VALPARAISO | In the spring, George Djurovic thought he was done with cooking.
After working for 14 years at restaurants like Paris's Cordon Bleu restaurant and top restaurants in New York City and Chicago, Djurovic was serving as a part-time chef at The Valley restaurant in downtown Valparaiso and working for a medical device company.
Now he's preparing to open his own restaurant, called Main and Lincoln, during the end-of-the-year holiday season at 210 E. Lincolnway, formerly occupied by Cornucopia.
"I grew up in Valparaiso," he said. "My parents moved here when I was 3 or 4, and I wanted to raise my daughter here, so we moved back. My wife's family also lives here."
Djurovic said the idea of starting a downtown restaurant had been discussed with a few people, but it wasn't until he got a call from the landlord of the Cornucopia building that a space was available that it all came together.
"I've always loved the cooking, which is why I worked at The Valley," he said. "I didn't want to give up cooking, but there are very few businesses where you can be a passive owner and restaurant is not one of them."
Djurovic said the 2,800-square-foot restaurant will seat about 60 in the dining room and 14 in the bar. Thanks to the city recommending he receive the last of the 10 special downtown historic district full service liquor licenses, the bar will have signature cocktails, a nice variety of whiskeys and spirits, a wine list available by the glass or the bottle and a good selection of beers, both American and imported.
He described the menu as "new American," which he said "will take all the things the Midwest serves and take some liberty with them."
"It really allows us to do what we want," he said. "We will do the familiar and push the envelop to be exciting. It will not be one specific cuisine, so I just say it is American. Anything from a great hamburger to wild Alaska salmon. It's all inspired by American food."
Entrees will range from the mid-teens to the high 20-dollar range with higher priced specials toward the weekend. Djurovic said he plans to be open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. to start, but might eventually offer a Sunday brunch and then dinner after he gets established.
The restaurant's name comes from the two names of Lincolnway over the years.
"I'm really lucky to have worked in the places I have worked, and I'm really excited to bring that back to Valparaiso."