More than chicken and noodles: Elkhart County serves up global fare 

by | Places, Featured Destinations

By Brian Garrido

When considering North Central Indiana’s culinary scene, you might cook up thoughts of Amish dishes such as roast chicken, pot pies and apple butter. It’s true that in northern Indiana, horse and buggies provide transportation for the nearly 23,000 practicing Amish, the third largest population in the United States after Pennsylvania and Ohio. But since the 1990s, immigrants from around the world have been relocating to the area and bringing with them global flavors.

Lucky’s in downtown Elkhart opened as a donut shop in 1997 by Cambodian immigrants Sok Hou Kau and Chanliny Dim. Fleeing the Khmer Rouge, the family opened their well-known eatery when the Asian population was only one percent of of the area’s 205,000 population. Diners can order dishes that mimic some of the more popular items in the Southeast Asian peninsula, such as Thailand, Vietnam and China. Many noodles and rice dishes, such as Pad thai, coconut curry panang, and cold peanut noodles, fill the mostly take-out menu. 

Over in the quaint town of Goshen, home to the Mennonite liberal arts Goshen College, is Maple Indian Cuisine, the county’s only Indian restaurant. Born in Punjab, India, Bobby Singh and his Chicago-native wife, Rosie, opened the restaurant in 2014 and have been serving ever since. Noted for his northern Indian cuisine, Singh incorporates dishes that cover the gamut of the country’s flavors and spices on an extensive menu. Guests will find freshly made tandoori chicken, a variety of biryanis (rice dishes) and paneer tikka, a dense cheese cooked in a sauce of yogurt, herbs and spices. Maple Indian Cuisine may also have one of the most extensive listings of Indian bread in the Midwest. Unsure of what to try? The restaurant offers a mixed basket that includes roti (tandoor-oven baked), poori (deep fried), naan ( thick leavened bread) and paratha, a delicious, stretchy bread, great for dipping and wrapping. 

Guests dining at Coco’s Restaurante, a Mexican eatery from Miguel (Coco) and Guadalupe Ruiz may spot Elkhart’s mayor Rod Roberson dining with them. Traditional food such as tacos, tostadas and enchiladas line the menu, but don’t miss the molé, the world-famous sauce from Oaxaca. Though not listed on the menu, call in advance and Guadalupe will make hers, a rojo, from hand, grinding each seed, chile and clove in a molcajete. For even more homemade goodness, Coco handcrafts the masa harina, cutting corn from the cobs every day, boiling it and fashioning it into every tortilla. 

In addition to great eating, Elkhart provides excellent opportunities for travelers to burn off a few calories. Explore the Elkhart Riverwalk, a scenic trail along the St. Joseph River, or check out the RV/MH Hall of Fame, showcasing the history of the North American recreational vehicle industry, a major employer in the area. Other attractions include the Ruthmere Museum, the Midwest Museum of American Art, and the Wellfield Botanic Gardens.

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