I also ran into a few real surprises this year. One of them was Corndance Tavern
in Mishawaka, IN. While I generally didn't find the greater South Bend area to be a great culinary destination, I did find two places my first visit that were both good, Fiddler’s Hearth
(fish wrapped in newspaper, more on that later), and Bare Hands Brewery
(a great brewpub). But I was still searching for some other great places to eat, and while I kept finding some places that were good, most of them weren’t really anything to write about. For example, Hacienda didn’t exactly excite me with their Tex-Mex menu, but the beer I had there, a Lucky Dog from Evil Czech Brewing, was quite good, so I decided to look up where else I could find it.
Turns out that the folks that own Evil Czech also own a restaurant in Mishawaka, called Corndance Tavern, so I decided to give it a try (their web site looked interesting, and they had some pretty interesting beer specials). With my coworker Cal in tow, we decided to drive over to Mishawaka and check it out.
The steaks on the menu looked intriguing, as did several of the specials (most special ribeyes and fresh fish), but what caught my attention was an odd special near the bottom: the “Sword of John Adams.” Asking my server about it, I got the immediate “I’m glad you asked!” look, and he explained that it was their house specialty: with three different meats selected by the chef, served up to you with roasted vegetables, all skewered onto a sword served at the table. Yeah, a sword. Being starving (we had worked through lunch), I decided that was exactly
what I was craving, and decided to give it a shot. (For those that are wondering, the name is a subtle reference to an alleged quote of our second President: “There are two ways to conquer a nation. One is by sword. The other is by debt,” although I wonder what they would serve up as the “Debt of John Adams”?).
The Sword of John Adams is one of those orders that doesn’t just show up at your table, it emerges from the kitchen area wielded by your server with more than a little flourish, and you are then beholding the rather architectural accomplishment sitting in front of you. In the case of our visit, the Sword included a hefty rib-eye, half a Peruvian-style chicken, a rather large jalapeno-cheese bratwurst, and two bell peppers (red and green), all nicely seared up and sizzling on the sword. If that wasn’t enough, it also came with roasted acorn squash, potato wedges, and cole slaw. If there’s ever a time to use the phrase “Pièce de résistance”, this is it:
(Full review here