Fat Cam’s at Garver Lake

Shrimp. Grits. Hush Puppies. Oh my! Fat Cam’s at Garver Lake is a Cajun restaurant that’s situated just across the street from Garver Lake in Edwardsburg, MI. Their menu is packed to the brim with delicious fare straight from the bayou, including shrimp and grits, gumbo, crawfish étouffée, and po’boys. You can wash down your food with a craft beer – including a Louisiana favorite, Abita – or one of their many cocktails, such as a Hurricane or Low Country Lemonade.

I was pleasantly surprised – actually ecstatic – about how good Fat Cam’s food was the first time I tried it. I have a true love of shrimp and grits after visiting my friend who lives in New Orleans numerous times. I have to say that Fat Cam’s has the best shrimp and grits I’ve had outside of Louisiana, and it’s only 25 minutes away!


Bayou Pasta, Catfish, and Gumbo

The restaurant is cute inside, and it has an outdoor patio that’s open in the warmer months with views of Garver Lake. I recommend starting off the night with the Bacon Dip or Orleans Shrimp appetizers (or gator is an option if you’re more adventurous). They’re both super good. They always have great food and drink specials. My friend got a seafood platter special that was packed with crab legs and shrimp. He said it was excellent. As I mentioned before, I really like their Shrimp and Grits. I’ve also tried the Gumbo, Bayou Pasta, and Creole and all were great. Don’t worry, if you don’t like seafood there are plenty of options for meat eaters, including a rib eye and huge pork shank.

Fat Cam’s is definitely worth a trip – or several. But first, be sure to make a reservation, especially if you’re planning on going Friday or Saturday night. Fat Cam’s is only open for dinner, except for Sundays, when they also serve lunch.

As they say in New Orleans, “laissez les bons temps roulerz” or “let the good times roll.”





Truffle Pizza

It’s hard for me to believe that we haven’t yet posted about Venturi. Venturi, in my opinion, is one of the best restaurants in the region. Venturi specializes in gourmet Neapolitan pizza and it’s the real deal. Venturi is the only pizzeria in the state of Indiana that’s certified by Italy’s Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.

As a certified pizzeria, Venturi must adhere to strict Italian pizza-making guidelines, including using only San Marzano tomatoes, extra fine 00 flour and fresh mozzarella, which is made daily at the restaurant. After the pizzas are assembled, they’re cooked in a high-temperature wood-fired oven, for about 90 seconds. This creates the most delicious soft bubbly crust ever. If you’ve ever enjoyed a pizza in Naples, Italy, you know what I mean.

Venturi’s pizza is so good it was voted 15th in Esquire Magazine’s list of “most life changing pizzas in America” and by Yelp as one of the top 50 restaurants in the state of Indiana.


Italian Soda

While Venturi has some standard pizzas on the menu, such as the Margherita (fresh basil, mozzarella and tomato sauce), they also have many specialty pizzas that are incredibly good. My favorite is the Truffle White Pizza, which comes with fresh mozzarella, cremini mushrooms, grana padano cheese, and truffle oil. For a party of flavors in your mouth, try the Fig, which includes mozzarella, gorgonzola, walnuts, truffle oil, marscapone, prosciutto, fig paste and greens. In addition to incredibly delicious pizzas, they also have excellent cocktails and desserts.

Venturi is located at 123 E Lincoln Ave in Goshen. They’re open for lunch and dinner Wednesday – Saturday, and dinner only on Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday.


Arabesk Palace

Arabesk Palace

Kufta Kebab

Kufta Kebab and Shawarma

A Middle Eastern restaurant, hookah bar, and nightclub recently opened on Ironwood Road in South Bend. Naturally, Meg, my husband Bob, and I had to check it out. Arabesk Palace is a restaurant and bar during the week. It transforms into a nightclub with either a live DJ or musician (and belly dancers!) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The interior of Arabesk Palace is impressive. The entire place is covered in Moroccan tiles and Middle Eastern light fixtures hang from the tall ceilings. On one side of the restaurant there’s a stage with a large area for dancing. The other side has tables, couches, and a bar.

We went on a Tuesday night for dinner and enjoyed a giant feast.  Our waiter brought us a lengthy cocktail menu and a beer binder, which included descriptions for their huge beer selection. I ordered a Moroccan Mule – a twist on the classic Moscow Mule – which was yummy.

For dinner, we started with a sampling of dips and pita, falafel and the wings entrée (which we ate as an appetizer). Everything was delicious. Marinated in olive oil, lemon and garlic, the wings were extremely juicy and cooked to perfection. I’m usually not a fan of wings, but these were so good I’d definitely order them again. The side of buffalo sauce was completely unnecessary since they were already so flavorful. After the appetizers, we moved on to our main courses. I had the Kufta Kebab, Meg had the Shish Kebab, and Bob had Shawarma. The portions were huge and all of the entrees were very good. By the end of dinner, we pretty much had to be rolled out of the place we ate so much.

img_0558As I mentioned above, Arabesk Palace turns into a nightclub with live entertainment and special events on the weekends. This Friday, there will be a live musician and belly dancing show beginning at 10 pm. On Saturday, they’re hosting a masquerade ball. If you like to dance, you should definitely add this place to your list for a classy nightclub experience. Check their Facebook page for information about upcoming events and covers.

Arabesk Palace is always 21 and over, so don’t bring the kids. It’s located at 1701 North Ironwood Drive, next to Cre-Asian.



The most-attended public art event on the planet, ArtPrize, takes place only two hours north of South Bend. More than 170 venues – including museums, parks, restaurants, hotels, parking lots and bars – located within three square miles in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, open up their doors to the public to display nearly 1,500 pieces of artwork. Artwork can take the form of a simple photograph to a huge art installation spanning a bridge across the river. This is the last week of ArtPrize Eight. It began on September 14 and will end this weekend, October 9.

Why do so many artists want to participate in ArtPrize? Two winners,  which are chosen by public vote and a jury of experts, win grand prizes of $200,000 each. Eight other winners will receive smaller awards. Prizes total $500,000.

ArtPrize is a great way to explore the city of Grand Rapids on foot, while viewing some amazing pieces of artwork. So how do you tackle an event like this? Before you go, I’d suggest doing your research. What are some of the most popular exhibitions? What do you want to see? What venues are hosting the most artwork? You can do the majority of this planning on the ArtPrize website. Since it’s the last week of the event, the first round of voting has already occurred and the top twenty pieces have already been announced, which makes it a bit easier to plan what to see. Once you arrive in Grand Rapids, grab a map at one of ArtPrize’s eight neighborhood HUBs or the main headquarters/HUB, located at 41 Sheldon Boulevard.

As you may know, Grand Rapids has been voted best craft beer city in the United States multiple times, so while you’re there, stop by one of the many delicious breweries or restaurants featuring great beers, such as Founders Brewery, Brewery VivantThe Green Well or Hop Cat.

Here’s a video of last year’s event so you can get a sense of the fun:

ArtPrize Seven from ArtPrize on Vimeo.

Here are a few of my photos from a few years back:

In my opinion, ArtPrize is one of the greatest public art events in the country, which is probably why The New York Times included it in its list of 52 Places to Go in 2016. Take advantage of living so close and head up there this weekend!


Zoo Brew

What’s better than beer and Takins?

One of the best events of the year is taking place in South Bend tonight – Zoo Brew! Zoo Brew is an annual fundraiser for the Potawatomi Zoo. This year’s event will feature thirty-four craft breweries, primarily from the Midwest Region. The event is all you can drink and vendors are located through the zoo. As you wander from exhibit to exhibit looking at the animals, you can fill up your four-ounce commemorative glass with samples of delicious craft beers. It’s a great event to enjoy with your friends.

In addition to beer, there will also be food samples and live music. The event will take place tonight, October 1, from 7-10 pm. I would recommend getting there when it opens to beat some of the lines. It typically sells out, so be sure to buy tickets in advance. Tickets are $40 for non-members. 


Nom Nom Pho

I was pretty excited to see that a new Vietnamese restaurant opened in downtown South Bend. Located in the old Siam Thai location on Main Street, Nom Nom Pho is a wonderful addition to downtown. The prices are extremely reasonable, the food is great, and the interior is inviting. Don’t let the orange cones from the Smart Streets project deter you from stopping – there’s usually plenty of parking just around the corner on Colfax.


Spicy roll

I love lemongrass chicken, so I decided to order the lemongrass chicken sautéed in coconut milk over vermicelli noodles (pictured above). It’s also available over rice. It was delicious and came in a huge bowl. We ordered the spicy roll for an appetizer, which was a fried spring roll wrapped with lettuce, cucumber, Sriracha, and then rolled in a regular spring roll wrapper. It was also really good. In fact, both dishes were so good that I went back a week later for lunch and ordered the exact same thing. They do offer a smaller lunch menu where most entrees are only $6.99. The portions are just as huge.

Their full menu is extensive and is available on their Facebook page. In addition to Vietnamese food, they also offer some Thai options.


New and Fun: Render Kitchen & Bar


by Jane

Happy Friday, Benders! Here’s something to celebrate: we’ve been waiting a long time for Render to open, and it was worth the wait!

Sometimes you need a romantic splurge in your life, and Render is the perfect little spot for a light early evening  dinner of great mixed drinks and shared small plates.

First, let’s discuss the cocktails. The one pictured above is called Rosemary Among Us. It was my favorite drink of the night, though all 3 cocktails Sam and I tried were amazing. This one was light and airy, thanks to the whipped egg whites, and the lemon rosemary flavor blend was refreshing and herbal without being too sweet. We also tried A Bourbon Breakfast—this bourbon cocktail has a blend of stout and coffee flavors, with a hint of pecan. The topper for this one? A skewer with a cherry and pork belly bites. Amazing, and it really brought out the “breakfast” theme. Finally, we sampled the Planter’s Punch, with an interesting twist that came from an allspice dram, very tasty!

Because Render focuses on small plates, we got a vegetable and 3 main dishes to try. (Apologizing now for the quality of our pictures, we went to dinner late, and it was getting dark so the light quality was not the best. Most of these don’t do the food justice, so definitely don’t judge by them!)

First, we had a beet salad, with red and gold beets, goat cheese, watercress, and crushed pistachios. This was just beautiful, with the beets plated in a ring and dotted with the creamy goat cheese. Just the right mix of tangy and sweet, we were very impressed with this dish. I even bought ingredients to recreate this at home a few days later because I was craving it!


I really enjoy the creative plating at Render. If you’re at all a Food Network Chopped junkie, like I am, it’s going to make you very happy!

The next two dishes were seafood. The first was oysters with a lemon cucumber sauce similar to a gremolata and edible flowers. Unusual flavors, but if you like oysters, this is a must-try dish. I’ve never had oysters with a sauce like this. It highlighted the fresh salty flavor, but brightened it and brought a tiny bit of sweetness. Also? Edible flowers are really cheerful, and add a touch of fancy to many of Render’s dishes that you don’t see at many South Bend restaurants.


The scallops with tagliatelle, peas, and pancetta was my favorite dish. This was the point of the meal when I wish I could have just ordered a giant version of this plate. The pasta tasted like it was homemade, fresh pasta, the cubes of pancetta were pefectly crisp and not at all burned. The scallops had a beautiful sear, but were not too done, so the middle still had the creamy, rare consistency that it should. I should tell you that we’re slow eaters, and our waitress took this plate away with 3 peas and a noodle still left on it, and my poor husband was devastated! That’s how good this one was!


Our last main course option was a duck breast and pickled plum (vinegary but sweet) with something I’ve never tried before—an almond custard. It was another win! The creamy custard was more flavorful than you’d expect, and it was a perfect complement to the seared duck. Duck is an Indiana specialty, you can always count on really good duck in this area.


We tried the Olive Oil Cake for dessert. This came with a buttermilk sorbet and fresh berries. It was just as delicious as it was beautiful. I really like this not-too-sweet style of desserts. And, it’s always great to eat your own entire cake!


Render is a pricier restaurant for the South Bend area, and it’s certainly not a place to go if you haven’t eaten any food all day.  But, it’s well worth the price if you like to try new creative food, prepared with real skill, and with an eye for beauty. Sam and I were both satisfied after our meal, and didn’t feel too full to enjoy the rest of our evening. He does want you to know that if all else fails, and you’re just a person who needs more food than this, have a couple of dishes as an appetizer with a good cocktail, then go next door for a burger at The View! Ha!


As for me, this might be one of my new favorite places for a special occasion, and I really can’t imagine having eaten a burger after all this deliciousness. I wanted to savor the moment. (Another plus: they take reservations, and you can do it from their website!)

So, go to Render and enjoy the evening. Sip a fancy cocktail, try the scallops at the very least, and watch people stroll down Jefferson. Life doesn’t get much better!




Wheatberry Restaurant & Tavern


Shrimp po’boy and mac and cheese

It’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t yet written a post about Wheatberry Restaurant and Tavern in Buchanan, Michigan. It’s one of my favorite places to go in the area for a delicious lunch or dinner in a trendy, yet casual environment. While I enjoy many of the items on Wheatberry’s extensive menu of small plates, sandwiches, salads and entrees, it is hands-down my favorite place in the area to get barbecue. The slow-smoked, free-range barbecue chicken as well as the pulled pork are awesome. Pair them with sides of macaroni and cheese and sweet potato fries and I’m in heaven. The garlic fries are also excellent. End your meal with the Michigan Blueberry Crumble or the Texas Sheet Cake.

Wheatberry is constantly hosting special events. Last week was Lobster Fest and nearly everyone in the restaurant was eating the lobster special. Since I’m not a lobster fan, I enjoyed a yummy shrimp po’boy. I also love that they bring you a plate of cornbread when you sit down and they have an awesome beer menu.

Wheatberry is located in a beautifully wooded area along the St. Joseph River on Red Bud Trail, just north of Buchanan. It’s about a 25 minute drive from South Bend. You need to go!



Mango Cafe


The Pabellon

Located across from Studebagels on South Bend Avenue, Mango Cafe is one of the best Latin restaurants in the area. Serving flavorful Venezuelan food, Mango Cafe has an extensive menu featuring Venezuelan specialties, sandwiches, vegetarian fare, empanadas, and more.

I am a bit obsessed with the Patacon entree – a deep fried green plantain covered in the seasoned meat of your choice, lettuce, tomato, avocado, Venezuelan cheese and a zesty pink sauce. The Pabellon – shredded beef with rice and black beans, plantains, a fried egg, avocado and arepas – is my second favorite dish. I’m also a fan of the Cachapa – a Venezuelan sweet corn pancake filled with cheese – and their sandwiches, including the Pollo con Agucate (chicken and avocado) and Chorizo Al Pan (chorizo sausage with peppers and chimichurri sauce). Start off with the Tequenos (pretty much Venezuelan cheese sticks) or Tostones appetizer (similar to the patacon entree). Finish your meal with a piece of Tres Leches cake.

Mango Cafe is reasonably priced – you can get a sirloin steak with chimichurri for only $12.99. There are about 7 tables inside, despite the restaurant’s small appearance. You can also take out food. I promise, it’s worth a visit!


My new obsession – the Patacon


Book of Mormon (The Morris Center)

Hey Benders,

Back in 2013, I saw the Broadway cast of Book of Mormon perform in Chicago.  It was a fantastic night and well worth a jaunt up to the city.  But the only thing better than driving out to the Loop to see fine theater is walking to downtown South Bend for the same show.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when the Book of Mormon came through the Morris Center last week.  On Wednesday, a group of friends and I caught the performance.  It was nearly as good as the original Broadway production, and required far less parking hassle than up in Chicago.

IMG_4498The house was full, and we arrived about twenty minutes earlier to get snacks and drinks at the Morris bar.  I saw a lot of neighbors (and a few ND students) in line on the way in.  I guess South Bend appreciates the South Park humor.  The show itself was just as offensive and hilarious as I’d remembered.  The opening theme (“Hello!”) brought a raucous applause from this crowd.  And “All-American Prophet” had even our most reluctant and anti-musical friends howling.

The Morris is a beautiful space, and adds a healthy dose of culture to DTSB.  We grabbed Rocco’s before heading over to the show, but a night of the Morris would also be well-paired with Tapastrie, Cafe Navarre, Lasalle Grille or any of the other excellent downtown options.

I end up picking up a show at the Morris at least once a year, but honestly, I need to get on their mailing list since they have a constant stream of great acts coming though.  Between the Civic Theater, DPAC, and the Morris—there is too much to see!