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One of the Region's oldest and most beloved sandwich shops, Lincoln's O in downtown Highland, has served its final U.S. Steel Special after 55 years.

Lincoln's O posted signs on its storefront at 2813 Highway Ave. saying "closed up, thank you for 55 years in NWI 1963-2018" and "we will redeem gift cards send to 2813 Highway Ave., Highland, IN 46322."

The O stood for original. There are also Lincoln Carry Outs sandwich shops in Crown Point and Hobart with similar menus that are under different ownership and remain open.

Lincoln's O, one of the biggest staples in downtown Highland, claimed to have introduced Italian submarine sandwiches from south Philadelphia "to the Midwest" when it opened in Gary in 1963. The restaurant was known for its pink-and-pastel 1950s decor, hand-drawn paper signs listing menu items, retro prices that included a $2.99 quarter-pound burger, and vintage black-and-white historic photos, such as of a 27-foot-long sub it made for local paperboys headed on a train trip to Washington, D.C. It had a cafeteria-like setting, long accepted only cash, and served all its meals in Styrofoam to-go containers, whether people were dining in or not.

Fans also will remember massive sandwiches and hearty piles of meat, eggs, cheese and veggies in a number of specialties including the Chester hoagie, Bunny Girl, Dagwood Cal City Special, Toledo and Sibley Special.

Times of Northwest Indiana readers voted Lincoln's O had Northwest Indiana's best sandwich as recently as 2015. It earned acclaim for the U.S. Steel Special, a heap of roast beef on grilled rye bread.

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Yelp reviewers described the restaurant, which once had a Calumet City location, as "the best little sandwich soup dive ever," "a local gem," "simply the best" and an "institution." They also said "this is what you have been missing in your life," "whoever thought of putting bacon and boiled eggs on tuna is a genius," "I swear if I ever won the lottery I would have one of these opened in my house" and "it's a Region thing for sure — if you are not from the area you might not get it."

Reviewers praised the quality of the food and low prices, but often quibbled about the dated interior with remarks like "place is out of a David Lynch movie" and "want decor? Go to the art museum."

The extensive old school menu also included melts, pasta, other Italian fare, burgers, hot dogs, salads, macaroni salad, potato salad, pie and veal dishes including cordon bleu. Lincoln's O had many unique items like tomato bread and the Michigan Red Hot, a double chili dog on Italian bread with mustard and onions.

Owner and operator Helen Stasinos could not be reached for comment.

Miles Books owner Jim Rombous said the closing was a sad development for downtown Highland.

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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.