Regional food specialties
-Coney Dogs and sliders in Indiana
I took a little Saturday excursion with a friend out to Fort Wayne, Indiana last month. No specific reason except for it was finally nice outside and I have been wanting to visit a couple Fort Wayne classic American food stops for quite some time. The fact that the Fort Wayne Tin Cap's (minor league baseball) also happened to be playing a home game that Saturday made the trip all the more merrier. We ended up taking the Chicago Skyway to Hammond and then taking Indianapolis ave to Lincoln Highway which we rode all the way into Fort Wayne.
Historic Building in Columbia City, IN
A cruise down Lincoln Highway into Fort Wayne where we would take in a couple Roadfood classics and the baseball game in a town deemed "The dumbest in America" seemed like an interesting way to spend a Saturday and you know it was. I'm a fan of travel along historic and scenic routes and finding the locals favorite type places you just don't see along major interstates. However I must say this part of Lincoln Highway was flat out boring until the last stretch of it leading into FW. It was strip mall after strip mall and speed trap after speed trap. Fort Wayne however had everything I mention and was a fun place to explore.
Historic Columbia Street in Ft. Wayne (click pic to enhance)
It wasn't until we were about 40 minutes away that it finally gave the option to take a Historic Lincoln Highway Route that brought us thru Columbia City which was a nice little old Indiana town that also had the type of spot I was thinking about when I wanted to take US30. Surprise! Surprise! another old school Coney Shop in the middle of the Midwest. Except this one will have to wait, they were closed. I was looking forward to trying a Coney dog and a breaded cheeseburger which was also on the menu in the window.
Columbia City, IN Coney Joint
It wasn't a good start to this foodventure as the original plan was to stop at Nick's Kitchen in Hunington, IN which is said to have created the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich but they close at 2p and we wouldn't have made it so we had to settle for The Penguin Point Drive In for a quick snack before the final push to the Fort. The Point is a small local greater Fort Wayne area fast food joint that survived when the giants took over. The first location was a Drive In located in Wabash, this one we stopped at was in Warsaw. I think I saw inside on the wall that they have 12 spots now. It was 2 for $4 Pork Tenderloin Day, so hey! hey! I did get to have a PT sandwich after all. It was another fast food joint in the end, nothing too special about it. The sandwich was about what you'd expect from a fast food joint maybe a little better since it was made fresh and I was hungry.
Penguin Point's Popular Pork Tenderloin
After being too late for a Coney at The Nook and having Coney's on my mind all day since I was headed to Fort Wayne I needed a damn Coney. Driving US30 ended up taking alot longer than I expected and so we only had a couple hours or so to roll around the city before the game and I'll admit it, I liked the place. I don't know what formula they used to figure out how Fort Wayne was named America's dumbest city but I'll admit this too, some parts of the trip and people we met lived up to the hype. Maybe it was because I had that little study on my mind but nonetheless it was a fun place to visit.
Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Shack
We cruised into the downtown area and browsed around for a little bit before we made our way to the Fort Wayne Famous Coney Island which has been around since 1914. It's well known on the roadfood circuit as it's been featured in many newspapers and magazine publications and what not during it's time. As one who's done alot of cruising around the Midwest one thing you can almost always find is an old Coney Shop downtown somewhere whether it's , , , , and most every place in Michigan and Ohio, they all have one and they're all very similar as far as looks and feel as well as menu, everything except the sauce that is. Well you can throw Fort Wayne into the mix when it comes to Coney crazy places because they seem to have quite the culture for them.
As we enter
I read on the internet about Fort Wayne Coney shop and how it was up for sale and people were worried about it and what the future may hold. I don't know if it was sold but it seems to be doing very well. The place was jammed and they must of had 10 people working in there including a guy who was holding everything down and I assume was the owner. I loved it but then again I like all the classic Coney shops I go to. Fort Wayne Coney had some vibe to it with all the different people from different backgrounds in there enjoying their Saturday afternoon in what I imagine was one of their most familiar ways.
Every Coney shop has the dogs in the window, doesn't matter where
With this being my first visit I went with two Coney's, both with everything (sauce, mustard, onions) and one with cheese. Along with that I also got the chili soup which came rec'd by the younger dude taking our orders at the counter. I had wanted to try a burger but we were headed to a legendary spot for them shortly thereafter. That being said however they did look damn good as they took fresh balls of beef from the fridge in front of us and smashed them onto the flattop seen in the pic above. I'm becoming a Coney King of sorts having checked out many local Coney shops around the Midwest. I wholeheartedly agree with others out there who like Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island very much so. The hot dogs used were child's play which I have come to learn need to be when having an authentic Coney, but the sauce at FW Coney is tongue tingling. These Coneys are almost like hot dog sliders, their on the small side so you always get a few.
Two Coney's both with everything, one with cheese
As far as the chili soup, I'm a fan. I'll admit that all the purists and those from the lone star state would shat a storm if they were served this, but since they called it chili soup on the menu I knew what I was in for. Not bad for a Midwest brew.
a Ft. Wayne Famous Coney dog alongside some chili soup
After a disappointing start to this foodventure the Ft. Wayne Famous Coney Shop put us back on track. After our late lunch there we took a stroll around Fort Wayne into and thru some of the neighborhoods. It reminded me of so many other Midwest manufacturing blue collar cities but I was surprised by how many people are still there. When me and my friend were talking about it I guessed there were maybe 85,000 people in FW and we were both shocked that theres over 250,000 people. The lifestyle and people there reminded me a little bit of Kenosha/Racine but obviously Fort Wayne is much bigger and theres still a few factories flowing. In case you didn't know it, as a city boy I really like Kenosha/Racine so I really was enjoying Fort Wayne, from a one day visitors perspective anyway.
It's not just corn in Indiana, theres century old buildings and lots of urban decay too...
After checking out their city on a Saturday we made our way to the minor league stadium which we had passed a few times on our tour of downtown. Parkview Field is the home to the Fort Wayne Tin Cap's, which is the Class A affiliate to the San Diego Padres. Who knew it could be so much fun taking in a minor league game in the middle of Indiana? Maybe you knew, but I didn't, they got a helluva stadium and the experience is fantastic. On top of all that our tickets were $8 and it was a free beer tasting promotion day. They had various samples at four separate tables with four different themes including a 'Throwback' table featuring Schlitz, PBR, Old Style and McSorley's as well as a 'Local Favorites' table which had samples from Upland, Goose Island, New Holland and Mad Hatter.
Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, IN
The fact that this was the first nice day in a long time had some play in why the experience was so much fun but I've been to minor league games before and this was the best yet. We got there a little late and I never even sat my ass in the seat I paid for since we purchased beers and walked around the stadium a few times during the duration of the game.
As we enter
Like most minor league stadiums they had some great entertainment away from the game too including a little segment where they find the dirtiest car in the parking lot and put it on the Big Screen inside the stadium and announce to everyone that license plate # so and so is the dirtiest vehicle in the vicinity and they're washing it for free as everyone watches. It was really nice that they had seats throughout the place for anyone to sit at, the people/families that were just roaming around could go sit down almost anywhere.
The outfield has grass hills to sit and watch the game or let the kids play
It was a big crowd this beautiful Saturday and the kids and adults there were loving it, considering what these morons on the northside are doing with statues etc, like we the fans want more damn statues?!?!?! NO! we just want to win (I'm looking at you Crane Kenny you clown) I thought the entertainment value was well worth it. Even in FW I saw less mullets than I do at Wrigley when the Cardinals come to town. Now before you White Sox fans cry a river from tears of laughter I also thought the people taking in the game in Fort Wayne most likely had more brains than those at the Cell.
Team Mascot Johhny Appleseed
So enough ranting and raving about stuff that aint food, how about that? eh, nothing special. I'm excited about the food options on my upcoming Minor League summer stadium swindle but Parkview Field had foodservice suppliers. None of that mattered though since the world famous Powers Hamburgers is a stones throw from the stadium. Oh and it was a fun game, well worth it for the price and in the end it was a pitchers dual as the Tin Caps beat the South Bend Silver Hawks 5-0 scoring three of the runs late.
Powers Hamburgers: Since 1940
Since this old school stand is located so close to the stadium we actually parked in their parking lot and paid to stay thru the game. So we got a chance to go both before the game and after. In case you didn't know, I love me some sliders, so this place has been on my radar forever. There's been days when I've thought of just getting in the car and going to try Powers so I was more excited than one should ever be to eat, one that hasn't been starving anyway.
As we enter
Powers got it's start in the land of sliders, Michigan. In 1935 four brothers built a Powers Hamburgers by hand that became a neighborhood fixture. Then in 1938 one of the brothers moved to Port Huron, MI where he opened a 2nd location. More stores were then added and they expanded into Grand Rapids and Detroit. One of the brothers who was a railroad worker before Powers Hamburgers was born returned to his roots and went to Fort Wayne to work on the railroads and then in 1940 built a Powers Hamburgers which is where it stands today. They had a 2nd location in FW which is no more. On our first visit before the game we went easy and got just two sliders each, both with everything. I was able to get a video of the grillmaster, who was a really cool dude, making the sliders. Check this amazing display.
The grillmaster at Powers is a pro...no that's not extra onions
a slider with everything
I'm glad we got to go twice. The reason being was I liked the second visit much more than the first. I assumed that like most slider spots everything meant mustard, onions and pickles but at Powers everything means ketchup (eww!), mustard, onions and no pickles. So I gotta say I didn't really like the first batch, the ketchup ruined it. I wanted to taste steamed meat and onions not sweet sh!t! But since the best bites of the first batch were the end parts with no ketchup and all beef I knew we were going to be good. The smell from outside of this place is nose catching. The onions are everywhere. I read somewhere online that this place was in a bad part of town? Muhahaha c'mon maaaan. Just because people you may not see everyday are always in there doesn't mean its a dangerous place, it was totally safe.
Sliders with mustard, onion and pickles
In fact the customers inside were great people as were the employees. One of the old time ladies said to me "you really like those burgers huh?" as I snapped pictures away. She told me how she used to live next door to the old location and that sparked up a memories conversation with the grillmaster and waitress. The brothers in there were loving that we were from the Chi and we talked some Bulls basketball as we patiently wait for the playoffs, they asked me about DRose, who is already my favorite Bull ever and no I aint a half assed fan. Then they asked what I thought of these sliders compared to 'White Castle'? The waitress yelled out "Hey, that's a cuss word in here" and everyone claimed their Powers allegiance. Well they know whats up. When we got them with just mustard, onions and pickles they were fantastic and so good I took ten to go. In between our two visits to Powers we stopped in at a neighborhood bar that got my eye.
O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub
I had to pull on in and have a few since that's what I am, Italian and Irish. It turns out this is a popular locals bar with a rugby team, darts leagues and all sorts of regulars, we had a blast. Judging from all the Polaroids lining the walls of ladies showing their stuff on St. Pat's Day, I'm guessing it's a blast there.
Believe me when I tell you the combo makes for the worst temper in da world
We played some cricket and drank some Jameson, I got the Irish genes when it comes to drinking...
After a wedding bus load of people came in on a bar hop the place got packed and we really wanted to stay and go crazy but had to get heading back. Lets just say there were some characters inside. We watched the Cubs blow a lead, nothing new here, and got ready to leave. Even though we were headed back to Powers for our second slider rendezvous I had to try some of the pizza at the pub. That's all they do as far as food and it only comes in sausage/pepperoni slices and it was smelling really good so we split a slice. Not bad, while it wasn't thin like so many other tavern spots in the Midwest it had some taste to it and definitely wasn't from the freezer.
So this is where our day would end as we headed back to Chi. I must admit folks, I didn't know there was more than corn in Indiana. I never knew Fort Wayne was what it is which is a place worth seeing for the night if theres a baseball game going on over the summertime. It's a damn shame they wont be building the Harry Baals Center anytime soon, I for one would of gone and got a pic. So with that I leave you with some sights from the scene.
Fort Wayne m'aaaan
See ya next time on America: The Beautiful*
*yep in even in some parts of Indiana
Coney Island Wiener Stand
131 West Main Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Powers Hamburger Shop
1402 South Harrison Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802-3428
O'Sullivan's Italian-Irish Pub
1808 West Main Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46808-3759