Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub

IMG_6385Since moving here from Chicago, one of my major complaints in the dining scene has been a lack of a really good brunch place. Sure, we have plenty of good breakfast eateries, but what makes a really good brunch place in my opinion? A designated brunch menu with yummy and creative breakfast and lunch options, an eclectic dining environment, and the option to enjoy a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. I finally found exactly what I was looking for at Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub in Elkhart.

I had read about Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub in my favorite local dining resource, Flavor 574 (this is a page you should all “like” on Facebook if you haven’t already), and had wanted to try it out for some time. We decided to stop here for Sunday brunch on our way to our Pokagon tobogganing adventure. Bacon Hill is located on the east side of Elkhart, so it was about a 30 minute drive from downtown South Bend. The interior is unique. There’s a big vintage style bar on the back wall with an angry wild boar head mounted above it. There’s a wall painted in chalkboard paint featuring specials and a huge mural of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction on the other side of the restaurant brandishing a burger and big mug of beer instead of guns.

The brunch menu had a Southern flair and offered a wide array of delicious options. Starters included lemon blueberry beignets, smoked chicken wings, and sweet corn muffins. Brunch options included a Southern Benedict with eggs and smoked ham on a cheddar biscuit covered in gravy, shrimp and grits, vanilla bean french toast, and a breakfast bowl with sausage, ham, bacon, onions, peppers, potatoes, cheese and gravy. There were also a variety of sandwich options. My husband had the Bacon Hill Burger with sweet potato fries that he said was in the top three most delicious burgers he’s ever had. I enjoyed the Southern Benedict and our friend Cindy had the Breakfast Bowl in burrito form. The portions were huge, and everyone loved what they got. Breakfast options were served with huge pieces of buttered Texas toast and smoked fingerling potatoes. I’m now dying to go back for dinner and drinks.

Bacon Hill is located at 4000 E. Bristol Street in Elkhart. Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Saturday. Brunch is served both Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm. Check out their website for drool-worthy food photos and the full brunch, lunch and dinner menus.

– McK


Rise and Roll

On Friday, I needed a ploy to entice 50-60 Notre Dame students to turn up to a video filming.  Promise them pizza?  Too cold and windy outside.  Promise a celebrity guest appearance (like Beyonce)?  Unethical and completely transparent.  Then it dawned on me—Rise and Roll Donuts.  Sure enough, 50 full-size and three dozen mini-donuts later, out film was a great success and some folks even lingered after to finish off the (few) leftovers.


Frozen caramel cinnamon donuts at Rise and Roll–Perfect to take home.

Rise and Roll is one of the best bakeries in the region, and when it comes to donuts they have no equal on this earth.  The classic is the cinnamon caramel donut (which they also sell frozen in the event you want to exercise restraint and eat them later.)  The peanut butter filled donuts get rave reviews from my students (I am personally against filled-donuts as a concept).  And the chocolate crunch delight bismarck is covered in mashed Heath Bar and is basically dessert masquerading as breakfast.

Rise and Roll also makes a very respectable cup of coffee and sells a wide variety of regional preserves.  (I always pick up a jar of apple butter when I am in the store).  The staff and owners are exceedingly friendly, exuding the good humor and warmth you’d expect from Midwestern bakers.  Make it part of your weekend routine to drop by and pick up breakfast (or a dozen for your friends).



A display of preserves at Rise and Roll


The Pokagon Toboggan Runs

IMG_6398I’ve found my new favorite winter activity and you need to go; Pokagon State Park in Angola has refrigerated quarter-mile toboggan chutes.

Growing up outside of Chicago, my mom and I would sometimes brave the Swallow Cliff toboggan runs south of the city. I remember the lines more than anything – they were always painfully long and it was usually painfully cold. The Chicago-area closed all of its toboggan runs a few years back for liability reasons and lack of funding. They were fun, but they didn’t hold a candle to the awesomeness at Pokagon.

Pokagon State Park is located about an hour and ten minutes east of South Bend. When we arrived, I was pretty nervous. I have a major fear of heights and I absolutely hate the butterfly feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach on roller coasters or carnival rides. We paid the gate fee to enter the park and drove over to the chutes. They were impressively long and my anxiety was on the rise. We rented our toboggan – I believe it was $13 for a three to four person toboggan for the hour – and started climbing the stairs to the top of the runs.

IMG_6390The operation is impressive. You get to the top of the runs and the workers place your toboggan on a platform of rollers. A wooden beam placed in the roles prevents your toboggan from sliding down the chute while you climb on. Sitting on the toboggan is a bit of an acrobatics act. The first person sits cross-legged and raises their arms while the second person climbs on the sled and wraps his or her legs around the first person. The third person then climbs on the sled and wraps his or her legs around the second person. The first two people are holding on to their friends’ feet for dear life while the person in the back holds on to canvas straps on the side of the sled. Once everyone is on the sled and the workers tell you to not remove your hands from their current locations for the duration of the ride (you don’t want to loose your fingers), they pull up the wood beam, and push your sled forward. A teeter-totter device engages, causing the rollers to roll your sled forward on the track.

And that’s when I started screaming – in sheer joy, of course.

It’s fast, cold, and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a bit bumpy, but that’s to be expected. There’s a radar gun and screen toward the end of the track to clock your speed. Our record speed was 31 miles per hour.

The track is long, but it’s not super steep, so I was happy to find that I didn’t experience the dropping feeling in the pit of my stomach. There were children of all ages going down the run and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Once you’re done, you grab your toboggan and walk it back up the hill. We went down the chutes four times in an hour, with a few photo stops in between. The line moved quickly.


The toboggan runs at Pokagon are only open for two more weekends. If you like winter activities, they’re definitely worth checking out. I look forward to exploring the park’s many other amenities (horseback riding, pontoon boating, cabins!) as the weather warms up.


SBN: The South Bend Airport

IMG_4309I travel a fair bit for work (last year logging over 125000 flight miles, which is a personal record!)  So I am grateful that we have such a fantastic local airport.  When I first moved here in 2011, I was a bit skeptical.  “It’s an airport, and a train station, and a bus station, and war memorial museum, and…”  I was coming from NJ, and I figured any airport that didn’t have four terminals and its own monorail wasn’t worth the bother.  But five years and a lot of takeoffs and landing later, I love having the SBN here.

Lets get specific.  For one, I love that you can park so close to the terminal and dash to your flight.  For two, there is pretty much never a line at the TSA, but they’ll still let you walk through a special PreCheck line.  The food used to be kind of miserable, but the new Chocolate cafe and Studebagel outposts have meant that there is plenty to do in the event you hit a delay, and it has a local edge.  Free fast internet.  And if you are a Delta devotee like me, you can get pretty much anywhere in the world you like after a short stopover in Detroit, Atlanta, or Minneapolis.  (We could really use a Sky Club… a lady can dream.)

More than that even, the staff at SBN are really kind.  A few weeks ago I returned home to a pretty gross snow/sleet storm.  I didn’t have my winter gear with me, and I couldn’t quite remember where I’d parked in the lot a week earlier.  The super-friendly parking lot attendant/plow driver stopped to help me search and even helped me get access to the car.  When I was back at the airport a week later, he remembered me by name and we had a great conversation.  It made me a true believer in the big heart of the small town airport.


We have nine gates!  I think they only ever use like three of them.  Also not sure why we need a terminal A, given that there is no terminal B.


The Last Pączki Day at Dainty Maid Bake Shop

Each Fat Tuesday, Benders line up in front of Dainty Maid Bake Shop eagerly anticipating the pastry cases filled with pączki, a traditional Polish doughnut-like dessert. Sadly, this will be the last year for this South Bend tradition. After 88 years, Dainty Maid is closing it’s doors on Valentine’s Day. The owner passed away last Friday.

Dainty Maid’s pączki are something special. Rather than the limp glazed jelly doughnuts that you find in the grocery stores, Dainty Maid’s pączki are almost like a cream-puff. Stuffed with layers of whipped cream and delicious fillings, such as custard, cherries, strawberries, chocolate, Bavarian cream, or blueberries, they’re the best I’ve ever had. They’re the best most people have ever had.

Dainty Maid is open until 5:00 p.m. today. Grab your friends and get in line to have a delicious pączki and to honor this South Bend institution.




February Bender Part 3: Evil Czech Brewery

Our February Bender (aka tour of local watering holes) continues with one of my faves—Evil Czech.  Evil Czech opened their Mishawaka location on Main Street two years ago, and quickly became a local fixture.  They have a brilliant selection of specialty brews, which you pick out using a quirky baseball card menu.  I’m a fan of the GG Patton and Evil Czech; I’ve yet to work up the courage to try the ghost pepper porter, the Evil Ninja.

The food at the Czech is equally tasty and equally quirky.  They have standard pub grub (i.e. burgers and wings).  But they also have fried guac, duck tacos, and poutine.  I loved the guac the first time I had it but now I am starting to think it’s a little *too weird.  The ribs are killer, but the portion is massive so you may want to bring along a friend or two to share.  The parmesan truffle fries are a classic, and I recommend not sharing them with anyone.

In the summer, Czech has live music and a truly fun patio.  (We’ll be out there soon—-only a few months away…)

So Czech it out, Benders!


PS: Photos courtesy of Evil Czech because I accidentally deleted them from my camera…

February Bender Part 2: The Stray Dog Bar & Grill


The Cod Sandwich

Whenever I go to The Stray Dog Bar and Grill in New Buffalo, Michigan, I instantly feel like I’m on vacation. From the expansive rooftop bar, you have a lovely view of of of the boats parked in the harbor, just a couple of blocks away from the Lake Michigan beach.

Even in the winter, The Stray Dog makes me feel like I’m in a beach town in New England. The white wood paneled walls, twinkling lights, roaring fireplaces and rustic wood ceiling beams create a lovely ambiance to enjoy a beer or cocktail. The Stray Dog also has a solid food menu, consisting of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, burgers, tacos and hot dogs. I really like the Fish Tacos and El Diablo Burger, which has jalepenos, pepper jack, chipotle mayo, and caramelized onions. It’s a great place to go for lunch, dinner or just a drink.

The Stray Dog got its name from the owners’ dog Jack, a stray who was adopted from the Michiana Humane Society. Each year, the restaurant sells t-shirts to raise money for the Jack Fund, a fund for shelter animals. You’ll see drawings of Jack around the restaurant.

The winter, spring, and fall are a great time to check out The Stray Dog. If you go during the beach tourist season in the summer, be prepared to wait.



February Bender Part 1: Green Star Cafe

It’s February! And the groundhog predicted an early spring! Since we started the winter season with Getting Bent’s October Bender, it’s only appropriate to finish off the winter with a follow-up Bender. So, it’s time for Getting Bent’s February Bender, a series where we will feature a few different bars in the region. For those of you who missed out on our October Bender, you can read the posts here.



I went to Green Star Cafe for the first time last week, when a few of my friends and I were on the quest for a shuffleboard table. Located in a strip of storefronts on Miami Street, just a couple of blocks down from Javier’s Bistro (yum!), Green Star Cafe is an excellent neighborhood bar. It’s the type of place where most of the people at the old wooden bar are regulars and it has the Cheer’s “everybody knows your name” vibe.

When we arrived, we grabbed some drinks from the friendly bartender and headed to the shuffleboard table in the back. I, perhaps, am the worst shuffleboard player on the planet, but I did find it pretty fun to try and maneuver the pucks over the silicone beads. I will admit that I failed to score any points for our team since I was a little overzealous with my puck sliding.

If you’re looking for a casual neighborhood bar or something do, head over to Green Star Cafe and try your hand at shuffleboard.


Warren Dunes in the Winter

Everyone knows Warren Dunes is great in the summer.  I once waited in traffic for over an hour trying to get to the beach for Memorial Day.  Less widely known, the Dunes are also spectacular (and far less crowded) in the winter.  With our weird 50 degree and sunny weather on Sat, some friends and I headed out to the beach!

IMG_4299 (1)The entry fee for Warren Dunes is $9 if you have Indiana plates (and no year-round pass).  We pulled right up to the beach and parked.  The shore of Lake Michigan has several meters of sandy snow and ice, making it feel as though you are traversing a glacier.  The dunes themselves were still all sand, and definitely still climbable, if a bit soggy.

We had a great afternoon walking around, finished off with pizza and coffee at Staymaker on the way home.  Hoping El Nino keeps working its magic and perhaps we get more glimpses of Spring in February.