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A new restaurant with duckpin bowling is coming to The Pearl in Downtown Fort Wayne

Exclusive details on Ducky's — the fourth new restaurant by Mercado's Te Gustó Hospitality.
A new restaurant with duckpin bowling is coming to The Pearl in Downtown Fort Wayne
A rendering of The Pearl, a new mixed-use development at 248 W. Main St., by Surack Enterprises where Ducky's will be located.

As Downtown Fort Wayne grows, the demand for entertainment is growing with it. 

As someone who lives Downtown and operates two restaurants there (Mercado on The Landing and Papi’s PIzza), chef and restaurateur Johnny Perez understands the challenge firsthand.

“People have been asking for more social things to do,” he says. 

It’s a gap he and his wife, Esli, who co-manages Te Gustó Hospitality, have attempted to address by hosting dance parties or video game tournaments at their eateries. As they prepare to open their fourth restaurant Downtown this fall — their third in two years — entertainment is baked into the concept.

Enter, Ducky’s: a cheeky, yet elevated American-style restaurant with eight lanes of duckpin bowling for all ages and abilities. 

“We want it to be a place where you can bring your kids to play, but still feel it’s of a high enough caliber that you want to hang out and eat there yourself,” Perez says. 

Owners of Te Gustó Hospitality, Johnny and Esli Barrón Perez, pictured at their first restaurant, Mercado on The Landing, with their daughter, Ivy. Ducky's will be their fourth restaurant in Fort Wayne.

Te Gustó plans to open Ducky’s in the ground level of The Pearl, a new seven-story, mixed-use development under construction near The Landing by Chuck Surack’s Surack Enterprises

“The Pearl is shaping up to be an absolutely beautiful building that will decorate Fort Wayne’s skyline for decades to come,” Surack says in a statement. “As founders of multiple successful eateries, Johnny Perez and Esli Barrón Perez have become a vital part of Downtown Fort Wayne’s inspiring momentum, and we are proud to welcome Ducky’s as an official tenant at The Pearl. It is a perfect fit for Lisa’s and my vision for the space: to be a place of community and belonging for residents and visitors alike.” 

Ducky’s is moving into a massive 8,000 square-foot, ground-level space as one of four large retail tenants at The Pearl, alongside an event venue and a second location for Surack’s Crescendo Coffee & More

The Pearl itself (next to The Bradley hotel) is just one piece of a newly formed “Pearl District” Downtown, poised to extend The Landing’s energy and walkability further Southwest with a focus on music and entertainment. The nearby Pearl Street Arts Center in the former Perfection Bakery building at Pearl and Maiden Lane will bring additional arts and music to the area (also owned by Surack Enterprises).

A chicken sandwich on the menu at Ducky's.

As for Ducky’s, Perez hopes it brings “nightlife energy” to Downtown, too. The restaurant will be open seven days a week with later hours on weekends, and it will have a full bar, focusing on tropical cocktails. In addition to duckpin bowling, it will also have televisions to stream sports. But Perez refrains from labeling it a “tiki bar” or a “sports bar,” per se.  

“We want to incorporate a lot of fun things,” he says. “But it will be a restaurant first and foremost.” 

During lunch hours, Ducky’s will offer food-hall style service with staples, like wraps, salads, sandwiches and more. By night, it will transition to an elevated, full-service dining experience with what Perez calls “updated bar offerings.”

“Imagine duck carnitas nachos, smash burgers and spicy chicken tenders, as well as communal family-style dishes, like grilled curry chicken skewers with pickled red onions and grilled naan bread,” he says.

Grilled curry chicken skewers with pickled red onions and grilled naan bread by Ducky's.

Johnny and Esli Barrón Perez met as high school sweethearts in Fort Wayne and later married before starting the Cali-Mex eatery, Mercado, together to celebrate their shared Mexican-American heritage. It began as a food truck during the pandemic in 2019 before transitioning to a restaurant on The Landing in 2021.

Last summer, they opened the nostalgic 90’s pizza joint, Papi’s, next door. Their next two American-style ventures, Spoke & Ivy and Ducky’s, will open this fall (in that order). Spoke & Ivy and Ducky’s are both attached to new residential buildings in up-and coming parts of town. Spoke & Ivy and its Black Rabbit Bar (in the basement) will be at the new Flats on Main, a mixed-use building along the West Main Corridor, just over the Main Street Bridge.

Earlier this month, Perez was named a “Rising Star” in Visit Fort Wayne’s inaugural Power of Tourism and Hospitality Awards for Te Gustó’s quick rise to prominence, taking the local restaurant scene by storm. Despite staffing challenges in the industry nationwide, Perez says his restaurants have been resilient, and he’s looking forward to creating more opportunities for full-time, professional employment in the field. He runs a podcast called Behind the Line, where he interviews fellow culinary entrepreneurs in Fort Wayne, offers tips and encourages collaboration.

“People tend to think there’s competition in the food and drink industry, but we see it as: the more great stuff that’s happening in Fort Wayne, the more it adds to the city’s density and gives people reasons to come visit us, too,” Perez says.

Te Gustó is now hiring both hourly and salaried positions at Ducky’s, as well as a sous chef at Spoke & Ivy.

“If you’re in the service industry, watch for job opportunities,” Perez says. “If you want to grow into a professional position, now is the time to begin.”