Meet the OGs of Downtown’s dining scene: 10 eateries that are true Fort Wayne classics

As Fort Wayne grows and evolves, its restaurant scene is expanding. Sometimes, it seems like new places to eat are opening every week.

But before today’s popular brunch spots, craft cocktail hours, and hip coffee shops filled our hearts and schedules, there were a few tried and true Downtown Fort Wayne favorites. They’re places that might not make headlines regularly, but they have stuck with our city through its up and downs and awkward teenage years. 

As staff at Input Fort Wayne, we wanted to take a moment to applaud these 10 OGs of Downtown Fort Wayne’s dining scene. We see you. We appreciate you. And we’ll be back again soon, so save us a booth or a bar stool!
  1. Coney Island

131 W. Main St.
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

There's an Easter egg inside Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island.
Is there anything more quintessentially Fort Wayne than Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island, the city’s oldest operating restaurant? Even before Downtown was the “place to be,” this steamy storefront was one of its main attractions, luring locals and visitors alike with its delicious dogs loaded with mustard, homemade coney sauce, and hand-chopped onions—and of course, cradled in its signature “steamed buns.”

Coney Island is a great place to grab lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack. Snag a bar stool, and don’t forget to order a Coke (in the bottle) with your meal. The prices aren’t exactly what they were when it opened in 1914, but you can still get your coney and Coke for only $1.80 each!
  1. Powers Hamburgers

1402 S. Harrison St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

The Powers slider with onions and cheese at Powers Hamburger Restaurant, 1402 S. Harrison.
You’ll probably smell Powers before you see it. In the years before the TinCaps brought crowds to Harrison and W. Brackenridge Street, this little burger joint was flipping pint-sized patties in its black-and-white Art Deco building on Downtown’s South side. And those slider burgers? They’re smothered in the smelliest, most delicious onions you’ve ever tasted! 

Just this year, Powers was named one of the “top five places in the country to get a classic hamburger made just as they were a century ago” by New York Times filmmaker and author of American Hamburger, George Motz (who some have dubbed the “foremost authority on hamburgers”). 

Exterior at Powers Hamburger Restaurant, 1402 S. Harrison.Indiana Landmarks reports, “The Powers brothers—Leo, Clell, Harold, and Dale—started Powers Hamburgers in 1935 in Dearborn, Michigan, eventually expanding their burger dynasty into Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Though Fort Wayne once boasted three locations, today only the original 20-seat diner started by Leo Powers remains, the only restaurant from the original enterprise to still carry the Powers name.” 

Powers originally sold burgers for a nickel, and you can still get them for $1.60 a piece, or $2.40 for doubles. (Plus, the ground beef is locally sourced from Tim Didier Meats!) Cozy up around the bar inside, or get a patio table out back, and prepare to order two, three, or 10 of these mouth-watering baby burgers!
  1. The Dash-In

814 S. Calhoun St.
Hours: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wed.-Sun. 

The Dash-In is located at 814 S. Calhoun St.

There’s nothing quite like sliding into a booth at the Dash-In on a Saturday or Sunday morning to find a menu filled with breakfast AND lunch items, local coffee AND craft beer. Before most of Fort Wayne was into the brunch game, The Dash was serving up mimosas and treating us to all-day breakfast washed down with locally roasted coffee from Old Crown. The Dash was ahead of its time, and its cozy brownstone is still the perfect respite from those blustery cold winter days when S. Calhoun Street turns into a wind tunnel.

Nothing beats a bowl of the Dash-In's spicy tomato soup with one of its gourmet grilled cheeses.

If you’re in the mood for something warm and toasty, nothing beats one of The Dash’s gourmet grilled cheeses (yes, there are multiple to choose from) paired with a bowl of its spectacularly spicy tomato soup.
  1. Henry’s

536 W Main St.
Hours: 4 p.m.-3 a.m. every day

A Cosmo drink at Henry's Restaurant, 536 W. Main St.In the words of Carrie Bradshaw: “I'd like a cheeseburger—please—large fries, and a cosmopolitan.” At Henry’s in Downtown Fort Wayne, you can get all three—and you can do it until the kitchen closes at 1 a.m. with bar service available until 3 a.m. Every. Single. Day. 

Just ask regulars, like local TV and radio broadcast host Mark Evans, who's a fixture at the bar four or five days a week. Once known as the  “Majic Man” on the MAJIC 95.1, Evans calls Henry’s his “primary kitchen and secondary living room,” and he’s tried almost everything on the menu. 

“I recommend the fish because when you get it, it’s so fresh, and it’s just overflowing the plate,” Evans says from his usual stool at the bar. “The Henry’s burgers are excellent, too, and the Boom Boom shrimp on a bed of rice is a tasty treat!”

Once known around town as a popular hangout for the local LGBTQ+ community, Henry’s has long been one of the most welcoming spaces in Fort Wayne. Evans started going when he got involved in Fort Wayne’s local theatre community, and many of his friends continue to meet at Henry’s as a hub. 

One such friend is Greggory Stieber, a freelance director, writer, and instructor with the Fort Wayne Youtheatre, who serves as Henry’s de facto “everything man” for its owner John Freistroffer.

“Just as I call myself the ‘everything man,’ this is the ‘everybody bar,’” Stieber says. “Our clientele ranges from people who just turned 21 to people who are celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries. There’s no political climate at Henry’s. It’s just: All is welcome, and you see every size, shape, and form.”
  1. Cindy’s Diner

230 W. Berry St.
Hours: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Guests enjoy the atmosphere and food at Cindy's Diner, 230 W. Berry St.If Henry’s is the best place to spend a late night in Downtown Fort Wayne, Cindy’s Diner might be the best way to spend an early morning. This little 1950s-style diner with neon lights and picnic tables out front has been serving up some of the best breakfasts in town for decades. Barely bigger than a trailer, with just one bar of seating inside, it opened in 1952 as one of Fort Wayne’s first fast food restaurants Downtown at the Northwest corner of Clinton and Jefferson streets. Since then, it’s hopped around the Downtown area and changed names a few times. In 1966, when it was known as “Marge’s Diner,” it became famous for its “Garbage” plate, which still graces its menu today, often served with a side of sarcasm from Cindy's staff.

The country sausage gravy and biscuits with a side of bacon at Cindy's Diner, 230 W. Berry St.

We recommend adding a donut (or five) to your order. Along with preserving local history in its building and menu, Cindy’s carries on the legacy of frying up Fort Wayne’s own Murphy’s Donuts in-house courtesy of its Murphy’s Dime Store Donut Machine, reminding locals of the “good old days” in Downtown’s past!
  1. Klemm’s on Wells

1429 N. Wells St.
Hours: 5:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday

Server Teresa Rivers pours coffee at Klemm's Kafe, 1429 N. Wells St.While it’s not technically in the “99 blocks of Downtown,” Klemm’s Kafe will always be “Downtown” in our hearts. Its old-school diner atmosphere along the historic Wells Street Corridor offers the perfect ambiance to enjoy a book from Hyde Bros over bottomless coffee and (you guessed it) another “Garbage plate” of fried breakfast foods. As a bonus, if you become a regular, servers, like Teresa Rivers, will memorize your name and order.

Server Teresa Rivers takes an order at Klemm's Kafe, 1429 N. Wells St.

Klemm’s is a community. It’s the Tom’s Restaurant to our Jerry Seinfeld. It’s the classic, casual diner every city should have. If there was a sitcom about Fort Wayne, it would probably be filmed here, and we’d be all for it!

The garbage plate, a very popular dish, at Klemm's Kafe, 1429 N. Wells St.
  1. Club Soda

235 E. Superior St. 
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

The gouda dip at Club Soda, 235 E. Superior St.If you’re in the mood for a cocktail and a classy night out, nothing beats the roaring 20s vibes of Club Soda where Harrison Ford himself once spent an evening when he was in town—and has a chair at the bar marked with his name! In fact, look on the back of several chairs, and you’ll find the silver nameplates of “regulars” who have reserved seating. But don’t let the club-like atmosphere make you feel excluded. There’s plenty of room to find a seat within this two-story establishment, which has patios on both levels overlooking Downtown development along the Riverfront.

Brian Leslie and Casey Bussell celebrate with an espresso martini and smoked manhattan at Club Soda, 235 E. Superior St.

Club Soda even hosts jazz nights several times a week, where you can catch locals and touring musicians alike whaling on its baby grand piano in the bar. For dinner and apps, we recommend its steaks and anything smothered in its smoked gouda cheese dip. For drinks, the espresso martini and smoked Manhattan are hard to beat. Cheers!
  1. Lincoln Tower Soda Fountain

116 E. Berry St. # 101
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri

For 92 years, there’s been a phosphate soda foundation in the storefront of Lincoln National Bank in Downtown Fort Wayne. And if you visit today, their menu hasn’t changed much. The shop’s most recent owners, Mandy and Joel Tye, have maintained much of the soda fountain’s historic menu and architecture. If you stop by, be sure to try their famous handmade sodas, which can charm even the most skeptical pop drinkers. Mandy recommends a cherry vanilla phosphate. “It tastes so fresh compared to traditional soda,” she says.
  1. J.K. O’Donnells 

121 W. Wayne St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Fri.-Sat.

Half Irish cheddar sandwich with soup of the day lemon chicken rice at J K O' Donnell's at 121 W. Wayne St.
Since this authentic Irish pub opened in the mid-2000s, it has been a mainstay in the Downtown social scene. J.K. O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House has real Irish furniture, food, and brews that will transport you overseas. Each month, you can even catch traditional Irish instrumentalists and pub singers, like the Rag Tag Bunch, leading guests in songs, drinking games, and general merriment.

Members of the Ragtag Bunch sing during a performance at J.K. O’ Donnell’s on February 24, 2022.

When it comes to food, J.K.'s garlic aioli sauce and beer cheese are must-haves on the menu, and in cooler months, nothing beats a bowl of their piping hot Shepherd’s pie next to the stone fireplace. Mmmm.
  1. The Deck, Don Hall’s Gas House, & Takaoka Of Japan

305 E. Superior St.
Hours: The Deck is open 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Mon.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
The Gas House is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Takaoka Of Japan is open 4-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat. And 4-8 p.m. Sun.

General Manager Dani Reuille, delivers a purple haze drink at The Deck, 305 E. Superior St.Last, but not least, The Deck, Hall’s Gas House, and Takaoka Of Japan are three OGs rolled into one super-spot location along the riverfront. 

Before Promenade Park, The Deck was luring locals to the banks of the St. Marys with its extra-strong island drinks, like the Purple Haze, and its mouth-watering food, like the Chicago Burger and Burrito Americano. Today, The Deck has doubled (maybe tripled or quadrupled?) its original size—and it’s still hard to find a seat on warm summer nights and afternoons. 

If you ask Owner, Ben Hall, about The Deck’s popularity, he’ll tell you it was sheer luck in some ways. When he and his father sketched plans for a modest deck on a Hall’s napkin in the early 2000s, they didn’t dream of it becoming one of Fort Wayne’s hottest summer hangouts. It was just a fun idea they had to bring more customers Downtown on sleepy weeknights when the urban core emptied out after 5 p.m.

Dining room decor at Don Hall's Old Gas House, 305 E. Superior St.Now, even Ben is surprised by Downtown’s revival and how it has worked hand-in-hand with his family business, which has continued to grow and evolve with the times, too. The Gas House opened in 1958 as a fine dining establishment and saloon by Ben’s grandfather (you guessed it, Don Hall) who owned the popular Hall’s drive-in at Quimby Village. Don’s photo and original menu still hang in the lobby, reminding guests of a time when strip steaks cost about $3. While a lot has changed in 60+ years, Ben says he still recommends Hall’s steaks, which are sourced from a small ranch in Idaho and butchered by Halls’ own full-service commissary in New Haven before being seared to perfection in the Gas House’s oven-fired broiler.

Upstairs at the Gas House, the Hall family has expanded their menu into Japanese hibachi and converted their second floor into Takaoka Of Japan, which features slick hibachi chefs who cook in front of guests and entertain them with tricks.

Grant Richardson, Dining Room Manager, shows off pictures at Don Hall's Old Gas House, 305 E. Superior.

Along with these three businesses, the Gas House itself is a local treasure. Originally a 19th-century gas factory, it was later used as a brewery until Prohibition. That brooding bronze statue on the roof is Charles Louis Centlivre, one of Fort Wayne’s brewing pioneers!

Honorable mention: The Brass Rail

1121 Broadway St.
Hours: 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tues.-Thurs., 3 p.m.-3 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun.

The Brass Rail, located at 1121 Broadway, Fort Wayne, IN 46802.While it’s not technically an eatery, the Brass Rail is worthy of a shoutout on this list of Downtown OGs. This dive bar on the South edge of the city center has long been one of Fort Wayne’s favorite watering holes, with its grunge vibes, affordable drinks, and bartenders who treat customers like friends. It has unbeatable live shows, too. Before Fort Wayne had the Clyde Theatre or a goal to be a “music city,” the Rail was bringing some of the best touring and local acts to its intimate, standing-room-only stage in the back of the bar. Stop by for a show and a beer, and if you’re hungry, you’re likely to find a food truck or two out back!
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