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Ryan DuVall | The Journal Gazette
From top, a Chicago Dog, a Coney Dog and a DuVall Dog from Coney Dog Café in New Haven

Savor best tastes of summer

Lemon and black raspberry ice cream from the Dairy Sweet in Grabill
Photos by Ryan DuVall | The Journal Gazette
A plate of ribs and brisket from Blue Stack Smokehouse, 3620 N. Clinton St.

As summer winds down and the kids have headed back to school, I always have regrets.

It seems as if there are so many places I wanted to go to, but didn’t make it, and so many fun foods I meant to enjoy more.

So, as I hoard the last of my garden tomatoes, I thought I would provide you with a handful of treats you need to enjoy before the leaves turn.

Hot dogs

I love Indiana sweet corn and never turn down watermelon, but, for me, nothing says summer more than a hot dog. And to get a great dog, the place I go to is the Coney Dog Café in New Haven.

Not only does it have great Coneys, owner Marty Compton offers a variety of dog creations such as Slaw Dogs, barbecued Western Dogs and his version of a Chicago Dog. And be sure to ask for the DuVall Dog, which Compton named for yours truly after I named his dog spot my favorite in 2006. It is a deep-fried “ripper”-style dog stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon.

And if you dare, try one of the half-pound all-beef dogs. If you dare even more, get it DuVall-style.

As for other great dog places, Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island, 131 W. Main St., is never a bad idea, and Dawson’s Dogs, 10020 Lima Road, and East State C oney, 2831 E. State Blvd., can hook you up properly.

Barbecue

Although you may like what comes off your Weber in the summer best, there are a growing number of great places to have some ’cue in the Summit City.

My favorite is Blue Stack Smokehouse, 3620 N. Clinton St. The brisket is the best around and if you ask nicely, owner David McLaughlin will slice you off some of the burnt-end pieces. The ribs never disappoint – juicy and smoky with just the right pull. Also be sure to try one of McLaughlin’s homemade spicy or sweet sausages if he has any left.

The smoky chicken wings make Rack and Helens worth the trip over to New Haven. The bar also has tasty hickory-smoked pulled pork and offers ribs on Thursdays and Fridays.

Some other barbecue spots where you can get your fix: Shigs In Pit, 2008 Fairfield Ave., Dicky’s Wild Hare, 2910 Maplecrest Road, and the new Red Rok BBQ & Bourbon Saloon, 123 Columbia St.

Ice cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for it. And I scream about it a lot during the summer.

My list of favorite ice cream places is extensive, but my overall No. 1 choice has to be the Dairy Sweet in Grabill.

The ice cream is super creamy and rich, and if you are lucky, you will be there on a day when the unique lemon or lime is offered. But if not, get the black raspberry as it is always available and always hits the spot.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t steer you toward Magic Wand in Churubusco – also a great place to eat – or Carousel in New Haven for some great ice cream.

And if ice cream isn’t frosty enough for you, try some of the Italian ices at Carousel or at Wise Guys Italian Ice at Leo Crossing.

Cocktails

When it comes to summer drinks with a little kick, nothing beats a perfect margarita. Whether you get yours traditional on the rocks like I do, or blended and flavored, it is hard to find a truly bad one.

But who has great ones?

El Azteca, 525 E. State Blvd., has a fantastic variety including one of my favorites that is infused with sweet and sour prickly pear cactus.

Dos Margaritas, 4230 N. Clinton St., also puts out a tasty margarita, and you can get giant 32-ounce ones there. And if you have never tried one, head to La Margarita, 2713 S. Calhoun St., for its legendary blue margarita. It is tremendous.

For a taste of the Islands, visit Warsaw’s Noa Noa Wood Grill and Sushi Bar and have a tiki drink or two … or three. Nothing will make you think of summer more than a sip from a beachcomber or mojito there.

Eating outdoors

Al fresco dining is another great joy of the summer months, and you need to look no further than the area lakes to find great options.

Adams Lake Pub near Wolcottville has what is my favorite patio, which, of course, overlooks the lake and just puts you in a summery mood. Nearly every lakeside eatery offers outdoor dining, so the list is too big to publish here.

But if you don’t have time to travel to a lake, there are also some good options here in Fort Wayne.

The Deck behind Don Hall’s Old Gas House, 305 E. Superior St., is a crowd-pleaser with its view of the St. Marys River. Hall’s Triangle Park, 3010 Trier Road, also has a great back deck and the folks there always have stale bread so you can feed the ducks and swans on the pond.

The deck overlooking the St. Marys River at Curly’s Village Inn, 4205 Bluffton Road, is a fun place to drink and eat, and the patio at Firefly Coffee House, 3523 N. Anthony Blvd., is the perfect place to relax with a cup of Joe.

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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