Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the northeastern part of the state, is a fantastic vacation spot, especially for foodies. Ever since the 1800s, it’s been known as “The Summit City” because it was the highest point on the Wabash and Erie Canal run. Fort Wayne is an accessible 20-minute drive west of Ohio’s border and a 3-hour drive from Chicago. It’s the second largest city in Indiana and growing steadily. According to Wane.com, “It’s growing faster than any other state in the region due to the high quality of life and low cost of living.”
This exciting city is a must-tour destination, especially if dining is high on your list of things to enjoy. The restaurant scene has taken off in recent years because of all the new amenities to experience in the city. There are revamped historic sites, 8 miles of riverfront to paddle, and gorgeous green spaces for biking, especially at Promenade Park. And there’s a brand new Public Arts trail with a self-guided tour that you can access from your smartphone. Just reading about all there is to see and do, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Here are seven can’t miss stops during your visit to fabulous Fort Wayne.
1. Explore The Landing And Sample World Cuisines
Once a pioneer depot, the Landing was a dock in the mid-1800s for the Erie and Wabash Canal boats. It’s a meeting place less than two blocks away from Promenade Park. In the Landing, you’ll discover a stretch of 15 locally-owned restaurants, shops, and residences along Columbia Street. The one-block area is on Fodor’s 2022 Go List because of the inventive cuisine, craft beer, craft coffee, block parties, and pop-up shopping venues.
One tempting stop along the Landing is Nawa. The restaurant is owned by local, longtime residents of Indiana who strive for excellence in presentation and authentic ingredients. (They will also source ingredients locally whenever possible.) If you crave the flavors of Asia, then you will love Nawa. The fusion restaurant received inspiration from the dishes of Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia (among others). Serving small and large plates, you can also sip custom-craft cocktails that combine the herbal and fruit flavors of the Far East. The menu is vast. There are 15 different starters, including my favorite, shumai, a Japanese-style dumpling with chicken and shrimp wrapped in a wonton wrapper. Entrées include various curries, wok-style dishes, Ramen, and Pho (a Thai soup with broth, rice noodles, bok-choy, and protein).
Pro Tip: Tuck into the Chef’s signature dishes if you still have room, including the delicious “Boxing Chicken.” It’s a roasted half-chicken seasoned with garlic, lemongrass, and Thai tamarind sauce, with sides of sticky rice and papaya salad. Sip a creative cocktail like the Hokkaido Mule with Takara Shōchū, ginger beer, lime, and bitters to round out your meal.
2. Try Another Delicious Choice At The Landing
Mercado highlights Cali-Mex flavors plus a killer selection of agave spirits. The restaurant started as a food truck and now has both the truck and its brick-and-mortar location. The menu features Chicano flavors with a modern twist. You can stop in for lunch and sample carne asada tacos with house-marinated steak, onions, cilantro, guacamole, and salsa. Or for dinner, feast on Platos Fuertes, or “main dishes,” such as pescado al pastor, a marinated red snapper topped with a Tepache pineapple chutney, Mexican rice, and salsa verde. Don’t forget to sample the “Best Margarita in Town.” My choice would be the Cholo, a Mezcal blend, lime, citrus agave, and Sal de Gusano.
Pro Tip: Brunch is also fabulous here. Try my favorite Chilaquiles, two fried eggs, salsa roja, salsa verde, crema, cotija cheese, onion, and cilantro. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Bite Into A Piece Of Nostalgia On Main Street
Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014. It remains Fort Wayne’s oldest operating restaurant, selling around 2,000 hot dogs topped with 70 pounds of hand-chopped onions a day. The menu is small but classic, including the signature item — a steamed bun, grilled hot dog, mustard, Coney sauce, and hand-chopped onions. There are burgers, homemade chili, oven-baked beans, chips, and slices of fresh pie. They still sell glass bottles of Coke just like they did in 1914, and not much has changed inside the beloved hot dog stand either. The same counter stools and tables offer seating inside the historic shop, and they continue to honor their traditions. They are the proud caretakers of this Fort Wayne institution, run by the same family since 1916 (descendants of Macedonians). Orders are never written down (like in the old days), but most servers already know what the local crowd wants anyway; it’s that kind of place.
Pro Tip: If you are local, you know the hamburgers are one of the best-kept secrets in town. But no matter what you choose, a stop here is a must.
4. Taste Next Level Latin Dining
Próximo means “next” in Spanish. This restaurant in downtown Fort Wayne was conceived by the group that introduced The Hoppy Gnome and Baker Street Steakhouse. At Próximo, along with the flavors of Spain, you’ll enjoy the tastes of Cuba, Colombia, and Latin America. And if you like cocktails, the list here is sure to pique your interest.
This Latin fusion restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with traditional items like mixed berry pancakes to a more indulgent dulce de leche French toast with macerated berries and toasted pecans. Try the carnita-braised pork over house-made cornbread finished with poached eggs, hollandaise, and cilantro. If you prefer eggs, Proximo’s Benedict includes those exciting Latin flavors.
Lunch items are phenomenal. Try the Ecuadorian ceviche or the Columbian version with shrimp, tomatoes, cucumber, serrano peppers, and a lime coconut marinade. There are several types of Tortas (sandwiches), soups, salads, and vegetarian options. Dinner choices include a mix of beef, pork, and fish entrees, including the show stopping seafood paella. Próximo’s version combines saffron rice tossed with bay scallops, clams, sauteed shrimp, grilled chicken, a half-lobster tail, and Spanish chorizo.
Pro Tip: There are too many items to list, so you will have to see for yourself, but save room for the Spanish churros served with dulce de leche and Mexican-spiced chocolate sauce.
5. Savor Fresh-Picked Farm-To-Table Flavors
Tolon equals a boisterous and vibrant fine-dining experience in Fort Wayne. This 20-table establishment prides itself on treating guests like family in an intimate setting that’s neither quiet nor reserved. The restaurant serves locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, a sustainable practice that supports local farmers and provides the freshest, in-season products in the kitchen and behind the bar. Chef Matthew Nolot is a culinary wizard in the family-run kitchen. Still, he takes great pride in all they do at Tolon—especially mixing cocktails at their first-come-first-serve bar. Come for dinner to delight in Tolon’s signature dish of scallops with pancetta, delicata squash, and Brussel sprouts in a soubise sauce and brown butter.
Pro Tip: Don’t skip drinks or dessert here. They’re all creative and memorable.
6. Sip Craft Beer At An Old Paper Warehouse
The old Korte Paper Company houses Junk Ditch Brewery, a new endeavor from the folks at Affine Food Truck and GK Baked Goods. This brewery and kitchen sources ingredients locally and brings a made-from-scratch philosophy when preparing menu items. You can devour their pizza or burgers, or nibble on small bites like wings and pretzels with pub cheese. There are vegan and world cuisine items too. If you’re stopping by for a beer, you’ll find craft brews like cream ale, Czech Pilsner, Pale Ale, Bitter, and IPA’s. For non-beer drinkers, there are ciders, wines, and non-alcoholic drinks.
7. Sample Some Of The World’s Best Chocolate
DeBrand Fine Chocolates is known as one of the world’s elite chocolatiers, committed to excellence. You can buy delicious truffles and signature chocolates in the shop or relax in the elegant café. Indulge in one of their specialty chocolate drinks, sundaes, or the chocolate dessert of your dreams. The company has four locations in Fort Wayne.
Founder and owner Cathy Brand is hands-on at DeBrand and has had a passion for chocolate since she was 8 years old. DeBrand chocolates use only the highest quality ingredients in their delicious treats, from Belgian and Swiss chocolate to internationally-sourced and fresh local ingredients. Many of the products are handmade, making sure every detail is perfect for their customers, from locals to chocolate lovers worldwide.
Pro Tip: Tours of the DeBrand Facility are available at the Auburn Road location.
Stay At The Vera Bradley Boutique Hotel
If you are a fan of Vera Bradley handbags and products, you will love staying at The Bradley, the newly opened boutique hotel. Co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard partnered with hotel developer Provenance to create a signature experience that embodies Vera Bradley’s beautiful fabrics and eye for detail. Its location in downtown Fort Wayne is close to everything. It offers two sensational restaurants — Birdies on the rooftop terrace overlooking downtown and Arbor in the hotel’s central area. It’s a jewel in the heart of Fort Wayne.
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