One spot that I’ve regularly hit for work in downtown Fort Wayne is Fortezza. This chic and modern cafe has been the gathering spot for many a meeting and they’ve always provided equal parts incredible coffee and service. Whether you’re there on your own to get some work done, meeting with a friend, or gathering as a larger group, the versatility of their space has you covered.
Cold-pressed, poured over, dripped, steamed, you name it and they can do it, all with premium beans. While I’ve generally only been able to dip my toe into their pastry offerings with a scone (my favorite) or muffin here or there, I’m looking forward to going back for some of their daily food specials.
Part neighborhood tavern, part rock-n-roll bar, this is the kind of watering hole you can lose yourself in for hours. This place is for anyone looking for a shot and a beer, a really nice whiskey, or really anything in between. Whether you have a top shelf go-to or are looking to try something unique, the bartenders know their stuff and the service is my favorite kind of no-bullshit excellent.
While the space is generally occupied by neighborhood regulars early in the evening, the scene changes a bit after hours. The bar doubles as a music venue that brings in rock and punk bands from all over the U.S. and has concert poster-lined walls to prove it. I was very much into the psychedelic rockabilly design, the no-frills bar service, and in general the entire scene. Really looking forward to my next trip up for this spot.
While I’ll make a return visit to try the food at The Gas House, my two-day journey was one with a singular purpose: experience their popular sister establishment, The Deck, situated directly behind the restaurant. Multiple levels of deck space and walkways were jam-packed with people out enjoying the weather along the St. Mary’s River.
There’s something about being on pretty much any body of water that lends a certain carefree attitude to a crowd and that’s what was going down at The Deck. It was the perfect place to enjoy a margarita as the sun went down and live music from the biergarten hummed along in the background. If you need a spot to unwind on a nice day, this is your pick.
Listen up, people. My mind and my body was not prepared for what happened after I walked into what I thought was just another ice cream shop. Another ice cream shop? Hardly.
Ice cream is just the beginning here. Actually, your choice of donut is kind of the beginning. First, they take a donut- generally yeast, but the night I was there they also had cinnamon rolls (I die)- and then they cut said pastry in half. Next, you choose which one of their dozen or so gourmet ice creams you want. I went with the aptly named “This $&@! Just Got Serious” which was smooth, salted caramel ice cream, sea salt fudge and salted cashews. So, then they take two scoops of that, place it on the open side of the donut and MAKE AN ICE CREAM SANDWICH WITH IT. And then, you choose a cereal topping and you have yourself one hefty treat. I went with cocoa puffs.
This place is blew my mind. The service was great, the sheer decadence of what they’re doing also boasts quality ingredients, and their selfie wall provided a start to finish experience that was simply the tops.
As I was sitting at The Golden, just before eating the world’s most mind-meltingly amazing burger, I had a shocking revelation. Tucked into that same building on Harrison Street was one of DeBrand Fine Chocolate’s Fort Wayne locations.
While I’ve never spent much time in Fort Wayne, (something I clearly need to change based on food alone) DeBrand Chocolates carry around a bit of nostalgia for me. Once upon a time, they had a store on the North side of Indianapolis. When my sister and I were kids and would venture into town with our mom, we were always treated to DeBrand Chocolates (unless we were tiny monsters that day), and she would let us pick out a piece of chocolate from the counter. I recently asked my mom about this and she said she loved to visit that store because it reminded her of the chocolate shops back in the motherland, Spain. Particularly one little shop in Grenada for which she carries a fondness. It was special for all of us and I, without fail, ordered the fruit-filled cordials every time.
So there I am, sitting in another restaurant not even close to having had my meal, googling DeBrand’s hours. At that point I realized I only had about 10 minutes before they closed, chalked it up to bad timing, and that was that. Until the universe lovingly brought me back to my senses, I grabbed my credit card, and told the server I’d be back in five.
These chocolates are just as delicious as I had remembered with their smooth dark chocolate exterior and juicy, velvety raspberry filling. My only regret is not ordering a larger box.
There are a number of other places I’d love to add to the list for next time so feel free to share any favorites I’ve missed. If there’s one thing that’s certain, Fort Wayne’s food scene is worthy of deep exploration.
Overall, it’s a region where restaurants are a family operation, ingredients are carefully and locally sourced, and the culinary energy pushes hometown favorites to ride a solid line between trendy and approachable. I can’t wait to go back for more.