A lot of dishes can make a viable claim to being a signature food in the melting pot of Northwest Indiana: pierogi, gyros, Italian beef, cevapi, latkes, basically any sausage of European provenance, and so on.
A strong case could be made for lake perch, which is ubiquitous during Lenten fish fries and a staple on many bar and restaurant menus.
Phil Schmidt's has been gone for years, and few would contest the reigning perch palace is Teibel's Family Restaurant at the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and U.S. 30 in Schererville. The time capsule-like supper club has been a region tradition since 1929, and is especially popular for banquets and at Christmastime, when it's resplendently lit up and decorated.
The proudly old-school restaurant piles on sides like tomato juice, soup, salad, rolls, and a relish plate with coleslaw, cottage cheese and pickled beets, and caps the meal with a dish of peppermint ice cream. The family owned eatery is well-known for its Austrian recipe for fried chicken, but many people go just for the lake perch, a throwback comfort food that's been enjoyed for generations in the Calumet Region.
Teibel's Canadian Yellow Lake Perch is fried to a glistening golden perfection and drenched in butter. Spritz lemon juice on it or slather it with tartar sauce, and it's about as decadent as freshwater fish can get, and that helps explain Teibel's fiercely loyal following.