The past and present owners of Laycoff's Tavern have deep culinary roots to some of Fort Wayne’s favorite eateries. In the late 1990s, the Laycoff family sold the family business to Jimmy Sullivan, who brings his own culinary history. His family’s original recipes are used at Laycoff's.
Lazar and Alexandria Laycoff - both had Macedonian roots - opened the tavern in 1956. The business was handed down to their son, Cyril, and his wife Barbara, who in turn sold it to Sullivan. Jimmy himself has roots that tie him to two of Fort Wayne's iconic restaurant franchises – Casa D'Angelo and Big Boy.
He has spiffed up the exterior of Laycoff's, courtesy of a recent facade grant from the city of Fort Wayne. I'm so happy they kept their vintage neon sign.
The interior’s knotty pine paneling is covered with beer signs and lots of family photos.
Our lunch began by diving into Laycoff's veggie basket appetizer. I rationalized eating deep-fried food was "healthy" since it involved vegetables. Curly fries, onion rings, mushrooms, jalapeno poppers and cauliflower were served with creamy ranch dipping sauce. The breading was crunchy and the vegetables were piping hot on the inside. I liked the onion rings and mushrooms the best. My lunch buddy was surprised at how delicious the cauliflower was. The appetizer was not at all greasy; I would not hesitate to order it again.
You can taste the family history when you bite into the salad. The dressing recipe was handed down from a D'Angelo family restaurant in St. Louis. The taste is familiar to anyone who’s eaten a salad at a Casa restaurant. This version had more of the vinegary bite in the dressing and no huge croutons. The lightly dressed salad was cold and the romaine lettuce was fresh. The small portion was still generous in size. I preferred the Laycoff version of this salad.
Anytime I see an item on a menu that says "signature," I have to order it. In this instance, I chose the signature Italian grinder - the Laycoff's Original. This grinder was meaty. Slices of ham, salami and pepperoni made this sandwich a meat lover’s paradise. Onion, green pepper, lettuce and mozzarella cheese also were on this six-inch grinder. I loved the bread and was happy that there wasn’t a ton of cheese. The flavors of the ingredients work so well together that you won’t need to add a condiment.
The sausage roll my friend ordered was large enough for two people. The roll had just three ingredients - finely ground American sausage, mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. All were stuffed in a the roll that was bubbly due to air pockets that puffed up during baking. The roll is tasty all on its own, but if you want to an additional layer of flavor, you’ll want to squeeze a bit of Laycoff's BBQ sauce on top. The sauce had a sweet, smoky, woodsy taste. I liked it so much, I sampled a spoonful all by itself.
Pizza is also on the menu. Desserts aren’t, but with the size of meal portions, you won’t have room for it anyway.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Laura Weston-Elchert at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 461-8468.