Sophia's House of Pancakes, which is rebranding as Sophia's Famous Pancakes, is taking over the former Baker's Square Restaurant in Merrillville.
The breakfast restaurant, a Region institution with popular locations in Highland and Schererville, is taking over the recently vacated restaurant space at 8140 Mississippi St. by the Southlake Mall.
Though especially known for its fluffy omelettes and old-fashioned pancakes, Sophia's extensive menu includes waffles, crepes, French toast, skillets, frittatas, benedicts, steak and eggs and Mexican-inspired breakfast options like huevos rancheros and a breakfast burrito. The many lunch options encompass Black Angus burgers, soups, salads, hot open-faced sandwiches, wraps, and classics liked corned beef, French dips, turkey Reubens, and San Francisco melts.
A longtime staple on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland, Sophia's House of Pancakes also expanded to the heavily trafficked Crossroads of America intersection in Schererville after Applebee's closed there a few years ago.
For more information, visit www.sophiaspancakes.com or find the business on Facebook.
Alumni of the popular Fat Burrito in Crown Point have opened another eatery in Northwest Indiana.
Veterans of the Mexican eatery known for its hefty burritos also have gone on to open a second Fat Burrito location in Highland, Chiro's Family Restaurant in Highland and El Poblano Mexican Restaurant in Merrillville.
David Huerta, his sister Maria Huerta and brother-in-law Joel Soriano recently took over Joe's Downtown Tacos, which is located under the second-story The Irish House pub. It opened this summer in the former Sweenie Todd's Smoked Meats space at 139 S. Calumet Road in downtown Chesterton that was waggishly located next door to Gatsby's Barber Shoppe and Shave Parlor, which were both under the same ownership and placed side-by-side in a winking nod to the "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" about a Victorian barber who was secretly a straight razor-wielding serial killer who turned his victims into meat pies.
The new Mexican restaurant at 139 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton serves tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and chips and guacamole.
"They kept the old menu of tacos but will add more choices like gorditas, sopas, enchiladas, good authentic Mexican rice," he said. "It's authentic Mexican cuisine."
Taco options include steak, shrimp, chicken and pork.
"It's authentic Mexican food but with different flavors," Huerta said. "The steak is marinated for a day with beer. The chicken is made with seasoning and spices. We use a lot of Cotija products as well."
The restaurant offers carryout, but also seats up to 40 inside. The space can be rented out for privately parties.
The owners are now pursuing a three-way liquor license so diners can have a festive experience.
"It will be nice right downtown where you can get tacos, nachos, margaritas, tequila, as well as new recipes we add. We'll keep adding items and different flavors. If you love what you do, the food will come out great. It's really, really good dishes, authentic Mexican food."
Joe's Downtown Tacos is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 219-983-1844 or follow the business on Facebook and Instagram.
• If Walls Could Talk Home Decor recently opened at 11 Washington St in downtown Valparaiso.
The store sells cozy throw blankets, candles, candle holders, pillows, fabrics, hand-made throws, hand-carved wooden bowls, baguette bowls, and Annie Sloan chalk paint. Customers can buy specialty items like scarves, bracelets, earnings, and drink spices that include fall mulling spices.
If Walls Could Talk Home Decor also does custom orders such as tables, step stools and signs.
Owner Sherry Jones said she wants to help customers "create a home they never want to leave."
For more information, call 219-707-5533 or find the business on Facebook.
• BYOB Fitness, whose slogans have included "Build Your Own Body" and "Helping You Build the Best Version of Yourself," opened in a former video store at 8231 Hohman Avenue in Munster.
The gym offers personal training, group classes, nutritional counseling, boot camps, and pop-up shops. It helps clients who want to build muscle, lose weight, change eating habits or just get coached by a trainer to reach their fitness goals.
Catering to both men and women, it offers certified instructors, full-body workouts, and live classes for all fitness levels. The fitness center offers private training and group classes such as yoga, core and cardio.
A retail section at the fitness center also sells items like tank tops, crew necks, face masks, water bottles and gym bags.
For more information, visit www.buildyourownbodybygina.com.
• Supermercado Durango just opened in Griffith.
The locally owned independent Mexican grocery store is now doing business at 507 E. Glen Park Ave. in a strip mall off 45th Street in Griffith, near the border of Gary's Black Oak neighborhood. The new store sells fresh groceries and authentic Mexican food. It also runs a taqueria that offers tacos, tortas, sopas, gorditas, burritos and fajitas that are cooked to order.
It took over the space previously owned by Griffith Meats & Catering, a longtime institution that closed for good in 2018.
Supermercado Durango is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call 219-513-9531, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the business on Facebook.
• Mariner Finance, a personal loan lender, opened in the former Subway restaurant at 9515 Indianapolis Blvd. Suite 1 in the Sir James Court strip mall in Highland.
The financial services company has 450 branches in 24 states. It offers auto loans, personal loans, debt consolidation loans, home loans and other financial services products. The long-time submarine sandwich shop that previously occupied the space shuttered there last year along with Subways in Valparaiso, Michigan City, Hobart and many other Region locations.
• The Alley, the iconic rock, underground and counterculture store that's a major regional draw from across greater Chicagoland, has closed at the Clark and Belmont intersection in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood for the second time in the last few years.
The shop with the landmark skull-and-crossbones logo that sells T-shirts, shoes and leather jackets, has relocated to 2620 W. Fletcher St. in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.
A destination for many Region residents over the years, The Alley sells a number of punk, rock, metal, goth, and other youth fashions, including Chicago T-shirts, chain wallets, buttons and more. It's been a Chicago institution for more than 40 years but has lately transitioned to a more online model of doing business.