For over 40 years, the location that is now Mishawaka's Iconic Cafe has delivered a distinctive dining experience within walking distance of its downtown businesses, and only a block from Beutter Park Riverwalk.
New owner Bruce Tassell, who took over April 1, is ready to up the ante on the customer dining experience for his establishment at 215 N. Main St. – and, hopefully, raise the live entertainment scene's temperature, too.
“Back in the days, when this was Wayne's, I used to play in bands, and you had to wait 40 minutes to get a table – that's what I'm trying to bring back. I want to be a part of the scene,” said Tassell.
Tassell brings 40 years of experience to his enterprise. “I've grown up in the restaurant business – my dad used to own a bar called The 111. I just want to give the best service and the best food. I do local flavor,” he said.
Since taking over, Tassell has overseen a remodeling that preserves such nostalgic touches as a personalized jukebox for each booth – as well as select upgrades to ensure a better customer experience.
For example, “the original booths have (also) been refurbished, and sit comfortably, just like in the days of Wayne's Place,” he said.
All these efforts coincide with an updated website and menu prepared by Adam Nielson.
Signature dishes like the Iconic's original dog and suds root beer float will be joined by daily homemade specials, ranging from classic Swiss Steak and meatloaf, to stuffed pork chops, and fried salmon patties – which will be updated on the Iconic's Facebook page.
“Our mission is to be the best, and our staff works hard to make that happen,” said Tassell. “Pay a visit to Amanda, Shannon, April and Cindy – and don’t forget to say 'hi' to Joan, who (also) helps and is from the Bill's Grill days.”
Midnight specialty items will include The Legend – which features a pound of bacon smothered in nacho cheese, on thick slices of Texas Toast over a basket of nachos, with two eggs on top – and the Fast Eddy, a football-sized pork tenderloin smothered in sausage gravy, on a bed of thick Texas Toast.
“Look for the Bart Burger and many more Iconic legends to come,” said Tassell.
Catering and private party rentals will be available, along with such novelties as homemade cupcakes and “pupcakes,” he added. “Ask Brenda or Cindy for all your cupcake needs.”
Nor do Tassell's ambitions end with the décor or the menu. He plans to host a weekly Internet broadcast, “Radio Iconic,” at 9 p.m. every Thursday, on XERS internet radio – where he'll interview all comers for an hour apiece.
Tassell wants to make local music part of the equation, too. South Side Denny and the Elwood Splinters Blues Band lead an upcoming show list that also includes Joe Feingold, Julia Kapp, and Joe Probst.
“Iconic is always looking to support local musicians, and it is very cool hearing their songs play on the jukebox,” he said.
As the clientele grows, Tassell will consider adding art shows to the schedule – plus acoustic, spoken word and standup comedy nights.
All these plans reflect Tassell's desire to jump-start the atmosphere that characterized his own musical experiences.
“Again, it goes back to my days, when we couldn't get into bars,” said Tassell. “You need somewhere to do your own music. This is so small, you get to see people face to face – I always enjoyed that more than a big stage. It's the communication with the people that makes it (the live experience) the best.”