One of downtown Valparaiso's most popular restaurants, Valley Kitchen & Bar, will be converted into a high-end gourmet taco place similar to Velvet Taco and Antique Taco in Chicago.

Husband-and-wife team Cory and Blair Muro, who also own Tomato Bar in Valparaiso and Schererville and The Market in Valparaiso, have decided to close Valparaiso's first farm-to-fork restaurant. The white tablecloth eatery, which was featured on the Cooking Channel's Road Trip with G. Garvin, will reopen in February with a new name and its new gourmet taco concept.

The restaurant at 55 Franklin Street on the downtown square will be renamed Ricochet and serve tacos such as a prime rib, pork belly with pineapple, Korean barbecue, and panko-crusted chicharrón.

It's called Ricochet because it's the restaurant concept the Muros originally wanted to open before they opted instead for Valparaiso's acclaimed Valley Kitchen & Bar and built up one of Northwest Indiana's most au courant restaurant groups.

"When we lived together in Colorado, we wanted to open a taco concept in Boulder, but we didn't know a lot about the area, it was very expensive, and we didn't have a lot of connections with farmers," Cory Muro said. "It's going to be unique, higher quality tacos. We're going to do with tacos what we did with pizza with Tomato Bar."

The Muros have been renovating the 2,500-square-foot eatery, which seats 75 diners. They plan to double the staff from 18 to more than 30, since Ricochet will be open for lunch while Valley had only been open for dinner due to the complexity of the menu.

Ricochet will be the newest entry in the crowded downtown Valparaiso dining scene, one of the most competitive markets in Northwest Indiana with eateries like The Rolling Stonebaker, Pikk's Tavern, Sage Restaurant, Fork and Cork, Don Quijote, Stacks Bar and Grill, Main+Lincoln Restaurant and Parea Restaurant & Lounge.

Valley Kitchen & Bar was a fine dining restaurant known for dishes like Miller Amish chicken breast in lemon thyme cream, a cowboy cut pork chop and truffle fries. It served only locally grown food in season – so no scallops or asparagus in January – and was the type of special occasion place where people celebrated birthdays or young couples went to get engaged.

"We've been very successful for five years in doing it, but were ready for a change," Cory Muro said. "It was always a pork chop, chicken, fish, a vegetarian dish – the exact same thing over and over... We want Valley to go out on a high note. We want to do something different and not cook that style of cuisine indefinitely. You only live once."

Ricochet will feature a chef-driven menu with a variety of gourmet tacos and small bites, like house-made guacamole, salsa and chips. It will still be a full-service restaurant, but a more casual one.

"Valley was more expensive, a treat for a special occasion," Cory Muro said. "This will be more of a regular stop for people, including the college students. We really feel there's nothing like it in this area."

The restaurant will feature modern Mexican and western decor, as well as a full bar with craft beer, tequilas, specialty margaritas and a "short but impressive" wine list.

Like Tomato Bar, the Muros see it as a concept that eventually could have more than one location.

"People love tacos, and these will feature higher-quality meats and ingredients," he said. "This is our spin on tacos."

Anyone with a Valley Kitchen & Bar gift card could use it at Ricochet or get a cash refund.

Ricochet will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call 219-531-8888 or visit richochettacos.com.

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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.