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For local restaurateur Kurt Janowsky, the opening of Cascade restaurant next month marks a return to the place where he cut his teeth in the kitchen of Captain Alexander’s Moonraker in 1978.

The restaurant was later renamed the Wharf, eventually closed and demolished while Janowsky built his reputation at other restaurants in the area.

Meanwhile, the site near the Colfax Bridge on the east bank of the St. Joseph River remained undeveloped for about two decades.

Until downtown South Bend began to recover and private developers recognized the incredible beauty of the river and amenities like Howard Park that were springing up nearby.

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Arguably the most coveted riverfront property in downtown South Bend – the site of the former Moonraker – has been purchased by developer Frank Perri and his partner Panzica Building Corp. and converted into luxury condominiums.

With the goal of using the ground floor of Three Twenty at The Cascade as a public space, Janowsky was approached about his interest in opening an upscale restaurant at the location.

Of course, he had a sentimental attachment to the place where he had started his career in the restaurant industry decades earlier, and he had the experience to draw on—he operated fine-dining restaurants such as Café Navarre in South Bend and the Artisan in Elkhart as CEO of the Navarre Hospitality Group.

And the restaurant owner was in love with the panoramic view of the river and the cascade. “It’s the best location in the area and would be a great place anywhere in the country,” he says during a tour of the premises.

Construction is still underway there, and the restaurant is scheduled to open in early August, about two years later than expected. The reason for this is construction delays caused by the hydroelectric power plant being built nearby by the University of Notre Dame, as well as work on the walls along the river.

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“We could have opened earlier, but given the construction work around us, it wouldn’t have made sense,” says Janowsky, adding that the view of the river would have been blocked by the construction machinery.

Still, the new restaurant, which will focus on prime steaks and fresh seafood, will open before work is completed on nearby Seitz Park and the redesigned portion of the riverfront in front of the Cascade building.

Janowsky and Matt Soutra, vice president of operations for Navarre Hospitality, know the restaurant’s most important feature will be the space itself, so every seat in the restaurant – officially known as Cascade, Prime Steak & Seafood – will have a view of the water.

Part of the dining area is on a raised platform to ensure unobstructed views of the entire 225-seat restaurant, which includes a 75-seat terrace overlooking the river. Most of the seating also overlooks the open kitchen, which will feature a charcoal grill.

“People like to watch what happens in the kitchen,” says Janowsky. “That makes the whole thing even more exciting and entertaining.”

The 740-square-meter restaurant is designed to have two private dining areas that can be combined for larger parties, says Soutra, adding that the management team for the new restaurant has already been finalized.

With approximately 500 employees at Navarre Hospitality’s restaurants and bars in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, the company has a talent pool to draw on when hiring.

But because of its size, the company can also offer its employees growth opportunities, health insurance and other benefits that are often not available in the hospitality industry. This makes it easier for Navarre Hospitality to recruit and retain employees, says Janowsky.

The menu is not yet finalized, but prices will be in line with restaurants that offer the best steaks and fresh seafood. “It will be upscale American cuisine using only the highest quality ingredients,” says Janowsky.

With a selection of 400 to 450 wines, a sommelier helps customers choose the right pairing to accompany their main dishes, but the restaurant is also prepared for those who may just want cocktails to accompany their appetizers.

Initially the restaurant will be open for dinner seven days a week, with lunch hours to follow. More information will be provided after opening.

But even though construction is still underway, it looks like South Bend and the entire region will have another restaurant to be proud of.

Given the scope of the Cascade project, it’s not surprising that Navarre Hospitality has decided to close the former Oaken Bucket restaurant in South Bend. While Janowsky and Soutra were heavily involved in the Cascade expansion, they also plan to renovate the Rocky River Tap & Table restaurant in Granger.

The farm-to-table restaurant at 1032 E. University Drive will close after business hours on Sunday, July 14, for several weeks to undergo extensive renovations that include remodeling floors, walls and furniture, as well as a menu overhaul.

“It will continue to be farm-to-fork, but in a new way, with a lighter and fresher menu,” says Janowsky, adding that after 10 years of operation, the restaurant needs a major overhaul.

The restaurant, which was damaged by a burst pipe during the December 2022 holiday snowstorm, is tentatively scheduled to reopen in about a month.

Stay tuned to learn more about each location.

Email Market Basket columnist Ed Semmler at [email protected].