One year ago, Fort Wayne's first farm-to-fork restaurant opened downtown. Eddie Merlot's Executive Chef Matt Nolot and his wife Nicky took a leap of faith and ventured out on their own to open Tolon, and I, for one, am glad they did. I was a frequent visitor to Eddie Merlot's and loved discovering the new menu items Matt had created. Now that he has his own restaurant, he has even more freedom to let his creativity blossom, and the result is simply delicious.
Tolon is located on Harrison Street, adjacent from The Historic Landing. Street parking is available on Harrison and surrounding roads, but the lot just north of the restaurant is not for restaurant patrons. Keep this in mind when you visit, as you don't want your evening ruined when you discover your car has been towed.
Matt and Nicky have transformed the space into a cozy, intimate and upscale dining establishment. I love the rotating local art that graces the walls and the natural light that pours in through the front windows. The kitchen is located near the back, but is designed with an open concept - which means guests can peek in to see Matt and his staff at work. I am always fascinated by the moving parts within a well-run kitchen, and Matt runs a tight ship, which shines through in his entrees. Each dish is prepared with extra attention to detail. Nicky will admit that she and Matt are perfectionists, but when it comes to fine dining, that is a must. Not only must the entrees be flawless, but the service and experience must be as well.
Keep in mind, reservations are recommended. Since the space is small, they can serve only about 150 people per night, so if you show up unannounced, don't be offended when you can't get in. The staff will do everything it can to accommodate you. Lunchtime tends to be less busy, but I'd make a reservation to be safe.
Tolon sources its ingredients from local farms, gardens and farmers' markets. "Knowing that food hasn't been on a truck and trekked 1,800 miles but, rather, was picked that morning ensures the freshest quality possible. Knowing that the animals are cared for in a humane environment and not in a factory farm with no human contact makes for better quality, as well," says Nicky.
Tolon's partners include Gunthorp Farms, Hoffman Organics, Berry Hill Farms and several farms that offer seasonable produce during the summer. This commitment to local farmers not only brings the freshest possible food to the table, but it helps our local economy as well. That's a win win for northeast Indiana: we get to enjoy a top-notch dining experience and bolster our economy in multiple ways.
Because the menu relies on what is in season, it rotates regularly. Here are a few of my favorites from recent trips.
Duck Fat Frites, $8: My personal favorite on the menu is the duck fat frites, served with duck egg and basil aioli and smoked sea salt. The fries are cooked to a perfect outer crispiness and salted just right. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
Deviled Eggs, $6: Made with miso, sriracha, jowl bacon, chives, and sesame. Oh my! I am a big fan of deviled eggs, and I make a mean wasabi ginger version that is always a huge hit at parties, but these put mine to shame. Every single flavor shines through in perfect harmony. The sweet, the salty, the spicy - perfection.
Veal Chop, $34: A hearty veal chop served with house-made giardiniera, veal sausage, maple mustard and Brussels sprouts. I ordered mine medium rare, and it arrived cooked perfectly. The flavor combinations in this dish seemed to evolve with each bite. I loved the house-made giardiniera - spicy, but not too spicy. And the maple mustard added a tang that complemented the dish well. The Brussels sprouts were shaved, which allowed them to blend into the dish and add a nice texture.
Grass Fed Ribeye, $44: Served with bone marrow gratinee, smoked blue cheese, watercress and radish. According to Matt, the bone marrow gratinee is becoming their claim to fame. I did try it and I enjoyed the flavors, but I couldn't get past the texture (it probably didn't help that it is served in a large bone). The steak was delicious though, lean and buttery.
Tolon also offers an innovative craft cocktail menu, again utilizing local ingredients. On a recent trip, I tried the Soulless Ginger, a drink that Nicky concocted for a regional competition. It is made with Three Rivers 122 un-aged corn whiskey, New Holland Clockwork Orange, Regan's Orange Bitters, fresh lemon juice, ginger thyme simple syrup, fresh ginger and fresh thyme. I'd highly recommend this drink, especially paired with the Veal Chop. The simple syrup added a nice hint of sweetness, but it was not overpowering. The ginger and thyme played well with each other, and the whiskey was nice and smooth.
If you're looking for a place for a romantic date night or to celebrate a special occasion, Tolon is it. The food, service and ambiance are second to none.
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