Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
Bars, like athletes, get hot.
A bar will have a streak and suddenly it’s one of THE places to go.
Places often get a lot of attention when they first open. But they don’t always get hot, so to speak, within the first year.
In the past, Gubi’s, Brownstone, Lakeshore Grill and Harrison Landing, among others, took their turn as the place.
Right now, from what I’m hearing, it’s Five Star Dive Bar.
Is it luck?
Nope. It’s a new owner who’s savvy and is paying attention to the mix of what people want.
Jason Curtis worked in sales for WRBR for a number of years. He had a passion for food and music and thought he’d be good at running a bar, he said. One night he was playing music at Whiskey Dick’s, which is what the place was called, and decided to buy the place from Troy Harrington. They were partners from October to February, when he bought out Harrington entirely.
Years ago, this was Gropp’s, a beloved fish place. It was Vincenzo’s, followed by Dakota, which was featured by CBS News during the Great Recession. Those stories didn’t make Elkhart look good and the footage ended up in a Michael Moore movie. Then it was Whiskey Dick’s.
Five Star’s food sales already outstrip the total sales of the last place. And total sales are way above what they were.
Curtis tries to run a clean, safe bar. A big stage and sound system highlights the music. Four of the 10 staff members are full-time bartenders.
On a busy weekend night, 300 people will go through the doors of the bar, which has a capacity of 175 at any one time.
I was curious how good the bar food is.
I found eight $5.55 lunch specials that are served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu says they can be ready in 15 minutes.
Two sliders with mojos was a plate full of food. And the mojos were the sliced potatoes the way Shakey’s and others used to do them.
The burgers are hand-pattied. The fries are made from scratch. The mozzarella sticks and the mushrooms are breaded by hand in the restaurant. Curtis said you can’t do better than Brew City onion rings, so they buy those. I’d challenge him on that. A handmade onion ring is a thing of beauty and I’d go out of my way for one.
The soups are made from scratch too. There are a few salads on the menu, but most of the menu isn’t health food. “We’re not scared of calorie contents around here,” said Curtis.
He’s not kidding. The 5 Star Stack is the most expensive sandwich on the menu ($10.49) has two seven-ounce burgers between two grilled cheese sandwiches.
But the burger I’ve been waiting to see on a menu is at Five Star. The Krispy Dream burger uses two Krispy Kreme donuts as buns.
For the Five Star customers who want some grub early in the morning, he’s also planning to open a cafe called The Bacon Strip at the south end of the same building.
The place is near downtown but not in it. It has plenty of parking. It’s near Hacienda. Curtis called it the “perfect storm” for a great bar.
But he’s doing some good things to make all this happen.
He’s found a mix that’s drawing a blue collar crowd, a professional crowd, a music crowd and those who want good bar food.
For those who don’t want to hear the music, there will soon be a 1,600-square-foot patio on the north side of the building. It’ll seat about 100 people, he said.
Curtis is having fun, wearing flip-flops to work. He’s doing great business. And he didn’t imagine that in less than a year after opening, he’d be operating a place that’s selling two cases of Jagermeister a week. (That’s 24 bottles for those who don’t buy it by the case.)
The most popular item at the bar is a Jagerbomb — the spirit and Red Bull served in a little frosted mug.
“We sell more of those than anything else in here. It’s crazy. More than Bud Light,” Curtis said.
I don’t plan to try one. But I can vouch for the food I had. And until I can get there, I’ll dream about that Krispy Dream Burger.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
If You Go:
What: Five Star Dive Bar
Where: 561 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart
Fare: Bar food
Hours: 11 a.m. opening Monday to Saturday, noon opening Sunday. Closes late.
Details: Credit cards accepted. Live music five days a week. Bands start at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
On the web: jasonkzk.wix.com/5stardivebar