When walking into Hotel Elkhart, Kimberly Christner wants guests to feel comfortable.
The circa 1923 brick building at 500 S. Main St. in downtown Elkhart recently opened in September after a two-year, $19 million renovation where modern touches and old-school glam are combined.
But Christner, the president and CEO of Cornerstone Hospitality who oversees operations, said the upscale comfort goes beyond the 93 hotel rooms.
“(We) try to make both restaurants have some entrees that feel higher end but approachable,” Christner said. “I think that’s what we’re trying to do with this entire complex, for you to feel like you’re in a special place but it’s approachable.”
Relish Cafe and Confections is on the southeastern portion of the ground floor, featuring a full espresso bar and baked goods as well as a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In a nod to its name, Christner said the purpose of Relish is to encourage guests to enjoy life, with freshly baked pastries, decadent milkshakes and hand-made burgers on the menu. For those wanting a lighter option, soups, salads and yogurts are also offered.
“It’s about relishing life, relishing friends, relishing time together, relishing food,” she said. “It’s all about relishing everything and being kind of grateful.”
The light-and-bright area can currently seat about 65 people, with Christner saying it has been limited because of a staffing shortage. However, they’ve made good use of the additional space, highlighting a retail area that features other locally owned businesses, such as Dutch Kernel popcorn, Goshen-based Refinery Coffee and South Bend-based Sanaa Chocolates.
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Relish’s counterpart is The Corner Bar, on the northeastern side of the ground floor.
The moody bar instantly takes guests 21 and over back to the 1920s, with dark paint, velvet furniture and gold accents.
“Everything was done to kind of harken back to that era of time and I think people just like that and gravitate toward that,” Christner said. “It doesn’t feel like Elkhart — it feels like a new space, new place and it’s not the same ol’ same ol’.”
Bartenders can create hand-crafted cocktails like old fashioneds and Manhattans. A new original cocktail menu will be released soon, Christner said, while for now six beers are on tap, in addition to a well-developed wine list.
Small bites and shared plates like sushi nachos, crab cakes and Fighting Irish nachos are offered, while larger options like volcano shrimp, pulled pork sandwiches and signature burgers are also available.
It “has a feeling of freshness and usualness but also love the feeling of coming in and feeling comfortable and that’s what we wanted,” Christner said. “We want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable in this space regardless of age or demographic.”
But in addition to the two eateries on the ground floor, Hotel Elkhart has taken things a step above — literally.
Rooftop bar High Note overlooks downtown Elkhart and its surrounding area. Weather permitting, customers can sit by fireplaces or use blankets when drinking upstairs. Christner said they intend to keep it open as long as customers still want to visit.
“As long as you can get alcohol, you can stay warm,” she said.
The area is currently for customers 21 and over during its operation, but during the daytime, hotel guests or families can purchase an item from Relish and are welcome to sit on the rooftop area. Food is currently not served at High Note, but Christner said there are plans to add to it once a formal outdoor bar is established. For now, a simple table with all the necessities needed for drinking is just inside of the outdoor area.
In addition to the new bar offering, Christner said, they plan to expand the rooftop bar seating area in the spring, as well as offering ground floor outdoor patio space for Relish and The Corner Bar.
Relish Cafe and Confections is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 6 to 11 a.m. The Corner Bar and High Note are open Monday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. All three operations are open to the public.
J2 Marketing moves; The Garage Arcade Bar expands
A local marketing business is on the move to make way as its neighboring arcade bar plans to expand.
J2 Marketing will move from 503 E. Colfax Ave. in the East Bank neighborhood to 137 N. Michigan St. in downtown South Bend, across from restaurant Fatbird and the Morris Performing Arts Center. Principal Erik Johnson said the reason behind the move was the business’ need to expand, saying the company will be able to to double in size. Johnson also said they wanted to be in a more prominent area and made a statement in painting the building’s exterior black.
“It got people talking about it and that’s the goal,” he said. “Hopefully it spurs on more creativity and development and shows that people are making an effort. We believe in South Bend as an organization, and we are buying into the city and want to make bold investments.”
The move was also prompted by the desire to expand The Garage Arcade Bar. Johnson, who also owns the bar, said the business has done well since opening in 2019 and the expansion into the entire building at Hill Street and Colfax Avenue will allow for more space for a larger bar and an area for more music and art events.
The arcade “games are still going to be there, but it’s going to be a really nice unique design,” he said.
J2 is scheduled to move into the Michigan Street building next month, and renovations at The Garage Arcade Bar will begin shortly after.
Raise your hand
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, so I am compiling a list of local restaurants offering dine-in and carryout services for the holiday. If you own or know of a business or group that is offering Thanksgiving dinner options this year, please email me at [email protected] to be included on the list.
Contact Mary Shown at 574-235-6244 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @maryshownSBT and @marketbasketSBT.