Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t really the kind of place you go out of your way to visit. Sadly it should be
In what locals herald as a place with more churches, strip clubs and bars per square mile than anywhere else in the country there is plenty to eat and drink amid the midwestern charm we found in this city tucked in the northeast corner of Indiana.
With close proximity to both Chicago and Indianapolis, as well as Detroit and Toledo, the plethora of craft breweries nearby make it an easy stopping point for brewers trying to get their names out. Fort Wayne is weird though. No big colleges nearby or big business meccas to haul people in but it has this charm about it that is hard to place. The airport is tiny and retro looking but welcoming. Twice I was greeted by the airport authority giving away food and welcoming you with huge midwestern smiles. Even the TSA is glad you’re there and cheerfully demand you take your shoes off. Did you leave a dime in your pocket? You aren’t on the watchlist now, you just simply forgot.
Downtown is where its at. There is a lot of life there even after the winter and the near record breaking snowfall that settled in from the beginning of the year. There are really far too many great places to visit downtown and if for any reason you end up there you will find enough craft beer, great food, and awesome people to have a warm spot in your heart for FWA like I do. And I can’t forget the Tin Caps, Fort Wayne’s minor league baseball team that has one of the best park’s in the country. Doesn’t hurt that they are pretty good too! But of course I want to focus on a few of those places that helped make the next morning a little hazy. First off, Dash-In.
On my first go at Fort Wayne I faced a dilemma. I was hungry and thirsty and didn’t want to stick around the hotel. The weather was good so I went for a walk. Face to face with neighboring beer joints, Pints and Slices that smelled amazing but was stuffed to the door frame with hungry people and next door was Dash In, a warmer quieter looking place. Dash-In was deceiving because inside was rowdy and loud and awesome.
There was only one spot at the bar hidden behind a lineup of taps. Not a single beer was mass produced. Nirvana. Mecca. Lucky chance that I would find the craft beer bar I was looking for at the first place I stopped. Later on it would turn out that almost all the eateries are like that in Fort Wayne, but I didn’t care. Bartender found me and I ordered up his suggestion, a Chapman’s Ale Cider.
The beer and food is amazing and perfectly priced. Saturday is key for breakfast serving up eggs Benedict and lox and other amazing favorites. Beyond the food (you can eat anywhere) is their fresh ground and roasted coffee drinks and deserts. The smell that hits you when you first walk in is the coffee. So fresh.
O’Sullivan’s Italian Bar
Okay I need to level with you. There are several Italian places and there are several Irish bars in Fort Wayne. O’Sullivans is the only Irish Italian Pub I have ever had the extreme great pleasure to step into. It is absolutely not the kind of place to bring kids or your parents. The food selection is limited to pizza slices and the crowd is generally rowdy. I was there on a Friday night, in the midst of a live local band strumming out loud rock with an irish slant and the dart tournament where retirees and college kids alike threw down in a bare knuckle tournament complete with foul language and trash talking. Lining the walls next to the dart arena were pictures of St. Patty’s days past full of bare chests and drunken selfies.
Apparently O’s as the locals call it is world renowned for one of the biggest, best, and nakedist parties devoted to the Saint Patrick that it nearly shuts it’s part of town down from early afternoon until the next day. The clothesline of abandoned bras and panties that adorn one of the corners is proof. Or the signatures on the walls and art. It’s worth the experience.
Let’s go back a step. I mentioned pizza. My partner in crime for the evening introduced me to the local way to eat the pizza. Of course as mentioned earlier the slices come in pepperoni or sausage (and maybe cheese?) and they are greasy thin crust slices of heaven. But we didn’t stop there. “Gimmie the Frank’s!” My guide doused the huge slice of pepperoni pizza in Frank’s Red Hot then covered it back over with the powdery parmesian from a shaker that the bartender had at the ready. It was amazing. The grease, the cheese, the hot sauce. I need to try this combination back home.
So with remorse I have left behind the life that is Fort Wayne, Indiana. Twice now I have flown from the tiny “international” airport and left behind some great memories and great people. If you are close enough to make the drive come to FWA for the weekend. Or the week. Driving through Fort Wayne to get to a bigger city? Make a stop, drink an amazing brew and eat. Before you go though, check out some of these other places that Fort Wayne is known for.
Chapman’s brewing company is a small brewery based out of Angola, Indiana. Last year in 2013 Chapman’s had one beer, their Ale Cider. A simple beer that is more than your typical apple ale, the Ale Cider is crafted to be a bit stronger and malty but with that sweet apple finish. Now Chapman’s has a few more selections, all worth trying.
The “double barrel”. This brew had that air of bourbon as you took a swig. The “double barrel” was a mixture of two Kentucky Bourbon Barrel beers, their Ale and Stout. This was a drink that made me want to sit by a fire, dog on lap and beer in hand. This was a man’s beer. It still went down too fast.