Bandidos – The New Generation
Jun06

Bandidos – The New Generation

If you are from Fort Wayne, you are no doubt familiar with the Bandidos chain of Mexican restaurants with their brightly colored buildings. But, you may not be aware of the recent change in concept of the Fort Wayne famous chain. I am not originally from Fort Wayne, so when I met with current owner Jimmie Schindler II, I asked him about the background of the restaurant.  I was surprised to hear that Bandidos had originally started as a pizza joint called Jimmie’s Pizza that was owned and operated by Jimmie’s dad, Jimmie Sr. It had several locations throughout Fort Wayne. In the ’80s, Jimmie Sr. and his wife went out for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and took note of the line around the block for what they considered passable Mexican fare. At the time there were very few Mexican restaurant options in Fort Wayne. This gave Jimmie Sr. the idea to start Bandidos in the ’80s and capitalize on the demand for Mexican food in Fort Wayne. After finishing his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and his MBA at Purdue, he took over the Bandidos franchise from his dad in March 2013. Jimmie had interned for Domino’s in Ann Arbor, which gave him a number of ideas for their own family run business that he was excited to bring to fruition. “I was born and raised in this business,” Jimmie told me. “That lady that just seated us? She changed my diaper as a baby.” Talk about growing up in the family business! So what makes Jimmie tick? “Jesus, family, and tacos. In that order.” He wants something that he, his wife, Katie, and their three kids (Cecilia, Johannes, and Martin) would be proud of. “My wife is a scientist, and I sell tacos.” Just as his dad was many years before, Jimmie is a big proponent of listening to what his guests want and delivering. “The recipes are good, we have a number of Mexican chefs or even employees who get recipes from their relatives for us to recreate in our restaurant. What I kept hearing was our guests’ desire for the ingredients to be more transparent.” When Jimmie looked through the survey results, over 95% of their guests felt that freshness was important. The overwhelming majority were concerned about preservatives, quality, and customization. “In today’s world of so many food intolerances, it is important that we shift to meet our guest’s demands.” This is why they have customizable “build your own” options like the build your own bowl that I created complete with rice, shredded chicken, pico de gallo, bell peppers, and hot salsa. Even...

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Fort Wayne Food Tour –  Eat, Walk, Enjoy!
Mar27

Fort Wayne Food Tour – Eat, Walk, Enjoy!

This past Friday I was privileged to be a part of the inaugural Fort Wayne Food Tour, which was founded by Fort Wayne native and historian, Randy Harter and his daughter/digital marketing guru, Sarah Arnold.  The tour takes you through downtown Fort Wayne to eat tapas style portions at various local restaurants. Join me on my journey as I eat and tour the Fort! My tour, which consisted of 12 guests and Randy as our fearless guide, started at Don Hall’s Gas House. While I am a huge foodie and love to eat out, I normally choose the Deck (the outdoor patio across the parking lot of the Gas House overlooking the river) or even Takaoka (the entertaining Japanese hibachi restaurant upstairs) so I was excited to try something new. Our first course did not disappoint! Don Hall’s Gas House is famous for its steak and potatoes so that is exactly what they served.  A perfectly cooked filet mignon broiled at 1800 degrees topped with a garlic-herb butter, flavorful melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms seasoned to perfection. Also included was a sample tasting of a 2011 Footbolt Shiraz that paired very nicely with the steak. My favorite part was when Don Hall’s grandson Ben came out to regale us with tales of the restaurant. Apparently Don Hall was obsessed with a restaurant in Chicago called George Diamond Steakhouse. So much so that he copied it right down to the uniforms and chairs. In fact, the chairs are the original from when the restaurant opened 59 years ago! It is in the site of a historic gas plant, which is where its name comes from. After sampling our first dish, it was great to stretch our legs and start the walking portion of our tour. As an added bonus it was a sunny 74 degrees, but Randy assured us that if it ever did rain he came equipped with ponchos.  The tour covered a 1.25 mile loop and was a very easy walk –  I did it in heels! (Although I am a professional shorty…the recommendation is to wear shoes that would be comfortable for a mile walk.) Randy brought history to life as he regaled us with stories about the Wabash and Erie Canal (we literally stood in the middle of where the canal used to be), the former German-American bank, which was renamed Lincoln National Bank & Trust Co due to anti-German sentiment during WWI, and perhaps the most harrowing was a story of how Anthony Wayne’s bones came to their final resting place after the flesh was boiled off of them. While I am not from Fort...

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Just Cream: Ice Cream Boutique – One Sweet Boutique!
Feb28

Just Cream: Ice Cream Boutique – One Sweet Boutique!

With amazing locally owned boutiques popping up all over Fort Wayne in the past few years, recent Purdue grad Lauren Landstoffer had a brilliant idea…an ice cream boutique! Imagine all natural, velvety ice cream made from the highest quality ingredients and merge it with delectable, freshly brewed craft coffee and you have the newest thing to hit Fort Wayne’s food scene – Just Cream: Ice Cream Boutique!   Lauren envisioned a warm, welcoming place that people would consider a hangout spot. She is a huge coffee addict, likes the vibe that coffee shops have, and wanted to emulate that in her space. “I love that people can come in and hang out and do their work. Come stay awhile!” And come they will, to enjoy the unique boutique menu of items that Just Cream has cultivated.   Lauren, like many Purdue alums, is a huge fan of The Silver Dipper, which serves premium hand scooped ice cream that is highly addicting. She knew that was the ice cream she wanted for her boutique. The ice cream itself comes from a locally owned and operated business in Wisconsin called The Chocolate Shoppe. It’s known for its super premium ice cream made with all natural ingredients and fresh Wisconsin cream.   The drip coffee they will serve is sourced by Intelligentsia, who is known for its third-wave coffee where they buy the beans directly from small, sustainable growers, do their own roasting, and have a slight obsession with quality control. This makes for some of the most delicious tasting coffee and that quality is what Lauren loved when she had her first sip at Olivia Macaron.   In Just Cream, Lauren wanted to create a place that had memorable food experiences. One of her fond memories as a kid was at the local Atz ice cream shop. “We used to get these amazing clown ice creams. I mean it was superman ice cream with all kinds of toppings in it, in the shape of a clown. It was magical. That’s what I want to create. Something people will remember.”   Just Cream will have a number of creative items that are sure to be just as memorable. One of their signature items will be an Extreme Shake, which is “the fanciest, over the top ice cream shake you have ever seen!” It’s a frothy shake served in a mason jar with “super fancy” toppings like candy, cereal, wafers, and of course sprinkles on top. There will be a selection of regular flavors and then an extreme shake of the month.   The menu item I am most excited about is the Boutique...

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Savory-Pantry | Bridging Health and Convenience
Feb14

Savory-Pantry | Bridging Health and Convenience

A new year usually brings along many resolutions, the most popular of which is the infamous diet. THIS is the year I will say no to carbs and wine and chocolate and all that is good in this world for the love of God!! Why do I even live?!  (Sorry, if you follow my Instagram you will see that I love food and in no way can give up the aforementioned food groups.)  For those of us who are disciplined enough to try and modify our diets, it seems that by the time February rolls around most people have given up or, in the case of me, never started.  Why? The normal reasons include time, convenience, money, discipline, or all of the above.   For many of us, time is a huge factor in why we make our food decisions. Between working, hanging out with friends and family, school, taking care of our four legged family members, working out, there is no time left to prep for meals, shop, cook, and eat. Let alone to make sure we are eating healthy! (Taco Bell double decker at 1:30 AM anyone?) This is why companies like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron have increased in popularity over the last several years. They deliver the pre-measured ingredients straight to your door. Boom! You just have to cook them. Ugh, who the heck has time for that? I certainly don’t have the time…or more importantly the skill. (This is the girl who boils water so long it burns and needs to google what sauté means.)   Fort Wayne, we have another option. A local woman-owned option no less! Marina Arambula, a certified integrative nutritionist and health coach with Gladd MD, started a company called Savory-Pantry in spring of 2015, and it has truly made a difference in the lives of so many, including my own.   I asked Marina about the concept behind Savory-Pantry. “It started out as a boutique service,” she reminisced. “Food either benefits or inhibits your health. So many of our clients felt better eating organic, unprocessed, meals with healthy non-inflammatory fats, but it was too difficult for them to continue long term.” In her role as health coach it was her job to motivate and inspire her clientele to continue their healthy lifestyles and find out what obstacles were hindering their progress.   “You can give them all the ingredients, but you cannot give them the time and motivation.” Marina herself has a family of four and strives to ensure they are all eating quality organic food with no hormones. The all too familiar theme of “if only I could have...

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Umi Fort Wayne– This is How They Roll
Jan02

Umi Fort Wayne– This is How They Roll

What do you get when the CEO of Lutheran Health Network and Lutheran Hospital (Brian Bauer), the CEO of Dupont Hospital (Aaron Garofola) and an Oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology (Dr. Ryan Gonzales) join forces? A new sushi restaurant! Sushi is my favorite food group so I was quite happy to sit and chat with Ryan about the newest sushi and seafood restaurant in Fort Wayne – Umi.   If you are from Terre Haute, you would have heard of Umi Grill, which opened in 2001 as the first Japanese restaurant in Terre Haute. The first question I posed to Ryan, was how they came up with the concept of bringing Umi to Fort Wayne. “Brian, Aaron, and I are long time friends from Terre Haute……it’s a pretty small town.  It wasn’t a traditional destination for great sushi. The typical options were Texas Roadhouse or hamburger joints.” When Umi Grill came to town it quickly became their favorite spot. In fact, “it was the number one restaurant in Terre Haute and people would come from larger cities like Indy,” just to get their sushi fix.  “A lot of doctors like me did their residency on coastal cities, so they became accustomed to sushi and seafood that was fresh. I did mine at Louisiana State University. Have you had food in the south? Amazing. But then when you have sushi with less than fresh ingredients it’s just subpar. You know there is something better out there.”   When Brian moved to Fort Wayne in 2011, Ryan moved shortly thereafter and, along with Aaron, they started brainstorming on how to bring an Umi-like concept to Fort Wayne.  “People have been begging Qi [owner of Umi Grill] to expand, to franchise. He always said no, but he entertained the idea with us, because we were great customers and had a passion for his food and brand.” This began over two and a half years of detailed and methodical planning to convince Qi to allow them to bring Umi to the Fort. “He wanted someone who had his vision. It was his name, and he wanted control of the quality and the brand. He wanted a single stand-alone restaurant and didn’t want the restaurant to be cheapened by a strip mall setting.”   Aaron, Brian, and Ryan all set to work putting together a well-executed business plan, including use of the same distributors that Umi used in order to maintain the same quality and high standards of the original. After multiple revisions, they were able to create a concept that surpassed the original owner’s vision. “We made his dream come true!” Ryan laughed. “He helped...

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