We live in an amazing place called the Midwest. It's full of great places to drink.
This series explores cities through their drinking culture, craft breweries, and craft distilleries.
For a city of its size, Fort Wayne, has the kind of bar scene we’d expect from a much larger spot. In reality, it’s much more Indy than, say, Plano, Tex. But instead of the same old drafts and tired mixed drinks that those on the right and left coasts might expect from the Midwest, new alehouses and martini bars are popping up in neighborhoods around town, from Lakeside to downtown, and they’re bringing with them the kind of cool atmosphere that’s perfect for a date night, happy hour, or midweek dinner with the family.
Here are some of the best drinking spots in Fort Wayne:
Best for finding a favorite: JK O’Donnell’s
An Irish pub with a menu that includes Scotch eggs, lamb pasties and bangers and mash, JK O’Donnell’s is known for its beer and liquor menu. If you’re in the mood to try it all or find a new favorite, this is your stop — and the flights are your best pick. Try one of the three beer flights, or the whiskey, bourbon, or scotch flight. Ranging in price from $6 to $16, these taste-tests are one of the best values you’ll find in town.
Order: The scotch flight for some peaty goodness, which includes 12-year Cardhu, 10-year Springbank, and 10-year Ardbeg
Best for old-school cocktails: Old Crown Coffee Roasters
Don’t let the “coffee roasters” portion of Old Crown Coffee Roasters fool you. Yes, Old Crown serves up some of Fort Wayne’s best coffee, but it also has a full bar and specializes in the kind of menu you’d expect to find at Don Draper’s third place, full of retro cocktails like gin rickeys, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds.
Stop by Thursday to Saturday evening for the weekly high-end dinner menu with Fort Wayne prices. Recent dishes include housemade Tuscan sausage & capellini, vegetarian korma, and grilled 10-ounce NY strip.
Order: The light and creamy ramos fizz
The hipster hotspot: Dash-In
Great for a lunch date or a late night drink, Dash-In is a seat-yourself kind of place, and customer art-for-sale covers the walls. One visit, you might see stained glass birds perched above the doors and the next, there’s a painting of a neon frog wearing a monocle and top hat.
When it comes to a beer list, Dash-In has major bragging rights: It was one of the first spots in Fort Wayne to offer craft beer, and diners get options that rotate through the bar’s 23 taps.
If you need to eat, get a gourmet grilled cheese, but don’t be in a hurry. This is a spot for lingering and enjoying your fare.
Order: Check out the beer duos, like the Red Velvet: one part Framboise and one part Guinness
Recreate Cheers: Acme Bar & Grill
1105 E. State Blvd. | Facebook
Acme Bar & Grill closed down a few years back for renovations. As the biggest Fort Wayne staple on the list, the Acme was certainly missed. But when it reopened, regulars couldn’t believe the upgrades.
Once something of a dive, Acme is now a bar where you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable bringing your kid. The servers have worked there since the beginning of time, and if you’ve been going just as long, they’ll remember your order. If you need some food with your drink, go with the pizza. It’s all about that crust—crispy without being too thin.
Order: While Acme is popular for its beer list, the seasonal cocktail list always has some winners. This season, try the Dreamsicle-esque Orange Float.
Spend a little, drink a lot: East State Bar & Grill
1210 E. State Blvd.
How much of a hole-in-the-wall is East State Bar & Grill? It doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page.
The bar is dark, the jukebox is loud and the drinks are strong. Very strong. Exceedingly, ridiculously strong. And occasionally served in plastic cups.
And sometimes, that is just right.
Order: Something simple, like a whiskey and Coke.
If you’re looking to drink in the Fort, don’t knock driving 15 minutes out of your way to hit up Trion Tavern in New Haven, which boasts 53 taps and dozens of bottles.
It has that sort of brass rail, belly-up-to-the-bar kind of feel. The space is long and narrow, so it’s not too tough to get the bartender’s attention for a refill. The staff is extra friendly and knowledgable. Not sure what to get? Your server will help. Torn between two beers? Ask your server. Want to build a flight of the best IPAs or American wheats? The server’s got your back. And the food menu is huge. Go with the Trion Nachos or the Pig Sandwich.
Order: It is tough to choose from 53+ beers ... but Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is always a solid choice.
Best for outside drinking: The Deck
Despite the fact that Fort Wayne is on three rivers, choices for riverside drinking and dining are sparse.
Which is exactly where The Deck comes in. Relatively new to the Fort Wayne scene, The Deck is just across the parking lot from its sister restaurant, Don Hall’s Gas House. The two share a kitchen, providing for The Deck’s truncated but tasty menu; go with the fish tacos or filet sliders.
The cocktail menu isn’t vast, but it’s well-loved, in part because the drinks are good and in part because they’re served in giant mason jars.
Yes, the spot is only open during warm months, but that makes it even more a staple of a proper Fort Wayne summer.
Order: Vodka fans swear by the raspberry lemonade.
More City Scout guides: Louisville