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.

Joseph S. Pete

Joseph S. Pete

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Captain's House expanding, El Salto Express reopened, Palmetto Grove opening for dinner

Captain's House in Miller signed a deal to franchise and is looking to expand in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

Consider the lobster.

Consider the lobster roll, an increasingly popular sandwich of New England origin that democratizes the succulent crustacean that's often associated with fine dining.

Now consider Captain House's creative spin on the lobster roll: international versions that include Greek, Swedish, German, Mexican, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, Irish and Russian.

Acclaimed chef Angela McCrovitz has been wowing diners for years with her lobster rolls, shrimp and grits, Po'boys and other seafood fare at Captain's House, 6004 Miller Ave. in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood. But now the nautically themed restaurant might hit it big, expanding across the Midwest and perhaps eventually the country.

McCrovitz signed a franchising deal with Francorp, an Olympia Fields-based company that helped Jimmy John's spread around the country. She's initially looking for franchisees in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, and there's already interest in opening outposts of the Captain's House in Cedar Lake and Whiting.

Franchisees will have the option of franchising a Captain's House breakfast restaurant, a lunch restaurant, the lobster rolls, a food truck concept or all of the above. Her eatery has a "contemporary southern seafood" concept and features items like crab-stuffed chicken, Chesapeake crab cakes and Lobster pot pie.

Captain's House initially will target markets like Naperville, Evanston and Indianapolis, as well as lakeside locations and college towns.

"We're going to start regionally, but they think this could go big, fast," McCrovitz said. "The flagship would be right here in Gary. I was born and raised in Gary, and came back, and it's cool to think this could be my legacy." 

For information or to inquire about a franchise, call 219-239-2639 or visit www.captainshouserestaurant.com.


The 1920s-themed Palmetto Grove in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood has been hosting wedding receptions, banquets and other special events for months, but it now is opening its doors to the general public.

The Great Gatsby-inspired banquet hall at 6132 Miller Ave. will host its first speakeasy event from 5 to 10 p.m. Oct. 20. Reservations are required and guests are encouraged to dress up in "Roaring '20s" style.

Chef Angela McCrovitz hopes to open the 75-seat dining lounge and speakeasy-themed bar for dinner on Saturdays after the inaugural event.

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"Normally I do black-tie events where it might be $35 a plate," she said. "In this case, guests can order off a full menu, whether they just want a cocktail, an appetizer, salad, dessert or a full meal."

For more information or to make reservations, call 219-239-2639.


The El Salto Mexican Grill Express in Schererville reopened Thursday, about a week after a roof fire.

"It's back to exactly how it was before," owner Robert Mendoza said.

The quick-serve eatery at 820 U.S. 30, near the intersection of U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard, is modeled after Chipotle, allowing customers to choose exactly which fresh ingredients they would like in their burrito or tacos. Unlike the other sit-down El Salto restaurants, it caters mainly to the lunch crowd and those looking to pick up a quick dinner on the way home from work. 


Tequila Restaurante was long a staple of dining and drinking on the Crown Point Courthouse Square before it closed last year and was replaced by Provecho Latin Provisions, an upscale tapas restaurant.

The Mexican restaurant reestablished itself this summer as The New Tequila Restaurante at Pheasant Valley Golf Course. Located at 3838 W. 141st Ave. in Crown Point, the restaurant brought back its celebrated margaritas and $2 tacos on Tuesdays. But the restaurant is no longer taking walk-in diners as its transitions to a new, unspecified business model.

For the time being, Tequila Restaurante only will accommodate large groups of 30 or more, with 48-hour advance notice. For more information, call 219-663-5000 or find the business on Facebook.


Kids or those with a sweet tooth have a new reason to visit Chicago's Navy Pier.

It's Sugar, which claims to be the largest specialty candy retailer in the world, plans to open a 2,000-square-foot candy store at 600 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier. It will sell hundreds of confections, including all-marshmallow cereal, all pink Starbursts, and a "Taste of Chicago Box," featuring candies that originated in Chicago, including Tootsie Rolls, Juicy Fruit, Charleston Chew and Baby Ruth.

“We are thrilled to finally bring our brand to Navy Pier, a centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures, which is synonymous with old-world Chicago,” CEO and founder Jeff Rubin said. “We look forward to sharing the It's Sugar experience with the community. This one-of-a-kind store is a truly unique destination filled with candy, gag gifts and fun novelty items for people of all ages.”

If you've got tips about new stores or restaurants anywhere in the Region, or just wonder what's under construction somewhere, contact NWI Business Ins and Outs columnist Joseph S. Pete at joseph.pete@nwi.com or 219.933.3316.