Restaurant Notes: Original Caliente and Empyrean Café closed; Who Cut the Cheese? looks for honor

The yellow exterior is gone because Caliente, 1123 E. State Blvd., has closed. However, fans can still find Cuban fare at the second location Caliente Cuban, 120 W. Wayne St. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of
BurgerFi will give a free small frozen custard to guests who ask for one on Wednesday, which is National Frozen Custard Day. (Photo courtesy of BurgerFi)
Dairy Queen, 10207 Illinois Road, has gone native with its landscaping. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of
Dairy Queen, 10207 Illinois Road, has native flowers in its landscaping. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of

When my co-worker said Caliente on East State Boulevard was closed, I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly. Closed?

The second location on West Wayne Street is now where all the action is – it received approval for a liquor license, underwent some kitchen renovations and a storage area is being turned into an alley-accessible bar. Now the Rodriguezes are one big happy family again in the same spot.

Patriarch Gus has been cooking at Caliente Cuban, 120 W. Wayne St., with the oldest son, Nestor, managing, while matriarch Yalili Mesa ran the original spot opened at 1123 E. State Blvd.

The bright yellow facade on State is now painted red, cream white and green, reminiscent of the Mexican flag. Hmm. It’s in the East State Village and close to the Acme and El Azteca to the west and to the east is Klemm’s Candlelight Cafe and Sweet Lou’s Pizza.

Caliente Cuban, which just celebrated its first anniversary Aug. 4 and has a paw-friendly patio, will hold an Allen County SPCA adoption fundraiser 6-9 p.m. Friday. Live music and cute dogs are promised. Patio space is reservation only.

Best cheese in town?

Mobile food truck Who Cut the Cheese? is calling all Cheeseheads to vote for it for‘s 2018 Grilled Cheese Food Truck Of The Year. The local food truck is among 10 suggested by readers. Votes will be accepted until 7:59 p.m. (Eastern time) Aug. 17 here or by sending email to One vote per person per day will be counted.

It’s competing against trucks that also have interesting names: Wicked ‘Wich of Dayton, Ohio, and American Meltdown of Durham, N.C.

Who Cut the Cheese? uses cheese from Murray’s Cheese Shop and Nolt’s Marketplace Deli. Get your calcium fix with its Oh My Gouda that has Dutch smoked gouda and Go Fig or Go Home featuring double cream Brie and its in-house apricot fig jam. It’s at Ted’s Market 5-9 p.m. the next three Thursdays.

Empyrean Cafe closed

Empyrean Cafe has closed at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. I’ll miss them. They had great dishes, soups and salads with biodegradable bamboo cutlery and to-go boxes. See more restaurant closures near the end of the column.

BakerStreet joins with HT2

BakerStreet, 4820 N. Clinton St., is partnering with HT2 Cocktail Lounge.

“Having known the owners for years, it was a no-brainer to pair our inventive cuisine with their expert mixologists,” BakerStreet said in a news release. “Not to mention, we love supporting our troops!”

HT2 craft cocktail lounge, 10212 Chestnut Plaza Drive, opened in May 2017. The HT in HT2 stands for Hotel Tango. That’s the place started by Marine veteran Travis Barnes, a longtime friend of HT2 owner, Nick Ladig.

A six-course dinner series with BakerStreet Steakhouse will be held Monday with 50 seats available. All courses will be paired with exclusive HT2 cocktails only offered at this event.

Buy tickets for $100 per person at HT2 or by calling 260-616-0444.

Course 1: Seared sashimi tuna / kiwi-mango salsa / soy syrup

Course 2: Almonds / sweet corn / cucumber / crab

Course 3: Pork belly / cornbread / jalapeno slaw

Course 4: Local heirloom tomatoes/ fresh mozzarella / micro basil & arugula salad

Course 5: Short rib / Korean barbecue sauce / vegetable lo mein

Course 6: Jack-o-lantern apple butter spiced cake / cinnamon crumble / pumpkin ice cream

For questions, send email to or call 260-484-3300.

Free frozen custard

In honor of National Frozen Custard Day on Wednesday, BurgerFi locations nationwide will be offering a free small custard when you mention the offer at the counter. Best of all, no purchase is necessary. If the temperatures are in the 90s again, that’s one cool deal. The Fort Wayne restaurant is at 7777 Coldwater Road.

Volunteers needed

The 10th annual Taste of the Arts Festival still needs volunteers to help out in multiple positions. See the descriptions and get signed up here. All volunteers must participate in a one-hour training session 6-7 p.m. Aug. 16 or 17.

The family-friendly outdoor festival will be held Aug. 24 and 25 in the 300 block of West Main Street. Admission is free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from local restaurants. The first night runs 5-10 p.m. and includes a block party and concert. The second day runs 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and will have live performances of music, dance, and theater on nine stages. Watch painters work at the Kekionga Plein Air Paint Out & Art Sale or pick up a piece at the Artlink Contemporary Gallery’s Art Market.

Restaurants that plan to participate include 816 Pint & Slice, Hop River Brewing Co., Ivy Tech Grasshopper Food Truck, Sweets So Geek and Ziffles. Find a full list here.

Veg’n Brew Fest fundraiser again at Hop River

Fort Wayne Veg’n Brew Fest will hold a second fundraiser at Hop River Brewing, 1515 N. Harrison St., 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 16. Ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of vegan food and two beers to be announced will be donated to the nonprofit festival, which will hold its inaugural event at Headwaters Park on Oct. 6.

Hop River, which recently won two gold medals at the Indiana Brewers’ Cup competition, has a large selection of vegan options. It’s menu has included sriracha nuts, muhammara dip, vegan sloppy joe and the vegetable muffuletta.

Calling Notre Dame fans

At 5:15 p.m. Aug. 28 the Notre Dame Alumni Club will host a happy hour – that may last 2 or 3 – at Three Rivers Distilling Company, 224 E. Wallace St. The informal social event is open to all Notre Dame friends. This event is for ages 21 and over. Members will get a bit of a tour of the facility and be able to partake in the food and drinks in the tasting room.

Going native

Aside from the rabbits I saw one night outside the Rally’s on West Jefferson Boulevard, the best sight I’ve had while ordering food in a drive-through was the milkweed, spiderwort and coneflowers outside Dairy Queen on Illinois Road by Scott Road. The native flowers provided a bit of color – even though the spiderwort had completed its round of blooms. I passed the time waiting to order by looking for monarch caterpillars on the milkweed.


Either I missed them and they’ve closed or they’re not coming after all. I saw a sign on Wells Street for an Ecuadoran restaurant and thought it was coming. However, the front window of 1645 N. Wells St. has been stripped and a “For rent” sign is up. Same at 5230 Bluffton Road that had a red Indiana-shaped Hoosier Daddy’s Barbecue sign. That sign just has to be reused somewhere.

More closings

Reader Bruce A. Becker reported these closings: McDonald’s in Walmart on Maysville Road and Bob Evans in Auburn; also Burger King, 3710 E. Dupont Road, temporarily for remodeling.

Find other Restaurant News here.

Have restaurant news? Call Lisa M. Esquivel Long at 260-461-8354, send email to or a fax to 260-461-8817 or write Restaurant Notes, C/O The News-Sentinel, PO Box 102, Fort Wayne, IN 46802.