Kurt Janowsky has been wanting to open a restaurant in downtown Elkhart for a while.
And customers have been after him to do so ever since he opened Cafe Navarre in downtown South Bend.
At a press conference Friday morning, Feb. 14, that unveiled other news for downtown Elkhart, Janowsky said he plans to have a new place on Main Street this summer.
It'll be in the former Flytrap's restaurant, which was a popular hangout and then fine dining restaurant at 505 S. Main St. It closed in 2007 and then reopened several years later as a Swiss restaurant, but that closed too.
"We've been looking at space," Janowsky said in an interview. "That was the space that made the most sense for what we want to do."
What is that?
A fine dining restaurant. Even a step above Cafe Navarre, which makes very good food.
Janowsky, who also operates Matterhorn and Lerner catering and banquets and a South Bend whiskey bar called The Exchange, has heard that Elkhart is a tough market for fine dining. He's heard that to succeed, you have to watch prices and can't be too high-end.
But he thinks that a high-end restaurant with good ingredients and a great chef can defy that. "Anyplace can succeed if it's a destination restaurant," he said.
The working name is Artisan, though that could change.
He's trying to figure out where the bar will go, but the main restaurant will have seating for around 50 and a private dining room for up to 100 or use by other groups.
Matt Jay, an Elkhart native who is chef at Cafe Navarre, will come over to be the chef at the new place. "Matt is as good as anyone with low volume when he's cooking every meal," Janowsky said.
The restaurant could be available for private use during the Elkhart Jazz Festival and open to the public after that, he said.
Janowsky's as hot as anyone in the area when it comes to the restaurant business. He's built successful places and isn't done. He's not gambling on downtown Elkhart. He'll deliver something that people want, even if he has to tweak that. But with Jay in the kitchen and Janowsky creating the concept, it'll likely be stellar. And that could be huge for Elkhart and those who love good food.
Across the street, Steve and Frank Hill are making progress on turning a former Mad Anthony's restaurant into Cubby Bear Pizza. They won't be high-end. They'll offer pizza, chicken, mojos and a salad bar at 526 S. Main St.
Frank and his wife, Kristin, will operate the place. Frank, a former chef, is breaking down the kitchen equipment and cleaning it. Construction could be done by late March and the restaurant could open by late March or early April, he said.
The bar will be enclosed behind a wall. The main dining area will have a 96-inch project television. And he's planning to have lunch specials that can be served quickly.
Hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 to 10 Friday and Saturday and 11 to 8 Sunday.
"We'll bring the family venue," Frank said of the restaurant.
Steve Hill owns nearby parking lots and isn't worried about parking. And they hope to create a place where families can come and kids can have birthday parties.
It's been a long time since Elkhart had such a restaurant open, much less downtown. If it works, if the food and service are good, it'll fill a niche and add to the downtown momentum.
Elkhart can use both restaurants. It'll be fun to watch what develops.