Dining Out

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  • Chicken offerings, desserts make date
    When a co-worker hit me up to find a place to meet a date for dinner in Columbia City, I started rolling through my mind’s Rolodex and threw out a few names.
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6 Autumns
***
Out of a possible five
$$
Ryan DuVall/The Journal Gazette
The black bean-encrusted red snapper at 6 Autumns Food and Spriits in Angola.

6 Autumns stands out on specialties, desserts

It isn't on a lake like so many great restaurants near Angola, but if you sit on the patio, Lake Charles is just off in the distance with the Interstate 69 traffic passing over it, and that is pretty relaxing to watch.

The Ramada hotel is where 6 Autumns Food and Spirits calls home, but that shouldn't sway you away from it and toward the lake because it brings a lot more to the table than many of those lakeside places.

Owned and operated by Marty Hayward, her menu at 6 Autumns has sort of a gastro pub feel with burgers, homemade macaroni and cheese, several cuts of steak prepared in unique styles and the usual array of bar snacks.

One of those bar snacks, the Pub Frites – topped with bacon and a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend – were wonderful, which surprised me because bacon-cheese fries are offered by many places and usually never impress.

But at 6 Autumns, the crispness of those hand-cut style fries and the plethora of finely diced good bacon made a difference. The bacon had just the right greasy fattiness, but the fries were as clean as any could come out of a deep fryer.

The beer and especially the whiskey selections – 171 bourbons and more than 120 whiskeys, Hayward said – at 6 Autumns were impressive, and I found the Englishman from Angola-based Chapmans Brewing Co. to be the perfect pairing with those fries. This Southern English Brown ale had a hint of bitterness and strong coffee notes, but was quite creamy and drinkable for even novice beer drinkers.

I also loved that New Holland Brewing Co. Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout was always on draft because it is one of my favorites. The on-tap mead I tried one night, which was like a sweet, rosy carbonated wine, was also favorable in case beer is not your thing.

The Knickerburger went great with the Dragon's Milk. Designated on the menu with the restaurant's logo denoting it was a specialty, this Angus beef patty was heavily, but perfectly, seasoned so it had a lot of flavor. It was topped with pepper jack cheese, thick cut bacon – which I already knew was good – and a runny fried egg, and served on a soft, chewy pretzel roll. There was not one thing I would change about this burger.

I also loved the chicken-avocado club and think it deserved signature status, too. The perfectly grilled and, like the burger, perfectly seasoned butterfly-cut breast had a wonderful brown sear on the outside and was really juicy.

It came from Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange as does all of Hayward's chicken and pork, including that tasty bacon. It had provolone cheese melted over it, bacon, ripe creamy avocado wedges, tomato and surprisingly green and tender romaine lettuce leaves.

As good as it was, there was one major flaw. The edge of the lettuce was bruised and brown, so I had to do some surgery on it to make it edible. And that part was visible outside the bun, so someone in the kitchen was not paying much attention nor was my server who should have had the error fixed before delivering it.

The romaine on the Sherri's Salad, another signature item, was crisp and clean. It was mixed with iceberg to create this salad, along with finely diced apples and pears, toasted almonds and Monterey Jack with a sweet poppy-seed dressing.

It was fresh and light – perfect for a sunny day on the patio – and I think it would have been brilliant with some of that grilled chicken on it, too.

Another brilliant dish was the lemon-cream chicken, which had that same chicken – I chose crispy fried over grilled – drenched in herb and lemon cream sauce. Rosemary gave the sauce its herbaceous flavor, and it had just the right hint of lemon. The chicken was super crisp and just as moist as the grilled, and the dish was what I considered an upscale version of good 'ol country chicken-fried chicken. The only flaw was that the chicken was not hit with a touch of salt after leaving the fryer – a seasoning must – so the coarse breading was a little bland.

The same lack of post-frying seasoning was the only flaw in the black bean-crusted snapper, which was the most inventive dish I had at 6 Autumns. Hayward said raw, dry beans are put through a spice grinder to make the crust for the sweet, delicate fillet, and it made for a crunchy coating with a punch of umami flavor from those beans. The crust also stayed crunchy even after it was topped with a generous amount of tomatillo and tomato salsa, which added acidity and vibrancy.

Service was the biggest flaw at 6 Autumns during my visits. The servers were not well-versed with the menu. I received blank stares to most of my basic questions and was forced to wait for answers. The most glaring was one server not knowing the featured items on a busy Friday night.

There were also a few lulls in service and a few foolish oversights. I waited way too long for my beers during one visit and was told there was no bartender on duty, so the server was forced to wait for that beer just as I was.

The atmosphere was much more refined than the service, even for a hotel restaurant. The floor and ceiling were fully renovated when Hayward opened the place 15 months ago, and the glossy, acid-washed concrete floors were stunning. There is a lot of woodwork, especially in the bar, and local art for sale lining walls. The tables, chairs and booths are still cookie-cutter hotel Formica and floral patterns, but even that can't keep it from having a very pleasant look and feel.

I also have to mention the wine- and booze-bottle chandelier inside the hotel entryway to the restaurant as it was awesomely gorgeous.

The desserts were also pretty awesomely gorgeous.

Hayward has two pastry chefs on staff, so all of the meal enders are made in house. The most impressive was one of her recipes, however.

The chocolate lasagna, Hayward said, is her 13-year-old daughter Maria's favorite, and it was mine, too. A layer of dark chocolate mousse, a layer of sweetened cream cheese and a thin layer of light chocolate sit atop a chocolate cookie crust topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips with house-made chocolate fudge sauce on the plate beneath it all. It was really sweet and a chocolate-lover's dream. The crust may have been the best part, too, because the cookies were really finely ground, so it had the texture of a graham cracker crust and was just as buttery.

Now, if only I could find a good bourbon or beer to go with all of that chocolate. I guess that will be the goal for my next visit, and, yes, there will be a return visit because 6 Autumns was worth it.

Restaurant: 6 Autumns Food and Spirits

Address: 3855 N. Indiana 127, Angola

Phone: 260-624-3644

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Pub Frites ($6.95), Knickerburger ($9.95), chicken-avocado club ($9.50), Sherri's Salad ($6.95), lemon-cream chicken ($13.95), black bean-crusted red snapper ($14.95), chocolate lasagna ($3.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 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.

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