Fort Wayne is often called the City of Restaurants for its wide variety of eating establishments, and my family and I made an effort to check out as many as we could during a recent weekend trip. It’s also a highly walkable city, with many restaurants and attractions within a few blocks of each other.
We set off on foot from the downtown Hilton and walked a few blocks to Cindy’s, a (very) small ’50s-style diner with a big following — and, unfortunately, big crowds for early Saturday morning. Outdoor seating was available by way of picnic tables in front of the diner, but it was a little too chilly to eat outside.
Instead of waiting for four spots to open up at the counter (which seats 15 – tiny, right?), we decided to keep walking and soon came across Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island.
Now, being a southeast Michigan native, the Coneys I know have encyclopedia-sized menus spanning several ethnicities and meals of the day, as well as a plethora of desserts. I soon learned that this characteristic does not carry over to other regions, as this one had a very short menu board on the wall and very few diners inside the restaurant. OK, there was one. And he was drinking coffee and chatting with one of the workers. My four- and six-year-old happily made do with a donut each for breakfast, while my husband and I each ordered a cheeseburger and a side of chili. We often have breakfast for dinner — why not dinner for breakfast?
After spending a few hours at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (highly recommended, especially for families with kids — the new Early Learning Center was created with the young ones in mind) we decided it was time for lunch. This time we walked back toward our hotel and found King Gyros, a sort of Greek fast food restaurant with a wide selection of gyros, chicken, burgers and ribs.
We went with traditional gyros, stuffed with meat and wrapped in pillowy soft pitas. Even the kids finished theirs! Our timing was great — we nabbed four stools in the front of the restaurant and had just started eating when a charity walk began right in front of us. Lunch and a (free!) show!
The next morning, we decided to try our luck again with Cindy’s Diner. We had heard great things about the tiny diner, and especially about the “Garbage” breakfast entree, so we thought we’d give it a try. We should have bought a lottery ticket because, when we drove up, there were only three diners sitting around the counter! We hurried the kids out of the car and made our way inside, grabbing four seats at the end of the counter. A few minutes later, the little diner was full again and we watched people drive or walk up and peer inside, hoping for a few empty seats.
My husband and I each ordered the Garbage (described on the menu as “A special blend of eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions, and bits of ham prepared our special way”).
The kids played it safe with stacks of hot cakes, and my son also ordered — and devoured — a blueberry muffin. Best of all, their juice came in adorable kids’ mugs.The food came quickly and the portions were large. (We had to “help” the kids finish their hot cakes, although they both enjoyed the sides of raisin bread that came with my husband’s and my entree.) Sitting at the counter also helped to occupy our two hungry kids — plenty of people watching both inside and outside of the diner.
Fort Wayne lived up to its status as the City of Restaurants — and my family and I are already talking about when we’ll be going back, if only for the food!
Disclosure: Our stay at the downtown Fort Wayne Hilton was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne; all other expenses were on our own dime.