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.

A new Thai and sushi restaurant by the Valparaiso University campus aims to bring a taste of Thai cuisine to Valparaiso.

Thailand native Ittaya Kolasa and her husband Richard Kolasa opened Kin Khao Thai & Sushi at 607 Lincolnway Thursday. It's the second Thai and sushi restaurant to come to Valparaiso in the last three years, after Bangkok Thai and Sushi opened at 2103 Calumet Ave. on the north side of town in 2016.

"My wife loves to cook," Richard Kolasa said. "She wanted to bring some of her culture from her country that might not have been present. It's true authentic Thai food that supports the values of Thailand and the owner's nationality."

The 40-seat restaurant serves Thai food such as Pad Thai, curries, pho, fish soup and a "Three Kings" dish that includes a lobster tail, giant prawns and scallops. It hopes to add sushi in a few weeks and is in the process of trying to hire a sushi chef from Thailand.

Diners will be able to watch the sushi chef at work up close at a traditional sushi bar that sits up to six people.

"We'll have everything: specialty rolls, sashimi, deep-fried rolls," he said.

The business offers Thai teas and coffees, green tea, and soft drinks, and is applying for beer and wine permits.

Kin Khao Thai & Sushi is located in the space of the former Greenwich Terrace Cafe, an American-style restaurant and coffee shop with live jazz that closed in 2014. The new owners invested about $70,000 in renovating the building, leaving up a historic mural depicting Valparaiso in the 19th century.

The 1,300-square-foot restaurant will employ five people at first. It has an outdoor patio that can accommodate 20 diners. Live entertainment is planned outside, including Thai dancing and karaoke.

It's right off campus.

"We're going after the university crowd," Richard Kolasa said. "Many college kids don't have cars and could walk here or get it delivered."

Kin Khao plans to offer delivery itself and through online platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash. It will also try to draw a lunch crowd with $9 lunch specials.

"Our long-term goal is to keep this family-owned restaurant up and going as long as we can," he said. "Taste of Thailand was in Chesterton for at least 20 years, and we want to be like that."

Kin Khao is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, call 219-299-8268 or find Kin Khao Thai & Sushi on Facebook.


The owners of Vegas Cafe in Schererville sold their business on Indianapolis Boulevard to Skillets in Highland, and have since opened Vegas Baby at 213 N. Broad St. in Griffith.

Unaffiliated with the It's Vegas Baby nightclub at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Vegas Baby replaces the short-lived Zuchez Restaurant and Bar in Griffith, which opened and closed in a few months last year. 

Vegas Baby is a breakfast and lunch restaurant by day, and a bar and nightclub by night. It seats up to 300 and has a large dance floor in the bar area. 

Valentina Mitreska and Mike Petrovic  opened the 6,000-square-foot establishment, which is three times as big as the their former Vegas Cafe in Schererville.

The new place has a different menu that includes all-you-can-eat fish fries on Fridays, stuffed peppers, beef stew, Greek salad and the Serbian sausage cevapi. Vegas Baby has a three-way liquor license that allows it to sell beer, wine and spirits, and will have live DJs and dancing every Friday and Saturday night.

"Local people have to go to Chicago to go dancing or meet someone," Mitreska said. "There's nothing like that here, so we wanted a place where people can go and get on the dance floor. You can't find a nightclub here. Most bars are sports bars."

Vegas Baby maintained the Las Vegas theme of their previous restaurant and also has raffles for prizes.

"We love Vegas. We love going to shows," Metreska said. "I love dancing and music and entertainment. My passion has always been music and entertainment. There are good times in Vegas and we are trying to have a Vegas experience here to make people happy. It's a Vegas kind of atmosphere."

Vegas Baby is open as a restaurant from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The bar and nightclub is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 219.513.9174 or find Vegas Baby Bar on Facebook.


Big Frank's Sausage, the beloved Polish joint in East Chicago, has moved, but not very far.

The restaurant, known for its Polish sausage, pierogi and golubki, relocated to a new location in East Chicago's Roxanna neighborhood that's "just a 30-second drive east of the old place," Big Frank's posted on Facebook.

Big Frank's is now serving up its hearty Polish cuisine at 918 Carrol St., not far from the South Shore Line train station.

Started in 2011, the old school Polish eatery also is a staple at the Region's summer festivals, including last year's inaugural Kielbasa Fest at Kosciuszko Park in East Chicago.

For more information, call 219-378-9556 or find the business on Facebook.


Hardee's has opened a fast food burger joint at 5223 Franklin St. in Michigan City.

Spokeswoman Alexa Kavanaugh said the 2,700-square-foot restaurant seats up to 64 people and has a drive-through. The St. Louis-based chain is best known for its "charbroiled thickburgers," including the once-popular but discontinued half-pound Six Dollar Thickburger. 

The Hardee's will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.


Express Factory Outlet opened a few months ago along the boulevard in Schererville.

The Columbus, Ohio-based Express Clothing located an outlet store at 134 Indianapolis Blvd. between Old Navy and Bath and Body Works near the retail-heavy and highly trafficked intersection of Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard.

The clothing retailer started out as Limited Express in Chicago's Water Tower Place in 1980, and now has more than 600 locations worldwide, including an Express store at Southlake Mall and an Express Factory Outlet that opened in the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City in 2017. The retailer sells both women's and men's apparel and accessories like jewelry, sunglasses, belts and handbags.

For more information, call 219-558-6017.

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.