Eating IN: Rune, multi-course, curated pop-up meals in Fort Wayne elevate local produce

You might consider Rune a culinary “think tank.” 

It's a pop-up restaurant experience dreamed up by Fort Wayne's Chef Sean Richardson of the (late) Golden and (present day) Conjure Coffee. With his sights set on someday opening a new, steadfast location, Chef Richardson uses Rune as a playground for his inspirations and creativity—and Fort Wayne's taste buds are better for it. 

Walking into Rune, there’s a “relaxed swank” energy.

The spirit of freedom, collaboration, and experimentation that often accompanies transitional life phases flavors the Rune experience. Each pop-up is designed around a unique, seasonal, multi-course menu that pays homage to Northeast Indiana's local farms, food producers, and culture. 

In the absence of a brick-and-mortar space of his own, Richardson partners with Fortezza Coffee to use their space and Ophelia’s to provide a variety of cocktails, mocktails, wine, and beer—all tailored to complement the evening’s food menu. 

Our table is equipped with a menu describing the thoughtfully curated tasting.

Walking into Rune, there’s a “relaxed swank” energy that manages to feel both low-key and exclusive. Fortezza’s typical brightness is mellowed by candlelight, creating a backdrop with the perfect amount of ease and intimacy. 

Studying the details, there’s an air of sustainability at Rune, though I can’t say for certain if that’s Chef Richardson’s intent or my own interpretation. Our table is equipped with a menu describing the thoughtfully curated tasting, along with upcycled touches, like water pitchers made from mezcal bottles and vintage animal-shaped spoon rests.

The Rune experience features upcycled touches, like water pitchers made from mezcal bottles.

Speaking with one of our friendly, flannel-clad servers, I learn that much of the evening’s menu is inspired by classics, like tartare and wings, but with a spin on locally grown produce—another possible nod to sustainability. 

My cocktail arrives first, containing Lillet Blanc, Galliano, limoncino, parsley, and lemon.

My cocktail arrives first, containing Lillet Blanc, Galliano, limoncino, parsley, and lemon. It radiates an electric shade of chartreuse, and it tastes just as bright. It’s slightly sweet with notes of anise thanks to the Galliano. It's not over-the-top, providing a refreshing aperitif to sip between courses. 

The first course is a sweet and tangy riff on tartare, featuring minced beet atop a seedy, hearty cracker with a layer of garlicky, creamy aioli sandwiched between for a touch of richness.

The first course is a sweet and tangy riff on tartare, featuring minced beet atop a seedy, hearty cracker with a layer of garlicky, creamy aioli sandwiched between for a touch of richness. While it may take semblance to a beef tartare, this dish is truly a tribute to the humble beet, letting the root vegetable’s sweet earthiness shine. 

The second course stars an ultra-decadent daikon, which resembles a confit served in a small pool of oil.

The second course stars an ultra-decadent daikon, which resembles a confit served in a small pool of oil. Pops of fennel and slivers of briny, pungent preserved lemons adorn the daikon. But my favorite adornment is the fried capers. They leave their brininess and tenderness behind when fried and appear more like a peppercorn in looks and texture. When bitten into, they release an explosive barrage of saltiness, like an amped-up chunk of flaky salt. Between the meatiness of the daikon and the almost unrecognizable capers, this dish feels especially transformative. 

A smothered, blackened leek is the focal point of the third course.

A smothered, blackened leek is the focal point of the third course. The leek is tender, grassy, and sweet with brown, caramelized ridges. Covered in a velvety, ​​unctuous roux and topped with crispy bacon lardons, this dish evokes a French vibe. It’s savory with the proper amount of indulgence in every bite.  

The fourth course presents sunchokes in the style of a familiar finger-food, like a boneless wing or a meatball.

The fourth course presents sunchokes in the style of a familiar finger food, like a boneless wing or a meatball. The sunchoke’s caramelized edges are dressed in a sweet-savory honey mustard glaze and provide a nice contrast to its spongy, chewy center. It’s paired with vinegary celeriac and slivers of raw onion that both provide a sharp and refreshing crisp.

The fifth course bears a toothsome wheat berry concoction in a pool of deeply savory broth.

The fifth course bears a toothsome wheat berry concoction in a pool of deeply savory broth. The flavor feels reminiscent of a french lentil stew, but with a heartier chew from the wheat berries. There’s an herbaceous garnish of wilted parsley, which imparts a brightness that’s a welcome addition to the earthiness of the wheat berries. In addition to the herbs, there’s a sweet, pickled medley of mushrooms, which provide a meaty texture and a surprising zing of acidity to balance out the dish.  

The sixth course features a rich, succulent brisket cooked in a garlicky, chili-forward pinakurat.

The sixth course features a rich, succulent brisket cooked in a garlicky, chili-forward pinakurat—a Philippine condiment made with coconut vinegar and infused with chiles and garlic. There’s a subtle heat that builds and keeps your mouth warm. But it isn’t overwhelmingly spicy. The brisket is served with a side of tender salty kale coated in a delicate layer of oil. Nestled into an otherwise veg-focused menu, this brisket feels deeply luxurious, like a treat. 

The last course features a dessert creme that’s complex with tart berries, bright ginger, a swirl of slick olive oil, a buttery shortbread crisp, and a fair amount of salt.

The last course features a dessert creme that’s complex with tart berries, bright ginger, a swirl of slick olive oil, a buttery shortbread crisp, and a fair amount of salt—adding a semi-savory element, which allows all the flavors to pop. The claytonia garnish lends a nice splash of color and a subtle freshness for a well-rounded dessert. 

Overall experience? 

The Rune experience is a carefully crafted one that’s intent on taking guests through a creative culinary journey that’s largely focused on eating local. 

Each bite showcases Richardson’s mastery of balancing salt, fat, and acid to elevate the food he serves. By doing so, he also proves that you don’t need a traditional cut of meat as your muse. With the right technique and quality produce from your local farmers, plants can be just as satisfying, captivating, and distinguished as any steak.

Dining at Rune, you feel a deep sense of closeness to the food community. There’s no better way to honor your farmer and local food ecosystem than to give our bounty the treatment and attention it deserves. Chef Richardson homes in on this idea, making Rune a true celebration of community. 

Menu items in review:
  • Cocktail:  Lillet Blanc, Galliano, limoncino, parsley, and lemon
  • Course One: Beet, roasted garlic, cracker
  • Course Two: Purple daikon radish, caper, preserved lemon
  • Course Three: Leek, veloute, vinaigrette, bacon
  • Course Four: Sunchoke, honey mustard, celeriac pickles, raw onion
  • Course Five: Wheat berries, mushrooms, parsley
  • Course Six: Beef brisket, pinakurat, shoots, baby kale
  • Course Seven: Ginger creme, shortbread, blueberries, claytonia

“Local-vore” friendly? 

Extremely so! Much of Rune’s menu is designed to highlight the food of regional farmers. In this particular menu, Richardson sourced ingredients from Berry Hill Farm, Windrose Urban Farm, Wood Farms, and Hawkins Family Farm. 

Vegetarian and vegan friendly? 

Because Richardson is only operating as a pop-up, it’s difficult to make dietary accommodations for vegans and vegetarians, but he says that he’s not opposed to an all-vegan or vegetarian menu down the road, if he can gauge enough interest from the community. 

Chef’s choice? 

Course Five: Wheat berries, mushrooms, parsley

From Chef Richardson: “The wheat berry dish was the one that stood out above the rest to me in terms of flavor and preparation. Ever since learning about the ability to cook and eat wheat berries, coupled with the luck that Hawkins Farm grew them, I have been obsessed with finding the best way to cook them and best things to prepare with them. For this specific preparation, I made a dashi (Japanese stock consisting of dried mushrooms, bonito, and kelp) and then mixed it with a fatty beef broth. This became the liquid that the wheat berries were heated in. After heating them and allowing that liquid to reduce, the wheat berries were fortified with a butter made from toasted and ground sunflower seeds and whole butter. The finished product was exciting. I thought the flavors were deeply warming. I usually like to add at least one fresh and one brightly acidic element to basically every dish I create, so that is where the pickled mushrooms and parsley puree came in. Both allow the dish to be enjoyed from the first bite to the last. Without the brightness, I think the wheat berries on their own may have been too heavy and savory to enjoy.”

Writer’s choice? 

Course Two: Purple daikon radish, caper, preserved lemon

Every dish felt creative and thoughtful, but this dish felt special to me. I loved the fattiness of the daikon mixed with the salty bursts of the fried capers. I’ve never experienced daikon or capers in this preparation, and I will never look at either ingredient the same again. I will definitely be trying to recreate this in my own kitchen. 

Hours & Location: 

Rune is strictly a reservations-only pop-up experience and doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location. This past event took place at Fortezza Coffee located at 819 S. Calhoun St. According to Chef Richardson’s Instagram, he’s planning another dinner this summer.

Website and social media:

Rune does not currently have a website. To keep an eye out for future pop-ups, you can follow Chef Sean Richardson’s personal Instagram page @seangordonrichardson.

Read more articles by Molly Conner.

Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native. Driven by curiosity and affection for culinary crafts, Molly’s writing explores our food-focused community—from haute, experimental eateries to no-frills, all-flavor mom-and-pops.