Other Hometown Highlights
Per Bacco, off Nappanee Street on Elkhart's west side, is a wonderful Italian restaurant where Bruno's wife, Marissa, creates mouth watering original Italian dishes. It's a small, charming place with candles and white tablecloths. The pasta is homemade, the lasagna fabulous, and the pizza wonderful. Bruno's will also deliver their wonderful pizza direct to you.
Artisan, the AAA Four-Diamond crowning achievement of local restaurant entrepreneur, Kurt Janowski, offers the highest level of gourmet cuisine available this side of Chicago. While the food can be awe-inspiring, the service staff will make you feel comfortable and welcome. It's a surprising and welcome culinary treasure at 505 South Main Street in Elkhart.
The Golden Egg, on SR 19, the Nappanee Bypass, just south of the Elkhart Clinic. THE best bet for breakfast - Busy, lively, and constantly crowded on weekends. Classic breakfast fare, well-prepared and served. Note to the first-timer - When you order two eggs, you automatically get four. Order four - YES, you get EIGHT!
Hacienda, in Easy Shopping Place, is a small regional chain of Mexican restaurants. Expect a wait here almost any night of the week - people of all ages love the place - the food is tasty and inexpensive (if not particularly authentic). The lounge is VERY popular with 20-somethings, attracted, no doubt by the free chips and salsa, the great frozen margaritas, and of course, the other 20-somethings.
Columbo's, on South Main, is just about everyone's favorite Italian restaurant, and is considered by many to have Elkhart's best pizza. Family owned and operated, the food is fresh and home-style. There's a take-out pizza counter, too - but bring help for the load. Columbo's offers pizzas up to 20" in diameter, and put national chain pizza to shame!
Lucchese's, on County Road 17, near CR 14. A family institution in Elkhart, this new location retains the family recipes and friendly atmosphere that made the parents of the current owners Elkhart's favorite Italian relatives. All the traditional favorites are served, and great daily specials.
Camino Real, an authentic Mexican restaurant on County Road 6, across from Walmart, has terrific Mexican food. Quick service, great food, and a friendly waitstaff make this a "must try" restaurant. (Try the cheese dip...the chimichangas...and the super desserts.)
The Great Wall, on SR 19, near Rte. 112. Every city has its supply of Chinese restaurants; this is one of Elkhart's best. The servings are generous, widely varied, and delicious. Good, quick, inexpensive lunches, too. Ask the young owner Tony for his recommendations.
Few surprises, a true virtue, when you're hungry, trying to please youngsters, or don't want to experiment.
Perkins, Steak 'n Shake, Appleby's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, Red Lobster, The Olive Garden, Texas Road House, Wings, Etc., Cracker Barrel (wondering if I've missed any!) are all within a half mile of the main Elkhart Toll Road exit (#92). Of course, you'll find all the standard issue fast-food restaurants here too: McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Long John Silver's, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Arby's, Hardees, Pizza Hut, Domino's; we've got'em all.
The busy shopping area near University Park Mall has yet another collection of popular, fun restaurants; mostly chain operations. One that we feel is worth the drive is called "Papa Vino's," at 5110 Edison Lakes Parkway, Mishawaka, serving a jazzed up version of Italian cuisine. Don't wait in line - call ahead to get on the waiting list, or sneak into the lounge, where they're happy to serve you dinner.
In the countryside northwest of South Bend at 24460 Adams Road, sits The Carriage House, one of the best-loved restaurants in the entire area. Romantic atmosphere, excellent food, impeccable service, notable wines, and irresistible desserts, make The Carriage House the area's best "special night out." My husband and I have a favorite table for our special nights at The Carriage House it's table number (Oops - Sorry! It's OUR favorite table!)
Christiana Creek Country Club in Elkhart is a perfect spot to meet for lunch. Though the club has a private membership option, the course and restaurant are also open to the public. The atmosphere is casual, while the food is reasonable and service friendly.
I've only touched the surface of the subject of restaurants in and around Elkhart, but my suggestions will serve you well while you explore and find your own favorites. Email me with your comments about notable restaurants you discover!
(Some would call these "bars." Kids aren't excluded, but they'd be happier elsewhere.)
Pizo & Foz is the quirky name for a relatively new casual gourmet pizza restaurant that's breaking a few rules about traditional pizza, while introducing some truly creative options, including my personal favorite, the Truffle Pizza. Located at 4100 East Bristol Street in Elkhart and run by Zack Lucchese, third-generation Elkhart restauranteur, the menu offers just the right-size pizzas for sharing, along with all the appropriate beverages. Dine outdoors if you like, mix-and-match pizza with dinner companions - Fun, reasonably priced, and friendly.
Dino's, near the corner of Bristol Street and Osolo Road, offers good food at good prices in a simple setting that makes it easy to leave your oven off and head out for a quick bite any night of the week. Best bets include the Friday All-You-Can-Eat Fish Special, and any of Chef Larry's great home-made soups.
Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub, off Bristol Street and Homeland Road has a fresh approach to burgers, barbecue, and other staples, with a decidedly southern flair. Plenty of craft beers on tap, and an interesting menu of designer cocktails, too.
Cappy's North Side Tavern at 1000 North Michigan Street, Elkhart, takes you several decades back in time with its 'art-nouveau' wood and glass-block bar, tin ceiling, and windows filled with neon works of art from beer suppliers. The menu is a one-page list of sandwiches and plated dinners; there's always a Daily Special on the chalkboard next to the kitchen, and owners Merle and Kathy can be seen moving from table to table, chatting with regulars and making sure newcomers feel welcome.
Michael's, on 6th Street and Marion - Warm neighborhood feel, a place for casual parties, good, reasonably priced Italian food, from fancy to sandwiches and pizza. Call ahead on Fridays and Saturdays. Good ribs, Italian subs, and veal parmigiana.
Elkhart residents LOVE to eat out, and Elkhart restaurants give them plenty of variety in price, food, service and style. In a town of Elkhart's size, you'll almost always run into someone you know when you go out to eat - so dining out is a great social icebreaker.
Opinions about food vary widely, so my recommendations are personal preferences, and are by no means complete. Have some fun trying out the many restaurants in the area and soon you'll have your own list of favorites.
Restaurants and Other Good Times
Family-owned and run, The Golden Egg is THE best place for a great breakfast.
Fifth hole at Elcona Country Club, a true gem for golfing families in the Elkhart area
Other Good Times
Elcona Country Club is one of the finest private country clubs in the midwest, with 18 meticulously maintained holes of golf stretched along a gently rolling landscape with plenty of mature trees, water and sand. The club also has a beautiful clubhouse with men's and ladies locker rooms, dining rooms, stag bar, banquet rooms and pro shop. Outside you'll find tennis courts and an olympic swimming pool. The club offers organized sports for children and members, and the social calendar is active and varied. Call me for membership information.
Christiana Creek Country Club, on Main and Bristol Street, has 18 holes of golf nestled into a beautiful residential area not far from the center of town. A dining room, pro shop, pool (with an active swim team) and other amenities complete the package. Call me or the club for membership details. As mentioned above, the dining facilities are open to the public, too.
Four Winds Casino, South Bend is the newest effort by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Native Americans, with hundreds of thousands of square feet of the latest casino games, a collection of live-dealer table games, and all the bells, lights, music, and excitement of full-on casino action. If you stop playing to eat, you'll find a lavish buffet, Kankakee Grille casual dining, several snack bars, and (a high-rollers' necessity) a gourmet steakhouse called The Copper Rock. Land is cleared for an adjacent hotel, but it's not yet under construction.
Das Dutchmen Essenhaus is a thriving complex of restaurants, overnight accommodations, and retail shops just south of the town of Middlebury, on US 20 about 30 minutes west of Elkhart. Started in 1970 in a small truck stop, by the Miller family, and staffed with Amish and Mennonite cooks and service people, Essenhaus serves traditional home-cooked meals like swiss steak, fried chicken, and buttered noodles family-style (big serving bowls to pass around the table) - though you can opt for a buffet if you prefer. On busy days in summer, Essenhaus serves thousands of guests A DAY, and while they're quite efficient at getting you to a table, there's often enough of a wait for you to be tempted by country- and Amish-themed souvenirs, baked goods, and other delicacies. Insider's tip: You won't have room for pie after dinner, but you simply MUST try one. The fresh homemade Amish fruit and cream pies are to DIE FOR!
The Heritage Trail is a self-guided audio tour through Elkhart County and the surrounding area covering ninety miles of country roads and taking perhaps 2 hours to complete in its entirety. Just plug a CD (available from the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors' Bureau) into your car stereo, or download an mp3 audio file (from the ECCVB Web site) and follow the directions to see scores of interesting sites, historical locations, business and industry highlights, and cultural influences. Little known fact - I helped the creator of The Heritage Trail write and test the original tour more than twenty-five years ago; today's version has been updated.
Amish Acres is a curated collection of authentic Amish and other historic buildings painstakingly collected and reconstructed on the current site one mile west of downtown Nappanee, on U.S. 6. Both entertaining and educational, Amish Acres lets visitors explore the Amish way of life with re-creations, re-enactments, and actual tools, structures, and features of Amish life. Of course you can take home a memory or two by shopping in the stores for clothing, crafts, edible delicacies, and other souvenirs. Amish Acres offers its own version of Amish hospitality, the Thresher's Dinner, which recreates the tradition of serving simple down-home cooking to the team of threshers cutting grain and hay in the fields. Amish Acres also offers musical theater in the round, using a huge 120-year-old round barn as the venue.
The Lerner Theater has a century-long story of success, hard-times, and new-found brilliance, and now serves as the cultural and architectural high point of Elkhart, at 410 South Main Street. The beneficiary of a twenty-million dollar community-volunteer revitalization program several years ago, the then-named Elco Theater was rejuvenated and enlarged to serve as a fitting venue for top-quality international musical and theatrical talent. Rock bands, comedians, orchestras, motivational speakers, and Broadway touring shows can enjoy the excellent acoustics, lavishly decorated interior space, and unobstructed lines of sight of this 2000-seat auditorium. When big-name acts aren't performing, the Lerner Theater floorboards host local musicians, youth theater groups, and other worthy entertainment. If you're in town looking for something to do, make sure you're not missing something wonderful at the Lerner.
*COMING SOON* The Elkhart Aquatic Center, under construction on a prime riverfront site near the heart of town, is another community-sponsored achievement that will, when open, include a nationally-significant Olympic-caliber competitive swimming and diving venue, stadium seating for competitive events, state-of-the-art locker rooms and water management to accommodate swimmers of all levels of proficiency, and an expansive health-and-fitness center. The regional health care institution and the Elkhart Area Schools augmented the privately-raised funds that made the facility a reality, soon to be enjoyed by local schoolchildren, community residents, and top-tier competitive swimmers and divers from around the world.
Three generations of Luccheses have been serving great Italian food and hospitality to the people of Elkhart for over fifty years.