We’re all neighbors at Tower Bar
Where the food has become the big attraction
So much great food and friendship is made at Tower Bar, one of those special places that looks smaller from the outside than it feels once you’ve gone in. The goodness has tendrils out into the neighborhood – specifically to University of Saint Francis football games.
That heavenly scent of wings and burgers cooking in the alumni pavilion in the end zone is coming from Tower Bar chef David Manos and his team on certain, special games. Ask at the bar, and buy your tickets there.
And join everyone else at Tower Bar whenever else you like. The welcome mat, so to speak, is always out.
“When you come here, you are always going to see pretty much the same faces, customers and employees,” said Manos, who came to Tower from a job as executive chef at the Oyster Bar in 2001. “If there was ever going to be the cliché neighborhood bar, it would be like this.”
Thanks to a remodeling that opened up the interior with warm, light woodwork and the city’s smoking ban, Manos believes Tower Bar has completed its transformation from a place where people gathered for a beer to a place where people gather for a beer and to enjoy great food.
“That was when our food business really took off,” he said. “We sell more food than alcohol now, and it’s been that way for a while. That’s a nice accomplishment. Our food reputation has done us very well on that.”
Manos sought the Tower Bar job because he had a young son at home and wanted to spend nights and weekends at home, which the new job’s hours would allow him to do. But the discovery of how different the kitchen was first shocked him.
“When I started here, it was a single page menu and a lot of things were frozen, like frozen hamburger patties,” he said.
So he proposed both a larger menu and fresh ingredients to owner Steve Petit, getting most of what he asked for. The menu is bigger and on both sides of the page. Ingredients, especially for the burgers, are fresh.
“I did all the menus myself,” Manos said. “At that time, we had maybe a third of what is here now. I started playing around with ideas, different burgers, different items that were fresh. The biggest thing was the burgers. That’s the first thing we changed.”
Of course, Tower Bar is also famous for its wings and wing sauces, which he has also transformed. When he arrived, the bar was selling 240 pounds of wings a week, he said. Lately, it’s been selling a ton of wings a week. As in 2,000 pounds.
“It’s been like that for a while,” he said. “Our wing business is unbelievable. We go through a lot of burgers, a lot of sandwiches, a lot of salads, a lot of lunch specials.”
Plus, Thursday night is steak night, with a prime rib or New York strip dinner for $14 that includes baked potato, pierogies or fries and your choice of Caesar or house salad.
“That’s been a big success,” he said.
Salads are also a Manos addition to the Tower Bar menu.
“I’m a salad guy,” he said. There weren’t any salads on the menu before he arrived.
He indulges his love for soups in the daily lunch specials, which offer one cream soup and one broth soup, a couple of different sandwiches and a blue-plate special. The plated specials are often seasonal and are favorites of the construction workers who become familiar customers.
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans for lunch, for example, “warm them up and get them back out there,” Manos said.
For all his years cooking, Manos got his training on the job, not in school, and he gets his ideas by reading and watching food shows on television. He’s particularly interested in Guy Fiori’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and likes to start with an idea he’s seen there and make it work for Tower Bar’s family of friends, or as he puts it, “tweak that around a bit and see what we can do with it.”
Tower Bar & Grill’s White Cheese Sauce
4 ounces clarified butter
4 ounces all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Chicken Base
½ cup jalapeño juice
¾ pound white American cheese, cubed
1. In a heavy bottomed stockpot, combine butter and flour with a whisk over low heat to make a roux. Cook till blonde stage, and add Chicken Base.
2. Add milk and heavy cream. Continue to whisk over medium low heat, and bring to a simmer.
3. Remove from heat and add cubed cheese. Continue to whisk until cheese is thoroughly melted. Stir in jalapeño juice and serve.
Note: Tower Bar & Grill uses this sauce on its beloved Pot Roast Burritos, but you can also serve it as queso dip appetizer with a bowl of chips, top nachos with it or just be creative.
First appeared in the September 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.