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Local Eatery Remains a Syracuse Staple

Writer / Angela Cornell
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell

After operating a restaurant in Ligonier for 9 years, Roger and Sue Peterson were told that Gropp’s Fish of Stroh was for sale in Syracuse. The Petersons were Syracuse natives and graduated from Wawasee High School, and agreed that it would be nice to go back home.

In 2007, the Petersons decided to take a break from the restaurant business. They sold their establishment and took some time off.

Peterson's FishAfter a fire destroyed the business, and there was no fish in town, the Petersons thought they would bring fish back to Syracuse. They purchased back the restaurant and named it Peterson’s Fish. It was a decision they never regretted.

The eatery still brings life and light to Sue and her crew as they work to provide good food and service to hungry customers.

Now, nearly 26 years later, Syracuse is known for more than just the lakes in the area. It’s also known for Peterson’s Fish.

In fact, some of the restaurant’s guests will travel 40-50 miles in order to try their special Alaskan Pollock fried in a secret breading recipe.

“The recipe is locked in my safe at home. There are only a couple of people who know how to put it together,” Peterson says.

“That’s what we’re known for. We make our homemade tartar sauce and then there’s our homemade coleslaw. It’s what we’re known for.”

With the homemade dessert that’s included with every entrée, there’s no reason for any guest to leave hungry.

Most people who walk through the front door are there for the fish. However, there are some who come in for something else on their full menu.

“We have prime rib, we have New York strips that are very good. We have chicken breast and salmon,” Peterson says. “But those are just for that one person out of that family of four who doesn’t like fish.”

No matter what they get from the business, just about every customer leaves the restaurant full, happy, and ready to come back.

“People say that it’s excellent food at affordable prices,” Peterson says. “Other [restaurants] have tried doing fish, but people still keep coming in here.”

The best part of the business, according to Peterson, is the family atmosphere and interaction.

“I’m a people person and I enjoy being out front greeting people. I’ve developed a lot of good friendships over the years,” Peterson says. “We’ve watched kids grow up and now they’re adults bringing in their families. It’s really very rewarding.”

Peterson's FishNor is that interaction limited to what happens inside the walls of Peterson’s Fish. Community stretches throughout the town of Syracuse and beyond.

“I lost my husband in October,” Peterson says. “Many people thought I would probably give it up and close it. To this day, I hear people say that they’re so glad that I did not close up. That’s why I’m in there, because of the good support from the community, the nice customers, and all the kind words I get from them.”

Even through the pandemic, Syracuse has come through for this locally-owned business.

“When COVID hit, and we went all carry-out only, the community really supported us,” Peterson says. “I had multiple customers come in and say, ‘We’re eating carry-out each week at a different restaurant, and when we’ve gone through them all, we’re starting over again.’ That meant a lot.”

Some people even placed large orders last summer and took them back home for neighborhood pig-outs.

“It was phenomenal,” Peterson adds. “It really helped us get through it all during COVID when we were all shutdown. That was really a great gesture.”

Of course, a ship can’t run without a crew, and this comfortable, nautically-themed restaurant is no exception.

“I have some outstanding help. I couldn’t do it without them. That’s why I call it ‘Sue and her crew,’” Peterson says.

Currently, she’s also looking to add a few members to the team so that she can extend the hours to seven days a week.

“We’re short about two or three staff in the kitchen and one person in the dining room,” she says.

Peterson feels that she has hit on more than just the secret recipe for fantastic breaded fish. She’s also found the secret sauce for a successful business, and intends to continue as long as the restaurant continues to brings her joy.

“People like consistency,” she says.

“Consistency is key in this business.”

With the stability and dependability of good friends and food, Peterson’s Fish will remain a staple in Syracuse for many years to come.

Peterson’s Fish is located at 1009 S. Huntington St., Syracuse and is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM—7 PM. Visit them online at Facebook.com/Petersons-Fish or call them at 574-528-5000.

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