#159: River Bend Film Festival

Hollywood, Telluride, Cannes, ... and South Bend.  What do these cities have in common?  Each recognizes the value of film with a few days dedicated each year to appreciating this 117 year old art form.

Starting tonight, here in South Bend, the River Bend Film Festival will highlight short and feature length films, showing more than 35 hours of footage produced by 75+ filmmakers from across the world.  Unlike what you might you find at those other cities' festivals, you may find many shooting locations familiar, such as Niles (“Last Seen on Delores Street” by L.A. based filmmaker Devi Snively) or South Bend ("Getting Ahead", "Red Lilly", "The Bridge").
The schedule is too overwhelming to cover in a single blog post, so please check their website for the list of showings.  Here is a brief overview:

Thursday, 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. in Room 1001, Wiekamp Hall, IUSB:  Short films that revolve around teen and college age characters and subjects, concluding with the feature-length teen comedy Farmer’s Tan, which was shot in California by some very talented high school students for $3,000.

On Friday, at 7 p.m. the festival moves downtown to the Century Center, and the show goes almost non-stop until midnight of the next day.  There will be concessions for sale on Saturday.

Saturday, 7 p.m. – Midnight at the Century Center: Winner announced, and the premiere of  “High School”, starring Adrien Brody, a Michigan-filmed comedy revolving around a valedictorian whose first time marijuana use occurs just prior to a mandatory drug test and the ensuing plot to keep him from expulsion.  It is produced by Notre Dame alum Stephen Susco ("The Grudge"), who will also be present for Thursday's showing and speak on Friday.

Ticket prices:
Friday (7 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.) – $10 regular, $8 student/senior
Saturday (9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.) – $5 regular, $4 student/senior
Saturday (12:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) - $10 regular, $8 student/senior
Saturday (7 p.m. – Midnight) – $10 regular, $8 student/senior
Saturday Day Pass (9 a.m. – Midnight) - $20 regular, $18 student/senior
Weekend Pass (Friday 7 p.m. – Saturday Midnight) - $30 regular, $25 student/senior

My top three picks of films I'm excited to see:
  1. This…Is the Orange Line- Nathan Maulorico (Experimental, 9m, Springfield, MO) A short documentary about the shapes and movements of the Chicago Orange Line L train from day to night. Featuring a cello Concerto by Edward William Elgar. [Public transportation and a movie set to music combines two of my favorite things and may even take you back to the 1910 "moving picture" experience.
  2. Picking Up America – Marie Wicht & Michael Burke (Student Project, 17m, Notre Dame) Four determined activists head out on foot from east coast to west, collecting thousands of pounds of trash along their two year pilgrimage to “Pick Up America.” [Full disclosure: I saw this documentary at the ND Student Film Festival, and it almost made me cry. Go green, guys!]
  3. Night of the Living Spuds – Tim Richardson (Comedy, 10m, Edwardsburg) A crashed astrospud causes the residents of Chive City to turn into tator zombies.  [Really.]

#158: Colfax Cultural Center

The Colfax Cultural Center is many things. A dance studio. A meeting center. A worship center for several different faiths. An office for several different non-profits.  An art gallery.  Yet, perhaps its most unique function is as an example of just how radically a space can be transformed and utilized in different ways. What is now the Cultural Center was once the Colfax School. In 1983, the South Bend Heritage Foundation began a revitalization and restoration of the old Victorian schoolhouse into the facility it is today which promotes the "spirit and creative life of the neighborhood". For even more information on the history of the building, visit the website here.

I had never been to the Center and stopped in today for the first time. I had passed the imposing building several times whenever driving down Lincolnway West, but was drawn to stop in today because of the particular exhibit on display in the gallery. In a nod to the building's former incarnation as a school, the current exhibit features the work of South Bend students from every Intermediate school in the city.

A small sample of the work on display
The first thing you notice when walking into the Gallery is the abundance of color. Today it seemed to reflect the sunniness of the day in general, but I think the vibrancy of the student artwork would hold up on any day. I was reminded of my own junior-high art projects (and how they would pale in comparison) as I wandered through the rooms. The students, all impressively talented, used a variety of materials to create sculptures, artistic reflections on President Obama, replications and explorations of Van Gogh's sunflowers, cloth-based weavings, and much more. Exhibits rotate pretty frequently, and this one is only on display until April 14th. The visit certainly brightened my day, and I'm sure it would do yours as well if you took the time to stop by.

Location: 914 Lincoln Way West
Hours: 9:00am-7:00pm, every day (I think)

For more information on the South Bend Heritage Foundation (and all of the great work they do), visit the website here.

#157: Mayoral Candidate Forum

It may be hard to believe, but the political cycle is back in full-swing. The primary election day is May 3, a mere 35 days away. This particular election cycle is an important one for South Bend as the city will choose a new mayor. We've previously exhorted you to vote, and the reason for doing so still holds true. Of all the things you can do in South Bend (and particularly if you're invested in the ongoing thriving-or-dying debate), participating civically can be one of the most fulfilling and effective.

As a precursor to the primaries and the entire campaign season, the Chamber of Commerce, the Young Professionals Network, WSBT, and the South Bend Tribune are hosting a Mayoral Candidates Forum tonight at the Century Center. They have described the event as a "job interview for candidates" and it provides a great opportunity for any South Bend resident to learn more about all of their potential mayors. Before you vote, take the time to get all of the information and help the candidates to figure out how to best lead the South Bend of the future.

Where: Bendix Theater, Century Center
When: 6:30pm-9:00pm
No registration required!

2011-- Abstract Expressionism


Pieces – 6 piece 10”x10” acrylic on canvas abstract series. This is the first intensive delve in the realm of abstract expressionism and huge transition point in artistic life, dabbling in the space of ambiguity, gray area and embracing a lack of boundaries. Creating from an uninhibited place, I am shifting from usual figurative subject matter to matters of the heart. The works of this first collection, “Pieces”, are created from the central theme of moments in time that change one‘s life. Life’s journey is an unscripted one and no matter how well planned, we truly have no control of the story that was written for us or how the chapters will unfold. All we can do is stand in faith and ride the waves.





#156: Mikado

I cannot claim to be a sushi expert, but I do enjoy the occasional foray into Japanese cuisine and Mikado provides one of the area's most accessible ways to do so. Located just several miles up US31 into Roseland, Mikado offers a variety of sushi options so that anyone, from a sushi beginner to expert, can find something to like. When in doubt, try the well-liked California roll containing crab, avocado, and cucumber.

In addition to sushi, Mikado offers a wide selection of other Japanese dishes as well as several Chinese and Thai offerings. Be forewarned, the portions are large! The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable in a small one-room dining space, and the owners and servers are friendly.  Even better, the prices are incredibly reasonable and make this the perfect location to try sushi for the first time or grab it to go for the hundredth.

Click here for a map.

For more info and and questions call 574-272-2535.

#155: "My Brightest Diamond" at Subkirke Venue

Guys, I'm really excited about this. I just found out about this live music venue in South Bend yesterday and couldn't wait to share, particularly because of the artist they're hosting tonight. From what I understand, Subkirke Venue hosts a variety of mostly independent and local performers in the sanctuary of an actual church (the South Bend Christian Reformed Church). That would be pretty cool on its own, but combined with the actual quality of the performers they host, I'm already prepared for Subkirke to become my new favorite "thing to do in South Bend".

The view from the audience
You see, I really like the performer that is featured tonight. Shara Worden, stage name, My Brightest Diamond, is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter (and multi-instrumentalist) with a sound that veers between opera and folk (sample here). She's played with Sufjan Stevens, the National and David Byrne. Even if none of those names ring any bells, I would still encourage you to check her out because of her incredible talent, manifested in her live show. Hopefully you can tell that I'm a huge fan, but, even more, I'm a huge fan of the increasingly vibrant music scene here in South Bend and hope you'll come out with me to support it.

Where: Subkirke Venue, 1855 North Hickory Road (near the Cinemark). More info on the location can be found here.
When: 8:30pm, doors open at 7:30pm
Price: $10 at the door
Tip: Get there in time for the local opener, Rendition!

For upcoming shows (the next one also looks fantastic) and more info, check out their website here. I'll be updating this post with more info (and pictures!) after tonight.

#154: Studebaker National Museum

Tonight at Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, they are showing what promises to be a fascinating film on the history of the Studebaker family and automobile industry in South Bend. Unfortunately, it's already sold out. Lesson learned: buy tickets to your cinematic experiences of local history early.

But never fear, if you're going to be missing out (like I am), take the alternate (or detour...) route to learning about one of the most important parts of South Bend history. Visit the Studebaker National Museum! The museum is located on a joint museum campus with the Center for History near downtown and maintains ongoing exhibitions as well as special exhibits and events throughout the year. The current special exhibits include a feature on the project to design a 21st century Studebaker (visitor input welcome!) and a collection of famous cars from the silver screen. Herbie the Love Bug? We've got it here in South Bend as well as cars driven by Elvis Presley and Elton John.  One of the ongoing exhibitions is just as cool: a display of presidential carriages, including Abraham Lincoln's.

In sunnier weather...
The Studebaker's (family and company) truly formed an integral part of South Bend's history and their influence can be seen all over the city. Take an afternoon and learn about what these cars meant, not only for South Bend, but, really, for American industry at large.

Location: 201 South Chapin Street
Hours: 10:00am-5:00pm    Mon-Sat     12:00pm-5:00pm   Sun
Website: Click here!
Fun fact: Did you know that the Studebaker's sponsored the television series Mr. Ed?

#153: Pedro's Family Restaurant

If you're looking for a casual place to eat downtown, but you can't decide what kind of food you'd like, then I have your answer. Go to Pedro's. The newly-opened downtown restaurant on Main Street serves a wide variety of foods ranging from Italian cuisine to American to their signature Mexican dishes (I've had a very good and very large burrito). Their variety even extends to breakfast fare. Because of the sheer variety and convenient location the spot has already become a go-to place for those who work in the downtown area.

If you visit Pedro's and think you recognize some of the aforementioned food options, that's because you probably do. While the space and name are new, the owners (and most of the menu) are not, having transferred their talents from the much-loved Cedar House restaurant. When Pedro's opened, the South Bend Tribune did a nice feature on the chef/owners of both restaurants, so for more information, click here. The restaurant is truly a welcome addition to the downtown area, and all I need now is just some help deciding what to order.

Location: 110 N. Main Street
Hours: 6:00am-10:00pm   Mon-Sat     6:00am-3:00pm   Sun
Call: 574-246-0769

#152: Downtown Yoga at Dhanwantari Center

aaauuummmm (inhale) aaauuummmmm (inhale) aaauuummmmm.

Although I have taken yoga classes in a half dozen studios, I have to confess that never before had I actually articulated that core chant of this exercise...until I went to Dhanwantari Center in South Bend.

This studio is named after the Father of Ayurvedi Surgery and true its name, the mission of the center advocates the healing power that yoga can have.   Dhanwantari offers special classes for women over 50, Yin/Yang Yoga, and Yoga Nidra, in addition to Vinyasa and introductory courses.  (See class descriptions here.)  The 'om' mantra repeated at the beginning and end of each class is no gimmick; rather, it is oriented to the union  of the mind, body and spirit.
The Center is located two blocks from downtown, in the basement of historic Remedy building.  The room is very small -- with only five students in my Vinyasa class, we filled the space -- but cozy.  Even in the first class there, I felt very comfortable, and the low teacher-student also added to its welcoming feel.
The Remedy Building, Dhanwantari's home since summer 2010
Where: 402 W. Washington St.  (Enter through the front door and follow the signs to class.)
When: Check here for the Spring 2011 class schedule.
Call: 574.360.4090
Tip: Their introductory pass (3 classes at $7 each) is a great way to get feel for the studio, but they are currently offering spring specials on other classes.
Also cool:  They do Candlelight Yoga on Friday nights, and for April's First Friday, they will be have a didgeridoo player playing for a special candlelit 10 pm class.  To shake up your typical Friday night.

#151: La Central Panaderia

On the way back from Sugar Camp Days (go for the pancakes, stay for the atmosphere), my friend and I happened upon this small bakery on Western. We had debated stopping (we were busy, had work to do, etc.) but were both extremely glad that we did as soon as we parked and entered the store.

The walls were lined from top to bottom with fresh-baked pastries of every kind. I pride myself on being something of a baker, but I could not begin to name the variety of baked goods available. Most seemed to be sweet pastries, but I noticed some flat breads and buns available as well. One of the women working at the shop brought out a fresh tray of pan dulce, a type of Mexican sweet roll, while we were browsing and generously allowed us a free sample. She also generously answered all of our questions and we discovered that the bakery has been in existence for more than 15 years.

Purchased items
Choosing just several items of the great variety available was particularly difficult, not least because of the incredibly affordable price. Most individual pastries cost between 50 and 60 cents. I left with a jelly-filled turnover and a concha, another Mexican sweet bread that the woman had recommended. Beyond these individual pastries, the store also offers catering services and custom cakes. Not only were we glad we stopped, but the discovery made an already pleasant, sunny Saturday just that much better. 

Bonus: There's even a mural!

Location: 3021 W. Western Ave.
Hours: Not quite sure, but open all 7 days of the week
Telephone: 574-289-2550

#150: Sugar Camp Days

As much as yesterday may have suggested, it's not quite spring here in South Bend.  It's on its way, however, and Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods County Park remind us that the end of winter is approaching.  This annual end-of-March event celebrates the tapping of maple trees and the syrup that's made from them. 
Fresh kettle corn
 Take a road trip out to New Carlisle to take part of the many festivities happening this weekend.
Take a free wagon ride!
There are carriage rides, old-time syrup cooking demonstrations (which smells wonderful!), ice- and wood-carving, a blacksmith, and my favorite activity, an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast that features the star product, the delicious maple syrup.  On Sunday, the Deep Fried Pickle Project (not a food related activity, surprisingly) performs folk classics using traditional instruments.
Trust me, the wait is worth it.  Second helpings are welcome --  just flag down one of the volunteers from the New Prairie baseball team to reload on pancakes or sausages.  

Where: Bendix Woods County Park
When: Saturday and Sunday, 8am - 3pm
Cost: $7/vehicle
Website: http://www.sjcparks.org/calendar.html#SCD
Tip: Dress warmly (you'll be standing around outside a lot) and give yourself an extra hour or so to burn off the sugar rush exploring this 27-acre gorgeous woodland.  It features the second-highest point in Indiana!  
Inane info: The optimal time to tap trees for syrup is at this time of year when daily temperatures are above freezing but the low temps dip below.

#149: Ragtime at the South Bend Civic

Happy St. Patrick's Day South Bend! Hopefully you've already gotten your corned beef and cabbage, but if you're still looking for something to do, head over to Fiddler's for live Irish music and dancing until 1:00am!

Amidst all of the St. Paddy's Day-themed events of the past several weeks, the South Bend Civic Theater has staged a musical identified in the New York Times as a "spectacular feast for the eyes." This musical, Ragtime, captures the lives of three separate families at the turn-of-the-century and uses the music of the changing era (and its title) to bring them all together. If you're not sure what ragtime sounds like, click over here for a listen.

The musical is known in theater circles as a large-scale and daunting production with many moving pieces, characters, and sets. It premiered on Broadway on 1998 and won several Tony Awards that year as well.  I'm excited to see what the South Bend Civic and a cast of local performers can do with such a acclaimed piece of musical theater. If you're curious as well, the show runs through the 27th of this month.

For more information and to order tickets, go the the South Bend Civic's website.

If you'd like a preview of the show, check out this video from the original Broadway production.

#148: Generic

Matt Ferriter, the amicable owner of Generic, expressed his intention that his store would not be moving anytime soon.  Good thing, too, because this space really takes advantage of place and space downtown.
Not only would it be painstaking to recreate the decor -- there are hobby horses hanging from the ceiling, an Irish flag in gargantuan frame, and a motley assortment of knick-knacks scattered around the store -- it would take days to move out all merchandise that's crammed into the store.  The store is packed with used and new clothing, shoes, belts, scarves, suspenders, jackets, CDs, incense, jewelry, torn cloth to repurpose...all the necessary punk/grunge/goth gear at good prices.  (Even this prepster found a couple shirts to wear...for $5...total.  Ah, the sweet smell of thrifting.)  Spend an hour and won't have combed over everything this small store has to offer.  Don't forget to check the clothes rack suspended above your head in the dressing room (how convenient!).

While Generic's resourceful use of space is admirable, what really rocks is that somehow, someway, space is made in the back to turn this store into a evening music venue.  In this back room, bands can set up for 50-person show, giving local bands and touring underground artists a chance to display their talent.  Last night's 7pm show featured four bands (Listener, The Homeless Gospel Choir, Analecta, and The Rendition) for $5.  I can only vouch for Analecta's great post-rock sound (see here; haven't heard the others), but we are lucky to have a venue to discover and support these emerging bands.  I only wish there were more places like Generic downtown in order to create an area for like-minded community to congregate, but I'm grateful that Generic makes the most of where's it at...which is right in line with our efforts to foster an appreciation for where you are.

Where: 127 W. Washington St.
When: 10am - 6pm, unless a show keeps the store open late
Website: http://www.myspace.com/genericshop.
Check the store windows for their shows, as well as other concerts in the area.

#147: Toyo Grill

Tucked away in a strip mall that features two popular chain restaurants is Toyo Grill, a Japanese sushi spot that is definitely not a chain.  What chains do well (polished, standardized decor and service) may not necessarily Toyo's strengths, but this restaurant features some of the best sushi in the area without any of the pretension you may find elsewhere.
Taken from the web, but gives you a sense of the Toyo's presentation style!
I've sampled the sushi -- and it was good! -- but was happily surprised to see several Korean plates on the menu.  I took advantage of the opportunity to try something new and ordered Bi Bim Bap (a choice only partially based on wanting to say the name), a variety platter of veggies and rice with a fried egg on top.  It also came with the typical Korean relishes.  Different and delicious, and passed the taste test of my Korean friend.

Even if you're not a sushi fan, I recommend you check out Toyo Grill.  It's a casual and convenient, not to mention tasty, place to grab a bite after a Cinemark movie.

Where: 620 W Edison Rd # 106
When: Mon-Thur: 5-9; Friday: 5-9:30; Saturday: 4-9; Sunday: 4-9:30
Call: 574-254-9120

#146: Support The Great LOGAN Nose-On

If you've been out and around South Bend in the past two weeks, you have probably noticed three things: 1) the snow's almost gone, 2) some sort of street promo for the show by Walk the Moon/concert fest at Club 23, and 3) a plethora of yard signs with a single, mysterious green dot.
Even the King was sporting a green nose.

The first two are self-explanatory (spring is soon and there is a music scene in SB), but I wanted to learn the story behind these green signs.  I couldn't determine the commonality between where I would encounter these signs, from the grand homes on Jefferson to the bars on Michigan St, and I didn't hear anything about a green dot filing for the mayoral race.  With some minor sleuthing, I discovered these signs are part of the LOGAN Center's month-long fundraising and awareness campaign called The Great LOGAN Nose-on.  Twenty-two Marchs ago, LOGAN began selling green foam noses to promote its mission of "supporting people with disabilities in achieving their desired quality of life" and they became the light-hearted emblem for this campaign.

Indeed, their symbol can be found everywhere this month: on First Friday for March, there was a competition to "find the nose" in various stores; if you braved the wind chill for the St. Paddy's Parade, you may have spotted a float filled with people wearing these noses; and as mentioned, those ubiquitous signs.

So what's something to do to support their mission?  
Buy a green nose or other merchandise here.  The South Bend Chocolate Company even developed a signature Green Dot chocolate -- a green mint chocolate malt ball -- sold at all of their locations as well as at the LOGAN Center.  Request a Green Dot yard sign for your home or business.  Attend this Thursday's Nose-On Luncheon, featuring Jason McElwain, or bring your child to The LOGAN Center on March 23 for the Disability Awareness Fair.  
And make a mental note that people with disabilities are just as much a part of the community as these signs represent.

Where: 2505 E. Jefferson Blvd. (The LOGAN Center)

#145: St. Paddy's Day Tent Party & Pub Tour

I look forward to the first Friday of the month because it brings people together to downtown South Bend.  Sure, Notre Dame football games and shows at the Morris draw crowds, but I like it when hundreds of people come downtown for the sole purpose of hanging around downtown all night long, visiting the great bars, businesses and restaurants there.

Well, this month brings us the luck of the irish because the annual St. Paddy's Day Tent Party & Pub Tour makes downtown South Bend the place to be tonight for the second week in a row.  This event, now it's its year, is organized by the friendly folks at DTSB, who know what the crucial elements of a good St. Patrick's Day party are: green beer and loud rock music (and free public transit between bars).

Five dollars buys you the wristband that gives you entrance into the tent where Stillshot and Blessed Engine are playing, rides on the trolley trolling between bars, and admission into Club Fever for the after party and 12 other bars downtown.

Where: Every bar downtown, but the tent is 350 S. Michigan, near the Main library, naturally.
When: 5:00 - 11:00 tent (Blessed Engine, 5:30; Stillshot, 8:00); trolley runs from 5:30 - 12:30am; bars open til ?
Tip: Sorry kids, 21 & up only.  Though that doesn't stop you from getting some food at Fiddler's or CJ's....
Check out http://www.paddyparty.com/ for details.  The Michiana Entertainer also has a great pub tour guide that explains what each bar offers.

#144: Frankie's BBQ

As a practicing Catholic, I recognize that the first week of Lent can be a challenge for some.  After the high of Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and then the first of six meatless Fridays can make this season for reflection seem like a burden.  I recommend that between this sandwich of fasting days, have a sandwich.  A nice, juicy pulled pork, wow-I-have-never-seen-that-much-dead-animal-on-a-bun-before type of sandwich.  Go to Frankie's.

Rib tips dinner

This windowless concrete BBQ outpost is far from inviting.  The limited seating inside recalls interrogation scenes from bad TV crime dramas.  However, don't go to Frankie's for the ambiance, go for the food.

Their specialty is the beef rib tips, a culinary tradition influenced by Chicago barbeque style.  I'm normally a pulled-pork, Memphis or Kansas City type of girl, but I accepted the sample offered to me when I mentioned it was my first time trying out this place.  Whoa, whoa: I ain't in Kansas [City, MI] anymore, Toto.

Order at the counter; takes about 15 minutes to get your food.
The $9 rib tips dinner platter includes cole slaw, a heaping of thick-cut fries and a mountain of rib tips drenched in a tangy, not super-sweet, and definitely not a Carolina style sauce.  The white bread below acts as a sponge for this deliciously thick sauce.  The pulled pork sandwich was decent, but stick to the tips if you want to max out your meat-eating potential for the day.

Where: There are two locations; I tried the re-opened spot on 23 (1132 South Bend Ave) but the original location is at 1621 Circle Ave off W. Washington St.
When: Whenever you see smoke a'rollin out.  
Website: http://frankiesbbq.net/index.php
Tip: At the South Bend Ave. spot, enter in the door in the middle and before you turn left to go inside to order, check out the ketchup container sitting on the window for a bit of Frankie's background.

#143: Lunch and Learn Series

As we here at 365 South Bend discover almost daily, there are always new things to learn about the city. I'll give you an example. Thanks to a blog commenter, I just learned this past week that McCormick's used to serve original-recipe Coney Island hot dogs for 30 years. Hence their full name, McCormick's Coney Island. I could actually give you dozens more examples, but I would prefer you give me yours. If you have a fun fact or interesting story about South Bend, please share in the comments!

I bring this up as a preface to an opportunity to learn many more things about South Bend. The City sponsors a Lunch and Learn Series every Thursday for any and all interested residents. Each installment last approximately one hour and is held in the Humphrey's Room of the St. Joseph County Public Library- Main Building. Each Thursday features a different topic, and I'm highlighting the entire series today because of my particular inclination towards tomorrow's topic: Historic Neighborhoods- Hidden Gems. I'm occasionally geographically challenged so having a South Bend expert guide me through the distinctions between Chapin Park, West Washington, the North Shore Triangle, Sunnymede, River Bend, River Park, Riverside Drive, and more will not only be fun but incredibly useful. In all seriousness, I really do believe that consciously choosing to learn about where you live is a type of civic duty, and this series provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

When: Thursdays, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Where: Humphrey's Room, St. Joe Library
Important to Note: The event requires a quick email RSVP to Sue Solmos (suesolmos@southbendin.gov). Bring your own lunch, or make a note in your RSVP that you would like to order one of the available lunches for $8.50.

For more information about tomorrow's event and the entire series, visit the City's calendar here.

#142: Lincolnway Cafe

First things first, Happy Mardi Gras everyone! For those wishing to celebrate the day's festivities head down to the Dainty Maid Bake Shop for a paczki. The bakery apparently sold more than 12,000 of the Polish pastries during last year's Mardi Gras alone. Other festive possibilities include stopping in at South Bend's French-Quarter style coffee-house, the Chicory Cafe, or heading downtown for the Palais Royale's Mardi Gras celebration. Second, thanks for sticking with us through our "unofficial bars week" (and the weekend break from posting). We'll continue to feature some of our favorite spots for drinks throughout the year, but we would welcome your suggestions! And finally, today's post...

The Lincolnway Cafe located on (do I have to say it?) Lincolnway West (right beside Bonnie Doon) was the perfect spot for a Saturday brunch several weekends ago. I have a documented quest for new diners and after stopping in here, it's quickly become one of my favorites. The menu doesn't depart significantly from what we consider to be standard breakfast fare: eggs (in a variety of forms), toast, potatoes, etc. but then again, why should it? The staff was friendly and prompt enough that my coffee never even approached luke-warm, and the decor, while eclectic, was inviting. It's a pretty small dining room but the proximity of your fellow diners, most likely also lingering over piping-hot coffee, makes for a cozy and welcome start to the day.

Photographic evidence

Location: 2524 Lincolnway West

Contact Info: 574-256-7024

Tip: This is not so much a tip as an appreciation of the fact that they stock blackberry jam. Which is my favorite.

#141: Martha's Midway Tavern

Around this Mishawaka neighborhood, a handful of bars are hardly distinguishable from the houses on either side of them.  Each is a "if these walls could talk" type of establishment that has welcomed neighborhood regulars for decades.  Yet, none offer quite as much history and local culture as Martha's Midway Tavern, the jazz cornerstone of Michiana.

Midway opened its doors in 1924, and the rhythm hasn't slowed since.  Operating as "Midway Lunch" during prohibition, you could find your favorite alcoholic contraband there, including near-beer, moonshine, and other such bootlegged beverages.  Al Capone is said to have stopped by often while doing business in the Princess City, and would even bring roses for Martha, the original owner and namesake. Despite the 9 month period when they were closed by the police for getting caught selling alcohol (whoops), Midway thrived during the 1930s and even renovated the dance hall, which hasn't been altered since 1930.  

Their reputation as a hub of jazz and blues has equal longevity.  As a "midway" point in between Chicago and Detroit, the movement of (illegal alcohol and) touring jazz musicians brought some well known acts to Mishawaka.  I'll let you search through the old photographs hanging on the walls for the familiar and famous faces of previous jazz and blues performers at Midway.  (In the comments, tell us about who you've seen play at Midway Tavern over the years.)

But back to Martha, the 67-year matron, heart, and soul of the place.  She was inducted to the Bartenders' Hall of Fame in the late 1980s, winning her national attention and accolades.  While the bar still bears her name, Martha's no longer with us.  Fortunately for us, her daughter, Albertina Wassenhove, has taken over since her mother's death in 1990.  Martha was around well before my time, but if she had half of the wit and spunk of Albertina then she must have been quite the barkeep.

Location: 810 West 4th Street, Mishawaka
Hours: Mon-Sat, 5 pm to 3 am
Tip: Check their events calendar for the live musical acts.  Go for the music, and stay for the atmosphere....or the beer, whichever you enjoy more.

#140: Fiddler's Hearth Public House

Fiddler's Hearth is known around town for its traditional Irish food, live music, and cozy atmosphere (more on all of those later), but we're including it in our unofficial 'bars week'  due to its distinction as South Bend's only Public House. I am by no means a beer aficionado, but the draught selection at Fiddler's is extensive and well-curated.  On their website, they also feature their designation as a Guinness Gold Star location indicating the places which store and serve Guinness of the highest quality. It is no exaggeration to say that all of this makes Fiddler's one of the most popular places in South Bend to get a drink.

As alluded to above, Fiddler's has numerous qualities to recommend it above and beyond the impressive bar menu. The Irish fare offered at Fiddler's is authentic and one-of-a-kind. Some of my favorite dishes include the Shepherd's Pie, a Chicken Boxty, the fish and chips (served traditionally in newspaper), or any and all of the featured soups and stews.  Check out the menu here for more.

A final component of Fiddler's appeal is their regular rotation of live music, open-mic nights, and special events. For example, this upcoming First Friday they're hosting a pancake-flipping contest. The events calendar can be found here, and there are events featured almost every day of the week. Pick something that sounds interesting (one Old-Timey Music Session coming up!), and head over.  Food, drink, and a great atmosphere will be waiting.

Location: 127 Main Street
Hours: Mon-Tues, 11:00am-11:00pm; Wed-Sat, 11:00am-1:00am; Sun, 11:00am-9:00pm
Contact Info: 574-232-2853; info@fiddlershearth.com

Tip: In the style of a true public house, pick a comfortable spot and seat yourself!

#139: McCormick's

McCormick's is that crazy, rough-around-the-edges cousin in the restaurant/bar row in the 100 block of Michigan Street.  Its neighbors -- Noma, Sangria's, and Trio's -- maintain upscale, refined atmospheres suitable for taking parents or a business partner out for a drink.  While you might sip on a Zentini at Noma, next door at McCormick's, what seems like a castoff crew of reality show characters is knocking back $1 bottles of Rolling Rock. 
 Most leave with ringing ears and smelling strongly of smoke.  Yet its great location downtown, cheap drinks, and unpretentious attitude make it the place to stop in at the end of the night, the place to unwind after a long day at work, that place where you go when you just need a bar.  Stop in McCormick's, and you don't know who or what you'll find, but you'll definitely leave with something to talk about. 

Where: 125 N. Michigan
When to go: Almost any day of the week, late in the night, you'll find a crowd
Note: The full name of this bar is McCormick's Coney Island. I've never heard this place referred to by its full name.  Anybody know where NY reference comes from?