GARY | Ponderosa Steakhouse, a longtime institution in Gary's Miller neighborhood, will close Sunday after a decades-long run.

The buffet restaurant, which was still often busy and had a popular wings night, has hosted judges, police officers and city officials, as well as Miller residents and passersby off the highway. It was one of the last sit-down family-style chain restaurants in the city and the last Ponderosa in Northwest Indiana.

Ponderosa locations have closed in Griffith, Merrillville, Crown Point and Valparaiso.

The Gary restaurant had many loyal customers, who have been trying to persuade the corporate headquarters to keep it open, coming in for one last meal, and leaving servers $20 tips, Manager Chris Bachand said.

"Everybody's really depressed right now, from the general manager on down," he said.

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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.