava
Baklava

Wendy: By this time I was stuffed, but since dessert was included, we had the server bring them out for tasting purposes. The menu indicated banana fritters as an option, but I was told no, they didn’t actually have them, but they did have baklava, so I ordered that. It was related to the baklava we know, but instead of layers of pastry and chopped nuts, it was more like a little nut turnover, with yummy honey-cinnamony gooeyness. It was heavy on the nuts for my personal preference, but the sweet goop was quite tasty. There’s probably a better way to say that.

Beth: I know, I know. Dessert is included, but it’s hard enough to try to figure out how many carbohydrates are in a typical U.S. dish that I opted out of dessert and lived vicariously through Wendy as she oohed and awwed over her Baklava.

Service was a little on the slow side. It took a long time for the appetizers to come out, considering at that time there was only one other table of diners and they were already midway through their meal. There were some peculiarities as well, for example clearing our dishes and placing them on a nearby table in order to serve the next course. That wouldn’t really fly if they had been busier.

The verdict:

Beth: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. It’s my own fault for choosing dishes that are common. The tibs were really good, but not enough to move this to the top of restaurants that I love.

Wendy: You had me at I don’t give a damn. Sometimes I feel like we need to revamp our rating system because I can’t figure out where something fits. I liked the food; I definitely want to eat it again. But atmosphere and service were kind of meh. And the rating mash up I picked sounds negative, so maybe I should have said, “Frankly my dear, hello.” Either way, I’m somewhere in the middle. If you’re looking for an ethnic eating adventure, go for it.

Queen of Sheba
2805 E. State Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46805
260-498-7862
Queen of Sheba Facebook page

 

Pickles Café

picklesAt long last, we made it to Pickles Café, a little off the beaten path in the bustling town of Dunfee (you’ll get that reference if you listen to the Columbia City high school radio station, which you should, because it’s very good). We’ve been eager to check out this reportedly hidden gem, located on County Line Road on the eastern edge of Whitley County. They’re only open for lunch, with breakfast foods also available on Saturdays.

To reach the dining room and outdoor patio you first pass through a room with antiques and food items for sale. It’s like Cracker Barrel, if Cracker Barrel actually were a small country store and restaurant. The café is cozy, with only 10 or 12 tables, but comfortable and charming (Today’s post is brought to you by the letter C). Upon arrival, Beth (who had been to Pickles before) informed me that the upstairs houses a tack store, but since we weren’t in need of jodhpurs or riding crops, we took a pass.

chickensalad
Chicken Lickin’ Salad Sandwich
Wendy: The menu was full of yummy sounding options. After asking the waitress for some of her favorite recommendations, I opted for the Chicken Lickin’ Salad Sandwich ($7.25), which is one of the things they’re known for, and with good reason. Chicken salad is chicken salad is chicken salad, right? Wrong! This was quite possibly the best chicken salad I’ve ever had, with just enough dill to be interesting and flavorful, without overpowering it. And there were small pieces of mandarin orange which added just a little bright sweetness. It was delicious. The sandwich was served with small melon wedges and potato chips. The chips were basic, but I’ve since heard that they generally have good side salad options, so either I missed that somewhere, or they don’t have them on Saturdays when they’re also serving breakfast.

 

gravy
Hot Mess Hash

Beth: Okay, I admit it. I’m a Pickles fan, and when Wendy mentioned that she hadn’t been I agreed that it should be on our list of places to visit. Now, for those of you that know my health history, I warn you — this next part is not pretty. Tuck your judgy notions in your pocket and enjoy along with me the yumminess of my selection. Wendy opted for lunch and I for breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, after all. I chose a concoction known as Hot Mess Hash ($7.95). This decadent mix of hash browns, onion, cheddar cheese, Honey Ham, homemade horseradish sauce, scrambled eggs and sausage gravy was as comforting as a soft blanket and pjs. Every once in awhile one needs to indulge, and this was such a day.

Wendy: I liked the atmosphere, with mismatched plates and mason jars for drinking glasses. And speaking of drinking glasses, the water was served with a tiny fresh mint leaf, another fresh little surprise.

Beth: Pickles reminds me of a one of those places that you see on a road trip and say to yourself, “that place looks like it would be good,” and so you stop and fall in love and make a pact with yourself to always stop there every time you travel that direction. And the fact that it is in a place called Dunfee, which seems to have only a couple of houses and a church, makes it seem even more so.

The wall in the dining room sported a chalkboard listing the day’s pie offerings. And where better to have pie than at a small country café?

 

blueberry
Blueberry pie

Beth: Since I’d already given myself permission to fall off the proverbial healthy food wagon, pie seemed like a good idea. And, of course, it was. Blueberry pie was my selection and it was delicious. Like melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Regrets, I’ve had a few, but this was not one of them.

peanutbutter
Peanut butter pie

Wendy: I had a slice of the peanut butter pie, which was basically like eating a plate of really scrumptious buckeyes. Creamy, peanut buttery, chocolatey goodness.

The verdict

Beth: “You had me at ‘hello’. For some reason, people in Fort Wayne sometimes think that certain areas of Allen County are just too far away to visit. If you can’t get there in less than 10 minutes, well, let’s forget it. I’m here to tell you that Pickles is worth the extra gas it takes to get to Dunfee (which is actually just a teeny-tiny bit north of Hwy. 14 on County Line Rd.)

Wendy: “You had me at ‘hello’.” Right on, Beth – definitely worth the small drive. I want to go back soon and have that chicken salad again, and also try more things. It’s too far of a hike for me to make it out there on a workday, but I will look forward to any excuse to head toward Pickles again.

Pickles Café
5310 S 800 E-92
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818
Phone: (260) 625-5082
Located on the Whitley/Allen County Line Rd between State Rd 30 and State Rd 14, approx 7 miles from I-69
plumtickledjunction.com

 

Junk Ditch Brewing Company

Well, another day, another farm-to-fork restaurant opening in Fort Wayne…it’s kind of old hat by now, right?

(record scratch)

Wendy: Hold the phone, Beth. What’s going on around here?

Beth: I know! It seems like every time we turn around, there’s a hot new place opening up. And it is our obligation to you, readers, to check these places out as fast as our wallets can handle it.

The team behind the Affine food truck has expanded (the truck still exists, this hasn’t replaced it) into a full-fledged restaurant, with their own (and other) craft beers and an ever-evolving menu of small and large plates designed for sharing (yay for getting to try lots of things!).

We were going to mix things up a little and check out their brunch for our official review, and assembled a crew to go with us, but at the last minute Beth had a conflict, so Wendy and crew went anyway, and we’ll share a little about that with you also.

Our official outing was Saturday night dinner. We arrived around 7:00, and the parking lot outside the converted warehouse space was overflowing. Junk Ditch does not take reservations, and clearly we were not the only people wanting to check it out. The friendly hostess took our name and phone number, and said she’d call us when our table was ready, which conveniently allowed us to wander about outside for a while. She suggested it would be around 45 minutes. It was actually more like 46.

We weren’t sure how much food to order, so we consulted with our server and asked for his recommendations as well. He suggested that if we were just normal amounts of hungry (versus I could eat a large land mammal hungry), 2-3 small plates and one large plate would probably suffice, and he was correct. All of the large plates sounded good to us, but a number of the small plates sounded…maybe a little intimidating? Pig ears, veal tongue, sweetbreads…we’re open and adventurous, so we decided we had to try at least one out of the box offering.

Our waiter’s first recommendation was the Panzanella, a new item on the menu, featuring baby octopus that he said was beautifully cooked and tender, and he did such a nice sales pitch that it was one of our selections.

We ordered:

Panzanella ($7): heirloom tomato, basil, arugula, crispy baby octopus, green beans, and GK baguette in balsamic vinaigrette

Green Tomato Caesar ($8): green tomato, oyster Caesar, red onion, pepitas, lardons, cured egg yolk, kale

Chuck Roast ($34): herbed Anson Mills polenta, Joseph Decuis Farm Wagyu chuck roast, gochujang, scallion, sesame seeds, cilantro, slow egg

Let’s talk about the small plates first since those came first, shall we?

Panzenella
Panzanella

Wendy: I’ve only had octopus once before, and I did not care for it at all then. It tasted too…octopussy. It was kind of chewy and bleh. Pretty much the opposite of the deliciousness presented on the little plate of goodness we got. That panzanella was fab. I was talking yesterday to someone else who had it recently and all I could think about was wanting to taste that balsamic vinaigrette again.  And the octopus was anything but chewy – it kind of melted in your mouth, which became a theme for the evening for me. It would not have been a bad thing if there had been more octopus on that plate.

Beth: I’ve never had octopus before. I was a little nervous about ordering it, as I don’t typically like to eat food that resembles what it was when it was alive. However, this was described as “crispy” so I assumed (correctly) that it was fried. It was delicious. I was still somewhat put off by the thought of baby octopus, but that’s a Beth thing. Also, because Junk Ditch is a brewery, I opted for a 4th River American Pale Ale, brewed by Junk Ditch. It was tasty and a very nice start to what ended up being an exceptional evening.

greentomato
Green Tomato Caesar

Wendy: The Caesar deal-io was fine, but didn’t really excite me much. I continue not to understand the world’s fascination with kale. But I enjoyed the green tomato, and the lardon was bacon-y cubes of happiness. I did think the teeny, tiny plates they brought us to eat off of were too wee to be practical. I felt like I could only put one or two bites of food on my plate at a time. I appreciate the “small plate” aspect, but the logistics don’t have to be quite so literal.

Beth: I agree with Wendy on the Green Tomato Caesar. I suggested ordering it as our “safe” dish, considering how creative the rest of the small plate menu seemed to be. It was good, but definitely the weak link of the evening.

And then came the chuck roast…

chuck

Beth: All of the large plates sounded amazing, but the stand out for me seemed to be the chuck roast. When I think of roast, I think of tedious Tuesday night dinners when my mom would top a pot roast with Lipton Onion soup. Imagine my surprise to see a chuck roast on the menu and have it sound so very intriguing. And, as a result, was happy to see that our gamble paid off — it was AMAZING. Such a unique blending of flavors and a roast that was like none that I’ve ever had.

I’m going to veer off-topic for a second here and say how pleased I am to see restaurants of this caliber springing up in Fort Wayne. Once upon I time I swore that Fort Wayne would only support chain restaurants and that anything upscale didn’t have a snowball’s chance. That is no longer true. And, what’s even more impressive is that Junk Ditch has a very casual vibe. I wore a T-shirt and jeans and felt very comfortable there.

Wendy: Chuck roast is not something I would ever order – it doesn’t seem like “going out to eat” food. Maybe that’s one reason I wanted to try it – as in, how’d it make it onto this menu?  Let me sum it up in one word: mmmmmmmmmmm. (Is that a word, or more of a sound effect?) That meat was so tender and the polenta was so creamy – a bite of them together goes right back to that melt in your mouth experience. So good. So very, very good. And really an ample portion, definitely plenty for two and if it were for a bigger group into food sharing, plenty for multiple people to get in on the action.

One piece of feedback for Junk Ditch: serving utensils would be supremely helpful, especially for a goopy dish like this. Once you factor in the runniness of the egg, it was challenging to move food to our (thankfully larger than previous) plates.

Dessert? Yes, please! 

 

carrot
Carrot

Beth: I opted for the carrot cake, also known as “Carrot” ($7). The simple description of carrot, pineapple and pecan doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of this scrumptious platter. The carrot cake was more like a roll, with cream cheese rolled up inside of it. All of the rest was found on the plate along with a glaze that brought it all together. It was delicious and carbs be damned!

 

 

 

icecream
Coffee Caramel Ice Cream

Wendy: They were out of the cherry & beet tart which was what I’d had my eye on, but when our server told us they churn their own ice cream every day that intrigued me. Ice cream is tricky – were they up to the task? Why yes, yes they were. I ordered one scoop ($3) of the coffee caramel, which was accompanied by a stick of shortbread. I don’t drink coffee, but have affection for coffee-flavored ice cream, and this was the best I’ve ever had. The flavor was strong, and probably would have been too intense (for me) was it not for the balance provided by the caramel swirled over it.

 

 

 

And now, you’re in luck – it’s bonus brunch review time!

Let’s talk about brunch, baby
Let’s talk about these pastries

Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about brunch.

(I don’t know…apparently we sing during our reviews now.)

Except those lyrics are wrong – THERE ARE NO BAD THINGS ABOUT THIS BRUNCH.

Beth: Except it apparently needed Salt-N-Pepa?

 

chickenandwaffles
Chicken & Waffles

Wendy: (Ignoring bad pun) To remind you, Beth had a last minute conflict, so I went to brunch with previous guests of the blog Kron and my dad, and our friend Rich. Here are the things I got to taste: Eggs Benedict, Biscuits and Gravy, Potato Rosti, all the items on the Pastry Board, and I devoured the Chicken & Waffles. Everything was scrumptious and well executed, and the one I would have liked to have had more of (and will go back to eat again soon) was the Potato Rosti.  Ooh, and the cinnamon roll on the pastry board. Yeah. Yum. Yummy yum yum.

Here’s a summary of the table’s experience, courtesy of the Kron: “It’s a great time in Fort Wayne to have a stomach.”

The verdict

Beth: I say, “Push it real good.” Okay, enough with the Salt-N-Pepa references, but seriously, it was REAL GOOD. My verdict is most certainly “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Wendy:I’ll have what she’s having.” I want to go back and eat everything before they change the menu, and then go back and eat everything all over again after they change the menu, and so on and so on.

Junk Ditch Brewing Company
1825 West Main Street
Fort Wayne, IN, 46808
260 203-4045
junkditchbrewingco.com

The Golden

Holy shamoly, WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?? Life has sure been interfering with our eating out lately. Or at least with our eating out together, in an organized and reviewy fashion.

And was it really just our last review where we were chatting about Fort Wayne’s first farm to fork restaurant, and now we have a second one? Wahoo! We sure are living in a Golden age of dining around these parts. (Heh heh.)

The Golden, another highly anticipated hot spot opened up downtown earlier this summer, and we were eager to check it out. They don’t take reservations, but because we’re tragically unhip we showed up around 6:30 on a Saturday night and were seated immediately.

Located in the new Ash Skyline Plaza downtown, the space is gorgeous, although at times our table on the outside of the bar rail and near the host stand felt a bit infringed upon. Patrons standing in the bar area and another group waiting for a table were a bit too much in our space bubble.

Service was great. Our server Jordan was friendly and happy to chat about the menu with us. And midway through the meal when Beth launched her fork into the air, a passing team member immediately retrieved the one that hit the deck and fetched a new one.

cheese
Pimento cheese

While contemplating entrees, we started with an order of the pimento cheese ($6), served with toasted sourdough and pickles.

Wendy: Is it just me or is pimento cheese all the rage lately? I’m not sure how that happened.

Beth: I can’t speak to the popularity of pimento cheese as I have not had it since 1973. However, the bread was crusty and delicious. The little garnish was tasty, too. I know it was garnish because I asked the server, just to make sure there wasn’t some intended blending of the cheese and pickled egg/pickles. There was not.

Wendy: It was a good starter. There was a disproportionate amount of cheese in relation to sourdough. At first I was going to say there wasn’t enough toast, but I actually think it was an overly generous scoop of cheese.

burger
McGolden

Wendy: For dinner I ordered the McGolden ($16), a burger featuring two beef patties, beer cheese, fermented cucumber, and dijonaise on a honey bun (“Shake your…honeybuns! Shake your honeybuns!” Sorry. I can’t say or think “honey bun” without that happening.), served with fries and really delicious ketchup. It was all super yummy, and I love that their portions are right-sized. Plenty of food, nothing excessive.

salmon
Salmon

Beth: I chose the salmon, which was AH-mazing. It was served over a zephyr squash puree, zucchini-goat cheese risotto, porcini mushroom conserva, squash with asparagus. It was the best piece of salmon I’ve had in a long time — perfectly prepared. The puree was fab-o, too. The menu changes frequently, so this particular offering may not be available and if not, too bad for you. I can’t remember the price, but it was on the high-end.

Wendy: Beth, thank you so much for letting me have a taste of your dinner, and then another, and maybe even another. It was so good, as much as I enjoyed destroying my burger, I might’ve had a little bit of food envy going on.

berry
Sweet biscuits with strawberries and cream

Wendy: Beth was being super good, but I was all in and went for dessert. I had the sweet biscuits ($6) served with strawberries and vanilla cream. Mmm….it was so tasty. I could not stop eating the biscuits.

Beth: Speaking of food envy, who wouldn’t have it when that bowl of heaven showed up at our table? Due to health issues, I am watching my carb intake and would rather use them on my entree. But still, my mouth is watering as I write this.

So what’s the word?

Wendy: “I’ll have what she’s having.” After dinner we ran into a friend who asked me which was better, The Golden or Tolon. Why do I have to pick just one? Isn’t it fab that we actually have choices in new, innovative, delicious restaurants around town? I love the creative, challenging menus that get people out of our ruts and comfort zones. And, AND, The Golden is serving Sunday brunch – sign me up! I cannot wait to go back and check that out.

Beth: “I’ll have what she’s having.” I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Wendy, but I’m all in for The Golden. I don’t like to compare restaurants — they have their strengths, weaknesses and good days and bad. However, I have lived in Fort Wayne for a half century now, and am happy to say that we finally are getting the caliber of restaurants that until recently only existed in Indianapolis and Chicago. Hooray for The Golden! Hooray for Fort Wayne! Okay, I’ll settle down now.

 

The Golden

Tolon

After much anticipation, Fort Wayne’s first farm to fork restaurant has opened with noteworthy buzz, and we were very eager to check it out. So was everyone else, and we actually got shut out for the first weekend we tried to get a reservation – hats off to Tolon for creating such demand. With a little advance planning we were able to get a table for a Saturday night, so we rounded up some friends and went to see what all the fuss was about. Wendy’s boyfriend Kron and our friend Mike joined us again, which meant we got to taste more things – wahoo!!

Wendy: Beth, I know we usually build suspense for the final verdict , but I just have to say this right off the bat: that was totally worth putting on pants for. We may need a whole new rating system based on pants worthiness.

Beth: I know! Original, local and delicious. The trifecta of what Fort Wayne needed! It does seem like it took forever for Tolon to open, but it was so worth the wait. And the pants.

The space is lovely, upscale but comfortable, although the structural post right beside our table seemed to pose some challenges for the staff’s traffic flow. But that comes with adapting old spaces for new purposes and primarily added charm. Also, our table was close to the kitchen which made for a warm evening.

Service was friendly and consistent, attentive without crossing that line into being intrusive. Beverages never got too low without offers for refills, and our waiter even came to give us a two minute warning prior to dinner being served.

Frites
Duck Fat Frites

While perusing the menu, the table started with an order of duck fat frites ($7) to share. They were finished with smoked sea salt and served with a malt vinegar aioli. They were also delicious.

 

Wendy: Yes, they were French fries – who doesn’t love French fries? But these were like the best French fries ever. They weren’t greasy and they were consistently cooked – not like when you sometimes have a few that are too crispy and a few that are too soggy and a few that are just right. These were all just right. I didn’t taste much malt vinegar in the aioli, but that is not a complaint, just a statement. And it was a large serving, great for sharing.

Beth: Well, we all know that fat adds flavor and duck fat? Well, yum. They were delicious.

Kron started with the butternut squash soup ($8), with roast onion cream and herbed polenta croutons. It was poured table side in a fabulous flying saucer of a bowl. Fortunately he’s generous with food tastes, and we all got to sample the soup.

Beth: I was suffering from a head cold this particular evening, so I kept asking the server for spoons so I could sample without infecting my companions. I love squash soup and was eager to try, especially after the presentation. The bowl/flying saucer came with the onion cream already placed. Once the soup was poured on top, I immediately wanted to dive in and get some of that cream. I love intrigue and that seemed to be the intention in several of the evening’s dishes. It was excellent.

Wendy: I don’t like squash soup. Even when it’s good, it’s just not for me. But Oh My God…this was deeeelicious. It was so creamy and mild and not squashy and yummy and I look forward to having it again someday.

Guest comment from Mike: I want to order a bowl of the soup and hug it.

Yep, that’s how good it was.

 

pasta
Pappardelle Pasta

Beth: Wendy ordered first from the entree list and darned if she didn’t order my first pick. A Beth and Wendy reader mentioned that we shouldn’t duplicate our orders, so I went for my second choice, the Pappardelle Pasta ($18). This concoction was a very healthy portion of Pappardelle (large, broad, flat pasta noodles) served with pork belly confit, tomato sugo, sweet cream, truffle oil, Indiana asiago and chili flake. A friend of mine had told me about this dish and mentioned that the pork belly seemed excessively fatty. This was not my experience. I found the dish to be the perfect blend of sweet, salty, kicky and scrumptious (I had to consult the thesaurus to find some synonyms for delicious, as I feel we are getting repetitive).

 

 

chicken
Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken

Wendy: For my entrée I had the sweet tea brined fried chicken ($19) served over a cornbread waffle with Indiana wildflower honey and Tolon hot sauce on the side. It was delectable. Individually the components were good, but when you got a bite of the chicken with the waffle (drizzled with just the right amount of that honey) and dabbed it in a bit of the hot sauce – yumm-o. The chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, not greasy, and not overwhelmed with breading. Everything was just perfect. And it was a huge portion, with enough chicken for another meal the next day.

 

porkchop
Pork Chop

For his entrée, Kron had the pork chop ($24), prepared with maple BBQ syrup, onion jam, herb polenta and pickled apples. He shared that it was tender and juicy, and that the sauce was a delicate balance of sweet and smoky.

 

steak
Daily Steak Feature — Flat Iron Steak

 

 

 

Tolon has a daily steak feature, which was what Mike selected for dinner. It would have been awesome if we had captured the description, wouldn’t it? It might or might not have been a flat iron steak served over blue cheese polenta topped off with a roasted red pepper and tomato jam. Regardless, he ate the whole thing and he seemed to enjoy it, particularly remarking on how good the jam component was.

Dessert? Heck yeah! For three of us anyway, but portions were generous and there was plenty of sharing.

cake
Tres Chocolate Layer Cake

Wendy had the tres chocolate layer cake ($9), an absolutely enormous cakelet featuring chocolate devil’s food cake, chocolate miso mousse, and chocolate bacon ganache.

 

popcorn
Vanilla Popcorn Pot de Créme

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kron opted for the vanilla popcorn pot de crème ($8), topped with local maple syrup and smoked sea salt with corn brittle on the side.

icecream
Caramelized Beet and Apple Cobbler

Mike ordered the caramelized beet and apple cobbler ($7) with a smoked almond granola, goat cheese ice cream, and rosemary honey.

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy: Naturally I tried all three, so I feel qualified to assess all of them. They were all worthy. Mine was the least unusual. (Calling it the most usual seemed insulting to it.) I couldn’t really taste bacon, but there was definitely a salty/sweet interplay that I enjoyed. Beets are not dessert – that seems like a cruel joke, doesn’t it? But that cobbler was a revelation. But the pot de crème really stole the show. It was creamy and vanilla-y with just a hint of popcorn flavor, and that maple syrup – sweet fancy Moses, it was good getting all those flavors on one spoonful. I was skeptical when the waiter recommended it as his favorite, and I had to recant when he came to check on us and tell him it was really fucking amazing (exact words, sorry waiter!).

Beth: I didn’t order dessert, but did manage to sample (with new spoons) the pot de créme and the tres chocolate layer cake. I ended up eating about half of Wendy’s cake and it was delicious. I have to agree about Kron’s pot de créme. He said to me, “dive into it and scoop from the bottom.” So I did and he was right. Like the squash soup, it had that special something that wasn’t apparent upon first glance.

Wendy: Beth, your food looked so good. I want to go back and order that next time. I was really impressed.

Beth: And I want to go back and have yours! They really delivered.

Wendy: Indeed. And it’s different from anything else we currently have. And the service was great. And I didn’t think it was unreasonably priced.

Beth: I was surprised – I thought it would be much more expensive. Also ample serving sizes! If I can get two meals out of an expensive dinner it makes me happy. Because I am cheap, and seriously, it was just as good, maybe better, than it was the night before.

Wendy: Agree. Sometimes fancypants restaurants are a little stingy compared to the prices. Not this time.

Beth: And your dessert was like a cake. Not a piece of cake, but a whole cake.

Wendy: If I have any beef with them (heh heh), it’s that they are very light on vegetarian options. Fortunately we both are carnivores. But we have friends who are not, so I’m always alert to this. With such an inventive menu, I would challenge Tolon to come up with some truly vegetarian offerings.

Beth: I have vegetarian friends and Tolon does mark on their menu offerings that have a vegetarian options. For instance, the Papardelle Pasta dish can be prepared with brussels sprouts instead of the pork belly. And, readers, don’t be turning your collective noses up at the concept of sprouts. I hear they are superb.

The verdict:

Wendy: “I’ll have what she’s having.” And what he’s having. And those people over there. I cannot wait to go back. They’re open for lunch, too – gotta check that out, stat. And I assume the menu will evolve throughout the year as different foods are in season – can’t wait to see what that brings.

Beth: If we had a rating, “I will live here and eat this everyday,” I think that is the one I would pick. However, since we don’t I will settle for “I’ll have what she’s having,” too.

Tolon
614 Harrison St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802 (link to map)
(260) 399-5128
Facebook page

 

 

Eddie Merlot’s

Recently we partook in another season of Savor Fort Wayne, an annual event coordinated by Visit Fort Wayne, with “12 delicious days of menu deals from participating restaurants.” It’s a great time to try someplace new, or to enjoy a more affordable dinner at an upscale eatery. We went the latter route this time, taking advantage of the prix fixe menu. A 3-course meal for $30 is a total steal at Eddie’s!

Eddie Merlot’s 2016 Savor Fort Wayne menu

Wendy: I showed up a little frazzled, and a lot hungry. I promptly ordered a Tanqueray and tonic to chill me out a little. Given the “a lot hungry,” it immediately started going to my head so I was delighted when the server brought us warm, soft bread right after we ordered.

Beth:  I admit it. I don’t like wine. I am a beer girl. I looked around and everyone was drinking wine. There was no reference to beer that I could find on any of the three menus I was handed. Wendy said, “just ask them what is on tap.” And so, when the waitress arrived again, I said, “what kind of beer do you have on tap?” She replied, “we don’t have beer on tap.” Fortunately they did have a few craft beers available and I ordered a Bell’s Two-hearted ale. I hate it that beer is given such a lowly status. I guess I should have gone to the bowling alley after our meal.

French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup

Wendy: For my starter, I had the French onion soup, which I immediately regretted. Who orders something impossible to eat (damn you, stringy cheese!) in a fancy restaurant? This girl, that’s who. But I got over it. I mean, hi, melted cheese. It wasn’t anything that made me swoon, but it was a tasty rendition of a classic. Although now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t recall there being any bread-type item in it, and that’s usually my favorite part. Hmm…nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

Butternut Squash Bisque
Butternut Squash Bisque

 

Beth: I opted for the Butternut Squash Bisque and it didn’t disappoint. Creamy, rich, a little sweet but not overly so. Just delicious. There were a couple of croutons — maybe they were intended for Wendy’s French onion Soup? Regardless, I lapped up course one in no time.

 

For our entrées, we both ordered the steak frites (medium rare).

Steak Frites
Steak Frites

Wendy: All the entrée options were tempting, but in a place known for its beef, that’s usually what I go for. I don’t eat a lot of steak, and when I do it’s always a filet, so I was branching out just a tiny bit for me. I’m glad I didn’t pony up the extra eight bucks for the filet option, because my flat iron steak was delicious, and cooked to the perfect temperature. The meat was tender and flavorful and paired beautifully with the seasoned fries. The red wine reduction brought it all together.

Beth: As I mentioned in our last review, steak is not my typical go-to dish. However, this is Eddie Merlot’s and this is what they do and boy, how they do it. I couldn’t agree more with Wendy’s assessment. Cooked to perfection, this steak was the perfect size and when served with the frites, the perfect meal. My mouth is watering as I recall it when writing here. I may have to wipe off the keyboard.

Wendy: When it was time to order dessert, I asked our server if the red velvet cupcake was something special, not to be missed. I am a red velvet skeptic (that’s a topic for another day), but I do love a really good cupcake. I was thrilled with her honesty in the form of an immediate and decisive “no.” Hence, I had the creme brûlée. It was a success: creamy custard, appropriately caramelized top. I did remark to Beth that I wished it wasn’t cold, which lead to a discussion revealing that neither of us knew at what temperature it should be served. I did a bit of online investigating, and the results were inconclusive. The biggest consensus was room temperature or slightly cool, but while the torched top was still warm. Experts and dessert lovers, what say you?

Creme Brulee
Creme Brulee

Beth: There was no question in my mind that I would be having the creme brûlée. I hardly ever order dessert, but since it was part of the savor meal, it couldn’t be denied. I am no expert, but I have to agree with Wendy that it was a little on the cool side. But, it didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of the treat. I like tapping through the glazed top layer to the gooey inside. It’s like an adventure. Okay, maybe I’m over-analyzing, but I like having an excuse to eat extremely fattening things.

 

The verdict:

Beth: “You had me at ‘hello’.”
I think of Eddie Merlot’s as a special occasion. It’s too expensive for me to visit on a regular basis, or would I really want to (although let me give a shout out to their meatloaf which is AH-MAZING and probably the least expensive thing on their menu). However, considering the special pricing offered by the Savor Fort Wayne menu, we’d be silly not to go. When I can afford to eat at Eddie Merlot’s, they definitely have me at hello.

Wendy: “You had me at ‘hello’.”
I had to think hard about this. My meal was great, but I definitely didn’t have a foodgasm, and if I were going out for a splurge meal, Eddie’s wouldn’t be my first choice. I’m always happy to have the opportunity to eat there, and this was no exception, but it doesn’t hit my “best” meter.

 

Eddie Merlot’s
Located in Jefferson Pointe
1502 Illinois Rd S, Fort Wayne, IN 46804
(260) 459-2222
Website

The Office Tavern

Happy New Year!

We continue to be excited by the impending opening of some new dining options around town, but our most recent outing was to someplace quite the opposite: The Office Tavern, a long-established neighborhood bar that has started building a reputation as a hidden gem. We decided it was time to see for ourselves.

The Office is known for their hand-cut steak specials, only available on Mondays and Fridays, and their burgers, for which they grind their own meat. They have a fairly limited menu of typical bar fare. We went on a Friday night, and the place was hoppin’. We had to wait 20-30 minutes for a table, and it was a bit challenging to stay out of the way of the busy servers.

Once seated, Beth ordered a beer, and Wendy a soda. This is where the Office clearly defined itself as a bar, rather than a restaurant: it was a can of Coke, with a clear plastic Solo cup of ice. It was reminiscent of being served a beverage on an airplane. Seriously? You serve drinks, you must have a fountain, don’t be such a piker.

The Office Steak Burger
The Office Steak Burger

Wendy: I am always on a quest for a truly delicious cow sandwich, so I had to find out if The Office Steak Burger really was Fort Wayne’s secret best burger. I had my choice of a full pound(!) ($10.59) or a half pound ($7.59). I opted for the latter, with a fifty-cent upcharge to add cheese. Per the menu, it comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and mayo. It includes a choice of side, and I chose the steak fries. Once again, I was surprised that a place that is supposed to be burger-centric didn’t ask how I wanted it prepared. I for sure didn’t want it how it was served, which was cooked to death. It was sadly dry, with no hint of pink anywhere inside. The lettuce was so wilted that I had to remove it. And the mayo? In a packet. Come on! I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I will say that the steak fries were yummy. Thick and potato-y.

fish
The Battered Cod Fish Sandwich

Beth: When I told people we were going to The Office Tavern, all of them said, “are you having the steak? Have the steak.” I’m really not that much of a steak person, and I did give it some consideration, but my favorite bar food tends to be a fish sandwich. And, so, the Battered Cod Fish Sandwich ($5.99) was my choice with a side of French Fries. It come with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and mayo. The mayo looked like tartar sauce and tasted like tartar sauce, but no matter. It was very good. Flaky, hot, and quite delicious. The fries were, fries. And fortunately for me, I love fries.

The service was fine. Our waitress was very friendly, which went a long way. As we were wrapping up, the night’s karaoke was getting underway, and we stayed for a surprisingly good rendition of “Every Breath You Take,” but left during a far less impressive attempt at some terrible country song.

The verdict:

Wendy: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

My food was definitely nothing special. It’s near my home, so I’m not opposed to going again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way. If I go back I am definitely trying the fish sandwich, based on Beth’s experience.

Beth: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

My food was very good. I enjoyed it very much. However, I enjoy the fish sandwich from the bar that is within walking distance of my home. I’d go back, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way either. I feel like there’s a home crowd, like all good bars should have. If you live near The Office, give it a try!

The Office Tavern
3306 Brooklyn Avenue
Fort Wayne, IN 46809
(260) 478-5827
https://www.facebook.com/The-Office-Tavern-115945568434028/timeline