Trio of Eateries Are Thriving Under Local Restaurateur
Writer / Amy Lant-Wenger
Photographer / Ali Snyder
In a manner of speaking, and without a trace of irony, it could be said that Cam Snyder has a lot on his plate – or perhaps more fittingly, plates. It seems like an ideal description for a successful restaurateur. Yet while Snyder is crazily busy at any given moment, hustling between three businesses and now preparing to conquer the field of catering, he doesn’t really believe that anything he does could be called a job. Or even work.
For Snyder, it’s all about chasing a dream that evolved from equal measures of tenacity and talent.
Through the course of a little more than 20 years, Snyder has created a trifecta of establishments that seamlessly blend the art of family dining with a unique and upscale twist to the novelties of comfort food. The Chubby Trout Brewbarn & Eatery, Smokin’ Fatty’s BBQ, and the Flippin’ Cow Burger Joint are all thriving under the tutelage of Snyder and his staff.
Now Snyder has formed a partnership with longtime business associate Ashley Wilson to create Cam and Company Catering and Events, a venture that draws from each of the restaurants to create customized and eclectic menus for virtually any gathering, for any occasion. It seems like a natural evolution for a man who not only has a finely honed sense of being in the right place at the right moment, but also possesses a sharp instinct to cultivate success.
A perfect example of that finesse can be observed in the telling of how Snyder came to acquire the first of the restaurants he now owns, Flippin’ Cow. Just over 20 years ago, Snyder was years into his former career working in auto sales, raising a family in his hometown, but there was a sense of disillusionment. “I’d fallen out of love with the current business,” he says. “I wanted to do something that I had a passion for.”
A chance encounter one evening at a Simonton Lake beach bar launched a conversation that would forever change the course of his future.
While chatting up the owner of the dockside diner, Snyder learned that the gentleman was having a less-than-ideal evening. Snyder pulled out a business card and told the man that if he was ever looking to sell the business, they could discuss the matter.
Before Snyder even left the parking lot, his phone was ringing. One month later, Snyder and his wife, Sue, became owners of the bar. The restaurant was renamed Lakeshore Grill, and was the scene of live music and a diverse array of dining options. By 2012 the focus shifted to craft burgers and beer, along with decadent homespun milkshakes. After a whirlwind rebranding and renovation of less than one month, Flippin’ Cow was launched.
The second business to rise up under the Snyder family banner was Chubby Trout. Initially created from a vacant former restaurant site at the intersection of Cassopolis Street and County Road 6 on the north side of Elkhart, the business was relocated to its current spot on Plaza Court in 2016. This time around, the goal was to create a seafood restaurant, an environment that customers could enjoy locally without having to travel to the South Bend area.
As has become something of a Snyder trademark, the way he christens each business is chosen through crowd suggestions and a desire to find a name that blends “fun and funny,” as Snyder puts it. With the Chubby Trout, there is a nod to the founding of Elkhart as well. Snyder, an avowed follower of area history, notes that one of the earliest settlement maps he has seen includes a notation about the types of fish that were plentiful in earlier days. Most prominently featured in the writings was the proliferation of large trout, hence the quirky name for the new restaurant.
Launched in the spirit of an old-time fish fry, diners took an immediate liking to the locally harvested bluegill and lake perch, along with selections including sushi, house-designed margaritas, pastas, handheld sandwiches and wraps, and freshly prepared salads with homemade dressings.
Snyder’s third restaurant endeavor was perhaps the riskiest opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless. When a former Applebee’s location closed abruptly in 2018, Snyder snapped up the structure and spent time working to transform the interior, giving it a fresh and funky vibe. That included hand-painted murals of rock legends, done by local artist Gabriel Moskolis. Once again, Snyder tapped into the public’s interests in what the north side of Elkhart needed by way of dining, and folks were clamoring for smoked meats and Mexican cuisine. When the pandemic closed in and curtailed dine-in meals, the new business found a way to entice customers by offering to-go meals and meats. The name eventually picked seemed like a perfect fit – Smokin’ Fatty’s BBQ. For those unaware, a “fatty” is a term for a blend of ground meats and fillings, smoked in a wrap fashioned with bacon.
With only the briefest of introductions, having merely scratched the surface of what Snyder’s trio of restaurants has to offer, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to Cam and Company Catering and Events. Snyder and Wilson have formed the ideal collaboration to work with whatever parameters their prospective customers can imagine.
To learn more about how to plan an event featuring the imagination and innovation of this pair of entrepreneurs, contact Flippin’ Cow, located at 51330 State Road 19 in Elkhart. Also call 574-266-0606, and visit flippincow.com.
To reach Smokin’ Fatty’s BBQ, head over to 3241 Interchange Drive in Elkhart. To view their website, visit smokinfattysbbq.com, and call 574-333-3600 for dining options.
The Chubby Trout can be reached via phone at 574-264-5700, or online at chubbytrout.com. The restaurant is located at 3421 Plaza Court in Elkhart.