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