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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, June 06, 2018 1:00 am

Bean ready to open 'sexy' smokehouse

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

Sexy – it's not a word I often use in this column. To think about it, I am not sure it's a word I have ever used in this space.

But as I talked with Pete Giokaris, “sexy” was the word he used to describe the latest venture for Bill Bean's hospitality ventures.

Bill's Smokehouse will be a new concept in the Ramada Plaza and Conference Center at Washington Center and Coldwater roads that plans to open Monday. Formerly Red River Steakhouse, the space inside the hotel was completely remodeled – we “gutted that bar down to the studs,” says Giokaris, who helps manage restaurant operations for Bean.

“It's a whole new restaurant opening – not even a transition,” he says.

And this is where the sexy part comes in, according to Giokaris.

The concept is Chicago steakhouse meets Kansas City barbecue – two protein groups that everyone loves, he says.

The menu includes steaks that will be dry-aged on-site – a 6-ounce filet, 12-ounce New York Strip and a 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye.

Kansas City-style barbecue shines through on the menu with baby back ribs, pulled pork and brisket. There are seven sauces that diners can choose from, all of which are made from scratch – Bill's Smokehouse, Kentucky Bourbon, Blueberry BBQ, Sweet BBQ, Alabama White, Carolina Mop Sauce and South Carolina Mustard Sauce.

Southern sides play on the barbecue theme, and options include collared greens, cheesy grits, baked beans, cornbread and mac-n-cheese.

There are also seafood dishes such as beer-steamed mussels, blackened red snapper and shrimp and grits; a variety of smokehouse macs; appetizers; sandwiches; salads; and soup.

But let's not forget the cocktail menu. There will be lots of “Nick and Nora”-type drinks, Giokaris says. A lineup of craft cocktails will be available including drinks that will be barrel aged on-site. Glasses will be smoked, juices will be hand-squeezed and mixers will be homemade.

While the group works to get a staff hired at Bill's Smokehouse, there are other projects in the works – including prepping a building on Spy Run for a summer opening and a fall construction project at the former Flanagan's on Getz Road.

Pub 1802, which gets its name from its address – 1802 Spy Run Ave. – will be a neighborhood pub.

The menu will focus on three things – pizza, burgers and wings, Giokaris says. The menu is still in the planning stages and could definitely change in the next month before the pub opens, but teasers include a meat lovers pizza, a Guinness burger and Sriracha bourbon wings.

There will also be steaks, pastas and sandwiches, Giokaris promises.

Inside, the pub will have an industrial theme and feature decor that highlights the history of Fort Wayne. Giokaris, who did a lot of research while working on the pub, says there will be photos of what downtown and Harvester looked like and there will be historical data hanging in the bar.

There will be also a 220-inch TV wall, which will be any sports guy's dream. Twelve 55-inch TVs comprise the wall, laid out in a four-by-three grid.

As far as Flanagan's, which closed in September, the plan is to begin construction by the end of summer and reopen in the fall. It will be remodeled inside and out and will be launched as a rebranded entity, Giokaris says.

Caliente reopens

Caliente Cuban Cafe recently completed a kitchen renovation at its downtown location, celebrating with a grand reopening over the weekend.

The remodel included adding gas and electrical lines and installing a hood at the 120 W. Wayne St. restaurant managed by Nestor Rodriguez. Caliente Cuban closed for 17 days to get the work done.

When Caliente moved into the former Toscani Pizzeria in August, Rodriguez and his family thought the kitchen had a hood system, but the hood could be used only for dishwashers and ovens.

It was a disappointment for Rodriguez, as there were plans to differentiate the menu of the downtown location from the original spot on East State Boulevard. Rodriguez's parents, Gus and Yaly, operate that restaurant.

But with the new system, which includes a fryer, six-burner stove, two additional ovens and a flattop grill, Caliente has been able to add to the menu.

Changes include two new salads, three sandwiches and four plates.

The Fricase de Pollo features chicken and vegetables stewed in a tangy tomato sauce. Ropa Vieja, which has been available as a sandwich, is now served as a large plate.

Tayuyos is a vegetarian dish and is a mix of corn and masa cooked in a tomato-based sauce. Rodriguez says the restaurant has a large vegetarian and vegan following, and “we promised we would have more on the menu for them.”

The remodel and updated menu are all part of a three-step plan to grow the restaurant.

The other steps hinge on an upcoming hearing. On June 25, Caliente will learn whether it is approved for a riverfront three-way liquor license.

“I'm crossing my fingers – I hope I get this,” Rodriquez says. “Everything has been approved by the city” so far.

If and when Caliente gets the license, work will begin to put a bar in the back of the restaurant.

Rodriguez also hopes to improve the vestibule area and eventually expand into the back of the building, which is not being used right now.

The kitchen remodel was key in moving forward, though.

“Before I did any of that, I couldn't have one more seat in there – my kitchen couldn't keep up,” Rodriguez says.

Proximo opening

The latest restaurant venture of the people behind BakerStreet and Hoppy Gnome is set to open in just a few days.

Proximo, a Latin-themed restaurant that will occupy a corner of Ash Skyline Plaza, will open Monday.

Regular business hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, according to the restaurant's Facebook page.

When James Bashir A. Kahn shared the plans for the restaurant in January, he said that he wanted to offer something different and more to Fort Wayne diners – including a downtown restaurant that served breakfast and could be the site for early-morning meetings.

The menu will feature many seafood dishes, such as ceviche, paella and Chilean sea bass, helping to lend to an authentic feel to the menu. There will also be items that feel approachable, such as a steak, but a chimichurri sauce will give it a Latin flair.

Farm event back

Now in its 10th season, Hawkins Family Farm is gearing up for Fridays on the Farm.

Also known as Pizza Fridays, visitors to the North Manchester farm can munch on artisan pizzas that are baked in an outdoor, wood-fired brick oven.

At the kickoff event from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, guest chefs Lindsay and John Cheesebrew of Bird and Cleaver will be crafting specialty pizzas featuring seasonal ingredients in addition to the standard pizza menu that includes the traditional margherita, Hawkins Farm sausage and Hawkins Farm pepperoni.

In addition to brick oven pizza, the Fridays on the Farm kickoff event will feature Junk Ditch Brewery Co. beer available for purchase.

Diners will have the opportunity to tour the farm with the owners and learn about CSA shareholding opportunities.

Pizzas can be carried out or enjoyed picnic-style on the farm. Standard pizzas range from $10 to $20, payable by cash, check or credit card.

Diners are encouraged to bring blankets, table service and beverages, as there are no napkins, utensils, tables, or trash cans available on the farm.

Diners are also responsible for removing all trash from the property once they are finished.

Reservations and pre-orders are not accepted; orders are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Fridays on the Farm runs through Sept. 14.

BBQ competition

Trubble Brewing is hosting its first barbecue competition.

Blaze Up BBQ, which is a fundraiser for the Fort Wayne Pitbull Coalition, will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The cost is $55 (including a $5 processing fee). Included in the fee is a table, a T-shirt, discounted beer and meat to cook (three racks of pork spare ribs and a 7- to 8-pound bone-in shoulder from Gunthorp Farms). Competitors must provide their own grill, charcoal, lighter fluid and canopy.

Setup begins at 7 a.m., and Trubble Brewing will hand out the meat at 8 a.m.

There will be a cash prize for first place for each protein and bragging rights and swag for people's choice and other categories.

Competitors can find tickets and information at

Tickets for diners go on sale at 3 p.m. at Trubble Brewing. Starting at 4 p.m., the tickets can be used to buy single-serving portions from competitors. The public is urged to come early, as organizers expect food to sell out quickly.

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