The Ultimate Shop Local Michiana Guide

by Jane

I HATE BLACK FRIDAY! There is nothing worse I could imagine than going to Best Buy at 5:00 a.m. to run through the aisles trying to grab the best deals before someone else gets it first. Especially the day after Thanksgiving, when you spend time with family and friends, doing the awesome simple things, like eating too much pie and drinking wine while you play Pass the Pigs (awesome, little-known 80’s kids game. Check it out!)

So, I religously stick to two plans of action for my Christmas shopping: online and LOCAL!!!

This is my list of must-stop places in Michiana for the perfect holiday gifts:

We’re starting our shopping journey in downtown South Bend.

For the Foodie Who Hates to Cook
Get this person a Tapastrie Gift Card, we’ll be talking in more detail about this place soon! It’s a brand new, super fancy, fantastically delicious wine and tapas bar that just opened on the corner of Colfax and next to the Morris Performing Arts Center. If you have any theater-loving friends, stop by and get them tickets to an upcoming show.

For the Bookworm
Idle Hours Bookshop has really unique finds. Spend some time in this cozy little shop, browse the books, get one for a friend…and let’s be honest, three for yourself! ūüėČ

For the Foodie
For that amazing home chef you know, South Bend’s Purple Porch Co-op has amazing variety of local items. Be sure to consider the national award-winning Honey from the Unity Gardens.

For the Antiques Lover
Browse through the treasures at Junk Evolution to find that perfect little gem, maybe a set of cocktail glasses from the 1950’s, or an art deco vase?

Are you ready to stop shopping for a minute and grab a bite to eat? Stop by Eddy Street Commons next, and make time¬†for lunch at Yats on Eddy St. Commons. I’m a long-time fan of this amazingly inexpensive New Orleans style diner, since I’m originally from Indianapolis where Yats first opened. I used to be a Yats on Mass Ave. girl! My favorite options are spinach and mushroom etouffee and the maque choux!

For the Diva
Stop by my absolute favorite salon in South Bend, The Beehive Salon is on Jefferson Boulevard. Grab a gift card for this retro-mod, cozy little salon with a staff that does wonders with beautiful cuts and colors. Practically all the girls we know go here.

OR, head down the street to Allie Oesch Jewelry for a unique, delicately beautiful piece of Ali’s hand-made jewelry, or a fancy boutique outfit or home item. The candles are awesome!

For the Art Fan
There’s yet another shop on Jefferson that I LOVE. Go to Just Goods¬†for really creative items from South Bend and around the world. Everything from alpaca wool socks, to beautifully rendered greeting cards by local artist, Heron’s Heart Studio.


Go to the Small Business Saturday event at Make South Bend this Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and sip a hot cocoa from their free hot cocoa bar while you shop for jewelry, pottery, handmade lotions and lip balms, and clothing‚ÄĒall made by local artisans!

Have fun shopping! Post your awesome finds on Getting Bent’s Facebook page!


The Lakeside Inn

VacancyIt’s the time of year when weekend getaways are important to maintain sanity. The weather is getting colder, the holiday craziness is just around the corner, and we have about four months of permacloud to look forward to.¬†Where’s the best place in the region to go for an inexpensive winter weekend getaway? Why, the Lakeside Inn, of course.

The Lakeside Inn in Lakeside, Michigan, is my favorite place in the area to spend a weekend. I may be a bit biased,¬†since it’s where I got married, but there’s a reason we chose it as our wedding venue¬†– it’s the perfect place to get family and friends together for a weekend.

Room 14

Room 14

Walking up to¬†the Lakeside Inn is like walking back in time 100 years. In fact, the Inn was built in the 1880s. The Inn is nestled in a grove of trees and is perched on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. There’s an expansive front porch, where you can spend a long afternoon or evening rocking in a rocking chair while watching the waves crash on the beach or the sun set over the lake. Besides regular maintenance and adding bathrooms to all of the rooms, very little has been done to change the interior of the Inn over the last century. There are two huge stone fireplaces in the lobby and ballroom that are always lit in the winter and are surrounded by wicker couches, tables and rocking chairs. There are no TVs in the rooms – forcing you to socialize with those you¬†came with in the common spaces.

You may wonder why I’d suggest going to an inn on Lake Michigan in the winter; There are several reasons. First, it’s super cozy, and the stone fireplaces make it an ideal place to relax on a snowy night. Secondly, the Lakeside Inn is super inexpensive during the off season. From November 1¬†through May 20, you buy one night and get the second night free. The rooms range in price from $90 to $175, but considering that’s the price for the ENTIRE weekend, it’s a steal. Third of all, there’s a ton of stuff to do in the area, even in the winter.

The stairs to the beach

The stairs to the beach

There are only 30 rooms in the inn and every single one is different, which is why the price varies so much. Don’t expect ¬†anything fancy – some of the¬†rooms are small and the furniture is rather old (although well maintained); However, the character and history of the Inn and its rooms are¬†what make it so¬†special, not to mention that staying in the Inn¬†makes you feel like you’re in a simpler time where relationships with others take priority over the TV and smartphone.

If you decide to spend the weekend at the Lakeside Inn, here are some suggestions of nearby places to visit (stay-tuned for more posts on many of these places):

The Blue Plate Cafe (within walking distance – my favorite breakfast place)
Luisa’s at The Harbert Swedish Bakery
Dave’s at the Lakeside Inn

Greenbush Brewing Company
The Stray Dog
Pleasant House
Cafe Gulistan (super delicious Kurdish food!)

– Explore the Sawyer Garden Center (seriously, it’s cool and they have tons of Christmas gift ideas)
– Check out the treetop viewing platform at Galien River County Park¬†(it’s closed for part of the winter – check the schedule before visiting)
РVisit the antique stores on the Red Arrow Highway
–¬†Explore¬†the local wineries
– See a movie at the Vicker’s Theatre


Photo credit for the wedding pics goes to the awesome Allison Christians Photography.

LaSalle Kitchen

Hey Benders,

Dinner at LSK---burgers, wings, charcuterie---oh my!

Dinner at LSK—burgers, wings, charcuterie—oh my!

It’s getting colder (I am just going to keep whining about that). ¬†But even with winter setting in there is no reason to hide out at home. ¬†One of the easiest and coziest places to hang out on a snowy night in the Bend? ¬†Lasalle Kitchen. ¬†Or—as those in the know call it—“LSK”. ¬†Now don’t confuse LSK with its more expensive downstairs cousin, Lasalle Grille. ¬†The Grille is a suit and tie kind of place. ¬†The food is amazing, but if you are watching your finances, it is best reserved for special occasions. ¬†LSK is on the third floor of the same building, and its an unpretentious and fun bar, with great food and regular music. ¬†I headed there for drinks and small plates with friends last weekend.

LSK always has a good selection of local draft beers, and keeps pace with Fiddler’s on this front. ¬†While Fiddler’s has great Irish food and fiddling, LSK is more rock music and charcuterie. ¬†In fact, unless you are a vegetarian, you’d be crazy not to order a charcuterie platter when you are over there. ¬†We ordered a selection of four different salamis (whose names escape me). ¬†One was bright with fennel seeds. ¬†Another was crimson and spicy. ¬†All of them were gone in the order of about five minutes.

My other favorites are the burgers and the drunken steak skewers. ¬†The wings are solid. ¬†(You might notice a carnivorous theme…) ¬†Not in the mood for beer? ¬†They also have some great signature cocktails and a huge selection of the brown stuff.

IMG_3521Like at Fiddler’s, I recommend checking the music schedule before going. ¬†You can hear some great local bands at LSK. ¬†But if you want a quiet dinner and conversation, it may not be the best bet on a band night.


PS: I’m in India! ¬†(I posted this before I left.) ¬†So no update from me on Thursday, but hoping to be back with many adventures next week. ¬†Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunny’s Korean Restaurant

Sunny's Korean Restaurant

Sunny’s Korean Restaurant

I’m just going to come right out and say it – Sunny’s Korean Restaurant¬†is my favorite restaurant in¬†Michiana.

I bet most of you have never experienced the deliciousness of Sunny’s – or have even heard of it. If that’s the case, you’re seriously missing out.

Before experiencing Sunny’s, I had mixed feelings about Korean food. Fermented cabbage? Not for me. Strange dishes that I had never heard of before? Perhaps a little scary. But, after one meal at Sunny’s, I was hooked. Is it the most authentic Korean food? I have no idea. But, regardless, it’s freaking delicious.

Sunny’s is located in a neighborhood on the south side of Mishawaka at 512 South Spring Street – a few blocks from the Midway Tavern. Chom Sun Kaminsky (also known as Sunny) opened the restaurant in 1992 after coming to the United States from South Korea.¬†At the end of the evening, Sunny frequently comes out of the kitchen to greet her guests. Her nickname, Sunny, is appropriate – her bright smile and vivacious personality¬†light up the restaurant.

In my opinion, the best time to go to Sunny’s is Friday or Saturday night, when they offer the all-you-can-eat special. This is also a great opportunity for people who aren’t familiar with Korean dishes to try some of the most popular items. The special is served family-style and costs $16.95 per person. The first course will be either Kimchi¬†or Egg Drop Soup (your choice), followed by a generous portion of the appetizer Ya Kee Mondue, which is shredded vegetables and beef wrapped in a wonton and deep-fried.

Jane and Sam enjoying the patio

Jane and Sam enjoying the patio

Following the appetizers, you’ll receive platters of Bulgogi, sirloin steak marinated in a teriyaki sauce, Chop Chae, thin sweet potato noodles stir fried with vegetables, and a spicy chicken dish that I can’t remember the name of. You’ll also get a huge bowl of rice and an assortment of vegetable sides to put on the Bulgogi. Make sure that you ask for a side of the homemade hot sauce – it’s excellent.¬†If the serving platters are not enough, you can ask for second helpings of your favorite dishes. It’s completely worth the $16.95 price tag. You can also get a carafe of wine for the table for less than $15.

Sunny now also¬†distributes her excellent teriyaki sauce and kimchi seasoning both online and through Martin’s Supermarkets and Whole Foods (both in South Bend/Mishawaka and in other states).

If you go, make sure you check the hours. The restaurant is closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. You should also be prepared to spend some time there. There’s frequently only one server and it can get pretty busy¬†on weekends.

-P.S. РI forgot to take pictures of the food, since we got so excited about its arrival that we just devoured it.

– McK


Hey Benders,

I love Michigan

I love Michigan

I moved up here from the East Coast five years ago. ¬†Around the time I was making that decision, I remember asking some of my (now) colleagues what folks did on weekends around here. ¬†To a person, everyone reported spending time up near “The Lake” (aka Lake Michigan). ¬†I remember thinking—what’s the big deal? ¬†It’s just a big lake?

Well, now I have been here half a decade and if it’s the weekend, I am in town and there is even a hint of sunlight, I am up by The Lake. ¬†There are so many good restaurants and breweries. ¬†Each waterfront town (St. Joe, New Buffalo, etc.) has its own character. ¬†And just when I think I’m starting to exhaust the nearby options, another awesome place opens up.

That’s exactly my feeling about Cultivate, a new brewery set up on a beautiful patch of countryside in Berrien Springs, MI. Bob, McK, Sid, Viveca and I headed up there last Saturday to check it out, after getting a lot of recommendations from our friends.

A beer flight at cultivate.

A beer flight at cultivate.

It’s a quick drive (~40 min) from the Bend, but you feel like you are on another planet when you get out there. ¬†They have huge posts set up for growing hops. ¬†We each got a flight of beers (on their Michigan shaped flight boards). ¬†I tried four of the porters and dark IPAs, all of which have optimistic names—Think! Explore!— and all were incredible. ¬†I also tried McK’s saison, which consensus held was the best beer of the day. ¬†Even better, we were able to sit, talk and relax on their big open patio, with none of the rush of, say, a visit to nearby Greenbush.

Relaxing on the patio at Cultivate.

Relaxing on the patio at Cultivate.

On weekends in warmer weather they have food, and even on this chilly Saturday there were some good snacks inside. We coupled our trip with a visit to the new restaurant at Journeyman—Staymaker. ¬†McK has the post responsibility for that one…

Love the Lake,


Javier’s Bistro

One of my favorite places to have dinner in South Bend is Javier’s Bistro, a casual and cozy family-owned restaurant on Miami Street (Miami Village on the south side). Their specialty is American-Puerto Rican fusion, and everything I’ve ever eaten here has been fabulous.

Some restaurants, you find that one dish you like and stick with it no matter what. Javier’s is the kind of place that you look forward to trying something new every time.

When Sam and I dropped in for dinner after work last week, we both tried new dishes.

We started with an appetizer of Latino Fondue, a mixture of cheese and peppers with some jalape√Īo and cilantro, served with house-made tortilla chips. This is a really unique fondue, with a lightly spicy kick. The chips are nice and thick‚ÄĒkind of chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. VERY satisfying!

Since I knew I would be eating something Puerto-Rican inspired, I had a pineapple cider to drink. Sam had a beer. ¬†Javier’s has a full wine and beer menu, and they have great drink specials. They’re known for their variety of special mimosas!

For dinner, I had steak medallions with a cream sauce, spinach and mushrooms on top, served with a side of vegetables, rice, and beans. This dish isn’t spicy but it’s very flavorful, and the meat was extremely tender and cooked perfectly.

Sam had a special stew, a Puerto Rican style “jambalaya” called Chicken VooDoo Rogue. Also served with the vegetable medley, rice, and beans. This one was a little spicy. It was out-of-this-world delicious. I kept stealing bites off of his plate!

We took dessert home. We had a trifle with strawberries, bananas, and chocolate sauce. But if you’re going for the first time, Javier’s has a fantastic Texas Sheet Cake, made everyday by his wife, Deborah. It’s a must!



Vintage cocktails

On Saturday, Meg, Jane, and I decided to explore two of Southwest, Michigan’s newest dining and drinking establishments ¬†– Staymaker and Cultivate Brewing Company. Since Meg will be covering Cultivate in a later post, I’ll focus on Staymaker today.

Staymaker is owned by the same family that¬†owns¬†Journeyman Distillery. Journeyman is a craft distillery that houses a very hipster-looking (in a good way) bar with excellent cocktails; Staymaker is a full-service restaurant. (Don’t worry – Journeyman’s delicious cocktails are also available to order at Staymaker). While considered separate establishments, both Journeyman and Staymaker are located in the same building – a really cool old corset bone and buggy whip factory – and are connected by a small hallway in the back. It appears that the newly expanded space will not only allow them to serve food, but also expand their distillery operations significantly.

I’ve always loved visiting Three Oaks, Michigan, (check out our day-trip itinerary) and stopping for a drink at Journeyman. In my opinion, Journeyman’s limited food menu was its weak link. When I heard that the owners had decided to open a restaurant on the premises, I was pretty excited.

Bison Burger

The bison burger

Staymaker’s menu consists mostly of appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, and a few entrees. While that may not sound super exciting, it’s the ingredients that set Staymaker apart from other restaurants. Journeyman started as a whiskey distillery, so whiskey is a common ingredient. I had a bison burger covered in whiskey caramelized onions, white cheddar and whiskey BBQ sauce on a brioche bun, which was served with really great seasoned fresh cut fries. ¬†Meg and a few of our friends shared the crispy pork belly appetizer with acorn squash and bourbon maple glaze served with jalape√Īos. They also sampled the seasonal pizza with butternut squash. Jane enjoyed the whiskey panna cotta and the bourbon barrel maple nuts. The cheese board also looked impressive from afar. Overall, everyone enjoyed their appetizers, food, desserts and cocktails.

I would highly recommend visiting Staymaker as well as Journeyman if you haven’t been there. The food and ambience are both excellent. Catch a film at the Vicker’s Theatre before or after dinner for a great date night. If you want to make it a weekend getaway with friends, check out Journeyman’s amazing¬†rental property next door, which sleeps 18.


Cheema Indian Grocery Store

Next week I am headed to Delhi. ¬†(Also probably no post next week, since I will be in India!) ¬†Anyways, preparing for the trip has meant filing visa paperwork, rescheduling lots of meetings at work, and most importantly, making lists and lists of all of the dishes I want to eat while over there. ¬†Last week, I couldn’t take the anticipation any more and decided to fix some tofu curry for dinner. ¬†This occasioned a trip to Cheema, the Indian grocery store just over the Mishawaka border.

Goodies bought at Cheema

Goodies bought at Cheema

Cheema has an amazing selection of spices, chutneys, curry pastes, lentils, rice… they even have Kingfisher beer if you are aiming for a truly authentic feast. ¬†The prices are great too. ¬†I bought a huge bag of curry powder, several boxes of garam masala, vindaloo paste, hot mango chutney and a few other odds and ends. ¬†(I already had the tofu.)

And if you don’t feel like cooking but still feel like curry, you can head next door to India Garden.

Happy cooking!


Ricky’s Taqueria

Rickys-SignIn college, I had the opportunity to spend a few excellent months living in¬†Mexico. While I had always loved Mexican food in the States, the food in Mexico was more magical¬†– more flavorful and healthy¬†due to fresh ingredients and spices. One of my favorite pastimes was trying out the various (and often shady) street corner¬†taco stands.¬†About halfway through my time there, my friend Liz and I found the perfect taco, which was sold out of the back of a¬†National Lampoon’s Family Vacation-style wood paneled station wagon. From 10 p.m. until the early hours of the morning, the vendor would set up a grill under a blue tarp connected to his wagon and cook the most amazing tacos. Marinated pork, grilled onions and pineapple, cilantro and, sometimes, melted cheese, were piled high on homemade tortillas. They were perhaps the most delicious tacos de pastor (marinated pork tacos) on the planet.

Although it’s been ten years since my time in Mexico, I’m always on a quest for the perfect authentic Mexican taco – particularly,¬†tacos de pastor. When I moved to South Bend from the Chicago-area, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of really good authentic Mexican food in the area. While discussing this predicament with a friend from Elkhart, she mentioned a place called Ricky’s Taqueria¬†(57995 County Road 9).

A taco de pastor and a chicken taco.

A taco de pastor and a chicken taco

I was a bit skeptical, but after reading some great reviews on Yelp,¬†Bob and I took a drive to Elkhart to try Ricky’s. While nothing will ever be as good as the Woodie Tacos from Mexico, these were by far the best tacos I’ve had in the region (and believe me, I’ve tried out a lot of taco places in the area). Ricky’s was totally delicious.

Ricky’s is a teeny tiny hole in the wall type of place. There are maybe four tables and there’s a counter with a few seats. In the summer they have picnic tables outside, adding to the seating. This is a taqueria¬†– don’t expect anything fancy. The menu consists mostly of soups, tacos, burritos, tamales, tortas, chips/salsa/guac, etc.

If you go – which you definitely should – here are a few recommendations:

  1. Tacos de Pastor – Remember, authentic Mexican tacos are served with cilantro and onion, not lettuce/tomato/cheese. Don’t be a gringo.
  2. Torta – A sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado and Mexican sour cream, and your choice of meat. Obviously, I’d vote for the pastor.
  3. Burrito – They’re delish.
  4. Elotes Preparados – Corn on the cob or in a dish covered in mayo, parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper.
  5. Guacamole – To go with your chips and salsa.

Really, I’ve never had anything bad at Ricky’s, so you’ll probably be safe ordering just about anything.

Rocco’s Pizza

As a kid I was mildly obsessed with a cartoon called Rocco’s Modern Life, which was

pretty big during Nickolodean’s “acid trip phase” of children’s programming. ¬†(Anyone else remember Ren and Stimpy?) ¬†Anyways, as an adult I am wildly obsessed with Rocco’s Pizza. ¬†On Tuesday, McK, Bob, Jane and I met up there for a post-work dinner.

Jane and McK joined me at Roccos.

Jane and McK joined me at Roccos.

I’ll just come out and say it—I think Rocco’s is the best pizza in the South Bend region. ¬†Some folks prefer Bruno’s. ¬†A few of the more rabid Chicagoans insist on driving out to Granger for deep dish at Gianetto’s. ¬†Those are all great pizza options. ¬†(Though more than two slices of deep dish will likely kill you.) ¬†Still nobody in town—on Earth?—beats the veggie combo at Rocco’s. ¬†Nobody.

The Veggie Combo (top) and Meat Combo (bottom)

The Veggie Combo (top) and Meat Combo (bottom)

Now don’t be fooled by the name. ¬†The “veggies” that make this combo are three toppings—garlic, basil, and tomato slices. ¬†I’m not pedantic about such things, but I’ll just note that none of those three ingredients are obvious candidates for counting as vegetables. ¬†Still together, they make for an insanely good thin crust pizza. ¬†One night four years ago, I drove to Rocco’s in a blizzard just to get a veggie combo. ¬†I hear their other pizzas are good too. ¬†Wouldn’t know. ¬†I always get the veggie combo. ¬†I cannot imagine why you would order¬†anything else for dinner.

Rocco’s also has a great selection of local beers including some of the better Greenbush options. ¬†The vibe inside is warm, friendly, and almost always crowded with families and locals. ¬†The walls are lined with ND, South Bend, and Catholic pictures. ¬†It oozes character.

Rocco’s is closed Sunday and Monday (which I often forget). ¬†And if you are going on a Friday or Saturday budget a bit of time to wait for your table.


PS: The garlic bread is pretty clutch too.