The Chubby Trout
3421 Plaza Ct, Elkhart, IN 46514
Beer selection: Best of the best!
Food: Fresh and local Great Lakes seafood.
They say “Boy, you ain’t a poet — just a drunk with a pen”
All over and over, again and again
Lord they don’t know about the places I’ve been
It gets hard out here
I know I don’t look it
I used to have heart, but the highway took it
— Hayes Carll, “Hard Out Here”
As always, Texas song writer Hayes Carll hits the nail on the head. It is “hard out here”.
But one thing I’ve learned is this—if you follow a few rules of the road, life out here can be a bit easier.
One of those rules is don’t order seafood when you’re in Indiana.
Common sense kind of stuff actually.
But of course there are always exceptions. Like if you are within an hour’s drive of Lake Michigan.
Then you definitely want seafood. Specifically perch, walleye, blue fin or trout – so long as it comes fresh out of the Great Lakes and not some fish farm in Thailand.
Living within walking distance of the Atlantic Ocean, I’m a little spoiled when it comes to good seafood. Shrimp, oysters, crab, grouper, snapper — all fresh from the ocean.
But maybe that’s why the distinct taste of freshwater fish gets me so excited. It’s different than saltwater fish.
And it tastes good.
It’s little things like a pile of fried lake perch in the Flats that make a trip to Cleveland tolerable. Or how an appetizer of walleye cheeks will warm up a dead-of-winter trip to Minnesota.
Here in Elkhart, Indiana, in the frigid darkness of winter, the only thing that’s going to cheer me up is a visit to the wonderfully named Chubby Trout.
And while you can order any of the aforementioned Great Lakes specialties here, you have try their namesake dish—the Chubby Trout.
A generous filet of freshly caught Lake Michigan trout lightly fried to a crispy, flaky exterior, then topped with lobster basil stuffing and smothered in a decadent cream sauce. This dish is why they call it the GREAT Lakes.
Now, trout is known to be a bit dry and dull in the wrong hands. But not when it’s buried under all this goodness.
The Chubby Trout definitely knows how to make a Chubby Trout.
My appetizer of calamari was also delicious. No chewy rings or squid tentacles here. This is Grade A squid. Thick strips of the most tender, succulent squid, breaded and fried to perfection and served with a thick remoulade that would make any chef in New Orleans jealous.
Amid the hell of corporate chain restaurants that is Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, the Chubby Trout is a family-owned oasis of good taste and local specialties done right.
But did I mention the beer?
Oh yeah, I’m saving the best for last.
The Chubby Trout just happens to have the best beer selection in the entire state of Indiana.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. They don’t hand you a six page beer menu when you sit down. Remember, this is Elkhart – not Asheville or Portland.
But their page-long list is nothing but the best beers made of solid quality.
I chose two 20oz on draft – the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and the Schlafly Winter ESB.
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale is brewed by the same California folks who make Arrogant Bastard Ale and the awesome Smoked Porter.
I jumped at the chance to try this black IPA.
I like dark beers and I like hoppy beers. This is a rare beer that is both. And with an 8.7% ABV, I felt like I got my six bucks worth. Bargain!
The Schlafly Winter ESB was much lighter in color—and thinner in taste and alcohol content. It reflects its Midwestern roots. Tasty as it was with mild wintery spices like lemon and vanilla, it just couldn’t follow a hard act like the Sublimely Self-Righteous beer.
Nevertheless, the excellent beer selection and quality seafood dishes reflect the good taste of the owner of Chubby Trout.
You can tell a lot of care goes into the preparation of each dish. And a lot of thought and beer-tasting goes into their quest to offer quality, hard-to-find beers – especially for Elkhart.
This guy didn’t just buy whatever the local beer distributor was pushing like way too many other restaurant owners do.
This guy’s fridge is probably stocked with six-packs ranging from Portland, Maine all the way to Portland, Oregon in a dedicated search for the next great beer to add to his bar.
That’s a job I want.
And this is the kind of place I want to patronize.
Local trout and good beer. I can survive on that.