Mishawaka, also called "the Princess City," partners larger South Bend, which lies to the west, with the St. Joseph River winding through both cities. To the east lies more rural Osceola, while Granger occupies the north east. While surrounding areas can be rural, Mishawaka has its own distinct and deep history, ranging back to the early 19th century, when settlers founded the area to take advantage of deposits of bog iron, accumulations created by the swamps that once existed in the area.
Although the economy has declined from its more industrial days, Mishawaka remains a center of manufacturing activity, containing most notably the Uniroyal factory and AM General, which produces Hummers in its Mishawaka plant. Since one of the main products growing in the surrounding area is mint, in the summers you'll often catch a waft of peppermint riding the breeze, particularly on the southern outskirts.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Out on Grape Road, you can find a lot of smaller ethnic restaurants scattered among the clusters of strip malls. Try the India Garden Restaurant for a solid lunch buffet, where you can try their homemade paneer and finish up with the mango pudding. Cosimo and Susie's Little Bit of Italy, located nearby in the Town and Country Shopping Center, may seem a little dark and seedy, but the homemade pasta, such as the ravioli with vodka sauce and lasagna, is outstanding.
If you're craving a morning meal, the West End Bakery features Belgian pastries and hot coffee, including old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts that are unlike any other. For more substantial fare, try the American Pancake House, which has two Mishawaka locations, and make sure you get a side of the thick-sliced bacon.
Downtown Proper, along Main Street, holds some restaurants, including Doc Pierce's Restaurant, a steak house that's been in existence for over three decades. For a midday or evening sweet tooth, stop at Ritter's Frozen Custard for a variety of mouthwatering treats. Some locals say that the custard is the smoothest and creamiest in town, while others go for the Italian ice or a waffle cone filled with chocolate goodness. The sundaes are huge, and guests can choose from a variety of diet-busting toppings.
Main Street is also the best place for bars, such as the Main Street Grille, which serves up American fare along with cocktails, including the Bubble-tini or Black Cherry Champagne Splash. If you want to drink beers with the locals, though, head across the St. Joseph River to the Oaken Bucket, another long-time establishment that even offers a deck overlooking the river.
History & Culture
The St. Joseph River cast the original lure that drew fur traders to this area, when they found it to be the shortest portage point between the St. Joseph and the Kankakee River. As trade sprang up, many immigrants to the west chose to settle in this area, while area iron deposits lured additional prospective citizens intent on exploiting them.
The local county, St. Joseph, established itself in 1830 and Mishawaka incorporated in 1833, claiming several small towns, including St. Joseph Iron Works and Indiana City. The newly created city took its name from accounts of a Shawnee princess named Mishawaka.
A fire sweeping the city in 1872 claimed the majority of the business district, leaving devastation in its wake. In the end, though, it proved a positive force, when the rebuilding effort attracted new industry, including the Dodge Manufacturing Company, and the Mishawaka Woolen and Rubber Company, which would later become Uniroyal.
While Mishawaka's not unkind to those on foot, its spread out nature makes life without a car a bit awkward. Bikes are frequent in the spring and summer, despite the lack of dedicated bike lanes, but are considerably less common during the cold and icy Indiana winters.
Neighboring South Bend's public transit system, Transpo, serves Mishawaka as well. It consists of highly affordable buses that do provide a wide range of routes, but opting for such can add a substantial delay to a commute. Taxis are available, but much more likely to be cruising South Bend areas near the airport or the University of Notre Dame. Some ride-sharing and alternate transportation methods like Uber are available, but generally unused by the locals.
The cost of living in Mishawaka is slightly cheaper than the more urban South Bend to the west, but more expensive than most of the surrounding rural area. Public transportation is inexpensive, and a couple of dollars will get you to the city center and then back home again. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is in the low 600s, and a beer will run you three or four dollars at an average tavern. Gas prices are slightly below the national average at a little under five percent less than the national figure.
Shopping in the Mishawaka area can be a bit dismal. University Park Mall, a long-time central location for shopping, has splintered, spawning smaller shopping areas all around it. The mall itself holds over a hundred stores, but the vast majority are chains, and the same is true of shops in the surrounding area.
100 Center, a former shopping center created from the historic Kamms Brewery and overlooking a section of the River Walk, once held a number of shops and seems to perpetually be on the edge of re-emergence, but for those who want high-end goods, the search will be better taken up elsewhere, like South Bend or even Chicago, which is only a few hours away.
There is no farmer's market, although there are two in neighboring South Bend and Granger, but there are several large Kroger's grocery stores and all of the larger grocery chains available.
Mishawaka can boast plenty of parks, 26 in all, many of them linked by its Riverwalk system of pedestrian and bike trails. Parks are free to use, including parking, although hosting events at a park may require a rental fee for a special area or feature.
Downtown Beutter Park, the newest park, holds the position of the foremost gem of Mishawaka's park system. Stretching along the river, it includes the river race and a perennial garden. Cross the bridge and you'll find yourself in Battell Park, built during the days of the WPA, which features historic rock walls, a thriving community center, and a band shelter that hosts summer concerts and performances.
Kate's Garden, created in 1933 to honor long-time community leader and City Controller Catherine Kosanovich, shelters plants originally contributed by local gardeners, as well as "The Educators," a sculpture by local sculptor Harold Langland. Merrifield Park, which also sits along the river, offers visitors sports fields and practice areas, even extending to an outdoor skating rink and an Olympic size swimming pool. It also hosts the yearly Summerfest, which includes food, vendors, and a 5K run.