Pumpernickel's is serving soft pretzels in a variety of ways at 500 S. Main St., Elkhart.
Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
Soft pretzels are usually served hot, but they’re suddenly hot in a different way.
Pumpernickel’s Pretzel Bakery & Sandwich Shop is the latest to open and start selling baked dough twisted into the classic shape.
But here’s how pretzels have made news lately:
Ben’s Soft Pretzels has grown significantly since opening in 2007 at Concord Mall. Owners announced in April that it will open a restaurant at 1202 W. Pike St., Goshen, where its corporate offices are.
Jo Jo’s Pretzels, which has been open in Shipshewana since 1989, will open in Goshen this summer or fall where The Electric Brew is now. The Brew is moving across the street.
When Iechyd Da Brewing opened nearly a year ago, it had a soft pretzel on its weekend menu.
Dave Ullery started thinking more about pretzels a few months ago and got tangled up in his own idea for another restaurant.
“I swore I would never do another restaurant,” he said.
He took over the location at 500 S. Main St., Elkhart, where The Tea Room had been for many years and Buggy Wheel Restaurant had been for a few. He hears stories about the martini bar that was once there, perhaps when it was still the Elkhart Hotel.
Ullery, who owned The Apple Tree restaurant in Dunlap, focused on catering for The Athenian Ballroom on the top floor of the building, but also had a cafe for a few years on the ground floor. He closed it about five years ago.
Main Street construction and the presence of Faith Mission nearby made it tough to run the business, he said. A recession shortly thereafter wouldn’t have helped.
He continued catering upstairs and for a time at The Spohn Ballroom in Goshen. He made food for groups meeting at 500 S. Main.
The ballroom is still booked every weekend, he said. But he caught the restaurant bug again and started playing with recipes in January. He bought equipment. And he opened in late March with a new concept.
Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and others are in artwork on the walls and have sandwiches bearing their names.
A half-dozen sandwiches, two salads, some soups and pretzels are on the menu at Pumpernickel’s.
And business is growing pretty quickly. “I’m definitely pleased with the start,” he said.
He’s making his own pulled pork and sauces for the pretzels. The pretzels are boiled to give the crust a little crunch. The traditional, jalapeño and whole wheat are $2.95 each and the cinnamon pretzel with cream cheese frosting is $3.50.
The sandwiches, served with a bag of chips, are all under $6 and have a lot of flavor. The Stanley with turkey breast, bourbon bacon and avocado is the best seller. The pretzel bun sandwiches trump any wrap.
I didn’t have it, but Ullery recently served “Another Fine Mess,” named for one of his favorite movies. The dish was a pretzel-wrapped, all-beef hot dog covered with chili, cheese and red onion. The hot dog by itself is $3.95 and is very good.
The Chico features the restaurant’s chicken salad. The Mae West with chicken breast is decent. I had a version of The Ollie with pulled pork before the restaurant opened that I liked.
Ullery is serving the cheesy potato soup that was popular for years at Centre Court Deli in South Bend. That, along with the chicken noodle soup, are both hearty and good.
The chef salad is a large portion for $5.95. The croutons from a bag detract some, but the salad makes a nice meal.
The menu could use a dose of vegetables, other than the iceberg salads. Ullery said me may sell a vegetarian sandwich this summer and I’d cheer if he did.
The value at this restaurant is great. The menu will grow with time, Ullery said. But it’s already got some winning combinations with the fresh pretzels and other light fare.
The key may be Ullery’s interest in downtown. He plans to be open before big events at the Lerner Theatre. He wants to be part of the growing buzz he senses in downtown Elkhart. And he’s using his good pretzels to get customers in the door of another business that didn’t exist a few months ago.
If You Go
What: Pumpernickel’s Pretzel Bakery & Sandwich Shop
Where: 500 S. Main St., Elkhart
Fare: Sandwiches, soup, salads and pretzels
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday and for Lerner events
Details: Credit cards accepted, will open for special groups, catering available, carry-out available, handicapped accessible.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-296-5805, via Twitter @hungrymarshall or the Dining A La King Facebook page. His blog is at blogs.etruth.com/diningalaking and you can subscribe to receive each update.