Ryu’s Kitchen – Creating a Unique Food Experience
Nov30

Ryu’s Kitchen – Creating a Unique Food Experience

If you’ve driven down the State and Hobson Road area the last few months you have most likely noticed two things: First, the seemingly never-ending construction (that is finally cleared up!) And second, the appearance of a cute new place called Ryu’s Kitchen. With bright colors, an open dining area with a counter bar, and motivational wall inscriptions, it is a very welcoming restaurant. The friendly staff makes it even more so.  Ryu had its soft opening at the end of August and has been delighting customer’s palates ever since. With a 4.9/5 rating on Facebook and a 4.5/5 rating on Yelp, I was incredibly excited to check it out! I met with owner Joohyun Riddle, née Ryu who has a true love for food. Born and raised in South Korea, Joohyun was a food nutrition major when studying in Korea. Not only did she learn the importance of the nutrition behind the dishes she now serves, she worked as a food stylist for commercials and learned to make the dishes look appealing as well, which is very important in today’s Instagram savvy society, where the aesthetics of the food adds to the overall enjoyment. She came as an international student to Long Beach, California where she had exposure to a variety of Asian foods that she missed when she moved with her husband, Josh Riddle, to his hometown of Marion. This brought about a Korean restaurant they opened in a mall in Marion six years ago. Luckily they moved to Fort Wayne and added to our ethnic food scene. I asked Joohyun if Ryu’s menu was traditional Korean food. “The young generation of Koreans make food simple. It has good flavor, is good looking, and has Korean based sauces,” Joohyun was quick to point out. While there are traditional dishes, such as Bulgogi, there are also a number of dishes that they have customized to bring a Korean twist to Fort Wayne. “I like to find my own niche and way to make a dish. I want people to know the new generation of Korean, not just the old-style way. I started doing dinners with our friends and did tasting menus with them to see what was popular.” Ryu accommodates a variety of dietary needs and has a number of vegetarian dishes including a new Tofu Rice Noodle dish and a Tofu Bulgogi dish. For my gluten free friends, any of the noodle or bulgogi dishes can be made gluten free and they even make separate sauces that are gluten free with which to cook. Joohyun also utilizes fresh, local ingredients in order to amp up the flavor...

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Empyrean Cafe – Bringing Event Level Food to the Streets
Oct03

Empyrean Cafe – Bringing Event Level Food to the Streets

Fall is here, and though I’m happy about cute suede booties and the start of football season (Go Pack Go!), I’m bummed that Lunch on the Square is done for the year. There is just something about walking around downtown and eating outside that adds to my sense of Fort Wayne community. So, I was thrilled to discover Empyrean Cafe in the Foelinger-Freimann Botanical Gardens! They have indoor and outdoor seating, and their indoor seating is in an atrium, giving you the feeling that you are outside an surrounded by water, flowers, and ample natural daylight.   You may be familiar with Empyrean, the creation of Julia Fiechter (President, Co-Owner), Gary Probst (Owner), Renee Miner (Chief Event Designer) and Jeremy Miner (Director of Operations) located in the former Summit Club. I first tasted Empyrean’s culinary creations at a charity event I attended, and I was hooked immediately. Deconstructed potato salads, gazpacho shooters, and desserts made with liquid nitrogen – say what?! It was more than delicious – it was a culinary experience. The name “Empyrean” stands for the highest level of heaven, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The only downside was that you could only experience this heavenly culinary experience if you had them cater your event or befriended people solely for the purpose of attending their wedding held in the event space at Empyrean. (Don’t judge. It happens.) I literally spent years stalking them on Instagram and liking each and every picture and accepting every invite to an event they catered. So imagine my excitement at discovering they had an actual cafe where you could walk in and order whenever you wanted! (It was the same level as when I discovered that there is a wine for your cat, which is saying a lot.)   I chatted with Jeremy Miner about the concept behind Empyrean Cafe. Jeremy has been in the food and beverage industry for over two decades and started out as a dish washer. At the age of 14, he was second in command in the kitchen. By age 15, he was running a kitchen that served 400 people in a day and had the restaurant owner’s grandmother call the school for him and pretend he was sick so that he could prep the kitchen for the weekend. It was there that he devoured his first medium rare steak and realized that there is more to food beyond basic nutrition. It’s an experience that transcends mere digestion. Just like a song can bring you back to a particular moment of time, taste can unlock memories and create narratives of its own.   “If you can think it, we can create it,”...

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Baan Thai Joins North Anthony Corridor
May16

Baan Thai Joins North Anthony Corridor

Recently North Anthony Corridor gained some delicious and exotic cuisine by way of Baan Thai Restaurant. The restaurant has been a foodie favorite in Fort Wayne for 14 years and had previously been at a smaller location in the Jo-Ann Fabric shopping center on Coldwater Road. While Baan Thai is my favorite Thai restaurant, I am certainly not biased…it has won Fort Wayne Newspapers Reader’s Choice for Best Thai in Fort Wayne for the last seven years in a row! Owner Pete Rugsaken has cooking in his DNA. His dad was a chef and his mom was a chef, so of course he attended Ball State University to be a ….engineer. Bet you didn’t see that coming. But while Pete was attending college he worked at restaurants to support himself. For three years upon graduation he worked in engineering and absolutely hated it. His true love was in the restaurant industry and, lucky for us, he chose to move to Fort Wayne to start up the beloved Baan Thai. In a town that has no shortage of restaurant options, the thing that makes Baan Thai stand out is its combination of fresh ingredients, fragrant dishes adorned with carved vegetable art, a flavor profile that dances on your tongue, and the friendliness of the staff. The restaurant is home to 15 employees who are from all parts of the world including Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and Burma. According to Pete the secret to getting good quality service from your employees is to treat them like family. By caring for them, they in turn care for the restaurant and want to see it succeed. This is showcased in the way they care for their customers. Every time I visit for my dose of garlic tilapia (Thai hot, natch) I am greeted by name with a huge smile..its the little things, but it truly makes you feel like family. Being of Sri Lankan descent, I am always curious to know if ethnic food that is served in Fort Wayne is authentic or if it is Americanized. I asked Pete and he said that similar to most countries Thailand has distinct regions, which prepare food differently. Southern Thailand serves very spicy coconut-based curries, Northeastern Thailand serves spicy yet simple fare, Northern Thailand serves boiled foods with little coconut but lots of herbs, and Central Thailand serves refined dishes often infused with Chinese ingredients and a mixture of sweetness versus only spiciness. The food of Central Thailand is that which is served most predominately in American Thai restaurants and what Baan Thai serves as well. Pete said Baan Thai’s food is authentic, but oftentimes there...

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Soothe Your Palate at Hideout 125
Jan23

Soothe Your Palate at Hideout 125

One of my favorite things about Fort Wayne is that there are so many options for delicious local dining, and I have one more for you to add to your list (if you haven’t already): Hideout 125. It’s a relatively new upscale restaurant on the north side of Fort Wayne (in the Pine Valley Plaza) and it’s worth every penny. Hideout 125 is owned by Panos Bourounis (also the owner of Cosmos House of Pancakes) and Brian Shreffler. Feeling the need for another evening dining option on the north side of town, they found that the space in the Pine Valley Plaza perfectly fit the “speakeasy” feel that they wanted. Walking into Hideout 125, I instantly sensed its uniqueness. The “prohibition era” theme is unmistakable in the wall décor, even the style of the booths and tables; the restaurant definitely exudes a cool vibe. The music, the ambiance and the lighting make the restaurant inviting, I couldn’t wait to try the food (which by the way was amazing). Once I was seated, I ordered a cocktail called the Barista, an espresso martini that was the perfect blend of coffee and cocktail. Though a tad strong for my taste, it was a delicious treat after a long day at work. When I got to the menu, I was torn between ordering the crab cakes or the tuna (clearly I was in the mood for seafood), but ultimately decided to go with the small plate crab cake and a chopped salad. I was not disappointed. The crab cake was served atop an artichoke-potato soup and drizzled with remoulade (it’s a mayonnaise based sauce, I had to ask). The salad was larger than I expected, and perfectly chopped and dressed. Overall the meal and service was fantastic. Next time you are out in search of a new place to have dinner, try Hideout 125, it won’t disappoint. (If you want to try them on a weekend, consider making a...

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