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The Golden Aims To Blend Fine Dining, Casual Atmosphere In Skyline Plaza

Skyline Plaza in downtown Fort Wayne is officially open, and the first floor includes Debrand’s Fine Chocolates, Lake City Bank and a YMCA. It also features a new restaurant called The Golden, which will open June 3. In this week’s NorthEATS Indiana, we’ll find out more about the restaurant on the corner of Wayne and Harrison streets.

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Credit Lisa Ryan
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Upon first glance, The Golden might seem a little pretentious. Along one wall is a wine rack with bottles that cost more than $100. The furniture is museum quality, says Carmen McGee, the general manager and sommelier.

“The furniture is really--especially these chairs, they’re called Risom chairs from Knoll. They’re mid-century modern,” McGee said. “They’re hand built for us, and they are museum pieces. I mean, these chairs are in museums.”

Co-owner Aaron Butts says this attention to detail is because they want to provide a different experience for customers.

“All the stuff that we’ve picked out and researched is not just to have nice stuff in the restaurant, like, ‘Hey look at all our nice stuff,’” Butts said. “Everything was really thoughtfully chosen for the guest as an extension of our hospitality.”

Butts says even though the kitchen is fine dining, they want to keep the prices as low as possible.

“People shouldn’t expect to walk in here and be like, ‘Ugh, God, it’s going to be expensive, I’m going to have to save up two months’ salary to take my girlfriend out to eat.’ Nothing like that,” he said.

Sean Richardson, the other co-owner of The Golden, agrees. “We wanted people to come and feel comfortable and stay for a long time,” Richardson said.

"We're trying to bring something to Fort Wayne that is not in Fort Wayne."

They all agree on the casual atmosphere, but trying to describe the menu is a little more difficult. Butts says the food is just “unpretentious, good old food,” but McGee and Richardson think it’s a little pretentious. However, McGee says she means that in a good way.

“Everyone asks about the cuisine, and it’s really hard to describe,” McGee said. “Good food, locally sourced, thoughtfully prepared.”

McGee and Butts worked at Joseph Decuis for 15 years. Richardson worked at the Roanoke restaurant for 3 years. Butts says that will have an influence on The Golden.

“From where we come from and our philosophy that we’ve had back in Roanoke, that’s a way of life,” Butts said. “That wasn’t just a trendy restaurant philosophy or whatever, it’s like truly, we’ll never go back to factory farm beef or chicken or anything like that. So that’s kind of a way of life for us.”

The Golden’s philosophy on locally sourced ingredients extends to the drinks it serves. The bar’s manager, Patti Nix, says she will work with chefs to find local ingredients for the cocktails. But in keeping with the casual theme, customers can also find inexpensive drinks, like Boxer beer for $2.

“We wanted to carry a broad variety of items, some high end products, but everything quality,” Nix said.

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Next to the bar are two colorful fish decorations. One says The Golden, and another says “Party on Wayne,” which has become the restaurant’s slogan. Richardson says he started saying the phrase to his friends as a way to say “Party on, (Fort) Wayne,” and as a subtle reference to Wayne’s World, the 1992 movie starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. But now that the restaurant is opening on Wayne Street, “Party on Wayne” has a new meaning for the co-owners, says Butts.

“It’s also a way to emphasize that we just want you to have a good time when you’re here. I mean, there’s a freakin’ fish on the wall painted “Party on Wayne,” Butts said. “I mean if that doesn’t say party…”

Richardson finishes his sentence.

“…And have a good time, I don’t know what.”

You can find the slogan not only on decorations, but also on t-shirts.

The Golden will serve lunch and dinner, and the menu will be split into small and large plates. It will also serve Sunday brunch. There will be a lot of seasonal dishes, which will include vegetarian options.

The restaurant won’t take reservations, which the co-owners hope translates to a full restaurant all the time, rather than empty tables waiting for customers. McGee acknowledges this is different than what people expect from restaurants in Fort Wayne, and even from what she’s used to.

“I’ve only worked in restaurants with reservations, so this is really new for me,” McGee said. “So we’ll see. It’s going to be a little experiment.”

Different is what The Golden is aiming for.

“We’re trying to bring something to Fort Wayne that is not in Fort Wayne,” McGee said. “And so, all the reaction we’ve had so far, is like, wow this doesn’t even look like Fort Wayne. And we’re like, boom, that’s exactly the point.”

Their hope is that even though The Golden doesn’t look like a typical Fort Wayne restaurant, it will become the new normal for Northeast Indiana. And at the very least, they hope to bring a party to Wayne Street.

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