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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 1:00 am

HT2 teams up with restaurants, trucks

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

It was the first ever brunch at HT2, the relatively new cocktail lounge on the far southwest side of town.

The crew from Junk Ditch Brewing was cooking up the food, and Nick Ladig's team at HT2 was mixing up the drinks.

While the spot at 10212 Chestnut Plaza Drive has a kitchen, it's not a large one, and it doesn't have the equipment you would expect to find at a restaurant, such as fryers.

But rather than keep food to a minimum, Ladig is teaming up with people who can do food well and focusing on what he does best – creating unique cocktails with spirits from the craft distillery Hotel Tango, which was founded by his childhood friend.

Tonight, the Tacos Bravas truck will be serving food outside HT2, and on Tuesday, the crew from Head2Hock will have its turn.

And in November, a pop-up-style event like the Sunday brunch will bring together Fort Wayne standard The Italian Connection and HT2.

“We're trying to put on a show,” Ladig says, adding that fans can expect to see a lot more of these events.

The cocktail lounge does have its own menu of shareable plates, including buffalo shrimp dip, goat cheese marinara dip and items from Hetty Arts pastry.

HT2 opened May 23 near the corner of Illinois and Scott roads, a dream of Ladig. Once a distributor for Five Star, he had been working for his friend Travis Barnes at the Indianapolis-based Hotel Tango. Ladig had always wanted to open a bar on that side of town, near where he lived, and doing so gave him the chance to expand Hotel Tango's reach.

“This whole resurgence of the craft cocktails has been happening in the Chicagos and New Yorks of the world for eight years or more now,” Ladig says.

HT2 is not the first to bring small-batch liquors to the area; he's part of a small group in the city.

It's a group, though, that's expected to grow. The craft spirits industry is where craft beer was a decade ago, he says.

According to a market study released this week, global sales of craft spirits is expected to grow at a rate of more than 25 percent over the next four years. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. spirits sales jumped 2.6 percent last year.

Vintage cocktails – such as old fashioned and Manhattans – are increasingly popular among millennials, bringing attention to spirits such as whiskey, bourbon and gin.

Indeed, the old fashioned is one of HT2's most popular cocktails, and it's likely to stay on the menu, which changes seasonally, Ladig says.

But don't worry; if you are looking for something trendy, there's something for you. The recently debuted fall cocktail menu includes HT2's take on the pumpkin spice latte. It's made with pumpkin pie-infused rum, coffee liqueur, milk and a house-made vanilla syrup.

Just one question, though: tall or venti?

IPFW goes Greek

They have been cooking, tasting and working out service details in anticipation of the opening of Athens: Greek Tavern.

The concept is the student-run restaurant that operates at the Holiday Inn Ft. Wayne-IPFW & Coliseum, 4111 Paul Shaffer Drive.

Menu items include the Gamos appetizer, which is made to be shared between two people. It features stuffed mushrooms, spanikopita, dolmathkia (stuffed grape leaves), pita, crostini and olive tapenade and tzatziki for dipping. On the entree side, there's a Greek salad, souvlaki (chicken skewers) and patitsio (Greek lasagna made with penne and bechamel).

Don't worry, there's gyros and baklava, too.

Beginning this week, the restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays. For reservations, call 267-6351.

Tableside treats

Bill Humphries, the founder of Eddie Merlot's, says the restaurant experience is no longer about the food – it's about so much more.

“People are looking to be entertained, not just to eat great food,” he says in a news release. “Our restaurants will be adding 32 new or revised recipes to keep the restaurants ahead of culinary, entertainment and hospitality trends.”

The restaurant recently added 32 items to its menu, including Chateaubriand, Steak au Poivre and Steak Diane – all of which will be prepared tableside.

There is also the Platinum Cut Platter, which features a combination of Wylarah filet mignon, Greg Norman Signature wagyu bone-in New York strip steak, and Prime 35-day dry aged Tomahawk ribeye.

But it's not just about steaks. There's a burrata and heirloom tomato salad, Maryland jumbo lump crab cake appetizer, and house-made tater tots topped with fresh shaved black truffles.

Around town

• Today, more than 500 Texas Roadhouse locations across the country will donate 100 percent of profits to the American Red Cross and other local organizations to help communities affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Diners can visit the location at 710 W. Washington Center Road between 4 and 10 p.m. Texas Roadhouse restaurants across Texas and Florida have provided more than 50,000 meals to shelters and first responders in the aftermath of these storms.

Granite City Brewery, 3809 Coldwater Road, will be tapping its Oktoberfest beer from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, and the event will kick off a month-long celebration of the fall brew.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email kdupps@jg.net or call 461-8304.