One of a Kind

Mixing a historically rustic setting with a modern flair, Auburn City Steakhouse brings big city taste to a small town.
Jun 4, 2021
Jennifer Blomquist
Jeffrey Crane

The experience starts with scrumptious appetizers like the Millionaire’s Bacon, moves onto a main course such as the 36-ounce, 28-day Dry Aged Axe Handle Ribeye for two and wraps up with an out-of-this-world bread pudding that even professed bread pudding haters can’t help but praise.

“There really isn’t anything else like this in the region,” says Bob Lebamoff, owner of Auburn City Steakhouse. “I tell people I kind of opened a museum in Auburn. We just happen to have a kitchen in the back.”

Auburn City Steakhouse was started three years ago on Main Street in downtown Auburn. It’s housed in the now-rehabbed 1859 Auburn City Hardware store built by Joseph Davis. Local philanthropists, Rick and Vicki James of The James Foundation, purchased the building in 2016 with a desire to preserve as many of the original fixtures as possible and turn it into a high-end restaurant unlike any other in the area.

Lebamoff and the Jameses were introduced to each other through a mutual friend and the pieces started falling into place.

“I’m a third generation restaurateur,” says Lebamoff. “My grandfather opened the iconic Paramount Grill on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne after World War II. My dad had a 40-year career in the local restaurant business. So, it’s in my blood. I worked for eight years at my dad’s last restaurant, The Elegant Farmer. It was mainly a steak establishment, known for its prime rib and it’s the same recipe we use here at the Steakhouse. That’s why I chose to go with a steak restaurant because it’s what I know best and it felt natural to me. And it just tied in with the brick, original wood floors and leaded glass windows and the flavor of the old hardware store as well as the vision Rick and Vicki had for the restaurant.”

Lebamoff likes to say his restaurant is still in its infancy and constantly evolving. In March, he hired Brian Shreffler as the food and beverage director and executive chef.

“He has 25 years of experience and bringing in Brian meant having a true chef, with a creative menu that’s adaptable to what we’re doing,” says Lebamoff. “When Brian came on board, we probably changed 75 percent of our menu. He came up with some really great and unique dishes for the steakhouse, including a French Onion Soup that takes three days to prepare, fresh sea bass with a crab-crusted baked topping and a 7-inch tall frozen mocha pie. Just about everything is made from scratch and we’ve partnered with Stutzman Brothers Farms who provide us with Wagyu steaks.”

“I’ve been cooking since I was 15,”says Shreffler. “I started out as a dishwasher at Casa in Fort Wayne and quickly moved up from there. I was a chef at a local country club and I was the executive sous chef for David Burke at his Park Avenue Café in Chicago. I left the industry for a few years and met Bob while working for Southern Glazer, a major spirits and wine distributor in Indiana. Bob was one of my customers with Southern Glazer when the steakhouse opened and we soon realized we were like kindred spirits. It took a while, but he convinced me to get back into cooking and I accepted the offer. We just seem to align well with what we want to achieve. Among other things, I want to up our cocktail bar and take a good look at our wine list.”

There is the Davis & James cocktail lounge on the second floor of the restaurant, named after Joseph Davis and Rick and Vicki James. In the basement, there’s a wine cellar with wine lockers.

“Our guests can rent a wine locker on an annual basis and then we will give them discounts on their wine purchases,” says Lebamoff. “Each locker holds up to 16 bottles of wine and is temperature-controlled. This is a big-city concept for a small town. This is the kind of thing you would see in Chicago. People love it. We even have a wine steward on staff. His name is Cord Lewton and he’s a 40-plus year wine veteran who assists our guests with making wine choices.”

The Jameses have plans to expand the restaurant upstairs and convert some storage space into an executive dining room for business meetings or corporate events. In addition, a second kitchen will be built upstairs that will allow for Lebamoff to create off-site catering and to expand on the restaurant’s current on-site catering. Outdoor patio seating is also going to be increased this summer.

“In addition to Brian joining our team, I’ve brought in my son, Alex, to serve as our sales and marketing director,“ says Lebamoff. “Now the fourth generation of restaurateurs has begun. Alex was the group sales manager for the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Club and most recently, group sales director at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Aliya Raney is our operations manager to round out our team. We have a really good thing going on here. I just need to remind people of how close Auburn is to the surrounding communities. We’re just a 15 minute drive from the north side of Fort Wayne and just a 20 minute drive from most of the lakes up north. We have extremely reasonable prices and we take excellent care of our customers. No matter what direction you’re coming from, it is well worth the short trip.” 

Auburn City Steakhouse

Address: 203 Main St. Auburn, Indiana 46706

Phone: (260) 333-7337

Website: auburncitysteakhouse.com

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