Friday, February 3, 2012

#250: East Bank Emporium

Highlighting the celebration for First Friday in downtown South Bend is a monthly favorite.  It's truly an event not be missed, and there always seems to be one stand-out event (or a few) that distinguish one month's festivities from another. 

For February 2012, the theme is "Shiver on the River" and it features fireworks over the river at 8:30.  The Howard Park Ice Rink is open, and around downtown, there will be free hot chocolate around the area.  Lucky for us, unlike last year's blizzard, the weather forecast will be more forgiving for roaming around between spots.  Less fortunately, it also marks the second-to-last night of Winter Restaurant Week (bummer). 

With these factors in mind, I recommend making a stop at the East Bank Emporium.  This restaurant, right on the East Bank Trail, is on the other side of the river from downtown and might seem a little distant from the action.  Quite the opposite.
1) It's located between the downtown art galleries and stories and the Jefferson row shops, not to mention the nearby ice rink.
2) You will have the ideal vantage point for watching the fireworks. 
3) The Emporium is participating in restaurant week, so you can get a 4 course meal (app, salad/soup, entree, and dessert -- per person!) for $25.

[I took advantage of this deal last week --and I emphasize deal.  The crab cake appetizer was delicious, and the BBQ salmon portion generous.  I was too full for dessert, but our waitress kindly gave us each a slice of cake to-go instead of insisting we forgo what we couldn't eat.]

In addition to its food, its ambiance is worth the trip across the river.  The light woodwork and antique light fixtures give this place a nostalgic feel.  The tiered eating levels break up the large space, so it is a comfortable place for a couple or a party of 12 to go. 
It's hard to articulate how unique the interior is.  See it to believe it.
For First Fridays, it will be especially lively because of Chicago rocker Don Savoie, who will be playing will be live music from 5:30-8:30 PM.  At the end of his set, you will be in a perfect position to watch the fireworks go off over the river. 

Where: 121 S Niles Ave
Call (574) 234-9000 for reservations and hours.

Tip: Huge parking lot!  Don't worry about that. 
Tip 2 (for later): They have a spacious deck that is perfect for an outdoor drink or meal, right on the river!  I don't know of any restaurants closer to the river's edge than this one.

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