South Bend, Indiana, is best known as the home of Notre Dame University and its Fighting Irish football team. However, the town also houses a number of fine-dining and informal restaurant options. Savor the beautiful views along the St. Joseph River and experience the unique culture of this border region, often referred to as Michiana. Here is our guide to the best restaurants South Bend has to offer.
An architectural gem of South Bend, Cafe Navarre offers contemporary European fusion in a warm, inviting atmosphere. The artwork in the restaurant is courtesy of Blue Gallery, curated by Judy Ferrara. The cafe places an emphasis on fresh fish dishes inspired by French, Italian and Spanish flavors. Small plate offerings include dishes such as English pea risotto and charcuterie with prosciutto, sopressata, duck pate, artichoke salad, olives and cornichon. Cafe Navarre also offers vegan options and a very generous wine list.
The Carriage House describes itself as a destination restaurant, and for good reason. It is one of two AAA Four Diamond restaurants in South Bend and has also been recognized by Wine Spectator Magazine for its excellence in wine, food and service. Serving in a historic church nestled among beautifully landscaped gardens, the architecture creates a peaceful, intimate setting for diners to escape to. Impressionist oil paintings and antique decor complete the setting. Adventurous parties of six or more can enjoy a culinary tour, in which the chefs and sommelier craft a custom, multi-course menu around a cultural or geographical theme.
Fiddler’s Hearth is a restaurant which has themes itself on a traditional Irish pub. It frequently offers live music on the weekends and the lively venue serves pub fare as excellent as its entertainment. You’ll find foods from the Seven Celtic Nations crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Specialties include Salmon of Knowledge, named after an Irish legend and consisting of salmon fillet rolled in crushed hazelnuts topped with béchamel sauce and capers. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available. Afternoon tea is served by reservation only, offering sandwiches and handmade scones with clotted cream.
Woochi offers sushi, full kitchen service and a full bar. Primarily serving Japanese cuisine, the restaurant also offers a few Chinese and other Asian dishes. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available as well. Reservations are accepted but not required for lunch and dinner every day of the week. The colorful and lively dining room offers a trendy atmosphere for a fun, high energy experience.
For authentic Lebanese dishes prepared in a family-owned restaurant, look no further than Elia’s Mediterranean Cuisine. Herbs and spices are imported directly from Lebanon in order to craft healthy, authentic meals. Try the shish tawouk: grilled, marinated chicken breast served with rice or Lebanese salad; or beef shawarma, baked beef marinated in red wine vinegar and spices, served with shawarma salad or rice. Quite a few vegetarian options and traditional Lebanese desserts are also available.
LaSalle Grill is an AAA Four Diamond restaurant and is an excellent choice for a special meal before exploring South Bend’s nightlife. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on days which coincide with Notre Dame home football games. The historic LaSalle building is South Bend’s oldest commercial structure, built in 1868. The dining room is accented by artwork from both local and nationally recognized artists, for a dining experience that pleases all of the senses. The exposed showcase kitchen completes the atmosphere. The cuisine is contemporary American with a few unique twists.
Tippecanoe Place is one of South Bend’s premier establishments for fine dining, having served its patrons for over 100 years. Housed in the historic mansion built by Clement Studebaker in the late 19th century, Tippecanoe Place is stunning and lovingly preserved. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The house specialties are roasted prime rib, steak and seafood. Lunch fare includes handcrafted sandwiches, salads and lighter entrees. Be sure to sample from the wine list, which was awarded Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence.
South Bend Chocolate Café is a unique establishment that is somewhere between a coffee shop and a gourmet chocolate shop. The South Bend Chocolate Company is one of the fastest growing chocolate shops in the country, producing gourmet confections, hand crafted condiments and even fresh roasted coffee beans. Enjoy a fresh cup of coffee with a chocolate treat and then take some extra to go. True chocoholics can also indulge in a tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company’s local factory.
For stunning views along the banks of the St. Joseph River, East Bank Emporium cannot be beaten. It was voted the local Readers Choice for both outdoor dining and its romantic atmosphere several years running. East Bank Emporium is a short walk across the bridge from downtown, making both the location and the view ideal. Serving lunch and dinner, entrees are mostly seafood and steak with limited vegetarian options. The Emporium tilapia is topped with toasted almonds and fresh pineapple salsa for a unique flavor. For lunch, try the soup of the day or an Emporium quiche.
Cafe, Restaurant, Italian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fast Food
Sunny Italy Café is South Bend’s oldest Italian restaurant, operating in its location near Notre Dame University since 1926. The neighborhood has since diversified but was once South Bend’s ‘Little Italy’. Notable dishes include spaghetti in white clam sauce. The cafe also makes all of its own salad dressings. For simple, delicious Italian made with only the freshest ingredients, wander into Sunny Italy.