Green Frog Inn
I have to confess I had only been to the Green Frog Inn maybe a handful of times in the 15 years that I have been actively frequenting local venues. Yeah, yeah I know. Lame, right? Well, here’s the thing: you can’t be a voracious barfly-foodie-scenester and raise kids at the same time – okay you can, but something or someone will suffer. So you pick and choose. And sometimes you fall into a rut – hopefully a good rut since I firmly believe we all eventually land at and begin to frequent spots routinely (be it for the food, booze, or company) because something on all levels works. Admittedly, I became a creature of habit the past decade, with maybe three to five spots getting most of my money.
And I felt guilty at times to be sure. Many nights I drove past location X, Y or Z and thought, “Damn. So and so was just telling me about the killer [_________] you can get for a great price there, and oh, that’s that little hole in the wall that [_________]swears has the best [_________] in town. Wait, so that’s the place [_________]claims has the only “real” [_________]served in the entire city.” You know the feeling.
There were several places like these that haunted me. But at the top of my “guilty” list, without a doubt, was the Green Frog Inn. I felt like I owed this place more visits. I felt like I had not given it a fair shake by any stretch. I knew it as “that bar the mayor owns,” and maybe the political connotation kept me away. Or maybe I was just lazy. Whatever the case, some time this past fall I heard the bar had changed hands. Something clicked. Around September, as the leaves began to blush and jaundice and the air cooled, I decided to make the Green Frog my mission.
Of course, I played it a bit safe and went first on Wednesday for “Wing Night.” I had been before and honestly thought it was just okay. The prices were great – 50 cents – and the flavors were money, but on at least one occasion they were under-cooked. Not this time. I ordered 24 wings in three different flavors: garlic herb, bourbon and citrus chipotle. Cooked to a golden and slightly crispy perfection, every last one of them was delicious. The standout for me was the garlic herb. No wonder The Frog recently won Wingfest. They are definitely in my top three for local wings.
Another feature that had under-impressed me in the past was the beer selection. It seemed routine, with all the usual “NASCAR ad” types. Well, new owner Matt Billings took care of that. As he said recently, “The most exotic beer on the menu when I took over was Killians. Now we offer 50 craft beers.” Looking to the left of the bar at the stand-up cooler I saw the proof: Three Floyds, Bells, Dogfish Head, Lagunitas and on and on. So many choices, so many empty, shiny glasses to fill. And if you’re wanting a glass full of something stronger, try the Moscow Mule. It’s made with Prairie Organic Vodka, Crabbies Ginger Beer, real lime, and quality bitters. Delectable.
On a second visit I went on a Thursday night for Comedy Night. The local troupe Jirk Comedy was hosting. Admittedly, I did not expect much. Fort Wayne is not known for its comedy scene – yet.
Once again the Frog delivered. As I polished off a Didier New York strip cooked to just the right medium for only $11.95, I heard some pretty funny material. Most of these performers were local too.
As Billings told me recently, “This is still the Green Frog. Anyone who has come here for years or even decades can still expect the same neighborhood bar that they have always enjoyed. But at the same time we are trying new things.”
The one thing that will not change, according to Billings, is the food. Everything at the Frog is homemade, even down to the noodles that go into the three daily offerings like chicken noodle. The legendary Manny, a tall, slender East Indian who came to the Frog about eight years ago, is the architect of these soups, along with other menu offerings. He puts in hours of handmade attention to the menu so that clients taste the difference. Even the salad dressings are made by Manny.
On another visit I tasted this difference when I stopped in on a Tuesday for open mic night. It was also “two dollar you build it” burger night. That’s right. Two dollars to start and add your toppings for 50 cents to a dollar. Before my burger, however, I decided to order the ham and bean soup. I had recently ordered the same at another local bar/restaurant and was sorely disappointed. The flavor was dull, and the ham was the same ham used in the salad bar – tiny squares of lackluster. Not this soup. It had that smoky flavor that comes from using an actual ham hock as a base starter, along with just the right amount of onion and garlic and white pepper to give it a bit of kick. But what really stood out was the ham: thick, succulent pieces, and plenty of them. Impressive for soup at a bar, to say the least. In my opinion, it holds its own with any ham and bean soup I’ve had at local restaurants.
So now I’ve remedied my guilt and found a new routine stop. And I am really glad I did. The Frog is cozy, has a great staff and offers quality product. What else is there?
And Billings has plans for the Frog. Plans that include an expansion of the patio area that will mean great things for seasonal activities at the Frog.
“It has only been going on eight months since I took over,” says Billings with a face-stretching grin, “and it feels like just yesterday that I was handed the keys to this place. It is a lot of work, but I am absolutely loving every minute of it.”
Hop on, Matt, hop on. Cheers.
Click on the headings below for full calendars
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Josh Johnson — Comedy at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads & Spirits, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $10, (260) 456-7005
Vince Gill — Country at Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $39.50-$79.50, 424-5665
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Community Orchestra — Mussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Open Mic Night — Variety at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 489-0286
Scratch N Sniff 2.0 w/1/4 Kit Kurt — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8 p.m., no cover, 432-8966
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Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Three Rivers Karaoke w/Rob — at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
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41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709