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Green Frog Inn
Out of a possible five

Green Frog jumping with cozy feel, tasty food

It fits the blueprint of a neighborhood bar to a T.

Heck, even Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said a lot of people consider it “Fort Wayne’s Cheers.” Of course, he may be prejudiced considering his wife, Cindy, owns the place.

He isn’t lying about the Green Frog Inn on Spring Street, however. It has about the perfect atmosphere – rustic and not at all run-down. Words like cozy, comfy and familiar come to mind.

“I think it really gives people a flavor of what a neighborhood bar should be,” Henry added. “There are only a few of them around.”

He has meetings at restaurants all over the city, but Henry said many times it is the folks he is scheduling meetings with who are first to recommend it as the locale.

“Just because my wife happens to own it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t frequent it,” he said.

So there was no way I was leaving the place without trying the Tom Henry Salad. According to Cindy, this salad came about when her husband was knocking on doors campaigning in 2007. He would be ravenous afterward but her grilled chicken salad or chef salad just weren’t enough to fill him up, so he asked for a “big grilled chicken salad with ham.” After more than one customer sitting at the bar saw him eating it and asked for one, Cindy put it on the menu.

The salad is big and filling. It has tender strips of grilled chicken, sliced and diced lunchmeat-style ham, tomato wedges, boiled egg slices and a bicolored cheese blend. It was a solid offering – although dicing the tomatoes would make it easier to navigate – but what made it worth getting again were the Green Frog’s homemade dressings, particularly the bleu cheese.

Almost all the dressings are made in house and the bleu cheese was about as thick and full of bits of the funky cheese as any I have had in recent memory. It was also fantastic slathered on some hot wings.

The dill-spiked ranch and sweet poppy seed also won my approval. The side salads were fresh but rather standard on their own; the dressings made them memorable. After raving about the dressings, my server verified that Cindy truly cares about her salads and demands her staff separate and shred the lettuce by hand – no knives allowed.

The wings were also pretty good, especially on Wednesdays when they are on special at 45 cents each. They were crisp, big wings and, according to Cindy, the ones they serve are pre-dredged with a light breading. The sauces, like the salad dressings, lifted them above the frozen wing norm. The citrus-chipotle was the best with a distinct sweet-and-sour flavor and heat that snuck up on you. The bourbon ones were also sticky and sweet, and they had a distinct malty bourbon flavor.

Soups were a mixed bag. The cream of mushroom was decent during one visit – dusted with paprika and plenty creamy – but I could not recommend the chili. Although it was plenty meaty, it was too thin and had no heat or real chili flavor. The beef was all I tasted.

The beef I tasted in the every-other-Thursday meatloaf special was fantastic. It was, of course, Cindy’s recipe and was moist and meaty with plenty of onion. It had a sweet ketchup-based sauce on top, which is how I always prefer my meatloaf.

The Green Frog does, indeed, offer fried frog legs. Always on the menu, this seldom-found delicacy is offered as an all-you-can-eat special on Thursdays. The saddles (two joined legs) were of decent size and had a nice light breading that needed seasoning, but a dip in garlic-butter fixed that. I preferred mine with just a shake of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

The special is pricy at $18.95 as is the regular order of three legs for $15.99. The biggest issue I had was that only three legs arrived with my all-you-can-eat order. I told my waitress as soon as she set the plate down that I wanted more but was still left waiting with a barren plate for the second batch. If you have an all-you-can-eat special, you need to have them cranking out fast.

I was also rather unimpressed by the Honey-stung Chicken. It included a deep-fried bone-in leg, thigh and breast coated in a coarser breading than the frog legs. This breading had plenty of salt, but all of the pieces needed to be stung again because I could not detect any honey.

You could not go wrong pairing either of these fried goodies with some French fries or beer-battered onion rings. Both were crisp and delicious, and the rings had the right hint of beer flavor.

They would also go well with the Frog Burger – a quarter-pound “steak burger” topped with a fried egg, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise – or one of Cindy’s breaded pork tenderloins – one of the best in town.

You won’t call them spectacular, but they were solid examples of satisfying bar fare done the right way. And that is what you expect from a place like the Green Frog Inn.

It’s just a quaint, friendly little place with some darn tasty food. And I would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate if there was a race in Fort Wayne for mayor of neighborhood taverns.

Restaurant: Green Frog Inn

Address: 820 Spring St.

Phone: 426-1088

Hours: 10 a.m.to midnight Monday through Friday; noon to midnight Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: No

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: No

Menu: Meatloaf ($7.49), Frog Burger ($5.59), onion rings ($4.49), Honey-stung Chicken ($9.99), tenderloin ($5.49)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.