When local business owners Scott and Kami Tuttle, and Gary and Sara Nephew, decided they wanted to open a new restaurant in Nappanee, they knew they wanted it to be a destination restaurant – one with an ambiance that typically belongs in a much larger city.
“We believed there was a need for more restaurant options in Nappanee, and we wanted to stand out and be different,” Kami Tuttle explains. “In order to do that, we needed to set ourselves apart.”
Before registering their business, the Tuttles and Nephews, who were already local business owners, debated what to name it. They wanted the name to be distinctive and memorable, yet something that would reflect the restaurant’s tranquil atmosphere.
“We wanted something different, and yet something that followed the Nappanee heritage,” Tuttle explains. “My husband liked the name Relax, because that’s what we want our guests to do when they come in, but we were still undecided.”
Six months and numerous name options later, Kami had a conversation with a friend who grew up Amish. The suggestion she gave changed everything.
“I was telling her our story and she said, ‘What about Ruhe?’” Tuttle says. “It’s the German-Dutch word for relax. Then the 152 is the address, so it just came together.”
The idea stuck. A few days later while on vacation, Tuttle told Scott and he loved it.
“The whole next day he spent in the hotel room designing logos,” she recalls with a smile.
After an extensive process to develop the business and completely remodel a building in Nappanee that is more than 100 years old, Ruhe152 opened in June of 2019.
“It’s very eclectic,” Tuttle explains. “It has more of a modern feel with a cool atmosphere and vibe, unlike anything you would typically find in a small, midwestern town. It’s also family-friendly and can appeal to anyone at any age.”
The menu is just as unique and eclectic as the restaurant’s architectural design, offering a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, chicken, steak and even sushi, all made by Chef Sidney Gongwer, who previously lived on the west coast and attended culinary school in Los Angeles.
“He was used to the big-city culinary scene and what people expected,” Tuttle says. “He knew how to make something stand out and make it different. He brought a little bit of that back to our area.”
As a farm-to-table restaurant, many ingredients used at Ruhe152 are grown locally, including the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and beef. There are allergy-friendly menu options available, including gluten-free bread and buns.
“Our chef loves bringing something very unique to the table,” Tuttle says. “He makes the vast majority of our items, including sauces and glazes, from scratch.”
Another special element that Gongwer brings to the table is weekend features, which are typically announced on Ruhe152’s Facebook page.
“We give him free reign to create his own dishes,” Tuttle says. “He mixes things up by offering a different feature theme every weekend. One weekend might be a Chinese feature, and the next it might be exotic seafood or barbecue. It keeps people coming back for more.”
Ruhe152 also has a full brewery and distillery, so the beers available at the restaurant are always brewed in-house – something that has attracted beer aficionados from all over the region. Occasionally, offering in-house craft beers only will throw off a new guest.
“We’ll give them a sample,” Tuttle says. “The majority of the time they like it and they choose to order one.”
Four of the beers are continually offered on tap – Embrace the Pace, a chocolate milk stout that pays tribute to Nappanee, Settle In, a dry, west-coast IPA, Simmer Down, an American light lager, and Drupaceous, a peach gose beer.
“We tend to alternate periodically 10 other beers,” Tuttle says. “Some of it is seasonal, depending on what beers are more popular in the summer or better in the fall. We’re very diverse in our beer options, so we’re not IPA-heavy or lager-heavy. We have a good variety of almost every kind of beer, so we’re satisfying just about every guest that walks through our doors.”
The ingredients needed to create the beers are obtained from local sources whenever possible. This includes the hops and even some of the flavors. One of the most recent creations is Ruhe152’s Jamaican Me Crazy, a coffee-based beer featuring beans roasted at a local coffee shop.
The establishment’s leaders have also branched out to include home-brewed spirits in their distilling operations. So far they have made 152 Rum, 152 Vodka, and Tranquilla, a 100% blue agave spirit much like tequila.
The Tuttles and Nephews are heavily involved in local nonprofit organizations, and strongly believe in the Nappanee community. They are grateful for continued support during the pandemic.
“Nappanee is our home,” Tuttle says. “I feel like it’s a place where people come and they want to stay. People just care for each other here and we really appreciate that, and do our best to show that in our service.”
The community has responded in kind, making Ruhe152 a popular restaurant. There’s even a possibility of opening up similar restaurants in other towns.
“A couple from Granger came to join us for the first time with another couple, and they were really impressed,” Tuttle says. “Their comment was, ‘Would you please start another location up in Granger?’ We hear that a lot.”
For now, the staff is content focusing on excellent service and food, as well as promoting their craft beers and spirits regionally. The future remains to be seen, but the idea of expansion remains on the table.
Ruhe152 is located at 152 West Market Street in Nappanee. Reservations are recommended, and carry-out is available. For more info, call 574-832-7843 or 574-832-2739, and visit ruhe152.com.