One of downtown South Bend’s most beloved dining establishments, Fiddler’s Hearth is nestled into a cozy building on Main St. in South Bend. But it could just as easily be nestled in the heart of downtown Dublin. Fiddler’s Hearth is a more-than-ten-year-old restaurant that prides itself on representing the cuisine of the seven Celtic nations. This must-visit South Bend restaurant is appropriately featured in Midwest Living’s South Bend Foodie Trail.
The menu at Fiddler’s houses Celtic specialties such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and steak and Guinness pie, as well as more modern dishes that are inspired by the owners’ travels to the Celtic nations. The fish and chips is a of course a classic Irish indulgence – and at Fiddler’s Hearth it comes with a true South Bend twist – arriving at your table steaming hot and wrapped in newspaper – the South Bend Tribune of course!
The atmosphere at Fiddler’s Hearth can be described in one word: homey. Every detail reminds you of a quaint cottage from the arm chairs surrounding a warm fireplace, to the couch that serves as seating at one of the tables, and the corner full of children’s toys and games. In fact, Carol & Terry Meehan, the proprietors of Fiddler’s, invite you to linger – and play those board games and puzzles. Start a game with friends or join a tournament and make new friends. The folks at Fiddler’s Hearth have perfected the balance between family-friendly and fun dining. In fact – it truly is family dining, as there are multiple tables with seating for multiple parties and no hostess stand – seating is all first-come first served.
Chef Tony Nafrady is responsible for Fiddler’s extensive menu. You might want to start with the roasted beet and spinach salad. This unique salad also included feta cheese, tangerine, fried turnip, warm rutabaga and a homemade sherry vinaigrette – YUM! This salad is the perfect start to a delicious meal, and the roasted beets will be sure to convert anyone who is not a fan of the root vegetable (including myself!). There was a good mix of textures with the creamy feta and different vegetables, and the sherry vinaigrette has the perfect tart-to-sweet ratio. Another great option is the pear and walnut salad – especially tasty with a little chicken added.
The Molly Malone Stew has been on the menu since the restaurant opened its doors ten years ago – and for good reason. This traditional seafood stew is packed with shrimp, bay scallops, mussels, clams, crab, cod, mushrooms and barley, and is served with lots of bread for dipping! This stew has a sweeter taste than the typical tomato-based-broth soup or stew, but it complements the flavors of the various fish and shellfish so well that it is hard to stop eating! This stick to your ribs dish is one not to be missed.
Of course you can’t go wrong with the traditional Irish classic of corned beef and cabbage – a staple on the menu just like back in Ireland. A great twist on the dish is the Irish Bacon & cabbage option – delicious and an enormous serving! You’ll probably be asking for a doggie bag after this delectable meal.
For dessert, the White Chocolate Bread Pudding and Sweet Whiskey Cream, yes, you read that correctly… is divine! The bread in the pudding is the day-old remnants of Fiddler’s homemade “brown bread” and scones, and the raisins have been soaked in whiskey before being baked off. This dessert is described on the menu as “insanely rich.” Be careful if the kids are indulging, and ask for the sweet treat without the Whiskey Cream finish.
Fiddler’s Hearth also offers afternoon tea from 2-4pm every day, which includes a three-tiered display of finger foods. The restaurant also has live music every day of the week, with performances taking place during Sunday brunch so children get a chance to take in a show as well. Speaking of Sunday brunch – it might be the best in town. Two great buffets – one breakfast oriented and one more geared for Sunday dinner – all with some great tunes and some great company to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning or early afternoon.
With their 26 beers on tap featuring domestic craft and international brews, Fiddler’s Hearth is also a great place to have a drink and watch a game. And for those of you interested in pairing your drink with interesting dishes, keep an eye out for Fiddler’s special events in which Chef Tony prepares small plates that complement the flavors of featured beers or scotches.
Fiddler’s Hearth is clearly one of downtown South Bend’s most unique dining establishments. South Bend is proud to be home of the Irish, and Fiddler’s Hearth certainly represents that pride perfectly.
Instead of an Irish Blessing, we will leave you with a recipe for one of Fiddler’s homemade salad dressings… Slainte!
CREAMY CITRUS HERB DRESSING
1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp finely chopped tarragon
3 Tbsp malt vinegar
2 Tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Let sit in the refrigerator for an hour to let the ingredients “mingle.” Store in refrigerator up to 7 days.