Best of Michiana

Ladies of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College Picks

Best Upscale Restaurant – La Salle Grill in downtown South Bend. A dinner here feels like a special event. The Carriage House on Adams Road west of Portage is also a good choice for a special occasion.

Best Romantic Restaurant – Tabor Hill Winery in Berrien Springs, Michigan. The atmosphere, food, and service are usually great, and the view of the winery is very relaxing. The Woodfire Trattoria Grill in Dowagiac has an incredible menu and offers music on the weekends. For something closer to town, Cafe Navarre or La Salle Grill in downtown South Bend or Bonefish Grill in Mishawaka are also very nice.

Most Fun Restaurant – Fiddler’s Hearth in Downtown South Bend (also best Irish food!). Call ahead or check the website ( to find out the evening entertainment schedule.

Best Mexican Restaurant – Fiesta Tapatia (between Grape and Main on McKinley in Mishawaka) The salsa, and food in general, are authentic and of good quality. La Esperanza on Ironwood and Mazatlan on McKinley are also local favorites. Puerta Vallarta, located around the corner from Outback near Grape Road, has very good Tortilla Soup.

Best Korean Restaurant – Seoul Gardens on McKinley has good food and a nice atmosphere.

Best Thai Restaurant – TBD

Best Japanese Restaurant – Mantuba Japanese Restaurant on McKinley west of Ironwood has fabulous food. Also recommended is the Toyo Grill on Edison next to the Bonefish Grill.

Best Indian Restaurant – The Indian Garden Restaurant on W Edison Rd. has delicious food.

Best Mediterranean Restaurant – Elias’ Restaurant on S.R. 23 across from Martins. They have hummus and pita and falafel that are yummy and authentic.

Best Pizza – Bruno’s, Barnaby’s, or Gianetto’s (Chicago Style in 100 Center, Mishawaka). All are local establishments and each has a signature style of pizza. Also recommended is Polito’s on Hickory near Town and Country Shopping Center.

Best Hamburger – Redamaks in New Buffalo, Michigan just off of Red Arrow Highway not only has a great hamburger but has a family atmosphere that is worth the drive. Closer to home, the Oaken Bucket, on Ironwood south of Jefferson, has great burgers, and in nice weather outdoor dining is possible on a patio that overlooks the river.

Best Prime Rib – Heston Bar in La Porte, Indiana or Skip’s Other Place on Red Arrow Highway near Sawyer, Michigan both have prime rib that melts in your mouth and great steaks as well. Closer to home, Eddie’s Steak Shack in Granger is very good.

Best Italian Restaurant – Sunny Italy (on Niles Avenue in South Bend) has good food, and the restaurant has a long, local tradition. For campus tradition, as well as great food, Rocco’s on South Bend Avenue can’t be beat. Carmela’s, next to Macri’s Italian Bakery on Niles Avenue near downtown South Bend has a nice, romantic atmosphere. Ciao’s, a fine restaurant that serves authentic Italian cuisine, recently reopened on Michigan Avenue in downtown South Bend. Papa Vino’s in Mishawaka is a great family place and the food is also very good.

Best Chinese Restaurant – Mandarin House at the corner of Ironwood and Edison in South Bend. J.W. Chen’s on South Bend Avenue is also a local favorite. Taste of Asia on Main St. in Mishawaka and China House on Mishawaka Avenue are also suggested, especially for their carry out.

Best Breakfast – Original Pancake House on Ironwood near Edison. Uptown Kitchen behind Heritage Square near Main and S.R. 23 in Granger has great food and also serves a wonderful brunch, but the restaurant can be very noisy. Also suggested are Le Peep in downtown South Bend (also a good lunch option) and the American Pancake House on Grape Road.

Best Spot to Meet a Friend for Lunch – The Mark on Eddy Street is a great place to meet. Panera Bread on Main Street in Mishawaka is also suggested. Sorin’s in the Morris Inn on the Notre Dame campus is suggested for a special occasion.

Best Desserts – South Bend Chocolate Café in Downtown South Bend has a wide variety of sinful options for chocolate lovers, or Yesterday’s in Granger has delicious desserts large enough for two (at least) to share. Tippecanoe Place, also near downtown South Bend is another good choice (their chocolate mousse is especially yummy). Indulgence on Edison Rd. is also suggested.

Best Bakery – West End Bakery on 7th St. in Mishawaka is a long time favorite in the area. Macri’s Italian Bakery on Niles Avenue near downtown South Bend has bread, cakes and pastries that are worth the calories, and Dainty Maid Bakery in downtown South Bend bakes Danish rolls that are scrumptious.

Best Outdoor Attraction – Warren Dunes State Park – Sawyer, Michigan. Those who prefer lots of amenities might prefer Silver Beach in St. Joseph Michigan, but for a day of outdoor fun, or better yet camping, the sights and heights of Warren Dunes can’t be beat. Pokagon State Park near Angola, Indiana also has good camping along with a very nice Inn, and a Toboggan Run that makes it a good winter destination as well. St. Patrick’s Park is a great spot for a walk along the river that is closer to home. Also closer to home, the Potowatomi Zoo is a good place for a nice stroll with the kids.

Best Place for a Picnic – Fernwood Botanical Garden in Buchanan, Michigan is a great place for those who don’t want to get a lot of sand in their food. However there are no picnic tables so bring a blanket. The trails and exhibits are also a big hit with the kids. For larger groups, Potowatomi Park has a nice picnic area right outside the zoo area.

Best Gardens – Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Buchanan Michigan, International Gardens near Michigan City, or the Amish Quilt Garden Tour in Elkhart County are all worth the time and the drive. Fernwood Botanical Garden is best in spring when all of the fruit trees are in bloom.

Best Shopping – Lighthouse Outlet Mall in Michigan City, Indiana is best for bargains. Red Arrow Highway along the Lake Michigan Coast in Michigan from New Buffalo to St. Joseph, Michigan is best for antiques and art galleries. The South Bend Farmer’s Market off of Mishawaka Avenue has a large number of vendors that complement the local meats and produce.

Best Spring Drive – Red Bud Trail in Berrien Springs Michigan ending at Fernwood Botanical Gardens. This may also be the best fall drive.

Best Museum – Menno-Hof Mennonite/Amish Visitor’s Center in Shipshewana, Indiana on State Route 5. Both kids and adults can enjoy the interactive exhibits at this very well done display of Amish and Mennonite history, beliefs and cultural heritage. Also suggested are our local art museums. The Snite Museum of Art on the Notre Dame Campus and the South Bend Regional Museum of Art in downtown South Bend are truly places to be proud of and well worth visiting. Also, the Heston Steam Museum in La Porte, Indiana is a great place for train lovers of all ages and is open most weekends in the summer and fall.

Best Children’s Museum – Although the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis is the best by far, the Curious Kid’s Museum in St. Joseph, Michigan is also very nice. The Chicago Children’s Museum is also great for young children, but we hear they are moving it off of Navy Pier, so call ahead.

Best Apple Orchard – Treemendous Tree Farm in EauClaire, Michigan. On weekends during the fall, wagons take patrons out to the orchards to choose from a wide variety of the season’s best apples. Jollay Orchards in Coloma, Michigan is another great place for families.

Best Entertainment – We have a number of wonderful theaters in the surrounding area, none better that the Notre Dame Performing Arts Center. At the Center’s Browning Cinema, the Pac 100 movies that are the 100 movies that everyone should see in their lifetime, and the great foreign films shown free or at discounted prices are suggested. The Vicker’s Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan is also great for movies. For live theatre the Morris Performing Arts Center, St. Mary’s O’Laughlin Auditorium, and Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre are all suggested.

Best Winter Activity – Swiss Valley Ski Area near Jones, Michigan, This is definitely not the Rockies, but there are great kids learn to ski programs, and the prices are generally reasonable. St. Patrick’s Park and Bendix Woods also have downhill tubing cross-country ski rental programs that are great when the snow conditions are good. Copsaholm, at the South Bend Historical Society on Washington Street near South Bend, is a great old mansion and is decorated very authentically at Christmas time. The Historical Society also has the Kid’s First Children’s Museum, which is a nice indoor activity for smaller children.