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Glory days back again at Waynedale tavern

September 16, 2018

As the saying goes, what’s old is new again.

That couldn’t have been more true than it was when I recently revisited Waynewood Inn.

The staple restaurant on the south side of the Waynedale community has been serving customers since 1972 and it wasn’t long after I moved to the area that I heard about its pork tenderloin sandwich. There was something comforting and familiar about the place when I first visited in the early 2000s and that tenderloin lived up to its billing.

But it lost its luster in recent years and I struggled to find a reason to visit. But it seems as if those days are over thanks to Mark and Alice Castleman.

The two, who were among the four owners the late Dick Teusch : the last remaining original owner : sold the restaurant to in 2000, took back over as owners rather quietly in July. They sold their original stake to their other two partners in 2005 and went on to open East State Coney and County Line Pizza in Zanesville.

When the most recent owners, who ran the Inn since 2015, made it available again, the Castlemans jumped at the chance. As the history portion on the back of the menu explained, “In memory of Dick Teusch, we will rebuild this business into the greatness it once was.”

They have done a great job.

The menu has been scaled back and they are concentrating on no-nonsense tavern fare with some homemade touches. The centerpieces are that tenderloin and the Swiss steak, which is the special every Wednesday and Saturday.

The tenderloin was meaty, a little fatty and lightly breaded. That finely ground breading was browned a little on the edges and provided plenty of crunch. I had zero complaints.

The Swiss steak took me back. It is pretty much an endangered species on menus these days, and it was delicious.

The fork-tender slab beef looked a lot like a hamburger but it had that chewier, cubed steak texture. It was drenched in the signature brownish-red sauce dotted with tomatoes and a few carrots. On the side were some thick, hearty mashed potatoes with that same gravy pooling in them and either green beans or corn. It was the kind of homey throwback that makes the drive to Waynedale worth it. Alice said they make plenty so there are leftovers available for sandwiches on off days, too.

The tenderloin sandwich wasn’t the only thing good coming out of the fryers at Waynewood Inn. The breaded fish : the Friday special also available daily : was up to snuff, too. A crunchy, mealy, nicely seasoned breading coated the pollock, and that breading had a touch of cornmeal to separate it from the norm. The fish inside was moist and flaky, too.

I tried a combination basket of appetizers, the Waynewood Sampler, that included onion rings, jalapeño poppers and some really tasty portobello mushroom strips. Though not unique, really, all of the items were tasty with the signature Waynewood sauce : a zesty mix similar to standard onion ring sauce but made with mustard : being a great accompaniment. I will be getting some of that sauce for my tenderloin next time because I think it might be better than the standard yellow mustard I always add to mine.

The best appetizer options, however, were the soups. The chili was meaty and not too spicy with a solid standard flavor profile. The ham and bean had impressive big chunks of meat in a thick, hearty, bean-packed broth that made it just like a homemade soup should be. The same applied to the chicken noodle, which was dotted with herbs, along with carrots, onions, stewed chicken and plethora of noodles.

A salad bar is offered for a slight upcharge with all meals or can be had on its own. It featured a bevy of worthwhile homemade salads : bean, macaroni, pasta and coleslaw : but was pretty mundane otherwise.

If you are in the mood for a burger, the double cheeseburger was decent with each moist patty being coated with oozing American cheese and a nicely toasted bun. But there is no way I could recommend it over the tenderloin.

Breakfast is available all day but my meat omelet with ham, bacon and sausage didn’t cause me to give that part of the menu a ringing endorsement, either. It had plenty of meat, but could have used more cheese inside and on top. It wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, just not a really good choice.

The icing on the cake at Waynewood Inn when it came to the food was the desserts, which come from Waynedale Bakery. And, yes, there was icing on a delectable four-layered chocolate cake that you recognize from another rather famous Fort Wayne restaurant that offers it.

But the best options were the pies. I tried several from peanut butter cream to standard cherry and they were all fantastic. The only one I didn’t try was the sugar cream because I was told it was the only one not from Waynedale Bakery. Only later did I find out the sugar cream instead comes from Mrs. Wick’s Pie Shop in Winchester, which makes one of the best sugar creams in the state. So I will have to go back for a slice of it.

I think I will be going back a lot more than I did even back in its glory days, too. The Castlemans also spruced up the inside, which had been updated somewhat over the years. There is new paint, spotless carpeting and new furnishings around that original bar.

There are also some cool retro Western-style wooden chairs in that spacious family room that have probably been there forever. I hope they never get rid of them, though, because they serve as a reminder of the past when the Inn was at its peak.

And it might just be well on its way to reaching that level again.

Restaurant: Waynewood Inn

Address: 8421 Bluffton Road

Phone: 747-0816

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Swiss steak (5.99), double burger (6.99), sampler (2.69 cup; 5.49), pie (6.99)

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

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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