Main Street's in the right place
Owner Todd Smith knows what he’s doing with restaurants, and he wanted his new Main Street Bistro & Martini Lounge to work through a healthy break-in period and have all systems humming along nicely after a few months. It was a much bigger adventure than that, given that he changed chefs and survived a record-setting hard winter.
But spring finds Main Street Bistro with a menu three times the size of the menu it opened with, offering lunch and dinner specials inspired by the passion and excitement of chef Jon Issa and with the prospect of the outdoor patio seats finally being open on warm days and evenings.
And, while we’re imagining sitting on said patio watching the world go by, a French 75 sounds awful good, doesn’t it? The tantalizing question is whether pot stickers or mahi mahi bites would go better with one.
And that’s exactly the kind of problem, and the only kind of problem, Smith and his staff want Main Street patrons to have. Main Street Bistro harkens back to the best memories people have of the high-end restaurants that were there, and the menu respectfully recognizes that.
“Because of that, I had to re-evaluate and go a little higher-end,” Smith said. “People were wanting that Park Place ribeye and Cobb salad.”
The from-scratch menu is there to be welcoming and to have everyone’s favorites on it, though the beer, wine, martini and cocktail menus do push hard on the boundaries and offer nice surprises and territory to happily explore. The lunch and dinner specials showcase the passion and inspiration of chef Issa and his team, so have fun ordering them. Smith knew he wanted a bistro, though he struggles to put his reasoning into words. In the end, though, it seems he wanted to create a restaurant with food people would want to eat every day. So, at Main Street, just take that as the working definition of what a bistro is.
“Why did I come up with that name and what is the formula that is going to make me successful here?” he asks. “I think it’s all about location, location, location. I came up with the name because I am on Main Street, and it’s a destination.”
He has remade the restaurant to live up to his expectations. The decor is both familiar and new. Significant updating took place, of course, and diners will note the addition of Terry Ratliff’s art and a striking wine wall in the lounge area. Service is upscale and accommodating, and Main Street has rooms that can accommodate business meetings and celebrations large and small.
Downtown office folk can enjoy the Power Lunch menu in 20 minutes or less. Those who linger over lunch have plenty of options, too. A recent lunch customer declared the Chilled Soba Noodle salad superior to a steak he’d had (elsewhere) for dinner the night before. Dinner customers can come before a show or after a show or make fine dining the centerpiece of their evening.
Setting aside all the startup lessons learned, Smith said, the biggest adjustment was to the different schedule a downtown restaurant runs on, a later one in the evening.
“We get people from the Philmore, Embassy, Arts United, Civic Theatre, and then I get my 10:30 ‘I want martinis and pizza’,” he said, and the music mix of jazz, blues and Top 40 may well keep people there until 1 or 2 a.m. Main Street Bistro & Martini Lounge is there for them all.
Main Street Bistro’s Crab Cakes
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Franks Red Hot Sauce
1 pound lump crab meat (12 cans)
20 Ritz crackers, crushed
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 chipotle chilies from adobo canned chilies
½ roasted red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1. Gently mix all the crab cake ingredients together.
2. Form into eight patties.
3. Fry in hot oil that comes about halfway up the sides of the crab cakes until the cakes are golden brown.
4. Place all the Chipotle Remoulade ingredients in a blender and blend. Do not puree all the way, but leave a consistent texture.
5. Serve crab cakes with Chipotle Remoulade.
First appeared in the April 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.