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Culver’s Corndance closing? Don’t believe the hype, says owner

April 23, 2011

George and Tammy Pesek outside the Corndance Cafe in downtown Culver. Citizen photo/Jeff Kenney

Small towns may not actually play host to more rumors than larger cities, but at times small communities like Culver may seem to. One recent rumor has been troubling Corndance Cafe and Marmont Grille owner (and chef) George Pesek and his wife Tammy: that of the restaurant’s impending doom in Culver.
“We believe that rumor was started to hurt Corndance,” says George. “We never considered selling Corndance or our home.”
The notion that Corndance, one of Culver’s most popular restaurants, is on its way out may have gained some teeth due to the opening by the Peseks last November 29 of the Corndance Tavern on Grape Road in Mishawaka. Pesek says the new venture “was a great opportunity that arose with our property (in Mishawaka).
“We’ve been 12 years in Culver,” he explains. “And it’s very, very close to my heart. Corndance (in Culver) will always be my restaurant. It put me on the map. Without it there would be no Corndance in Mishawaka.”
In fact, Pesek emphasizes, he left his “best chef” in Culver to “make sure nothing suffered: not the food, the service, or the reputation.”
The couple still spends quite a bit of time here, he adds, and plans to divide their time between both the Culver and Mishawaka restaurants.
The Corndance Tavern -- so named for its larger (and separate) bar, has cost the Peseks many hours of hard work and sacrifice, George says, but “we could never dream to have such a good business there.”
Those in doubt may drive by the Corndance Tavern on a Saturday night and take note of the jam-packed parking lot there.
“Like in Culver, we opened (Corndance Tavern) without any advertising,” George recalls. “It was a very soft opening. (but) we’ve been super busy since day one.
“We 100 percent attribute the success to the reputation of Corndance in Culver. You wouldn’t believe how many people say they ate at Corndance in Culver before coming (to the Mishawaka eatery). And they live in Mishawaka!”
The menus between the two Corndances are 95 percent the same, he says, and the wine list is identical. The Mishawaka locale has “a completely different feel, not as cozy as the (Corndance) Cafe is,” though he says the Tavern is a bit more upscale in its appearance.
The new facility has spawned some new items at Culver’s Corndance as well, including pork ham hocks (“very, very popular in Mishawaka,” says George), and starting on Easter Sunday, both will introduce an a la carte (that is, non-buffet) Sunday brunch from 11 to 2.
The Peseks were familiar with Culver from Tammy’s childhood years visiting Lake Maxinkuckee for the summer in the late Fr. Joseph Lenk’s cabin on the lake, from their home in Wheatfield, Ind., some 40 miles west of here. When George and Tammy married, the couple began frequenting Culver from their own home in Chicago, eventually buying a small home on the lake here.
“We felt maybe it would be a great change of lifestyle,” says George of the full-time move here. “We thought so highly of the community. I left a very high-profile job in Chicago to open a restaurant here. That’s how convincing the community was to me 12 years ago when we decided to do this.”
High-profile indeed: note the photo of George with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, in Chicago, one of many famous fans of his work.
The rumor of the closing of Culver’s Corndance -- and departure of the Pesek family from the area -- was “very upsetting,” says George, so the couple initially decided to squelch it via the restaurants’ Facebook page.
“We love the Culver community,” he says, “and it’s been good to us. We’ve stayed solid for 12 years (at the Corndance). We’ve provided a good service to the community and it’s provided for us. The more good places (to eat) in town, the more places there are for our customers, the better it is for Culver. It’s very precious to us. We’re very proud to say we’re in Culver.”

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