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NWI Business Ins and Outs: Emilio's in Highland, Amici Grill and Pizzeria in Valpo, Harold's Chicken Shack in Griffith and Mediterranean Grapevine Cafe in Crown Point opening
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NWI Business Ins and Outs

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Emilio's in Highland, Amici Grill and Pizzeria in Valpo, Harold's Chicken Shack in Griffith and Mediterranean Grapevine Cafe in Crown Point opening

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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.

Emilio's Restaurante and Cantina is bringing "modern Mexican" to the boulevard in Highland.

The Mexican eatery is taking over the former Sanfretello's Pizza restaurant space at 9400 Indianapolis Boulevard after the longtime local pizzeria closed earlier this year. Renowned local artist Felix "Flex" Maldonado painted a massive mural inside celebrating Mexican history and culture, depicting figures like a the artist Frida Khalo, Selena Quintanilla, Cesar Chavez, Pancho Villa, Carlos Santana, a lucha libre wrestler and a Día de Muertos skeleton.

"It's a fantastic mural that shows different cultural icons," owner Louis Del Rio said. "It's big and can be readily seen, even from outside. It's a conversation starter."

Del Rio previously owned the Casa Del Rio Mexican restaurant in Munster.

His latest restaurant venture will feature contemporary Mexican cuisine as well as tapas, the Spanish small plates.

"It's modern Mexican with a twist," he said. "There's tapas and a lot of things that aren't readily available in this area. There are different seafoods and a variety of appetizers like a short rib tostada with pickled onion and arugula. There's cheese curds with chorizo, a nice variety of appetizers. There's carne asada, pork chops, a variety of things."

The restaurant will employ about 15 to 20 people to start. It can seat up to 230 diners at a time, including in a private party room and a bar that seats 30.

"We're going to margaritas and craft beer on tap like 18th Street, Windmill and Maplewood out of Chicago," he said. "We'll have sangria, all the standards and some upscale options."

A curated Spotify playlist will mix classics with contemporary music in the background. Live bands will occasionally perform at the sit-down restaurant, likely on weekends.

Emilio's plans to have a soft opening this week and a grand opening sometime the week after that. In addition to the dining room and bar, the sit-down restaurant will offer carry-out and catering.

"It's modern Mexican," Del Rio said. "We're not forgetting our heritage but looking forward."

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, call 219-595-5465.

Open

Mediterranean Grapevine Cafe hopes to open Monday at 1234 N. Main St. in Crown Point.

The restaurant will offer an extensive vegan menu with items like meatless kabobs, meatless sandwiches, falafel, hummus, fava bean hummus and baba ghanoush. It also has traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare like kabobs, doner kabobs, chicken sumac, chicken shawarma, kofta sandwiches and racks of lamb chops.

Appetizers include sambosik, kibba, grape leaves, savory pies and lamb and beef pies.

Rania Elayyan is opening the family-owned restaurant located in the Market Place shopping center with Jewel-Osco.

The restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 12 until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-310-8021 or find the business on Facebook.

Coming soon

Amici Grill and Pizzeria hopes to open its second location in Valparaiso as soon as February if all its kitchen equipment gets in on time.

The popular Italian restaurant on Ridge Road in Highland has been working over the past year to open its second location at 1409 Lincolnway, across the street from the Valparaiso University campus.

The restaurant serves thin-crust pizza, Italian pasta, calzones, salads, garlic knots, espresso drinks and desserts. The Valpo location will offer pizza by the slice to appeal to college students.

For more information, visit www.amicigrill.com.

Open

The popular South Side Chicago fried chicken chain Harold's Chicken has come to Griffith.

The 70-year-old restaurant chain, a favorite of rappers like Kanye, Chance the Rapper, Freddie Gibbs and Lupe Fiasco opened at 1095 E. Ridge Road in Griffith, in a space previously occupied by Gowdy's Fishery. It's located in the Ridge Plaza shopping center along with businesses like Pagoda Inn, Metro PCS, Beauty and Wig and H&R Block.

Harold's Chicken Shack is known for Southern-style cooked-to-order chicken and wings, often served with mild sauce. Dinner options include half or quarter chickens — either all white meat, all dark meat or both — that are served with French fries, coleslaw and white bread.

Harold's also has locations in Gary, Hammond, Merrillville, Dyer, Lansing and South Holland.

The business is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 12-9 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-838-5355.

Open

Miller Mini Mart opened at 915 Shelby St. in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood, near where the Miller Beach Market Place used to be. 

The convenience store for basic needs is located next to Beach Cafe, not far from Marquette Park and the Lake Michigan beaches.

It offers a selection of grocery essentials such as breakfast cereal, frozen pizzas, hot dogs, soup, soup stock and ground coffee from Starbucks, Caribou, and Lavazza. The Miller Mini Mart also has a limited assortment of produce like apples, avocados, bananas, cucumbers, oranges, onions, tomatoes, lemons, limes and lettuce.

For more information, call call 219-487-5509 or find the business on Facebook.

Coming soon

House of Herbs, an established food vendor at the Miller Beach Farmers Market and Dirttys in Miller, plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant next year at 444 Lake St. in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood.

The space, next to D Performance Comedy Theater in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood, has a spacious and fenced-off outdoor patio. It was formerly home to the California Crab Shack seafood restaurant and, before that, the 444 Grill Caribbean jerk restaurant.

House of Herbs serves ribs, chicken dinners, pub burgers, pizza puffs, smothered oxtails, vegan soul food and vegan jerk tacos. It has the slogan "Think deep. Travel Far. Eat Good. Repeat."

For more information, find the business on Facebook or call 219-281-2742.

Open

Rapid Fired Pizza recently opened its first Calumet Region pizzeria across from the Southlake Mall at 8160 Mississippi St. in Merrillville.

Similar to MOD Pizza in Highland or Blaze Pizza in Chicago, the Ohio-based quick-serve craft pizza chain offers customizable pizzas that are made and cooked right in front of the customer "in just 180 seconds."

Customers can choose from an array of 35 ingredients, as well as multiple sauces, cheeses and dipping sauces, as well as a keto-friendly no dough option. There's also a selection of craft pizzas like pesto chicken, taco, Magic Mushroom, Wild Veggie, Hawaiian, Mac Daddy topped with mac and cheese, and White Out with white sauce, mozzarella, feta, grilled chicken, garlic and arugula.

Rapid Fired Pizza's menu also includes craft salads, pasta bowls, calzones and desserts.

The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, visit rapidfiredpizza.com or call 219-525-4957.

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.

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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.

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