Often overlooked as a culinary destination, there are some real treats to be discovered in South Bend, Indiana. From award-winning fine dining institutions, to little known informal eateries, there are plenty of tempting restaurants to choose from, and a variety of flavours to sample. Here is an updated version of our previous list, including even more local favourites
Offering contemporary European fusion cuisine in a warm and welcoming setting, Café Navarre is one of South Bend’s true culinary gems. Placing an emphasis on fresh fish dishes, rich in French, Italian and Spanish flavours, the restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner throughout the week, and just for dinner on Sundays. Pick an entrée from the main menu or choose a selection of small plates; including English pea risotto and a charcuterie board of prosciutto, sopressata, duck pate, artichoke salad, olives and cornichons. Captivating the eyes of art enthusiasts, the walls of Café Navarre are adorned with a selection of artworks, courtesy of the Blue Gallery.
Cambodian Thai is a family-run, authentic Asian eatery in the heart of South Bend. Book a table here to become enveloped in Cambodian culture and cuisine from the moment you step over the threshold. A vast array of soups, salads, appetisers, noodle dishes, curries and speciality entrees are on offer for diners to enjoy. Order either the Cambodian egg rolls or the dim sum shrimp sampler to start, and follow with either the massaman curry (tofu, chicken, beef or shrimp cooked with sweet potatoes, whole roasted peanuts and onions in coconut milk) or the pho seafood (a rice noodle soup with bean sprouts, basil, onion, cilantro, shrimp, beef and squid meatballs). Most of the dishes can be made to suit vegetarians, and diners are encouraged to advise their waiter whether they prefer their food hot or mild.
One of South Bend’s AAA Four Diamond restaurants, The Carriage House is reputed for having an excellent wine list, as well as an a la carte menu and impeccable service. Located within a historic church nestled amid beautifully landscaped gardens, The Carriage House is a relaxing and peaceful place in which to dine. Impressionist oil paintings and antiques decorate the dining space, completing the intimate and picturesque setting. Groups of six or more looking for a more adventurous culinary experience can choose to partake in a custom multi-course menu crafted by the chef and the sommelier to a specific cultural or geographical theme.
Themed around a traditional Irish pub, Fiddler’s Hearth offers cultural travellers a casual setting in which to enjoy hearty comfort foods and good beer. There is often live music to entertain diners during the weekends, and the menu takes inspiration from all seven of the Celtic nations. Dishes to try include the Salmon of Knowledge served with colcannon, the Irish stew, and the steak and Guinness pie. Afternoon tea is also available, by reservation only, and includes a selection of finger sandwiches, as well as handmade scones with clotted cream.
A Chinese restaurant that offers a healthy alternative to the MSG-filled dishes so often on offer at Chinese restaurants, J.W. Chen’s Chinese Cuisine makes each of its dishes fresh to order. The menu consists of a variety of pork, seafood, chicken, duck, beef and vegetarian dishes, to suit all tastes and needs. Customers can choose to dine in the restaurant for dinner, order takeaway, or take advantage of one of the excellent lunch specials available daily. J.W. Chen’s is located just a short stroll from Notre Dame University, and so attracts a young crowd looking for affordable, tasty cuisine. Try the fried won ton, stir-fried tender pork and cabbage with a homemade pancake, the chicken noodle soup, and the spicy tangerine beef, for a delicious, wholesome meal.
One of South Bend’s highly reputed AAA Four Diamond restaurants, LaSalle Grill is located downtown and is the perfect choice for a lovely dinner before checking out the city’s nightlife. Set within one of South Bend’s oldest commercial structures, built in 1868, LaSalle’s dining room is accented by an array of inspirational works of art by local and regional artists. The exposed kitchen completes the atmosphere, and allows guests to anticipate the lavish meal that is ahead. Contemporary American cooking lies at the heart of the menu here, and reservations are highly recommended, especially on match days.
Serving gourmet dishes of the highest quality, The Mark Dine & Tap feels like it should be in a big foodie city rather than conveniently located in the Eddy Street Commons. Dishes on offer include baked goat’s cheese, steamed edamame pods, pan-roasted swordfish and slow-roasted osso buco. Staff at The Mark Dine & Tap pride themselves on serving only the finest-quality drinks to match the exquisite dishes. The wine list features numerous bottles from every corner of the globe, and each of the beers is carefully selected to include only the very best of quality craft and imported names. The cocktails are even more divine, and are created using infused vodkas, freshly squeezed juices and top-of-the-line single malt scotches, craft whiskeys and small-batch gins.
Pitts BBQ may not be the most fancy of South Bend eateries, but it is certainly one of the most popular. Serving succulent meats straight from the pit to the plate, Pitts’ specialises in BBQ ribs but also does great chicken, beef tips and pulled-pork. The portions are huge and yet the prices are kept low, ensuring that customers keep coming back for more. All dinner plates are served with coleslaw and a choice of other side dishes, and salads are available for an extra charge. For those not in the mood for meat, the bluegill fillet and catfish are equally delicious and go perfectly with a portion of crisp fries. Open late for dinner, Pitts BBQ is a great place to stop for a casual dinner at the end of a busy day.
Woochi Japanese Fusion & Bar | Courtesy Woochi Japanese Fusion & Bar
The family that runs Rocco’s say that they serve ‘the best Italian food this side of the Appian Way’. Although that might sound like a bold statement, locals certainly seem to agree. Rocco’s is always bustling with hungry diners eager to get their hands on a plate of Italian comfort food. Everything is cooked fresh daily at Rocco’s, from the pizza dough to the pasta sauces, ensuring consistently high-quality, beautiful flavours. Try the combo pizza topped with homemade sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers for a deliciously filling meal, or opt for the baked lasagne or the potato gnocchi for something slightly lighter but still as satisfying and tasty.
Although primarily a Japanese restaurant, Woochi Japanese Fusion & Bar also serves a number of Chinese and other Asian dishes too. The colourful and lively dining room is the perfect place for a fun, high-energy dinner, or lunch with a big group of friends or family. Alongside an array of artistically created sushi rolls, Woochi offers a variety of tasty sashimi, tempura and teriyaki dishes to delight your tastebuds. Health is an important factor in Japanese culture, so guests are encouraged to complement their dinner with a green, black, flower or flavoured tea to help digestion. Of course there is always the option to sip sake at the end of the meal as an alternative form of digestif too.