Opinion

Gems in the Bend: Drinking and dining on a student budget

Photo/KENDALL ASBELL

Photo/KENDALL ASBELL

By: KENDALL ASBELL
Staff Writer
@kendallasbell

This week in Gems in the Bend, we’ll be featuring a lesser-known bar located downtown, and this gastro pub has a style of its own.

This Week: LaSalle Tavern

Over the past few years, speakeasy bars have been trending in coastal cities like Los Angeles and New York. These “throwback” establishments serve up custom cocktails, while creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the days of Al Capone. It’s the kind of bar you wouldn’t typically expect to see in a Midwestern city like South Bend—where beer, not cocktails, reigns supreme. But the innovative owners of LaSalle Grill decided to tap into this trend and bring their own version of a gastro pub to downtown South Bend.

LaSalle Tavern lies just up a set of stairs in the back of the LaSalle Grill restaurant located at 115 Colfax Ave. To the uninitiated, this little gem can be hard to find, as it remains tucked away atop the more well-known La Salle Grill. Fear not, however, as the downstairs staff are happy to point customers to the bar upstairs. If the restaurant is closed, you can also enter through the back door that is connected to a small parking lot that is shared with the Morris Performing Arts center. Access to the parking lot is off Main Street.

Whether one is a whiskey connoisseur or simply a local beer enthusiast, the LaSalle Tavern has got you covered, featuring 15 craft beers on draft and 120 different types of whiskeys, including ryes and scotches. If you’d like to broaden your whiskey tasting horizons and start learning more about different varieties, Tuesday nights offer paired whiskey tasters for $9 to $15 a flight.

If you prefer to just sip on some local brews Thursday nights also feature $2 off all Indiana and Michigan pints of draft beer. The rotation of beers changes almost daily, so you are sure to find a new line up almost every time you visit. The staff is also happy to pour you a couple samples to ensure you find that perfect beer for your palette.

Although the weekdays tend to carry a more relaxed vibe, weekend nights are exactly the opposite, with free live music playing from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and 9 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays. The bands vary in style and popularity. This weekend, for instance, the bar will feature two solo artists, Tommy Hujduk and Lucas Miner on Friday night and popular local indie-rock band Ember Jar on Saturday night. The acoustics in the bar are quite good, and the musical talent is even better. Most of the acts are local bands. As such, there’s the added bonus of feeling that you’re supporting local artists.

The space in the bar also lends itself to either a large group or intimate dates. The main bar features high ceilings and a warm decor. There are several long high top tables for groups as well a smaller four-person tables for cozier setting. If you desire a little more privacy, there is also a small backroom that is a bit quieter and more concealed.

The LaSalle name has been a venerable fixture in South Bend. Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle was the first European explorer to reach the area in 1679. In similar fashion, the building that houses the LaSalle Grill and Tavern occupy is the oldest commercial building located in downtown South Bend. This lends itself to a charming, old style feel. So, next time you want to get out of the house for some beer, wine, or custom cocktails, put LaSalle Tavern on your list and explore a little known gem in The Bend.

Photo/KENDALL ASBELL

Photo/KENDALL ASBELL

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