In Northeast Indiana, many things indicate that summer is just around the corner: the TinCaps home opener, the first lightning bug sighting, weekends at the lake and the first sunburn of the season, but perhaps none more so than the annual opening of The Deck at Don Hall’s Gas House. Constructed nine years ago along the St. Mary’s River, The Deck has become a symbol for summer in Indiana, serving up strong signature drinks and amazing food. I hadn’t been to The Gas House nor it’s little sister, The Deck, in years because I had never been impressed. The menu was boring and the food was bland. I am happy to find a lot has changed since my last visit. I’ve spent a lot of time at The Gas House Deck this season, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better outdoor dining experience in Fort Wayne. No matter the temperature, there’s always a nice breeze bustling through and plenty of good company, staff included.
Here are a few of my favorite items from the menu:
The California Burger ($8.50): A 10-ounce burger on a toasted onion roll with a choice of three toppings from the following: grilled onion, mushrooms, bacon, red peppers, lettuce/tomato/pickle, American cheese, Swiss cheese, bleu cheese, cheddar, pepperjack, provolone and jalapenos. I order mine medium rare and topped with lettuce/tomato/pickle, bacon and cheddar. The burger is a thin, hand-packed patty served on a soft and savory onion roll which complements the charred flavor of the burger. It’s perfect in it’s simplicity.
Beef Tenderloin Salad ($10): Sliced grilled filet mignon, potato wedges, bleu cheese, tomato, boiled egg and fried onions. This salad isn’t for sissies, if you can even call it a salad. The generous helping of tender beef and the gigantic potato wedges ratchet up the calorie count, but every single bite is simply divine.
Tuna Steak Sandwich ($11): A nice-sized tuna steak served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and wasabi mayo on a lightly buttered bun. Tuna steak can either be done just right or horribly wrong – there is no in between – and the folks at The Deck impressed me. I asked for it as rare as possible, and it came out lightly seared on the outside with just the right amount of wasabi mayo to give it the kick it needed.
Tacos de Bele ($9): Available with fish, brisket or chicken and served with pico de gallo, feta cheese and salsa verde. I love fish tacos, but I was hesitant to order them from The Deck. I mean, some Mexican restaurants fail miserably, and I have been hard-pressed to find good ones in town. The Deck’s Tacos de Bele with fish are heavenly. The fish is light and grilled just right, and the feta cheese, pico de gallo, and salsa verde pack a superb flavor punch.
Sesame Crusted Tuna Salad ($10): Candied ginger, wasabi peas, sesame seared sashimi tuna and ginger-soy vinaigrette. This was the first dish I had on my first visit back to Hall’s in years, and I was impressed. The tuna tastes fresh, and the ginger-soy vinaigrette is to die for. The candied ginger pieces and wasabi peas add some heat, but are tempered well with the flavors from the rest of the dish. It’s simply perfect for a riverside lunch in the summer.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous cocktails. The Deck has a full bar menu of signature drinks. Here is my favorite:
The Standard Russian ($7): Vodka, ginger beer, mint and lime. Not to be confused with The Russian Standard ($9), the exact same drink with a fancier description, The Standard Russian is refreshing and literally intoxicating. You can’t have too many if you intend to get anything done the rest of the day, or the next day for that matter.
Because the food and ambiance are so good, it’s nearly impossible to get a table without waiting over an hour if the weather is even mildly pleasant. It’s a clear indication that our city is hungry for more outdoor dining, especially along the rivers.
Here’s my tip: take the afternoon off and get there around two o’clock. You will likely find a few seats at the bar where the service is the best. You won’t regret it.