It’s not every day a restaurant opens that changes your life – and that’s not hyperbole. If you haven’t been to The Golden yet, allow me to introduce you to the third greatest love of my life, behind only my immediate family members. It has propelled my appreciation of farm-to-fork style dining to new heights.Having previously tested their concept in a pop-up craft cocktail setting, former Joseph Decuis phenoms Aaron Butts, Sean Richardson and Carmen McGee opened a permanent location this spring in the Ash Skyline Plaza in downtown Fort Wayne. Already well known for their unique and clever libations, The Golden’s opening was the most highly anticipated of the year, maybe even this decade. That’s saying a lot, considering a handful of impressive restaurants have come onto the scene this year alone.
Inside The Golden, big city feel meets small town culture. The wait staff dresses in casual attire, often donning Hawaiian shirts or T-shirts and flannels, not the white shirts and black slacks you might expect. While some people may have been intimidated to dine at Joseph Decuis due to its reputation as a fancy-pants and super expensive establishment, there’s no reason for anyone to be intimidated walking into The Golden. As its website says, The Golden is for everyone. The ambiance is urban and ultra clean, with modern décor and an open-concept kitchen.
Focusing on locally-sourced ingredients, the restaurant has taken dining in the Summit City to a whole new level – no wait, a whole new stratosphere. Of course, if you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying Aaron and Sean’s creations in the past, you know what culinary geniuses they are. They have an incomparable touch when it comes to blending flavors to make even the most ordinary ingredients shine.
Because the restaurant focuses on regional ingredients, the menu changes often, influenced by what is in season. If you’re accustomed to getting “the usual” wherever you dine, this might not be the place for you. But if you’re an adventurous eater who likes to try new things and push the limits of you palate, The Golden is your spirit animal. If you’re really concerned about whether you’ll find something you will like, check out the menu online before you visit. It’s updated regularly. And don’t be afraid to ask your server if you aren’t sure what something is. A friend said they didn’t enjoy their experience because they had to Google everything on the menu. The staff is there to help you navigate the choices.
Because the menu changes regularly, it is hard to recommend specific items, but I will call attention to The McGolden, one of the few consistent offerings. This dish, as the name suggests, is inspired by McDonald’s Big Mac. It is made with two beef patties, beer cheese and Dijonnaise and served on a honey bun with a side of fries. The patties, made from beef sourced from a local farm, are extra thin and cooked to a slight crunch. Typically, I like my meat medium rare, but that wouldn’t be right for this dish. Trust the chef to make it the way it should be. And the beer cheese? Whoa! The savory, yet tangy, flavor complements this dish just right. Perhaps the most telling sign that The Golden takes food preparation seriously is the ketchup, which is made in-house. If you like sugary, artificially flavored ketchup, you might not like it, but I love the natural flavor of real tomatoes sans a ton of added sugar.
Another favorite menu item is the Confit Chicken Wings, prepared with agave, citrus, jalapeno, and cilantro. I am a fan of wings. I once wrote an article that rated the best wings in town, which required me to eat my weight in wings in one month. When I wrote that article, I rated Tower’s wings number one, but The Golden’s bury them. Juicy, meaty goodness is drizzled with a sweet and tangy sauce and accented with a punch of spice from the jalapeno. The result is a very Korean-esque/Vietnamese flavor that will knock your socks off.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Golden’s brunch. Fort Wayne has waited a long time for a worthwhile brunch, and this is it. When I went, an open-faced tuna sandwich graced the menu. I’ve also sampled a heaping mound of berry pancakes and the Pig Face Hash, made with sweet potatoes and topped with a poached egg and pickled onions. Brunch also features my all-time favorite donut: the Old Fashioned Sour Cream from Hetty Arts Pastries.
Quality ingredients cost money, so The Golden’s prices are higher than other restaurants in town, but it is worth it. If you’re looking for a bargain, choose one of the hundreds of chain restaurants in town. You will not have another experience like this in Fort Wayne.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to The Golden! Belly up to the expansive bar, order a finely crafted cocktail from head barkeep Patti Nix, and make some new friends.