Here’s our list of great, good, and fun places to eat here in Elkhart County. None of these is terribly expensive, the fare is almost always good. Nice places to go in recession-era Northern Indiana!
King Gyros is a great place for gyros, and a number of other dishes you don’t find at your average fast food joint. There’s a Gyros platter with all the stuff that goes with it, loaded with garlic-y goodness, plus a heart-stopping pile of fries There’s a junior gyros for lighter appetites. The dinner however, has a lot more meat — many’s the time I’ve only eaten half and saved the rest for another time. The half-slab rib dinner is a personal favorite, too. King Gyros’ service is always friendly, quick (mostly) and you can call ahead for take-out orders, which you can pick up at their drive-through if you want to. They’re on US 33 across from Concord Mall, in what was once a DQ.
We loved Ritter’s, which closed after only about three seasons, but frankly, Flavor-Freeze is the ice cream drive-in we always come back to. There are two locations in Elkhart, and they have everything an ice cream and milkshake afficionado could want. Personal favorite: lemon chiffon ice cream with hot fudge on it (even if the ice cream is sometimes a slightly scary shade of yellow.) Two locations: Bristol Street near Baldwin, and US 33 Dunlap by the Astro Bowl.
Granma’s Kitchen has a Greek diner type blue Naugahyde upholstered atmosphere and specializes in the BIG breakfast and lunch. This is straightforward hearty food, and breakfast is the best here. The menu offers a great choice of omelets, pancakes and superb breakfast combos, including the standard biscuits and gravy. Word to the wise: order one egg, over easy, you get two. Order two, you get four. Order three, you get six. You get the idea. Service is friendly and fast, and you WILL leave satisfied. On Saturday mornings in the late summer and fall, you’ll see the Concord Band Dads stoking up for their hard day’s work.
The Daily Grind
“The Grind” features especially friendly service, great beverages and good pastries and lunch specials. It’s also a good place to run into people. I can’t stop in there without seeing SOMEone I know (besides the cheerful staff). All this, along with Free Wi-Fi makes it perfect for business meetings, too. (Hint, if you want quiet time, hit the Grind after 9 until around 11:30, then from 1:00 or so through the afternoon.) Seating is ample, including a couple couches, along with tables for two and four. Kind of reminds us of our old basement rec room, only with better art on the walls. We like the table up in the front window corner with a view of the street. Stop in, and Tania and crew will take good care of you!
Evan’s Sidewalk Cafe
On most Saturday mornings between productions, you’ll see staff and volunteers from Elkhart Civic Theatre (the Bristol Opera House) at Evan’s right around 9:00, stoking their fire before a day of set construction. And there’s a reason: Evan’s is darn good.
Look, we’ve been to a lot of home-cookin’ type restaurants, and what makes Evan’s special is that it’s NOT really special. Or is it?
In a day when every waiter in the world says “Hi I’m Brandi and I’m going to be your server today,” it’s nice to go to a place where they don’t have a spiel but a genuinely friendly staff committed to giving you good food and good service. That’s Evan’s. Just plain good traditional breakfasts and lunches, with daily specials like beef and noodles or fried chicken, at prices you can stand. Smoking is allowed but most people don’t, and in any case it’s not overwhelming. And hey, we’re all adults, right?
Our favorites are the biscuits and gravy, or potatoes and gravy, or the “half-and-half” that’ll never leave you hungry. There’s a pretty good choice of omelets, pancakes and waffles, too.
Evan’s is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Sunday. Just one door East from the Bristol Opera House on Vistula (SR 120) in Bristol.
Everyone I know likes Heinnie’s, a Lusher Ave. landmark for those who love a good steak. Stuck in the middle of light industrial factories, lumberyards and rail lines (Heinnie Deshone wanted to continue to serve his good customers, the railroad workers, when he had to move from the original downtown location), Heinnie’s stands out like a meat-eater’s oasis. Third generation owners Troy and Bill Deshone have maintained Heinnie’s quality while continuing to expand and improve the menu.
Our favorite is Heinnie’s NY strip steak, topped with sauteed mushrooms, but you really have to try the Heinnie Cheeseburger was just recently added to the top cheeseburger stops in the United States by hamburger author and film writer George Motz, in his book, Hamburger America.
Sides and and salads are all good, and the drinks are generally not stingy with the alcohol. The folks are all friendly, in front or in back, and kids are welcome in the Barn. Most items are moderately priced, not cheap, but definitely worth it.
Heinnie’s gets very busy on Friday and Saturday nights, so come early or plan to sit in the small-but-cheery bar for a little bit. They don’t take reservations, but you can speed things up if you call ahead as you’re leaving the house. That’ll put you on the list so you’ll be a little ahead of the game when you actually walk in the door.
Heinnie’s Back Barn is open 5-10PM Monday-Thursday and 4:30-11PM Friday and Saturday (closed Sunday).
Other great places (reviews coming):
Michael’s — two locations in Elkhart
Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern
The Village Inn — Middlebury