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Lucchese's will have a new chef.
Lakeshore Grill will close and get a makeover.
Both of them will change the restaurant scene in Elkhart and Elkhart County.
Cam Snyder entered the restaurant business 10 years ago when he purchased what became the Lakeshore Grill. The restaurant at 51330 S.R. 19, Elkhart, had been a bar and restaurant for two years before that, but it was his first place. Since then, he opened The Chubby Trout and Fat Tomato.
Lakeshore is along the shore of Simonton Lake. It's been a hangout for the lake crowd. It's had a reputation for decent food and big events. The cardboard boat races and ice golf were popular. (The Leprechaun Leap is sponsored by Pete's Simonton Lake Tavern, not Lakeshore as the original version of this column indicated. Sorry for the error.)
Lakeshore's reputation wasn't squeaky clean. In 2005, it was cited for illegal gambling related to a football betting board.
Snyder said he had a 10-year plan and it's been 10 years. And now he wants to make an idea a reality at the location.
Lakeshore will close after the Notre Dame-USC football game Saturday night. It'll get a makeover in the two or so weeks after that and reopen as Flippin' Cow, he said.
Flippin' Cow will be a burger joint with hand-pattied chuck steak burgers, as well as turkey, salmon, veggie and local bison burgers. Snyder has been working with a local bakery to get a butter bun that is his recipe. There will be more craft beer. And in addition to the burgers there will be smoked chicken and brisket, meatloaf and sloppy joes.
Snyder said he's looking forward to starting another new concept. He said he learned a lot at Lakeshore and made a lot of great friends, but it's time to close the book.
He's interested in replicating his restaurants in other locations. “The Chubby Trout is a business model I can duplicate in other cities,” he said, adding that the same goes for Fat Tomato. “It's my aspiration to create more of those.”
But he can't easily replicate a bar with a Florida theme along a northern Indiana lake. When the weather was good, the place did well. “It's a just-add-sunshine business model,” he said.
He said he's grateful for the friends and loyal customers. “It's been great,” he said.
But he wants something that is less seasonal. He hopes to create the Flippin' Cow around '70s and '80s music and recycled building materials. And eventually he wants to replicate it elsewhere.
Snyder is adventurous and his places have a spark. All three of his properties were part of Elkhart Dining Days this year and he's a promoter of eating at local restaurants.
Flippin' Cow sounds like a great concept. It's not the first local burger bar. You can get a great burger next door at Pete's Simonton Lake Tavern, too. But Snyder will try to create a place that people in Elkhart and elsewhere would value.
I look forward to trying the food.
Zach Lucchese announced on Facebook last Wednesday that he's leaving as executive chef at Lucchese's Italian Restaurant.
A chef leaving a restaurant isn't always big news.
But when he's the grandson of the founders, the one who went to culinary school and is part-owner of one of Elkhart's long-term and popular restaurants, it is.
Lucchese is an excellent young chef. He believes in using local ingredients, in honoring his Italian roots and in combining both in creative and innovative ways.
He grew up in the Lucchese's kitchen, learning from John P. Hays, Aaron Beaver and others. He studied in Chicago and came back to eventually run the kitchen. When the restaurant moved from E. Jackson Boulevard to C.R. 17, he was a big part of it.
Lucchese said being part of a family business is tough and he was ready to try something new.
“I've had a lot of things going on in the last couple years and especially the last year,” he said.
His last day will be Dec. 22. He plans to take the holidays off, spend time with his daughters and get his head together, he said.
He said he's been grooming Bob Lowe, whether he knew it or not, to be a chef and Lowe will take over as the head chef at the restaurant at 655 C.R. 17, Elkhart. Other tasks may fall to his aunt Michele or uncle Pat, both of whom help oversee the restaurant.
“We will be fine. Life goes on,” said Michele. She said the food will be “back to basics” and taste like “homemade with heart and soul in it.” Lowe and the other cooks will come up with new ideas, which she also does as an executive chef and daytime kitchen manager.
“Zach has brought a lot to the table here,” she said. He created dishes and involved the restaurant in community and food events.
Michele said she wishes him the best. “Family business is tough, but it is family. We all stick together to make it work. The quality of the food will not change.”
Whatever Zach does, I hope he keeps cooking. I had some great meals he made at Lucchese's. He and his staff were finalists in Steak Quest, the search for the best steak in the county last year.
The challenge for Lucchese's will be what it is for any restaurant: for the food and service to be consistently excellent.
When he is on his game, Lucchese makes food sing. I hope to taste that tune again in another setting. And I'll be curious how things progress under Lowe.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at email@example.com, 574-296-5805, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via Facebook. His blog is at www.blogs.etruth.com/diningalaking/.