The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, July 29, 2020 1:00 am

'Timely' expansion at Nawa is completed


The new outdoor dining area at Nawa has been in the works since late last year.

But, as it turns out, “the high demand for outside seating this summer has made this expansion timely,” says Prill Trowbridge, operating partner.

The new seating area for the downtown restaurant on The Landing is expected to open this week.

With proper social distancing, there is room for about 25 people, Trowbridge says. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The deck has bar rail seating that faces Columbia Street and tall bar tables, as well as regular tables. There are also plans to add lounge sofas with gas fire pits.

Nawa Bison Deck, which sits under Tim Parsley's bison mural, will feature the full Nawa food, cocktail, beer, wine and saké menus.

Dining at restaurants can still be an anxiety-inducing experience for some people. Outdoor seating options, which are seen as safer, are proving more popular than ever.

Banh Mi Pho Shop, 1925 Fairfield Ave., is adding a deck onto its restaurant. Steve Gard, owner of the Oyster Bar on South Calhoun Street, announced this summer that he was expanding outdoor dining.

Cuban food truck

A new food truck is hitting the streets of Fort Wayne, bringing authentic Cuban cuisine to the city.

Laz's Cuban Cafe offers favorites such as Cuban sandwiches and coffee, as well as steak sandwiches and Cuban burgers.

The truck is run by Laz Perez, who recently came to northeast Indiana from Miami, Florida. His move is so recent that he will be closing on a house in the area next week.

Perez and his wife operate a catering business in Miami, providing meals to 13 schools. It was a part of his business plan, though, to bring his business north.

Encouraged by friends in the Fort Wayne area, he came to the city at the beginning of June to check it out. A month later, he came up with his truck and trailer.

Laz's Cuban Cafe had its first events the weekend of July 17, including Ft. Wayne's Farmers Market at Parkview Field. While there were some hiccups, Perez was grateful for a positive reception.

In his short time in the area, Perez has also been scouting locations for a brick-and-mortar cafe. Born and raised in Miami, he has not experienced winter, but he hears it can get bad in Indiana.

The cafe would be casual and inviting, offering people a spot to pick up a menu item or cafe con leche. Perez uses beans from Central and South America that are roasted in the Cuban tradition by a specialty roaster in Miami.

As for the food, Perez wants to remain true to the culture while using quality ingredients. The food is flavorful, not spicy. While he developed the recipe for his popular pork, he also uses traditional Cuban recipes.

Laz's Cuban Cafe will be at Ft. Wayne's Farmers Market on Saturday. More information about events can be found on the truck's Facebook page.

Tolon delivery

The growth of online ordering and delivery has proved challenging for at least one local restaurant.

The menu for Tolon was posted on a number of apps without the restaurant's approval, causing confusion for the staff and customers. Tolon is working only with local company Waiter on the Way to offer delivery.

“We apologize to a number of you that have paid these companies and even possibly ordered from an outdated menu that was never provided, approved, or authorized by anyone at Tolon,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post.

Sidecar, the outdoor bar at Copper Spoon, had a similar situation in the past.

Delivery services such as Grubhub, Postmates and DoorDash might have listings and outdated menus on their platform even without a partnership. Waiter on the Way works with local restaurants and has contracts to deliver for them.

Grubhub said in a letter to shareholders that it wanted to double the number of restaurants on its platform by the end of 2020. It planned to list non-partnered restaurants in select markets as part of that goal.

“It is extremely efficient and cheap to add non-partnered inventory to our platform and it can at least ensure that all of our current and potential new diners have the option to order from any of their favorite restaurants now, even if it's not the best solution,” according to the letter dated Oct. 28, 2019.

Local judging

The cooks taking part in “Final Table: Indy” will have to get their ducks in a row to make it to the final round of the food competition.

It was announced this week that Terry Tucker, a second-generation owner of Maple Leaf Farms, will be one of the second-round judges. The Leesburg company, which is also a sponsor of the event, will be featuring its White-Pekin Duck in the second challenge at “Final Table: Indy,” where 10 world-class cooks will face three challenges as they try to claim a $100,000 prize.

Tucker has led the company for 55 years. Maple Leaf Farms is known worldwide for its duck products, which range from traditional whole duck to duck bacon and appetizers.

Facing Tucker and the other judges will be World Food Championships' current 10 category champions. Each won his or her category at the organization's eighth annual Ultimate Food Fight in Dallas in October. More than 450 teams from more than 40 states and 14 countries were featured in that event.

“Final Table: Indy,” which was scheduled for May but postponed due to the pandemic, will take place Aug. 8 and 9 at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis.

In the first round, the contestants will be making a Pork and Parisian Gnocchi dish, after which the field will be narrowed down to five contestants. The second challenge will be re-creating a duck dish curated by chef Greg Hardesty of Studio C in Indianapolis. Three will move on to the final round, where they will prepare sugar cream pie.

Participating cooks come from California, Alabama, Minnesota, Florida, Connecticut and Missouri.

To learn more about “Final Table: Indy,” go to

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8304 at least two weeks before event or desired publication.

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