The Market closes restaurant, converts ex-Strongbow Inn into just events space

The Market in Valparaiso switched focus to become an events space that will have pop-up dining events and offer off-site catering.

The Market at the former Strongbow Inn site at 2405 Morthland Drive in Valparaiso closed the restaurant portion and has been re-conceptualized as a special events space.

The restaurant group that also owns Valparaiso's Ricochet Tacos and the popular Tomato Bar pizzerias decided the sprawling 10,000-square-foot building at U.S. 30 and Ind. 49 where generations of Region residents ate Strongbow's famed turkey dinners would better serve as a banquet hall hosting events including wedding receptions, corporate office parties and trade shows. It also will stage pop-up events such as an upcoming one-night-only return of the Valley Kitchen & Bar that was a dining destination in downtown Valpo.

Owners Cory and Blair Muro decided to pull the plug on the chef-driven contemporary Southern restaurant that replaced the Strongbow Inn in 2016.

"It was hard to manage the restaurant," said owner Cory Muro. "You couldn't see the bar from the hostess stand. You couldn't see the kitchen from the bar. It was laid out so wide it was hard to feed people. Tour buses would pull up on a Monday when we weren't ready because we were staffed for a Monday. The size of it makes it well-suited to events, but challenging to do a restaurant. We gave it a shot."

The 250-seat restaurant served high-end versions of down-home favorites including chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, smoked brisket with Miller High Life barbecue sauce, bone marrow-braised greens, and the Ol' Dirty Biscuit, a biscuit and gravy dish named after the legendary Wu Tang Clan rapper.

Some of the food, such as the fried chicken, brisket, pulled pork and pimento cheese, will remain on the catering menu, which Muro said strives to be more than the usual "steamed veggies, instant mashed potatoes and dry chicken." The Market also does off-site catering for corporate functions, family reunions and other groups between 50 and 200 people.

The new main focus of the business however is now hosting wedding receptions, which are mostly booked a year in advance. The Market has rooms that can accommodate 40 people to 400 people, and can host as many as 600 at the same time.

The Market also plans to host special events, such as the  Valley Kitchen pop-up, a cabaret, brunches and a beer dinner.

The Market is partnering with a ticket service to sell tickets to these events, which gives it more flexibility to try new culinary concepts.

"We can do something fun and have a dining experience without the grind of a restaurant," he said. "We're not tied down to doing the same thing all the time and can create a little bit of excitement."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.