Over the summer, South Bend has been hosting monthly Wednesday Wine Walks. It’s a fun event that allows you to explore some of the best restaurants that downtown South Bend has to offer and enjoy some great food and wine. Plus, it’s a good excuse to go out and have some fun in the middle of the week. You pick one restaurant as your starting location and pay the $40 admission fee ($10 of which goes to a local charity). You’ll then receive a small tasting glass that’s yours to keep and carry around to each participating restaurant for your samples.

Even though summer has drawn to a close, the wine walk was back in October, but with a twist. In celebration of Oktoberfest the event turned into a beer walk. You still had a chance to sample food at eight different downtown restaurants, but instead of wine pairings you got a chance to sample some of the great regional microbrews.

This month’s participating restaurants were and breweries were:

It was a great lineup and we couldn’t wait to get started, so our first stop was at Sunny Italy right as the event kicked off at 5 pm. It was certainly a hearty way to kick things off because they provided fried ravioli with marinara  some breaded chicken wings, and peppers and sausage. The food was excellent, and the beers from Flat 12 Bierworks were decent. They offered an IPA, an amber, and a porter. This was the first of many porters of the night, and I’ll have to admit that it wasn’t the best. The IPA and amber were quite good, though.

Sunny Italy Cafe Tasting Plate

Fried ravioli, peppers and sausage, and chicken wings at Sunny Italy Cafe

Since Sunny Italy and East Bank Emporium were two restaurants a bit outside of the central downtown area, we hopped back in the car and went to East Bank next. This plate had smaller bites, but a lot of flavor. In this case the beers really paired well with each portion. Included here was Upland’s wheat ale, Dragonfly IPA, and Bad Elmer’s Porter. The star pairing was surprisingly the wheat ale and the potato skin. The cheese and potato transformed the wheat ale and almost made it taste a little sweet.

East Bank Emporium Tasting Plate

Cheesy potato skins, sausage and sauerkraut, and a fudge brownie at East Bank Emporium.

After washing down dessert at East Bank it was time to head downtown, park the car, and do a little walking. Fiddler’s Hearth was right across the street from the parking garage so it made sense to start there. Fiddler’s is always a nice casual place to kick back with a few beers, so we were looking forward to see what they had in store for the night.

Next up was LaSalle Grill, which happened to be hosting two tastings on both the second and third floor. Trio’s had to back out at the last minute so LaSalle hosted theirs as well. The featured brewery was Dark Horse out of Marshall, MI, and I’ve heard good things about them in the past, but it would be my first trying their beer. They offered a Belgian tripel, an IPA, and a brown ale. I was impressed and they were all very good representations of their respective styles. But even more impressive was the bacon stuffed green olive, breaded and fried, with a remoulade. Wow. I’m totally stealing that idea for our next dinner party.

Fiddler's Hearth Tasting Plate

Sausage and sauerkraut crostini, bacon stuffed green olive, and mini cream puff at Fiddler’s Hearth.

The first stop at LaSalle was a pairing with beer from Triton out of Indianapolis. As always at LaSalle, the food was top-notch. Where else are you going to get duck confit and roquefort cheese at a beer tasting? The beer from Triton was a hit. A wonderful Belgian to go with the duck, an IPA to offset the cheese that smells of stinky foot, and a nice balanced amber to go with the shrimp. I wish we could have stayed here and just kept getting more plates and called it dinner.

Tasting Plate at LaSalle Grill

Duck confit salad, roquefort and apple, and grilled barbecue shrimp at LaSalle Grill.

Taking the stairs we moved on to the tasting room featuring beers from Greenbush, which is a small brewery up in Sawyer, MI. Again, the food really stood out here. Sweet potato brie bites, bratwurst and cabbage with juniper scented bavarian mustard, and a caramel hazelnut tart. This stop had by far the best bratwurst of the evening. The beers from Greenbush were interesting and I’d have to say the imperial coffee stout was a great way to finish with the tart.

LaSalle Grill Tasting Plate

Sweet potato and brie, bratwurst and cabbage, and a caramel hazelnut tart at LaSalle Grill.

After two satisfying plates and a handful of beer samples we went next door to check out The Vine. This time they held the tasting down in the cellar, which was something different compared to last time. I was excited for this stop because the brewery here was New Holland, which has some of my favorite beers.  I’ve had the three they were offering before–full circle kolsch, mad hatter IPA, and Dragon’s Milk bourbon barrel stout–but they are worth having again. Dragon’s Milk is still one of my favorite beers of all time and it went nicely with the pulled pork slider.

Tasting Plate at The Vine

Roasted artichoke, salmon cake, and pulled pork slider on pretzel bun at The Vine.

At this point we’re feeling the effects of all the food and beer. Hardly able to get the last plate of food down we manage to make the walk down the block to Cafe Navarre. The real motivation here was that Cafe Navarre was hosting Bell’s beer, which is another favorite brewery of mine. Nothing new here, but their two-hearted, oktoberfest, and porter are all top-notch. As full as we were, we managed to suffer through some amazing venison chili, duck sausage, and pork sauerbraten on a pretzel roll. I don’t think either of us finished the plate as we hit the wall.

Tasting Plate at Cafe Navarre

Venison chili, duck sausage skewers, and pork sauerbraten on a pretzel roll at Cafe Navarre.

Stuffed and ready to go home already, with only two more stops left it made sense to push on. Just across the street was the South Bend Chocolate Cafe, and knowing they give chocolate samples instead of big plates of food, this would be a good time for a little dessert. Four Horsemen Brewing Company right out of South Bend was on hand to give out some beer that paired with the chocolates. They always have pretty good beer and their Irish red, English pale ale, and pumpkin ale were all quite nice. We ended up lounging in one of the super comfortable couches and it made it nearly impossible to get up and prepare for the last stop.

At the South Bend Chocolate Factory

The beer and chocolate sampling crowd at The South Bend Chocolate Cafe.

The last stop of the evening was at Tippecanoe Place, but since that was quite a ways down the road we decided to retrieve the car first. This also gave us a little time to digest and relax a bit before attempting one more plate of food. If you’ve never been to Tippecanoe Place before, I’d recommend checking it out. It’s a fantastic historic building and just stepping foot inside of it feels like you’re going back in time. It’s just a really neat place. Closing out the evening was Round Barn Brewery and their Kolsch, Bob’s Your Uncle bitter, and an amber ale. I’m a big fan of Round Barn so I’ve had these beers before, but they were good as always. These were paired up with a classic German sampling of bratwurst and sauerkraut, potato salad, and a pretzel with a bourbon glaze.

Tasting Plate at Tippecanoe Place

Bratwurst and sauerkraut, potato salad, and pretzel at Tippecanoe Place.

As always, this was fun event and it was nice to switch things up from wine to beer this time around. If you’ve ever wanted to try some of the restaurants that South Bend has to offer but never have the time or don’t know what to try, these Wednesday walks are a perfect opportunity to get out and try a few. Plus, it’s really fun to head out with a small group of friends or family and get through that mid-week slump. Stay tuned for announcements for future wine/beer walks.

About the Author

Food is an experience. It's a way to share a bond with friends and family, and most importantly, it's fun. Join me as I explore the local food offerings here in Michiana and share some of my favorite recipes and tools of the trade.

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