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Best Of The City 2020

On top of the copper-sheathed dome of the Allen County Courthouse, the goddess Liberty holds aloft her torch of progress to enlighten the city. What a year to consider the fullness of that symbol as we wear masks and keep our distance from one another. But, as you’ll see in the next few pages, we’re a city packed with great food, entertainment, artists, artifacts and attractions that we illuminate in these precarious days to carry us on to a bright future.

 

 

1) place to get close to Johnny Appleseed:

You’d think I’d cite Johnny Appleseed’s grave in Johnny Appleseed Park but there’s some dispute over where Appleseed’s (aka John Chapman’s) final resting place actually is. At the History Center, they have a verified artifact that was once owned by Appleseed: a flask that was gifted to a Fort Wayne resident by Appleseed in 1834. “A flask?” you ask. Yes. Here’s the thing: Johnny Appleseed should really have been called Johnny Hoochseed. “The apples that Chapman brought to the frontier … weren’t primarily used for eating,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. “They were used to make America’s beverage-of-choice at the time, hard apple cider.” In light of all that, a flask probably brings you closer to Appleseed than almost anything. The History Center’s executive director Todd Pelfrey describes this flask as the museum’s rarest artifact. 302 E. Berry Street, 260.426.2882, fwhistorycenter.org

 

 

2) SPOTs to figure out what the best places for barbecue are:

Notice I didn’t title that “Best Barbecue Places”? Give me credit for some common sense. The city is full of good barbecue. It’s impossible to pick a best. Which is to say, it’s inadvisable to pick a best. Shigs in Pit (2008 Fairfield Avenue and 6250 Maplecrest Road, 260.387.5903 and 260.222.8802, shigsinpit.com) and Ziffles (6338 E. State Boulevard 260.417.7233, zifflesribbar.com) are two of the city’s more popular barbecue places and they do a good job. But let me tell you about Lacy Curry. He’s one of Fort Wayne’s most well-regarded pitmasters. You can’t claim to know barbecue in Fort Wayne lest you visit his Neighborhood Smokehouse (1403 Winter Street, 260.739.7041). Lucille’s (9011 Lima Road, 260.203.3937), Yard Bones (705 E. Lewis Street, 260.312.4251) and Hoosier Daddy’s (2650 Coliseum Boulevard South, 260.423.2555) should also be on your must-visit barbecue list.

 

 

3) FOR scoops of adventure:

You aren’t supposed to eat raw cookie dough, but people do it anyway because they crave adventure. The danger here comes in the form of possible salmonella from the raw eggs. Sassie Cakes has eliminated that danger, which is probably for the best. Sassie offers a selection of safe-to-eat cookie doughs that are served on ice cream cones. This offers a more substantial dessert than soft-serve and a sturdier one (in imperviousness-to-melting terms) as well. 1014 Broadway, 260.478.8973, sassiecakes.com

 

 

4) Place to Buy Gifts that Feature the F Bomb:

Fancy & Staple is well known for a wild and funky assortment of merchandise that delights all ages. The kids section is pure joy of color and cuteness. Yet, you can easily spot gifts and goods for those who like to go blue, as they say. Sometimes you just need a well-placed swear word on a fancy mug. 1111 Broadway, 260.422.2710, shopfancyandstaplefw.com

 

 

5) Promenade B Polished:

Promenade B Polished Spa recently relocated into the city making the popular, bespoke nail studio more centrally located for devoted clients from every corner of Fort Wayne. Owner Tanya Glover’s clean nail services are private, by appointment only and the space is serene and relaxing, making nail services a spa-worthy experience. 1301 Lafayette Street, 260.385.1300, @bpolishedspa

 

 

6) place to achieve an Altered State:

Rivers Relaxation, where you can float in an isolation chamber a la William Hurt in “Altered States” 1505-B W. Dupont Road, 260.209.3937, riversrelaxation.com

 

 

7) place to be utterly shocked and/or delighted by a piece of paper:

At the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, you might see a letter written by Charles Manson or Abraham Lincoln. Other possibilities: the Treaty of Versailles, the Bill of Rights, notes penned by the Elephant Man’s doctor, sketches from the creation of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Albert Einstein’s handwritten calculations leading to his formula E=MC2. 2410 Fairfield Avenue, 260.456.6929

 

 

8) place to venerate Chuck Norris or someone very much like him:

The building is on Pointe Inverness Way, but you can see it from Illinois Road. It’s the Fort Wayne home of the Petroleum Traders Corporation, and the building features a giant image of a cowboy etched into the side of it, looking a lot like Chuck Norris from his “Walker Texas Ranger” days; Petroleum Traders has denied that it is supposed to be any particular cowboy. There’s nothing stopping you from pretending it’s Chuck Norris. Having a giant Chuck Norris looking over you can be reassuring unless you are a cattle rustler. 7120 Pointe Inverness Way, 800.348.3705

 

 

9) Place to Prep for an Urban Splash Day:

Fort Wayne Outfitters boasts a complete collection of everything needed to play on the city’s rivers, from the gear and accessories right down to the kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards. They’re experts on how to get the most fun out of our waterways no matter your experience level. 1004 Cass Street, 260.420.3962, fwoutfitters.com

 

 

10) Self Care Routine Developed During Covid:

When the country shut down, some gyms, yoga studios and other fitness facilities pivoted toward online classes, something most had not yet done before. We tip our hats to the many trainers and teachers who went digital, helping to keep Fort Wayne healthy: Fusion Yoga, Pure Movement Pilates Studio, Studio Seva, Orangetheory, Mindful Movements and more.

 

 

11) Way to Wear Your Fort Wayne Pride:

Hands down, First & Wilkerson has the largest selection of cool city, state and regional-themed apparel and accessories. And if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, they can make it, and in ones, twos or thousands, often with a quick turnaround. 127 W. Wayne Street, 260.387.6531, firstwilkerson.com

 

 

12) Place to Spend Money on Things You Didn’t Know You Needed:

The Monogram Shoppe has long been one of Fort Wayne’s most beloved shopping destinations. Known for custom stationery and invitations, owner Sara Keltch also stuffs her store with unique toys, crafts and activities for children; baby gifts; collectible decorative and home entertaining pieces; novelty lake and university gear; grilling tools and gifts for men; and all manner of kitchen gadgets. 6410 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.436.3138, monogramshoppe.com

 

 

13) Shop to Pick Up Some Wax:

Neat Neat Neat Records & Music is always well stocked with new and used vinyl; a selection of CDs and throwback tape cassettes; audio equipment like turntables and speakers; and now a wall of band t-shirts from Willie Nelson to Green Day to Biggie Smalls. 1836 S. Calhoun Street, 260.755.5559

 

 

14) Way to Dispose of Your Food Scraps:

Dirt Wain collects residential and commercial food scraps from all over the city for community-scale composting. This practice keeps food scraps out of landfills where they convert into harmful methane gas. Dirt Wain offers an easy and affordable way for any resident, organization or business to efficiently reduce negative impacts on the climate. dirtwain.com

 

 

15) Place to Have Hair Tamed:

Salon Renew’s roster of stylists focus on continuing education with national experts to keep them on their toes, offering Fort Wayne the latest and greatest hair styles, techniques, and at home tools and beauty products. Salon Renew offers a full complement of hair services, including hair extensions, as well as some massage and facial services such as dermaplaning and lash extensions. 14033 Illinois Road, 260.433.8047, salonrenewfw.com

 

 

16) places to nurse your hurt feelings over the demise of Bravas:

Both The Stand (5200 Bluffton Road, 260.747.7300, standfanfw.com) and Summit City Brewerks (1501 E. Berry Street #106, 260.420.0222, summitcitybrewerks.com) offer gourmet hot dogs a la Bravas. At the former, try the Caribbean Dog with authentic jerk sauce, and at the latter, try the PBJ Dog, which sounds improbable and tastes improbably good. For gourmet burgers, try Black Canyon’s Bison Burger with tempura-fried jalapeño and grilled pineapple (1509 W. Dupont Road, 260.203.5900, blackcanyonrestaurant.com)

 

 

17) Way to Mask Up:

Local artist and designer Lyndy Bazile makes super comfy and soft masks for adults and children. Made of soft cotton, block printed with an attractive, graphic equal sign (proceeds from the sales are regularly donated to charity), the masks feature filter pockets for extra protection, soft ear straps and a Velcro adjustment strap for flexible sizing. The masks are sold via Bazile’s Etsy shop page, Afro Plump. etsy.com/shop/afroplump

 

 

18) Locally-Made Personalized Jewelry:

Luna and Jade jumped into the scene last year with the most precious collection of delicate, personalized jewelry. Each piece preserves the memories of loved ones by capturing their handwriting on gold or silver discs and bars, hung from a variety of beautiful chains. Meaningful sentiments, names and dates now grace the necks of many Fort Waynians. lunaandjade.com

 

 

19) Way to Support Local Art:

Art This Way continues to bring compelling street art to the city, helping to beautify the urban core, as well as promote some of the many talented local artists Fort Wayne lays claim to. View the public art map online and take part in the many events and programs hosted downtown throughout the year. Donations made to Art This Way support ongoing and future projects that contribute to the city’s vibrancy. artthiswayfw.com

 

 

20) places in Fort Wayne to engage in exhibitionistic eating:

If you want to be seen while dining, you could hardly do better than to chow down in the window seat at 816 Pint & Slice (816 S. Calhoun Street, 567.259.8571, pintandslice.com). The outdoor patios at JK O’Donnell’s (121 W. Wayne Street, 260.420.5563, jkodonnells.com), Proximo (898 Harrison Street, 260.459.6150, proximofw.com) and Ruth’s Chris (224 W. Wayne Street, 260.444.5898, ruthschrisphg.com) are also great places for theatrical consumption.

 

 

21) Spot for a Selfie:

Promenade Park debuted to rave reviews with good reason. The park maximizes both city and river views, reconnected downtown with Wells Street and created a variety of Instagrammable photo ops. Capture the little ones bounding along the Kids’ Canal; snap a group shot in front of the striking Convergence sculpture at the entrance; or snap a selfie with the iconic Wells Street Bridge in the background. Open 6 am – 11 pm daily. 202 W. Superior Street, 260.427.6000, fortwayneparks.org

 

 

22) Place to Recapture Your Youth:

Rise Skateboard Shop outfits local skaters with the best boards, wheels and trucks, as well as hard to find shoes, apparel and accessories. For those who skated back in the day, Rise can help get you rolling again. Total newb? Rise is a great place to start, with expert recommendations and insights. They’ve recently added a coffee shop in the back. Rise is conveniently located a quick roll from the Lawton Skatepark. 1507 Spy Run Avenue, 260.420.2178, instagram.com/riseskateshopfortwayne

 

 

23) Spot for a Blast from the Past:

Mercantile on Main is always well stocked with antique and vintage home goods and decor accents. Upstairs there’s Spry Fashion, curated by Pam and Bob Michels’ daughter, Hannah. 1753 W. Main Street, 260.420.5656, mercantileonmain.squarespace.com

 

 

24) place to find Thai hush puppies:

Hush puppies are, of course, that great Southern (as in, Southern-United-Statesian) delicacy. They are fried dough balls meant to accompany all kinds of Southern entrées. Baan Thai has a Southeast Asian version called the Curry Puff. The Curry Puff is more substantial than the hush puppy. Its dough has in it peas, potatoes, carrots, onions and curry powder. As a Curry-Puff-loving friend told me: “I hate peas and I have made entire meals of Curry Puffs.” 3235 N. Anthony Boulevard, 260.471.2929, baanthaiin.com

 

 

25) BAR to order a cocktail with a naughty name:

Cocktails Lounge has a rotating slate of specialty cocktails with names that might make you blush if you don’t get out much. 6135 Plantation Lane, 260.486.8000

 

 

26) SPOT to get pickled:

Southtown Inn, a Macedonian restaurant that specializes in pickled things – cabbage and eggs, to name two items. 6811 Decatur Road, 260.447.9101

 

 

27) Place to Cultivate Your Green Thumb:

The Honey Plant is a wild and lush plant boutique, filled with leafy greens of all stripes and sizes. In addition to the living inventory, the store is stocked with all manner of planting pots, some made by local ceramicists and artists. If your thumb isn’t quite so green, owners Cassandra and Logan Braman can help with that, too. 1436 N. Wells Street, 765.346.2896, shophoneyplant.com

 

 

28) SPOTS to argue over whether it’s spelled doughnut or donut:

There are almost too many wonderful doughnuts in Fort Wayne. The Maple Bacon Fritter at 375 Donuts and Sweets (4382 Bluffton Road, 260.747.1973) is the perfect marriage of salt-cured pork and evaporated tree sap. The Cinnamon Caramel Doughnut at Rise ‘n Roll (5129 Illinois Road #101, 260.436.5695, risenroll.com) has been called “Amish crack,” for reasons that the Amish and the Institute for Drug-Related Metaphors are keeping secret. The cherry fritters at Jack’s Donuts (6731 W. Jefferson Boulevard 260.755.6251) please cherry aficionados and fritter aficionados equally. And Hetty Arts Pastry has peach fritter made with gen-u-ine Georgia peaches. Going to the trouble of getting your peaches from Georgia is like going to the trouble of getting your champagne from the Champagne wine region of France. It means you care about the highest quality. (260.444.1987, hettyartspastry.com)

 

 

29) PLACE to Splurge on Something Stylish for Yourself:

The FIND stocks a wide variety of goods and gifts for women, men, home, baby and child. The women’s apparel and accessory categories boast stylish options by Clare V, Alo Yoga, Velvet by Graham & Spencer and the oh so splurge-worthy blankets and lounge clothing by Barefoot Dreams. 133 W. Wayne Street, 260.203.3498, thefindfw.com

 

 

30) place to find a cocktail menu that would be bigger than a telephone directory if they still printed those:

Copper Spoon has a menu of more than 100 classic cocktails. 301 W. Jefferson Boulevard #100, 260.755.1019, copperspoonfw.com

 

 

31) flight of fancy:

Crab Rangoon, those fried dough appetizers filled with cream cheese and imitation crabmeat, can be found on the menus of most Chinese restaurants across the country. But they were likely invented by an American: Victor Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame. It is not known why he named them after the former capital city of Burma. Crab Rangoon is not, therefore, part of an ancient cuisine tradition. It is a fanciful derivation. The Pizza Bomba food truck has further fancified this fanciful derivation with something called the Crab Rangoon Pizza. Where fanciful derivations are concerned, the Crab Rangoon Pizza is no passing fancy. 260.415.8345

 

 

32) place to get in touch with your inner child and your outer tippler:

Double Dragon Arcade is a video game emporium that is not open to people below the age of 21. That’s because they also serve alcohol. This is fine because most kids don’t want to go to game emporiums. They have entire emporiums inside their home video game consoles. What adults want is to feel like kids again. While drinking. 4606 Parnell Avenue, 260.483.8999

 

 

33) vegetational metaphor for 2020:

This year has been a strange year and the Voodoo Lily is a strange plant. Also known as Devil’s Tongue or Amorphophallus konjac, according to Rebecca Canales, the manager of the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, the flower of the plant is “pollinated by flies.” It attracts them with “its persistent stench,” she says, and its color, which mimics “aging raw meat.” It can bloom without being planted, thanks to its corm. Corm is defined by one dictionary as “a rounded underground storage organ.” The Voodoo Lily seems ready for anything, unlike most people during 2020. You can seek the counsel of the Voodoo Lily at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun Street, 260.427.6440, botanicalconservatory.org

 

 

34) ways to satisfy your sweet tooth or all your sweet teeth:

For pie, you couldn’t do much better than the key lime pie and the peanut butter pie at Paula’s on Main (1732 W. Main Street, 260.424.2300, paulasonmain.com). Aficionados of such things know intrinsically why I mention it here. Catablu’s Banana-Cream-Pie-in-a-Jar also earns high marks (6372 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.456.6563, thecatablugrille.com). The carrot cake at the Firefly Coffeehouse (3523 N. Anthony Boulevard, 260.373.0505, fireflyfw.coffee) and the chocolate cake at the Casa restaurants (four area locations: Casa Grille: 411 E. Dupont Road, 260.490.4745; Casa Grille Italiano: 6340 Stellhorn Road, 260.969.4700; Casa Ristorante Italiano: 4111 Parnell Avenue, 260.483.0202; Casa! Ristorante: 7545 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.436.2272, casarestaurants.com) are two of the best options for having your cake and eating it too. The peach cobbler is astoundingly good at RMY’s Restaurant (3402 Wayne Trace, 260.456.1409) which is only open on Sundays. The oatmeal cookie dessert at Club Soda (235 E. Superior Street, 260.426.3442, clubsodafortwayne.com) will forever banish the canard that chocolate cookies are always superior to oatmeal. As for ice cream, there are many fine parlors in town, but West Central Microcreamery (725 Union Street, 260.214.2122, wcmicrocreamery.com) earns distinction for the quality of its product and the charm of its surroundings.

 

 

35) place to radio for help from the jungle:

In the Indonesian Rainforest at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, you will find Dr. Diversity’s Research Station. Dr. Diversity has a field radio that he uses to receive and send communications. Radios of this sort used to be a big part of kids’ movies – for example, any number of Tarzan films. Field radios probably don’t loom as large in movie plots, but there isn’t a kid or kid-at-heart who isn’t compelled (or impelled) to grab the mic. 3411 Sherman Boulevard, kidszoo.org, 260.427.6800

 

 

36) SPOT in Fort Wayne to pretend you’re visiting the Grand Canyon:

Well, it’s not the rim of the Grand Canyon, but the Hanson Quarry Observation Deck will give you a vertiginous view of a deep hole. 4529 Sand Point Road, 260.478.9992

 

 

37) vegetarian and vegan items for people who areN’t yet ready to commit to being vegetarians and vegans:

As a carnivore, I am not qualified to choose the best vegetarian and vegan fare. But I can tell you what sort of faux fare carnivores like. The vegan cheese dip and the mock fish sandwich at Bird + Cleaver (1603 N. Wells Street, 260.494.3684, birdandcleaver.com) are magical. And the Savery Vegan Grill (1122 Taylor Street, 260.203.3959, saverygrill.com) is devoted entirely to vegan versions of classic American junk food.

 

 

38) culinary mashup:

Pizza Bomba’s Crab Rangoon Pizza is one of those, of course, as is the Castlebar Burger with Guinness-infused cheese and European-style bacon at JK O’Donnells (121 W. Wayne Street, 260.420.5563, jkodonnells.com), the Greek Dog at The Stand (5200 Bluffton Road, 260.747.7300, standfanfw.com) has gyro beef and tzatziki sauce on it and the Sushi Burrito at A.A. Poke (700 E.Coliseum Boulevard Suite A, 260.755.3556, aapoke.com) is self-explanatory. The Pachola Burger from the Mercadito Taqueria food truck is made with carne-asada-style beef. Mercadito Taqueria (260.267.6419) also offers Birria Tacos, which are sort of like a mashup of tacos and the French Dip sandwich. Birria Tacos are dipped into a broth before and while eating. Many area taquerias offer Birria Tacos.

 

 

39) place in Fort Wayne to buy a live pet or a stuffed on:

Fae’s Cabinet is arguably one of the most extraordinary shops in the country. Here you can find exotic animals, examples of taxidermy, skeletons and jarred specimens. There’s also one of the strangest assortments of arts and crafts this side of Daigon Alley. 3215 N. Anthony Boulevard Suite A, 567.259.8571, faecabinet.com

 

 

40) SPA to Have Hair Swiftly Pulled from Your Skin:

Waxing services aren’t always fun, but for those who prefer that to shaving or going au naturel, two things are key: properly sanitized tools and work space; and provide expert-level care. Corner House Salon Spa, formerly Erika’s Day Spa, has you covered – rather, uncovered. The European-style spa knows what they’re doing and will literally wax any part of your body. 7505 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.436.2950, cornerhouseerikas.com

 

 

41) SPOT to Feather Your Nest:

House to Home’s new location is stylishly stocked with home decor trends from couches and dining tables to the smallest of decorative elements that bring a room together. The large and airy boutique is set up in expertly curated vignettes, and in a variety of interior design styles from contemporary and traditional to modern farmhouse and mid-century modern. 110 W. Columbia Street, 260.267.0620, housetohomefw.com

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