Touch of theater

Trolley Steaks & Seafood takes it up a notch

Trolley Steaks & Seafood’s shrimp cocktail, photography by Neal Bruns
Trolley Steaks & Seafood’s Sea Scallops, photography by Neal Bruns

The stylish variety of red light fixtures hanging from the tracks in the ceiling set a tone for the entire Trolley Steaks & Seafood experience. It’s going to be just a notch bolder and brighter than the restaurant’s unassuming exterior may have led you to expect.

Trolley Steaks & Seafood welcomes diners warmly with a dark and cozy space that is bigger and more spacious than seems possible from outside. The tables are nicely spaced, the chairs are comfortable and the entire restaurant has a theatrical feel thanks to how its iconic salad bar is placed – right where everyone who takes advantage of it also gets to take a closer look at the action in the open kitchen, too.

“One of our mottoes is, ‘Let us give you an experience you deserve’,” said Derik Usina, general manager. “When someone walks in here, they should want for nothing.”

That 50-plus-item salad bar, each item fresh every day, is a big contributor to the Trolley experience. It’s included with every entree, and it’s unlimited.

“We always get great reviews on the salad bar,” Usina said. “People get to get up and see what’s going on. You can’t beat that.

“You walk by the kitchen on the way to the salad bar and get to see the interaction with the chefs. Our restaurant is a very entertaining atmosphere.”

It’s also a fine dining restaurant – having expanded its culinary ambitions far beyond its founding identity as downtown’s The Trolley Bar (first opened in 1890).

“We pride ourselves on our product. That’s where it starts,” Usina said. “For this restaurant, it’s product, service, atmosphere. Those things are the pillars of our operation.”

By “product,” Usina means top-quality Angus beef; fresh, seasonal seafood and produce and everything homemade.

“Our menu is simplistic when it comes to the ingredients,” he said. “It’s American food. We do it the way people understand and know. That’s kept us competitive and successful for the past five years when all of this new stuff started to happen.

“We are trying to stick to our roots. And to explore some things we can do as well, without changing who we are.”

Usina, who returned to Fort Wayne about five years ago from Miami, where he had gained experience in corporate hotel and bar and restaurant management, is very proud of his kitchen staff and enjoys challenging them to come up with each week’s one lunch feature and two dinner features based on what’s in season and what’s being ordered.

“It gives them the opportunity to explore and put their name on a dish,” he said.

“The kitchen staff gets excited. It’s a treat to see some of the fish we are able to get through our purveyors. They get back there and start thinking what they can do to complement that product, what interesting side, how we will season it, how we’re going to cook it. The guys really enjoy it.”

Consistency is what owner Rob Clevenger wants Usina and the staff to maintain, he said, “to have the same experience with the same good product and food and to add more of that.”

Among the star performers on the menu are the almond walleye and the ribeye steak, he said. He considers the menu “very well balanced. Our menu offers any protein that a customer is looking for: fish, pork, shellfish, steak, chicken, pasta.”

Add in the sides the chefs take so much pride in creating, plus the salad bar, he said, and the Trolley menu can please any diner.

Trolley Steaks & Seafood

2989 E. Dupont Road
(260) 490-4322
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily
Specialties: Fresh steaks and seafood, plus an iconic salad bar, cooked and served in the best American style. Weekly chef’s features.

Trolley’s Seafood Salad

Serves 25

15 pounds imitation crab meat
3 red onions (diced)
1 stalk of celery (diced) (meaning the entire bunch of 8-10 or more individual ribs)
1 1/2 tablespoons celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dill weed
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
3 tablespoons celery seed
8 cups heavy mayonnaise

1. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.

2. Mix and enjoy!

First appeared in the February 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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