- Josh Tuck
- Danielle Tuck
After college, I was a graphic designer in the advertising industry and I lived and worked in downtown Fort Wayne. As a small town kid, the tall buildings and busy streets, served as a reasonable facsimile to what I imagined working in Chicago, or New York, might be like. I especially liked that there were local lunch spots that only “downtowners” seemed to know about. Over the course of the dozen years I spent pushing pixels in various offices downtown, many of those cool lunch spots came and went. However, one stalwart was Dash-In. Back then, I remember being unimpressed with the food. It was fine, but I didn’t understand the fuss, and I assumed people mostly went there for the great atmosphere. Today, Dash-In is under new management and subtle changes are being made to take it from being another mediocre coffee shop, to becoming something truly special.
Back In The Day
Dash-In opened its doors in 1989. Back then, one of the appetizers on the menu was a cup of coffee, a biscotti, and two cigarettes. Time and customer expectations moved on since then, and Dash-In was in need of some new, creative blood. Help came a few years ago from a bevy of new owners including Emily Underwood, owner and chef, and Nick Perry, chef and house manager. Nick took a few minutes to bring us up to speed on how they are subtly changing Dash-In for the better.
Nick attended Ivy Tech Culinary School, and while there, he met Emily Underwood. When his then employer, Columbia Street West, wanted to open a Cajun restaurant, Nick was chosen to start Bourbon Street Hideaway with Emily. They did everything they could to prepare things the real way. “It was very successful for the three years I was there,” Nick said. A few years later Emily had the opportunity to buy Dash-In. She told Nick that they were looking for a chef and manager and he jumped at the opportunity to work with her again.
Turning The Ship
Nick said that one of the things he learned in culinary school is that it is easier to improve upon an existing restaurant rather than start a new one from scratch. Luckily for him, and his partners, Dash-In was not only a viable business, it had a dedicated customer base. As a result, they didn’t find a whole lot they felt they needed to change. Instead, they added their personal touches to the menu and restaurant. The biggest change was getting rid of the pre-packaged ingredients the previous owners were buying. Since more food would have to be made from scratch, this meant hiring more people and additional training. They make a new lunch special and soup each day, as well as the side dishes and even the salad dressings. Nick noted that while the recipes themselves haven’t changed much, people have already noticed the difference fresh ingredients make in their favorite meals.
Another area of focus is their evening menu. Currently, this entails increasing the portions of lunch items and cooking more items from scratch. They know they have more creative freedom with a dinner service, so in the future, they hope to offer some more imaginative entrees. The selection of craft beers has been the change that Nick feels has made Dash-In better by leaps and bounds. The owners take great pride in putting together a solid list of some of the best craft beers available.
Another area where they are focusing their attention is on their vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free customers. There are a number of these items currently on the menu, like their falafel burger, but Nick says they have plans to add more. He is more scientific in the kitchen, and Emily is the artist, so it will be interesting to see what they create together. In the meantime, almost half the items on the menu can be made vegetarian or gluten-free if requested.
Saturday brunch is a completely new service they started after taking over, and it is Nick’s favorite. Each morning they feature omelets and Eggs Benedict with real, scratch-made hollandaise. Nick is particularly proud of his grits. He learned to make them at Bourbon Street Hideaway and says, “I’ve turned so many people onto grits.” Brunch has proved to be so popular that they are hoping to add waffles and more varieties of Eggs Benedict and omelets.
Dash-In was founded on serving coffee, and with the addition of a new barista and a private signature blend beans from Old Crown, they want to bring coffee more into the equation. As I grew to appreciate coffee more, this was one area where Dash-In used to be falling behind. The coffee shop market is a competitive one in Fort Wayne and it’s good to see determination on their part to improve their offering. Eventually, they would like to be able to sell beans by the pound and carafes of coffee for all their customers who get stuck in long afternoon meetings.
Firing On All Cylinders
Nick says that every day brings new challenges, but he is thrilled with the progress they have made as a team. “Right now, more than ever, we really have all the right people in all the right places.” He says from managers to staff to cooking crew, “They’re all awesome.”
It’s been great to watch the hard work by everyone at Dash-In transform a modest downtown institution into a more lively hub of culture at the city’s center. With a little more polish and shine, Dash-In could easily transform itself from a good place to grab a bite to eat or have a coffee, to a stand-out of the region.