Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.
Contact Joseph S. Pete by emailing him at email@example.com or by calling him at 219-933-3316.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Bartlett's closes in Beverly Shores, fish market opens in Valpo, Johnny's Round the Clock reborn as Brothers Breakfast and Lunch in Merrillville, yoga studio open in St. John
Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern, a "roadhouse-like rustic culinary hideaway" on U.S. 12 in Beverly Shores, has closed after an 11-year run.
The "gastronomic getaway" at 131 E. Dunes Highway boasted a creative, varied and wide-ranging menu that included andouille corndogs, seared Indiana duck breast, duck confit wonton tacos, lamb shank, venison chili, oysters, tuna ceviche tostada, chicken schnitzel, croque madame, shrimp and grits, and shrimp and crab beignets. The Duneland restaurant was destination dining that was a popular stop for people visiting the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park or Michigan City.
Bartlett's iconic sign of a deer knocking back a bottle of beer beckoned visitors off the highway. The restaurant had an annual Oysterfest, live music and a food truck that served "truckin' good grub" at many summer festivals.
Often praised as a "hidden treasure" or "gem of Beverly Shores," it garnered good reviews from far and wide, including from Indianapolis Monthly magazine and Midwest Wanderer.
The restaurant was founded by Gary Sanders and Nicole Bissonette, whose other culinary endeavors include Bistro 157 in Valparaiso.
The spin-off restaurant Bartlett's Fish Camp remains open at 12 On the Lake by the Michigan City Yacht Club on the Lake Michigan lakeshore, where it serves a variety of seafood like a Gojuchang Asian calamari stir fry over basmati rice.
Arcadia Cafe & Bar, another waterfront dining spot in Michigan City, announced on Facebook Thursday it had hired Sanders as a chef.
Bartlett's Fish Camp did not return messages, and Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern's phone number was disconnected.
A couple who lived in San Diego but moved back to the Region decided to open a fish market like the ones they enjoyed so much in California in Valparaiso.
Husband-and-wife duo Leslee McGowan and Rob McGowan, who had been an executive chef at a Cajun restaurant, opened McGowan & Sons at 1607 Burlington Beach Road on the north side of Valparaiso. The market sells fresh seafood like salmon, grouper, mahi mahi, halibut, mussels, snapper, king crab legs, lobster, scallops and oysters from both the east and west coasts. The selection rotates depending on what's in season and what's selling.
"It's flown in fresh daily and it's mostly wild caught," Leslee McGowan said. "We do have a salmon that's ocean-farmed, but it's in an ocean harbor in Canada where water is flowing in and out and it's eating regular foods, not pellets. It's sustainable. We're focused on high quality."
To accompany the seafood, Rob McGowan also prepares homemade soups, stocks, shrimp cocktail and other cooked seafood that can be enjoyed cold, and salads like an orzo feta lemon salad to accompany the fish as a side. They also have meal kits with vegetables, herbs and garlic one can chop up at home.
"We have meal kits where everything is prepped and you just need to follow the directions to finish it off, while you cook your fish in the pan and drink your wine," she said. "This is not a restaurant but it's like a restaurant where you can take home a meal that will be that you can enjoy fresh and hot out of the pan."
The McGowans loved eating fish and seafood while living on the coast and missed it when returning to Region to help run her family's trucking company.
"We would go to Whole Foods in Chicago to get our fish," she said. "You can't do that all the time because it needs to be fresh."
So they decided to open the fish market, which employs eight workers in a 1,600-square-foot space.
"We didn't really want to do a restaurant in the traditional sense because we have young kids and like being home at night to watch them grow up," she said. "But he loves to cook, so we added a party room that does catering both on- and off-site. We'll do prix fixe meals and other fun stuff like clam bakes or shrimp boils."
They plan to soon offer cooking classes to teach knife skills and other culinary techniques. They seek to educate customers, such as by showing them how to shuck their own oysters.
"Valparaiso has a crazy elevated dining scene with many dining and food options," she said. "People's palates are expanding and there's an expectation of being able to get what you can get in Chicago here. We have fresh clean fish without preservatives, MSG or any of the yucky stuff. We love to see people eating and entertaining and enjoying their food, and are here to help them get restaurant-quality food on their table."
For more information, call 219-299-2336 or visit www.mcgowanandsons.com.
Johnny's Round the Clock, a longtime diner at 1800 81st Ave. in Merrillville, has new owners, a new look, new menu items, new hours and a new name.
Anna Saitis and Manny Saitis bought the restaurant from her uncle Louis Christos, who's in his 80s and wanted to retire. They both grew up in the restaurant business, and her family also owns Round the Clock eateries in Valparaiso and Chesterton.
They have modernized the restaurant on U.S. 30 and renamed it Brothers Breakfast and Lunch since they converted it from a 24/7 diner to a pancake house serving breakfast and lunch. The name honors the brothers who immigrated from Greece and launched the Round the Clock chain in Gary in 1968.
"We took it over with him and rebranded with a new concept," Manny Saitis said. "It's only open for breakfast and lunch because it was important to be able to spend some time with family and watch our kids grow up."
They did extensive renovations, getting rid of the platform in the middle of the restaurant and installing new floors, booths, chairs and lighting.
"It looks a lot more modern," Anna Saitis said. "It's a little rustic and industrial with Edison bulbs and more modern light fixtures. As my husband says, we're trying to make it Round the Clock 2.0."
They kept many Johnny's Round the Clock favorites on the menu, such as bacon and eggs, burgers and Greek pork chops. But they have added many newer items to appeal to younger customers such as chicken and waffles, a chorizo eggs benedict, pork belly benedict, coconut-crusted French Toast, croissants breakfast sandwiches with maple aioli, bacon-stuffed waffles, and pancakes with Nutella, bananas and strawberries.
"We've got the old favorites and trendy brunch items," she said. "We want to keep our old customers happy and reach out to younger markets."
They also retained many of the same employees, including a waitress who has worked there for 30 years.
In the long term, they hope to offer catering to the area and potentially open a second restaurant, likely somewhere in Porter County.
Brothers is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219-769-1591 or find the business on Facebook.
The new Now Yoga Club & Community Center celebrated its grand opening last week at 8255 Wicker Ave. in St. John.
The yoga studio offers regular classes, including on Zumba and guided meditation. Owner Sarah Johnson said yoga — a practice of stretching exercises with roots in ancient India — changed her life for the better and she wanted others to enjoy the benefits.
For more information, call 219-351-5156 or visit www.nowyogaclub.com.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Fluid Coffeebar expanding to Michigan City, Square Roots opens on Crown Point square, Japanese restaurant and Top Fitness Store opening in Highland, new life in old Kmart in Chesterton?
Downtown Valparaiso's Fluid Coffeebar is expanding to provide a jolt of caffeine to downtown Michigan City.
The hip new-wave coffee shop will bring its single-origin coffees, pour-overs, nitro cold brew, hand-crafted lattes, local art shows, vegan food options and dark modern aesthetic to the Eagle Building at 518 N. Franklin St. in the Uptown Arts District.
"We're going to have a cafe similar in style to Valparaiso with a large roastery that will allow us to produce high-quality direct trade types of coffee," said Charles Scates, who owns Fluid along with his wife Alison Scates. "We've been roasting for more than a year or so, just finding unique varieties of coffee that are exciting and different from the same old thing."
The roastery will use equipment purchased from the acclaimed Tinker Coffee Co. in Indianapolis, which has been named the best coffee roaster in Indiana. Fluid will roast beans from all over the world to provide freshly roasted coffee to both the Valparaiso and Michigan City cafes. The coffee shop also will sell bags of beans for home brewing.
Fluid will mostly produce single-origin roasts but also offer a few dual-origin coffees some might find more palatable, such as a blend of Guatemalan and Brazilian beans.
"We're going to source the best possible coffee," Scates said. "I'm a big fan of African coffees and Kenyan coffees. We're going to do direct trade with the farmers with no middleman so the farmers are treated much more fairly. It will be super fresh and people will be able to see the roaster through a viewing window. It can't get any fresher."
Fluid will take over 2,600 square feet of space in a former fraternal lodge that was built in 1921. It was turned into offices and most recently used as a jazzercize studio.
"It's super cool, the exterior of it is kind of like the Greek style with columns and a concrete pergola," Scates said. "It's neat looking architecture."
Fluid is doing extensive renovations. The goal is to make it look like the chic Valparaiso cafe, which has murals and chalkboard restrooms that people scribble all over. It's building out a cafe with 30 to 40 seats, and private meeting or training rooms that can be rented out.
"It lends itself to that industrial and post-apocalyptic look we like," he said. "We plan to expand on the local art by incorporating more street art from the local art scene."
The Scateses tapped Michigan City for expansion because of the downtown's similarity to Valparaiso, its proximity to the popular tourist destination of Southwest Michigan, and momentum it has built with lakefront improvements and the attraction of new businesses.
"We wanted to get in on the ground floor, so to speak," he said.
The cafe will offer a drink or two unique to Michigan City, like the Vale of Paradise latte in Valpo. The kitchen space is larger so Fluid will have a bigger food menu in Michigan City, including many vegan and paleo dishes.
The goal is to open the second location by September.
"It's like the trend with microbreweries," Scates said. "People want a focus on the quality of their coffee and to know where their coffee came from, not necessarily something loaded with cream and sprinkles."
Square Roots opens Sunday to bring "a handcrafted dining experience bursting with big city influences, rooted on the historic Crown Point Square."
The new gastropub at 108 N. Main St. in downtown Crown Point offers seasonal menus with "honest, locally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients," as well as a selection of hand-crafted cocktails.
"I think what sets it apart from other restaurants in the region is the inspiration my staff and I bring into work every day," Head Chef Matthew Griseta said on the Square Roots website. "Our core concept for the food and drink menu at Square Roots is to show our guests that this is our passion. The food is honest, and is a lot of work to create, but we do it because we love it. Braising, smoking, and brining are not quick processes, but it’s a labor of love."
The restaurant offers truffle-parmesan fries, appetizers like charcuterie and a fireside elote dip, salads and sandwiches like a "Smashville Hot Chicken Sandwich" and a "Brunch Burger" with Applewood smoked bacon, an over-easy egg and avocado mash. A selection of Main Street Tacos include smoked brisket, Corona-battered shrimp and jackfruit tinga. It has craft pizzas and entrees like a crispy sous vida pork shank, blackened trout with pimento cheese grits, and a garlic rubbed pork chop with cauliflower yellow rice.
For more information, visit www.squarerootscp.com.
A new Japanese restaurant is headed to downtown Highland.
Sakura Bowl Restuarant will fill the space the legendary Lincoln O's sandwich shop vacated when it closed last year. Highland Building Commissioner Ken Mika said the new owners run the Dragon Bowl restaurant in Munster.
"I believe the party currently owns a restaurant in Munster on the northeast corner of Hohman Avenue and Ridge Road," he said.
Redevelopment Director Kathy DeGuilio-Fox said the new owners have been renovating the restaurant's interior since last fall.
Lincoln O's, a beloved local institution known for its Italian submarine sandwiches and its U.S. Steel Special, closed last year after being founded in Gary 55 years prior.
Anyone who wants to work out at home instead of schlepping to the gym can swing over to Top Fitness Store in Highland.
The exercise equipment store at 10412 Indianapolis Blvd. sells "top-of-the-line fitness" equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes, kettlebells, home gyms, free weights and elliptical machines from name brands like Precor and Helix. Fitness specialist Matt Richardson said the store also offered warranties and service.
"If you're looking to start a home gym or want to pursue a healthier lifestyle we can set you on the right path," he said. "We sell commercial grade fitness equipment for home use."
Top Fitness Store delivers and will install rubberized gym flooring, Richardson said. Its service team that will try to fix any exercise equipment, even if it was purchased somewhere else.
The business is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.topfitnessstore.com or call 219-364-6280.
Chesterton Town Manager Bernard Doyle said an announcement may be coming in the next few weeks about a new tenant at the former Kmart building at 750 Indian Boundary Road.
The financially flailing Sears closed the big-box Kmart in Chesterton in 2017 after a 36-year run.
"We certainly hope that the area is redeveloped as it is a critical location for the Indian Boundary business district in Chesterton," Doyle said.
Rumors that the German discount grocer Aldi would take over the former Kmart have swirled around town for months, but the company is mum.
"At this time, we don't have any updates regarding a potential new store in Chesterton, but we will be in touch if we have information to share at a later date," Aldi Valparaiso Division Vice President David Zalunardo said.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Valpo's historic Aberdeen Inn opens upscale restaurant and piano bar, gastropub coming to Michigan City, Mary & Martha Home moving, new Cell Phone Repair shop opens
The historic Aberdeen Inn in Valparaiso, which dates back to the 1800s, has added an upscale restaurant and piano bar serving steak, seafood and pasta dishes.
New owners Roxanne Chayhitz and Barb Sexton, who also owns Tommy B's Clubhouse in Valparaiso, recently bought the cozy 10-room inn at 3158 S. Ind. 2 in Valparaiso, which they have been modernizing to give it more of the feel of a contemporary Airbnb. They added The Abbey Pub and Eatery, hiring chef Liz Stressler who worked at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville.
"They were literally talking about it one night and bought it the next day," General Manager and Innkeeper Kylee Chayhitz said. "It was cool and crazy. Barb has been in the restaurant industry for 30 years or so, so they figured they wanted to add in the restaurant."
The inn dates back to at least 1857 and was a stop on the Underground Railroad where slaves fleeing to freedom hid in a root cellar accessible only by a hidden trapdoor. Kylee Chayhitz said it "may or may not" be haunted by the ghost of a little girl who died of tuberculosis there.
The dinner menu features appetizers like Italian hummus, Prince Edward Island mussels, stuffed banana peppers, sea scallops, charcuterie, and west coast oysters. A wide range of pasta dishes includes cacio e pepe and papardelle with scallops, mussels, shrimp, spinach, and tomato lobster brandy cream. Other entrees include airline chicken, filet mignon, porterhouse pork chop, espresso dusted black bass, snow crab legs and twin lobster tails.
"It's an Italian fusion thing," she said. "We do some very good pasta and a lot of seafood. We do brunch but nothing super-fancy: eggs benedict, of course, a veggie burger, some sandwiches, and omelets. The chef makes some amazing food. It's a really good atmosphere with a beautiful historical building."
The new owners have done extensive renovations, adding in a commercial kitchen and a piano bar where the library used to be and where they now have live music once a week, usually on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
"Before we added in the restaurant, it was a conference center, it was very gaudy-looking with green carpet and red tablecloths," Kylee Chayhitz said. "It was terrible."
The restaurant now seats about 70 people, including at the bar, and is adding an outdoor patio.
The Abbey Pub and Eatery, which employs 17 workers, offers beer, wine and craft cocktails that were designed by a mixologist.
It's open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with the bar staying open for as long there are customers. It's open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and for brunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-465-3753 or visit innataberdeen.com.
Leeds Public House is moving into the former Ryan's Irish Pub space at 401 Franklin St. in Michigan City.
Construction on the gastropub is expected to be completed next month, with a targeted opening in July. The restaurant has posted job openings for servers, bartenders, floor managers, bussers, line cooks, prep cooks, dish washers and kitchen supervisors.
Named after the city in West Yorkshire, the English pub will replace the longtime Irish pub across from the library that had been an anchor of the downtown for more than 20 years.
"The construction has really been coming along," Mayor Ron Meer said.
Mary & Martha Home is moving out of Louise's Hallmark Shop at 9533 Wicker Ave. in St. John, since that Hallmark store is closing after more than 30 years.
The 20-year-old home decor store, which was located in Porte De Leau Plaza in Highland for 16 years, is now moving to Lake Central Plaza across from Lake Central High School in St. John.
Mary & Martha Home will move into the 2,000-square-foot space at 8335 Wicker Ave. on June 1.
"We've kind of learned to hone the kind of items people want for a shopping experience other than what the big boxes offer," owner Dawn Johnson said. "We've got unique items for people looking to create beautiful homes or thoughtful gifts for something special."
The shop, named after the sisters Mary and Martha in the Bible, has stayed in business for so long by keeping abreast of current trends, Johnson said.
"It's traditional items with a trendy twist," Johnson said. "We're really blessed with a good following, and now we'll be closer to the customers we had from Highland, Munster and Dyer, those north of 45th Street who might not want to go all the way to the far end of St. John."
Mary & Martha Home offers carefully curated products that aren't easy to find in the marketplace.
"We display decor so it tells a story and don't just stuff products on shelves," she said. "In an age with less and less locally owned small businesses, we're hanging on and changing with the times."
For more information, call 219-627-3538 or visit maryandmarthahome.com.
CPR Cell Phone Repair has opened a second Northwest Indiana location, in a strip mall along Main Street at the border of Schererville and Highland.
The national chain of smartphone and device repair shops has more than 750 locations nationwide, including on U.S. 30 in Merrillville. It recently opened another location at 727 Main St. in Schererville.
The store will fix everything from cracked screens to broken charging ports for iPhones, other smartphones, iPads, tablets, Macs, laptops, video game consoles, and iPods. It will remove viruses from computers and offers free estimates.
For more information, call 708-455-2033.
Dollar General has opened a store on North Halleck Street in Demotte, its second in town.
“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”
The North Carolina-based dollar store, where not everything is one dollar, sells a variety of goods that include food, housewares, personal care, toiletries, seasonal items, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, home decor, and health and beauty products.
The store is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week.
For more information, call 219-202-4795
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buttermilk Pancake House opens in Munster, Spikes Inn II and Bright Spot sold, Dicky's Hot Dogs opens in Lowell, Great Clips coming to Valpo
Buttermilk Pancake House isn't just another diner, one of many to sling omelets and bottomless cups of coffee in Northwest Indiana.
The new restaurant at 805 Ridge Road in Munster aims to bring a taste of downtown to the Region.
The pancake house — meaning it's only open for breakfast and lunch — recently opened in the former El Salto space in the historic Old Town Hall at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. It will celebrate its grand opening Monday with complimentary upgrades to specialty pancakes.
"We have some unique items like our pineapple upside down pancakes and very berry bliss pancakes with blueberries and mascarpone cheese," owner Sam Yfantis said. "We wanted to bring downtown into the area, into the Region, but we still have traditional breakfasts for those that prefer that."
Yfantis grew up working in his parents' restaurant in Chicago and has owned restaurants in the city and Wisconsin.
"I like this area," he said. "A lot of people are moving into the Region. I see a lot of growth. There's a lot of condos coming to Centennial Park. It's an awesome location."
The 4,600-square-foot restaurant seats about 135 diners and employs about 25 workers. Buttermilk Pancake House makes all its batter from scratch and prepares its three-egg omelets in the French way, cooking them in a pan and finishing them in the oven. The lunch menu features items like a triple-decker Monte Cristo sandwich served with either fruit or French fries.
The extensive menu includes pancakes, French Toast, waffles, crepes, blintzes, biscuits and gravy, breakfast combos, salads, Black Angus burgers and club sandwiches. It boasts both a My Big Fat Greek Omelet and a My Big Fat Greek Salad, as well as The Ron Swanson Sweet N Savory. Named after the breakfast food-loving parks director from "Parks and Recreation," the Ron Swanson is a bacon-filled waffle topped with more bacon and cheesy scrambled eggs.
"I made it up myself while I was watching the show," he said. "It was delicious with syrup. It's our alternative to the chicken and waffle that so many places are doing."
Yfantis said he eventually would be interested in opening more Buttermilk Pancake House locations in the area, but said he planned to take it slow and focus on getting the Munster diner established.
Buttermilk Pancake House is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
For more information, call 219-513-8119.
Dicky's Dogs, a Chicago-style hot dog joint, celebrated its grand opening Monday at 108 W. Commercial Drive in Lowell.
The fast-food restaurant serves Chicagoland favorites like Chicago dogs, Maxwell Street Polishes, gyros, Italian beef, pepper and egg sandwiches, pizza puffs, and the Italian breaded steak sandwiches that are popular in Bridgeport and on the South Side. Its extensive and varied menu also includes burgers, tacos, burritos, salads, fried pickles, salads and wraps, as well as desserts like ice cream and milkshakes.
The Chicago dog costs $2.95, and nothing on the menu runs more than $8.49 if you feel like splurging on a double gyros burger.
It's a family-owned restaurant with both inside and outside seating. Dicky's Dogs offers take-out, delivery, and catering.
"It's been a great response so far," owner Nick Filetti said. "It's been crazy open to close."
Dicky's Dogs is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 219-300-3434 or find the business on Facebook.
Spike's Lakeside 2, a downtown Schererville institution known for its walleye, perch and frog legs, has been sold and will be renamed Greg's Place.
"With mixed emotions, we would like to announce the sale of Spike's Lakeside," owner David "Spike" Jaroszewski announced on Facebook. "We would like to thank everyone for the past 33 years of your patronage and friendship. Good news is, a great friend has purchased it. The new name will be Greg's Place, also the staff is staying on. Menu and salad bar to be continued. May God bless everyone."
Jaroszewski and his wife Carol opened Spike’s Lakeside Inn on the southeast side of Chicago in 1985 and opened a second location at 21 E. Joliet St. in downtown Schererville in 2000. They closed the original location on Ewing Avenue on Chicago's East Side four years later.
The restaurant and bar serves up seafood, ribs, pork chops and other entrees with a traditional salad bar that includes beets, cottage cheese and kidney bean salad. It's especially known for seafood like smelt, whitefish, catfish, crab cakes and shrimp.
For more information, call 219-322-4444.
The landmark Bright Spot diner in downtown Hobart closed in 2016 after a 36-year run.
Owners George Fitusis, then 84, and Angie Fitusis, then 74, wanted to retire but couldn't find a buyer. But they announced earlier this year on Facebook they finally sold the restaurant at 322 Main St.
The old-school Bright Spot had a vintage lunch counter and a traditional diner menu with omelets, skillets, and triple-decker club sandwiches.
The new owners are currently looking for someone to rent it out to.
Great Clips plans to open a new hair salon at 2270 Morthland Drive in Valparaiso.
The hair care chain will be located in front of Strack and Van Til and next to GNC on U.S. 30. Operations Manager Brittany Fitzsimmons said it should open by the end of the month and is looking to hire local stylists.
The 1,200-square-foot salon will employ 12 stylists and offer $7.99 haircuts for the first few weeks.
Great Clips, a Minneapolis-based chain with more than 4,100 locations that pulls in more than $1 billion a year in revenue, also has a location over on the east side of town at 2710 Laporte Ave Ste 130 in the Valparaiso Marketplace shopping center.
The new location will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
R&R Sports Bar & Grill in the U.S. Steel Yard in downtown Gary was closed Wednesday and Thursday, but was just being deep-cleaned in preparation for the baseball season and resumed normal operations Friday.
Class UFC Gym at 10417 Calumet Ave. in Munster celebrated its grand opening Saturday.
The gym offers fitness-focused boxing workout classes and High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts.
For more information, call 219-803-414, visit classufcgym.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: F45 Training gyms coming to CP, Valpo and Schererville, Domino's to open in Chesterton, Tapas Cafe closes, Erickson's Jewelers shuttering after 50 years
The fast-growing F45 Training gym chain — F standing for functional training, 45 for the length of every workout in minutes — has opened a location in Crown Point and is coming soon to Schererville and Valparaiso.
Developed in Australia seven years ago, F45 has since spread to 1,500 studios in 36 countries, where everyone worldwide does the same high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, workout every day, and they never do the same workout twice. Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg recently invested in the trendy studios, which offer high-energy group workout sessions that use functional movements and heart monitors.
"It's taken off like wildfire," F45 Training Crown Point owner Jason Cotton said. "Franchise territories are selling like crazy. Now, there are 1.3 million people worldwide doing the same workout every day."
The 2,700-square-foot gym at 870 N. Superior Drive in Crown Point typically has eight classes a day between 5 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and three classes a day on Saturday and Sunday. Class sizes typically range between 22 and 36 people, and more classes are added as more people sign up.
Nine personal trainers now lead the classes, which involve cardio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and resistance training on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. There's an hour-long "Hollywood" class with a live DJ on Saturdays that combines cardio and resistance training.
"There's a database of 3,800 exercises. Professionals are working behind the scenes to design the workouts a month in advance," Cotton said. "One or two personal trainers go through the class to make sure everyone is doing it correctly, but you don't have the cost of hiring an hourly personal trainer. People are burning 600 to 1,100 calories per class and their heart rate gets so high they burn calories for hours afterward. The workouts are structured for any age or fitness level. We have a 66-year-old man who comes in and loves it."
Cotton tried the workout while visiting Scottsdale for his day job and loved it. He's signed leases for a Valparaiso location he hopes to open sometime in October and a Schererville gym that should open in January.
The gym offers everyone a free week to try it out.
"It's an addictive class," Cotton said. "Everybody is giving each other high fives at the end, whether they know them or not. It's for anybody that has fitness goals, or is stuck in a rut or plateau."
For more information, visit f45training.com/crownpoint or call 219-649-1774.
Erickson Jewelers at 1712 East U.S. 20 in Michigan City is closing after 50 years in business.
The third-generation, family-owned jewelry store specializes in fine diamonds, engagement rings, wedding bands, watches, bracelets, necklaces, chains, cuffs, rings and other jewelry. It opened in 1969 and also offers jewelry repairs, such as remountings. It's now in the midst of a going-out-of-business liquidation sale that it's billing as "the greatest savings event in our history" where "everything must be sold."
For more information, call 219-872-6565.
Tapas Cafe, a Spanish tapas restaurant that promised an "exotic trip to the Iberian Peninsula without leaving Northwest Indiana" has served its last small plate after a seven-year run, but its chef continues to cook and cater out of Cafe Fresco in downtown Crown Point.
The restaurant that served Spanish favorites such as paella, bacon-wrapped dates and goat cheese baked with tomato sauce, was located on U.S. 30 in Merrillville for five years and moved to 518 N. Main St. in Crown Point two years ago. It had a cult following, as it was one of few Region restaurants to offer tapas, the traditional Spanish cuisine that evolved from inns placing small plates over glasses of sherry for travelers as samples of their cooking — and to load them up with salt to get them to order more drinks.
"Thank you food lovers," Chef Uly Gom said in a Facebook post announcing its closure. "Seven years ago, I started a dream, more of a journey. We became well-known as the hidden jewel of Merrillville and later the hidden jewel of Northwest Indiana. We were always bringing food innovations and eclectic fusions that chefs and food lovers were amazed by. We are happy with the accomplishments we reached. All thanks to you food lovers but when one door closes another door opens for better opportunities."
In addition to cooking at Cafe Fresco on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point, Gom plans to be at the Chesterton European Market every Saturday and the Crown Point Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday.
Domino's will open a newfangled "pizza theater" restaurant in Chesterton on May 20.
The Ann Arbor-based pizza chain, which became the largest pizza seller in the world in February and boasts 16,100 stores worldwide, is opening a restaurant employing about 30 people at 560 Indian Boundary Road.
Franchisee Jim Gronemann also recently opened Domino's restaurants in Merrillville and Hammond. He started as a delivery driver in 1984 and now owns 17 franchises in Indiana and Illinois.
“We are dedicated to the Chesterton area and are excited to better serve its residents,” Gronemann said. “We have a deeply experienced team of folks who live and work in Chesterton, and they are eager to offer our delicious products, exceptional service and innovative ordering technology to the community.”
Domino's serves pizzas in a number of styles, including hand-tossed, thin crust, handmade pan and Brooklyn Style. Though best known for pizza, it also sells pasta, chicken, sandwiches, wings, salads, desserts and stuffed cheesy bread.
The new Chesterton location features a large lobby, a chalkboard for customers to scrawl on, an open kitchen that lets people watch their pizza being made and an electronic lobby screen that tracks carryout orders in real time.
As a part of the grand opening celebration, the Chesterton Domino's will offer medium one-topping carryout pizzas for $3.99 through June 9. Police, firefighters, first responders and military also get 50% off at any time with an ID.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Restaurant bringing 100-ounce margaritas, lobster claw tacos, tequila slushies and avocado fries to Chesterton; fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, yoga studio and dental office opening
Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila in Chesterton hopes to generate buzz this Cinco de Mayo weekend with unique menu items like lobster claw tacos, tequila slushies, flash fried avocado fries with a chipotle crema, and a gargantuan 100-ounce margarita that will only be served to parties of four or more.
The restaurant, scheduled to open this weekend, is in the former Volstead space at 225 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton. It will offer five different varieties of margaritas in servings of 16 ounces to 56 ounces, with different rim options, like hibiscus or sweet-and-salty, intended to bring out different flavors. Las Mamacitas eventually will have a selection of 100 tequilas and offer customizable flights of tequilas, margaritas, tacos and tamales.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Monica Susoreny, who's also a public relations professional and the organizer of the NWI Food Truck Fest. She's spent the last four months renovating the restaurant to have a carnival-like ambiance with brightly covered murals that often evoke the Day of the Dead, adding a fireplace, Mexican pottery and a pergola by the bar to give it an outdoor feel. The restaurant employs about 20 people and could seat up to 120 people, including on the outdoor patio. It also offers catering to local businesses in Porter County.
Las Mamacitas hired chef Michelle Gomez, who's worked at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach and cooked for celebrities like the rapper Jay Z.
"We'll have authentic but out-of-the box concepts," Susoreny said. "I would say it's Mexican fusion."
The 100-ounce margarita — more than six times as large as a normal margarita — will be available in different flavors like fresca, orange and strawberry and will only be available to groups of four or more. Anyone who finishes it gets a sticker saying they drank Northwest Indiana's largest margarita.
"The best way to describe it is that it's like a fish bowl," she said. "I worked with a mixologist in Chicago after coming up with the concepts. I just have the wow factor, something fun and different, something unique and out-of-the-box. We want people to have fun when they come in and dine with us, whether it's a date night or they're looking for a unique and different experience. We want people to have fun and feel good."
Las Mamacitas also will serve imported Mexican cerveza, craft beer and fine wines. The sangria also is stronger than normal because they added brandy, and a different tequila slushie flavor will be offered each month, starting with cucumber lime.
The menu will include lobster claw tacos, oysters on the half shell with a tequila and jicama mignonette, Mexican cactus chili nachos and vegan and vegetarian options. The many different tamale varieties include Texas brisket with a whiskey barbecue sauce, buffalo chicken with blue cheese crumbles, and Philly cheesesteak. Taco options include chipotle chicken, bang bang shrimp, and spicy siracha snapper with pickled carrots and a siracha crema.
Desserts include homemade flan and churro donuts with vanilla ice cream.
"My husband and I are happy to bring something like this to this area," Susoreny said. "Owning our own restaurant has always been a dream of ours, being foodies ourselves and in the industry for over 20 years. We developed the Las Mamacitas concept around what we envisioned would be an inviting atmosphere that provides an experience like no other. Las Mamacitas is a place that anyone can come to. There are many different authentic and unique cocktail and menu items to choose from."
Las Mamacitas plans to have regular special events like a mimosa brunch on Mother's Day, a Día de los Muertos celebration and ticketed five-course meals paired with tequila tastings. It's broken up into Taco, Tequila and Tamale rooms that can be rented out for graduations, birthday parties or other events. People also can rent out the entire restaurant.
The eatery is doing a weekend-long grand opening celebration. DJ Chef, who's appeared on the Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, will perform a DJ set and cook samples for guests from noon until 6 p.m. Sunday. Beer and tequila ambassadors will be on hand for tastings, and there will be live music, folklorico dancers, a beer tent and a selfie station.
Tickets to the 21-and-over grand opening fiesta in Las Mamacitas's back parking lot Sunday will include all-you-can-eat tacos and tamales, with a side of hand-cut chips and homemade guacamole.
The restaurant will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-728-6650, visit www.lasmamacitasnwi.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
The new Now Yoga Club & Community Center says "namaste" to yoga enthusiasts in the Tri-Town.
The yoga studio at 8255 Wicker Ave. in St. John aims to make yoga accessible to both adults and kids. It has a reception area with complimentary tea and a 1,200-square-foot yoga room where 12 yoga teachers lead 30 classes each week.
"We have a wide range of classes for everyone because there is such a wide range of needs with yoga," owner Sarah Johnson said. "For example, Chair Yoga might be perfect for someone who wants to experience the physical and emotional benefits yoga offers, but might have more physical limitations than our Vinyasa class or Yoga Burn would be comfortable for. Restorative Yoga is great for the athlete needing to stretch, the busy parent or student needing some time to unwind, or any of us who works long hours and needs to give the mind a rest and the body some recovery."
The studio also offers Zumba, guided meditation, family yoga and kids yoga, as well as monthly workshops.
Johnson has been practicing yoga for seven years.
"I'll never forget coming home from my first yoga class and taking a two-hour nap because it wiped me out, and I thought I might never go back," she said. "But I went back because I bought a class package, and by the time I finished that package I was hooked."
She started just to work out, but soon found there was more to it.
"I started to realize it calmed and soothed me in ways I would carry off the yoga mat as well," she said. My Type A personality started to relax a bit. I started to practice mindfulness and presence not only in the yoga room, but in my life and relationships."
She began teaching yoga to middle school students and colleagues, and then at a friend's gym in St. John. She saw an opportunity to open the first yoga studio in St. John.
"There are so many benefits to yoga. Yoga is amazing work for our bodies," she said. "No matter where you start, you will see improvement in your physical practice. And it doesn't matter where you start. The biggest myth about yoga is that you need to be flexible or have balance or any of these other prerequisites people come up with in their minds. All you need to do to start is show up and just be patient with yourself and see what happens. Yoga is amazing work for our emotional bodies as well. It's not an overstatement when I say it has completely changed my life for the better."
For more information, call 219-351-5156 or visit www.nowyogaclub.com.
Harold's Chicken is bringing another location to Gary.
The beloved South Side fried chicken chain, a favorite among rappers like Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and Chance the Rapper, will open in a strip mall by the McDonald's on Dunes Highway in the Miller neighborhood later this year, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.
Known for its cooked-to-order chicken and wings, often enjoyed with generous servings of mild sauce, Harold's has another Gary location on Grant Street as well as restaurants in Hammond, Merrillville and Dyer.
Two new grocery stores and a Caribbean jerk chicken restaurant are opening soon in East Chicago.
Noonies Famous Jerk & Things, the latest restaurant venture from the owner of Granny's Carry Out and Jet In Jet Out Fish, will serve up spicy chicken at 3931 Main St. downtown. El Charro Grocery is coming to 4926 Kennedy Ave., and Las Tres Palmas Grocery will open at 502 W. 151st St. downtown.
“I am pleased to see new business growth in East Chicago," Mayor Anthony Copeland said. "Small mom-and-pop establishments are critical to our local economy. They provide much-needed items, services and jobs."
Secure Dental opened in a new strip mall at 7905 Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond.
"This is their first location in Indiana and they chose a great location on Indy Boulevard and 80/94, joining Red Wing Shoes, Great Clips and an entertainment-focused AT&T Store," Hammond Director of Economic Development Anne Anderson said.
The dentist's office promises "dentistry with a healthy smile."
The business is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, call 219-364-6388 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: ChicagoLand Popcorn coming to Miller, Temptations Gifts closing after 32 years, Sears Hardware closing in Portage, Fat Burrito open in Highland, Happy Day Comics brightens Hammond
The popular gourmet popcorn shop ChicagoLand Popcorn plans to open a third location in Gary's Miller neighborhood, likely in August or September.
ChicagoLand Popcorn opened on U.S. 30 in Hobart across from the Albanese Candy Co. in 2013, selling more than 250 flavors of popcorn, including cherry cola, Twix, crab legs and key lime pie. It expanded to a second location in St. John in 2017.
President Dwayne Walker said he would open a third location with about 1,500 square feet at a strip mall on U.S. 20 in Miller. The former corporate executive has located all his stores near established attractions and hopes Miller Beach will provide as much of a draw as Albanese in Hobart and the Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John.
Gary residents also account for a large chunk of his business and he wanted to be closer to the customer base.
"Probably about 25% percent of my customers come from Gary," he said. "We wanted to do something for the community, and eventually my wife and I would like to live in the area. There's the beach traffic and the project that's coming to the South Shore Line station."
Walker said the new store likely would offer around 90 flavors at any given time, similar to the St. John store.
For more information, visit www.chicagolandpopcorn.com.
Temptations, the gift shop that's been a longtime staple of downtown Valparaiso, is closing after 32 years.
Owner Kathy Adams Butterfield, 76, said health issues led her to close the gift store, which sells items like Precious Moments figurines, Norman Rockwell figurines, teddy bears, and ceramic nativity scenes. She's only semi-retiring and will continue to work at her husband's law office next door.
"It's a sentimental situation," she said. "I love running a gift shop, but with my health I can't take it. I'm not able to do the things I used to be able to."
Butterfield, who started her retail career at Comay's Records in Gary, named the business after her favorite band, The Temptations. On the first week, one of her husband's clients got married in a hasty ceremony at the store.
"It was just the first of many blessed things to happen in our store," she said. "I've been in the business for 32 years and never had a bad customer. I've watched customers who were pregnant have their children, and their children to come in with strollers of their own. There are lots of memories."
Many people come in remembering that they knocked over and broke something as a child.
"I never charged them. It was an accident," she said. "But people will tell me they felt so bad that they broke this or broke that."
The process of closing has taken some time because Butterfield has been sorting through the inventory to divide up what to donate, what to throw away and what to sell on eBay. The store will remain open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays for at least another 45 to 60 days, and any interested customers can pop into the Butterfield law office next door if they need to have it opened.
Longtime customers have been coming in to say how sorry they are that it's closing.
"I'll miss the people most of all," she said. "I told my employees there are a lot of gift shops and they're all fine places, but I wanted to be known as the one where the nice people work."
The Sears Appliance and Hardware Store at 6169 U.S. 6 in Portage announced it was closing with a liquidation sale starting at 30% off.
A store employee said it was slated to close on June 21.
New franchise owners acquired the hardware store in 2014. It's just the latest Sears store to close in Northwest Indiana as the landmark retailer, which hasn't turned an annual profit since 2010, continues to struggle through bankruptcy.
Happy Day Comics hopes to brighten Hammond's Hessville neighborhood.
Walter Day and Corinne Roempagel, who are brother and sister, opened the shop at 3537 Orchard Drive by 173rd Street and Kennedy Avenue after traveling around to buy and sell comic books at various comic book conventions throughout the Midwest, and as far away as South Carolina and Utah.
They got into the business after working at a now-defunct comic book shop in Chicago as kids.
"It was fantastic. It was always fun and I enjoyed chatting with people and working with comic books at the store," Roempagel said.
They decided to open a store of their own in Hammond because they both live there and wanted to remain close to their 40-hour-a-week day jobs as they look to bootstrap the retail business. They took over the former Windy City Pizza pizzeria after cleaning out the kitchen equipment, and many people still come in looking for pizza.
"It's a nice-sized store," she said. "It's not cramped. We have new books on the walls, dollar books in the back. We have back issues, prints and little odds and ends. We promote reading and try to get kids interested in reading comic books, which is a good start. The world's getting more digital but there's just something about paper."
So far the store has attracted kids coming in after school and collectors looking for specific titles. Happy Day plans to add game nights with Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer and other role-playing games.
They also will continue to do business at comic book conventions, including the Irland Park Comic Con this weekend.
For more information, call 219-937-7410 or visit www.facebook.com/Happy.Day.Comics.
Fat Burrito, a popular Crown Point Mexican eatery known for its huge burritos, has opened a second location in Highland.
Fat Burrito #2 opened as a 40-seat restaurant in the former Memo's Taco Mex location at 2128 45th St. in Porte De L'eau Plaza.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: NutriHub coming to gym near you, Mexican restaurant opens in Griffith, Mason Jar opens in Lowell, Crew Carwash coming to Valpo, Harbor Freight Tools opening in Portage
NutriHub opened in a new Merrillville strip mall on U.S. 30 about six months ago, and aims to expand near gyms across Northwest Indiana.
The juice and smoothie bar at 536 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville sells health products — namely a three-step meal replacement that consists of an aloe drink, a 16-ounce tea and a 20-gram protein shake. The aloe is meant to aid the digestive system, while the tea burns calories and the protein builds muscle, partner Michael Golumbeck said. All together, it's only about 300 calories total with 9 to 10 grams of sugar.
"You can get fiber, protein and collagen," he said. "You also can add different things like caffeine, lemon and pomegranate in different milligrams."
Golumbeck and partner Jared Tauber opened the juice bar in a new strip mall that includes Catch 22 Table + Tap and Planet Fitness. The latter is a major driver of health-conscious traffic.
"We get people interested in generating fitness coming in at 7 a.m. before their workout or for a breakfast they'll bring back to the office," he said. "We also have 20 Andrean High School girls hanging out in the afternoon. It's very clean with leather chairs where they can lounge and do their homework. They sit here for hours and do their studying."
NutriHub serves up a milkshake-like drink that's healthy. The low-calorie, low-sugar beverages draw many people working out at the gym a few storefronts over.
"People want something other than going to McDonald's or Taco Bell," Golumbeck said. "On Lent on Fridays, we also get a lot of people looking to avoid meat and wanting an alternative to a fish sandwich. We talk to the coaches at Andrean and Merrillville High School about sending their kids here for shakes instead of 1,500 calories of garbage."
NutriHub is looking to expand to other locations by busy gyms across Northwest Indiana, Golumbeck said. The top priority is putting a new location, possibly a standalone building, by the Planet Fitness on Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.
"We're just going to keep going and open up more shops," he said.
The NutriHub on U.S. 30 in Merrillville is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, call 219-472-8488 or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
You may have tried Ay Chihuahua's food at various farmers' markets and summer festivals across the Region.
The third-generation family-owned Ay Chihuahua has now established a permanent brick-and-mortar residence at 142 S. Broad St. in downtown Griffith. It fills a void of Mexican cuisine in downtown Griffith created when Asada recently moved from Broad Street to a former nightclub at 45th Street in Griffith.
Owners Alexis Coronado and her mother Sandra Coronado plan to still bring their food trailer to the Griffith Central Market in Central Park and the St. John Farmers Market.
"We've been at the farmers' market in Griffith since the beginning, since it was by the railroad, for a long time," Alexis Coronado said.
Ay Chihuahua — Spanish for yikes, or an "expression of dismay, annoyance or rejection" — has served its food at a number of festivals, including in East Chicago, Hammond and Schererville.
Known for its pork tacos and elote, the restaurant serves a variety of Mexican foods, such as tacos, tostadas, tamales, burritos and Pico de Gallo. It's a largely a la carte menu in which one can order refried beans or rice as sides.
Coronado, who has a culinary degree from Ivy Tech and a hospitality degree from Purdue University Northwest, learned to cook old family recipes that have been passed on for generations. She runs regular specials like flautas.
The brightly decorated restaurant, which is filled with taco pinatas and decorations compared to the Pixar movie "Coco," caters mainly to carry-out patrons but can seat up to 30, including up to 10 in a private room for family parties. It took over the space previously occupied by Angel Hair Cafe, a favorite among vegans, hipsters and bike riders on the Erie Lackawanna Trail.
"We didn't realize how many people bike the trail," she said. "We've heard from people who used to walk to Asada that they're glad to walk to us. I just want to stay here as long as possible, until I get old. I love to cook. I just hope people enjoy the food and the atmosphere. I hope they have a good time and are comfortable. It's a little taste of Mexico in Griffith, so you don't have to go all the way to Mexico."
Ay Chihuahua is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
A new restaurant concept has replaced The Old Lowell Watering Hole and Bub's BBQ in the historic Lowell water plant that was decommissioned in the 1990s.
The Mason Jar opened this week in the recently renovated building at 241 N. Library St. that had been home to a short-lived microbrewery.
Owner Jo Ellen Jostes said the new restaurant offers "amazing home-cooked foods" prepared by the award-winning chef Liz Corns.
"It's a family-style sit-down restaurant with homestyle cooking and a bar with 16 brews, including craft beer," she said. "We've got a lot of farm-style and antique decorations, serve beverages in mason jars, and have a salad bar."
The Mason Jar, whose menu is "Home Cookin' and Good Thymes," serves down-home fare like smoked meats, barbecue, meatloaf, fried chicken, jambalaya, pork tenderloin sandwiches, country fried steak, shrimp and grits, bone-in pork chops, catfish and lake perch. It also serves build-your-own burgers and mac and cheese bowls. A sample item is the Big Piggy sandwich, which serves pulled pork, grilled ham and bacon smothered in mustard BBQ sauce on thick parmesan-crusted toast.
A top-seller is the BBQ Pork Totchos, a spin on nachos involving tater tots and pulled pork smoked in house.
"We smoke our meats daily, sometimes a few times a day," she said. "We've got country-style ribs, brisket chili, amazingly good foods that are unique to this area. There's nothing like us in Lowell or surrounding areas."
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-225-5222.
Harbor Freight Tools will open a 15,000-square-foot store in Portage at 8 a.m. May 1.
The store at 5972 U.S. 6 will sell a selection of tools and accessories, including welding supplies, generators, shop equipment and power tools.
It will be the 24th location of the Southern California-based store.
“We’re excited to serve customers in the great city of Portage,” said Calvin Singh, Harbor Freight Tools project manager. “At Harbor Freight, we’re passionate about providing our customers with the tools they need to get the job done, and always at an affordable price. We look forward to welcoming auto technicians, contractors, woodworkers, homeowners, hobbyists — anyone who needs affordable tools.”
The privately owned company was started by 17-year-old Eric Smidt in 1977 and remains privately owned to this day. Over the last four decades, Harbor Freight Tools has grown to have more than 1,000 stores nationwide and more than 20,000 employees. It's one of the fastest growing companies in the country, opening two new stores a week and serving more than 40 million customers.
Harbor Freight Tools also is developing new lines of tools and plans to introduce more than 600 new products this year.
The Portage store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Crew Car Wash plans to open a new location soon on Lincolnway in Valparaiso, just west of the exit off Ind. 49.
The Indianapolis-based chain recently opened its first Northwest Indiana location off U.S. 30 in Merrillville, a $4.5 million facility employing about 20 workers in front of the Meijer. The 71-year-old company, spun off from Mike's Car Wash, is known for its buy-four-get-one-free specials and unlimited car wash packages.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Lou Malnati's eyes more NWI locations, Korean BBQ coming to Highland, diner headed to CP, thrift store opens in Portage
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria will open its first Indiana location at 36 U.S. 41 in Schererville early this summer, but the fast-growing chain known for its Chicago-style deep-dish and thin-crust pizza may expand further across Northwest Indiana.
"There is interest in continuing to expand in the area," Lou Malnati's Brand Manager Meggie Lindberg said.
Lou Malnati's first Region location will be located in the former Gayety's Chocolate & Ice Cream in the Town Square Shopping Center at Indianapolis Boulevard and Main Street in Schererville. Don't expect to dine in.
"It will be a carry-out and delivery location, there will not be any seats," Lindberg said. "We will hire between 30 to 40 employees for this location."
Lou Malnati's carryout and delivery locations are usually open at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m Friday through Sunday, Lindberg said. They typically close between 10 p.m. and midnight.
"Schererville is part of Chicagoland and an area we haven’t ventured," she said. "As a thriving community and a great place to raise a family, we feel it is a natural fit for us."
Schererville Town Manager Robert Volkmann said it would be one of "about 35 pizzerias" in the town, but said the chain was beloved throughout Chicagoland, where it's held up as one of the top purveyors of deep dish.
"Hopefully, it will lead them to eventually open a sit-down restaurant," he said. "Some people like to have a glass of wine with their pizza."
Schererville has managed to land both Giordano's and Lou Malnati's over the last few years because it's a regional hub for dining and entertainment, Volkmann said.
"Maybe they figure we just like eating a lot of pizza," he said.
The Region's first Korean barbecue restaurant is going to bring the beef to Highland.
The owner of the House of Kobe restaurants in Schererville and Merrillville plans to open Kui Korean BBQ next month at 9628 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland.
Jerry Chang ran the Peking House there and then leased it out to Exotic Thai, which closed last year. He tore down the old building and built a new one.
"Things get old," he said. "It needed a new fresh look to keep everything more modern."
Chang opened the Schererville House of Kobe in 1997 and then placed a second restaurant in Merrillville in 2001. He decided to open the 4,000-square-foot, less-than-100-seat Kui — which means grill in Korean — because there was nothing like it in the Northwest Indiana market.
"It's Korean barbecue where the food is cooked right at your table," Chang said. "A chef cooks in front of you, or guides you on to how to cook the food. It's mostly steak. It would be considered a steakhouse with a couple of seafood dishes."
Customers can cook thinly cut meat for about a minute on a smokeless 12-inch grill at their table.
"It's an interesting concept," Chang said. "We marinate the raw meat, slice it up and guide you on how to cook it. The raw meat is cut fresh-to-order and sent right out to the table. You can cook it for less time if you want it more rare. It's an atmosphere where you can have fun with family or a date."
Kui Korean BBQ will employ about 15 people.
"It's very interesting for the area," Chang said. "There's no restaurant like ours around unless you go to downtown Chicago."
If the Highland location succeeds, he may open a second restaurant, potentially near Valparaiso University in Valparaiso.
"We like to have a little distance between locations," he said.
The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon until 9 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-296-9611 or find Kui Korean BBQ on Facebook.
B & B Cafe plans to take over the former Joe's Cafe spot at 1312 N. Main St. in Crown Point that previously had been home to the Cherry Tree Cafe.
Joe's Cafe abruptly closed last month after owner Joe Sila died.
New owners Brittany Walter and Brian Czerwinski plan to reopen the spot as a family diner that will serve breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. They've put in new flooring and new chairs, and repainted the outside of the building.
"We're going to have a lot of the same food, like homemade waffles, but we'll also have pasta dishes with shrimp and a lot of new soup," Walter said. "I've been working in restaurants for the last 15 years and had worked for Joe, the previous owner. It's been my dream to open a nice place that serves a good meal."
The menu at the 1,100-square-foot, 84-seat restaurant will include skillets, omelets, French toast, pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Breakfast meals will be served with hash browns, toast or fruit cups.
"It's going to be the same type of restaurant but we're going to modernize it a little bit," he said. "There's been a diner here so long. We just want a place where you can get a coffee and oatmeal. We want the same atmosphere as at your own house where you can smile and have nice food that makes you happy."
The restaurant will offer items like Chicken Parmesan, French fries, homemade coleslaw, and fish on Fridays like tilapia and perch.
"Everyone is welcome," she said. "It will be clean with a warm atmosphere and fresh food where everyone is respected as a person."
They have done extensive renovations.
"We've spent a pretty penny to freshen everything up," Walter said. "We want everything to be new and modern and exciting. We plan to be involved in the community, to sponsor kid's teams in baseball and basketball. We want to be active, to do community fundraisers and things in the neighborhood.
A grand opening is slated for 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 27.
For more information, find B & B Cafe on Facebook or call 219-850-3034.
JD's Resale Store is giving clothes, furniture and other used items a second chance at 5744 Central Ave. in Portage.
"We sell anything that's resellable and of good quality or good use," owner Joshua Davis said. "We're a limited liability company that's trying to be competitive with the big guys like Goodwill and Salvation Army. We're trying to help the community and make a little profit."
Davis, whose father owns a company that does cleanouts, wanted to avoid throwing away "a lot of good stuff." So he opened a 2,800-square-foot resale shop that aims to have lower price points than the bigger thrift store chains.
"Our prices are the lowest of the low," he said. "We want to help people get dressers, furniture, electronics, home improvement items, things people actually use. We have a little bit of everything and are always getting new stuff."
Davis hopes to eventually grow the shop into the biggest resale store in Northwest Indiana.
"When you come in, you're supporting a small business," he said. "We have two employees already. We're trying to help the community out. We're not trying to get rich. We're just trying to help people find a good deal."
The business is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sundays.
For more information, call 219-850-3034 or find JD's Resale Store on Facebook.
Family Express has opened a gas station and convenience store at 1208 E. 45th Ave. in Griffith.
The Valparaiso-based chain tore down a Family Video rental store at the corner of 45th Avenue and Colfax Street across from the Griffith-Calumet Township Branch of the Lake County Public Library.
Unlike other convenience stores, Family Express stocks many fresh items like milk, bacon, square donuts, espresso drinks and ready-to-go salads.
The new Griffith East location is open from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. seven days a week.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Cousins Subs eyes July open in CP, Vegas Cafe Bistro open in Schererville, historic Crown Theatre announces opening date, 49'er Drive-In to reopen for spring
The Wisconsin favorite Cousins Subs is aiming for a July opening in Crown Point.
The Milwaukee-based chain plans to serve its East Coast-style deli sandwiches, grilled cheesesteaks, floats and shakes in a new strip mall at 10533 Broadway St, Suite A in Crown Point. Founded by cousins 47 years ago, the sub shop has a menu that's heavy on Wisconsin specialties like Sprecher Root Beer and cheese curds.
"It should open this summer. The building is now being built at 107th and Broadway," Cousins Subs Vice President of Development Joseph Ferguson said.
Cousins Subs now has more than 90 locations across Wisconsin and has been expanding aggressively into the Chicago market. Franchisees Amit Patel and Kalpesh Patel, who is a Munster resident, plans to open 40 sandwich shops across greater Chicagoland by 2025.
"It the first wave, we've got seven new restaurants opening," Ferguson said. "It should be five to eight new locations a year."
The Crown Point restaurant, which will have a drive-thru, is the only Cousins Subs location currently slated for Northwest Indiana, but Ferguson said the Patels may decide to open more in the Region.
"We look at high-density areas with a lot of traffic and retail," he said. "We like to be in multitenant buildings."
Cousins Subs Director of Operations Kevin Dinnen said the space in the strip mall under construction should be turned over to Cousins Subs in late May and the business should be ready to open sometime in July. The 1,800-square foot restaurant will open 15 to 20 workers and seat 30 to 40 customers.
"It will probably be open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.," he said. "We just opened our first Chicago location at 120 W. Madison and it's been received very well. Wisconsin transplants are very happy and other customers have been pleasantly surprised."
The Crown Point location will be Cousins Subs' first in Indiana, but the chain also is eyeing the Indianapolis, Lafayette and Fort Wayne markets, where it's actively looking for franchisees, Ferguson said.
"We just need the right partners to help us grow," he said.
You can bet that Vegas Cafe in Schererville has been reborn as Vegas Cafe Bistro.
Jorge Armando and Shelly Ann Armando, the owners of Skillet's Bistro in Highland, bought the Vegas Cafe restaurant at 800 Cedar Parkway in Schererville last year and reopened it under the slightly tweaked name of Vegas Cafe Bistro in February. The restaurant specializes in breakfast and lunch, and offers the Skillet's Bistro breakfast menu in addition to its own.
It runs many specials such as $0.99 Chicago-style hot dogs between 2:30 and 5 p.m. for Lake Central students, free pancakes for children with disabilities under the age of 12 years old, and discounts for seniors and veterans.
"It's a truly American-style cafe," he said. We offer chili every day, and lemon rice soup every day. We have daily specials like chicken stir fry or Italian. Two people can eat here for under $25, including drinks. We have the same objective as with Skillets. We want to make our customers our friends, and give them the best food, prompt service, and respect."
The bistro secured a beer and wine license and plans to start offering local beers, wine and the mimosas that are popular at Skillets. It serves Kona coffee from Hawaii, espresso that's been imported from Italy and healthy drinks like Sobe Water or watermelon juice since it's close to a few gyms.
Vegas Cafe Bistro seats about 42 inside and will add another 22 seats on an outdoor patio when it's warmer.
"We're hoping to attract people with a good summer ambiance," Jorge Armando said. "We welcome everybody here. We have a lot of specials and low prices. We want to give the community what they want. We want to be friends with our customers."
Vegas Cafe Bisto is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219-322-6601.
The 102-year-old Crown Theatre on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point showed its last movie years ago, but will finally get a sequel as a performing arts center this summer.
New owner Brad Strom bought the one-screen, 497-seat movie theater at 19 N. Court St. and has been extensively renovating it for months. He added a stage for live entertainment like music, theater and stand-up comedy.
Originally slated to reopen by December, Crown Theatre just announced on Facebook it would have a grand opening celebration with food and drinks from 7 to 11 p.m. on July 20. It added a number of future events, including a comedy night, a murder mystery dinner, a disco night dance party, dueling pianos, an adult Halloween costume party, and a special screening of "The Grinch" just before Christmas. It's scheduled a jazz brunch, a princess brunch, an Elvis impersonator night, concerts with Pink Floyd cover band Echoes of Pompeii and M&R Rush, and screenings of movies like "The Sandlot," "Hocus Pocus" and "Polar Express."
For more information, find Crown Theatre on Facebook.
The beloved 49'er Drive-In Theatre, one of the last drive-in movie theaters around, expects to reopen for the season on Friday, April 19.
Entertaining generations of Porter County residents since 1956, the outdoor movie theater is located at 675 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. Named one of the top 10 drive-ins in the country by USA Today, the 49'er offers a menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and pork fritters to enjoy in your car while watching the movie and streaming the sound in through the car radio.
The 49'er has not yet announced what will be showing will it reopens for the spring.
For movie times, call 219.462.6122.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Craft cocktail bar in old Strongbow space brings Valpo truffle fries and Adult Lunchables, Ashley HomeStore opens, Phil's Caribbean Cuisine closes
The Market Gathering and Events hall in Valparaiso has opened a sophisticated craft cocktail bar with an emphasis on gin.
The trendy Market Lounge at 2405 E. Morthland Drive, the former Strongbow Inn, is whipping up cocktails including a modern interpretation of the Harvey Wallbanger with vodka, fresh orange, Galliano, mandarin marmalade and a sage leaf topping, and The Old Brooklyn, a spin on the Manhattan with bourbon, maple simple syrup, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and Luxardo cherry.
The Market also serves small plates including truffle fries and an "Adult Lunchable" charcuterie plate with Smoking Goose's Gin and Juice salame, as well as desserts like campfire s'mores served in a sealed mason jar, from which wood smoke puffs out when it's opened to evoke a sensory memory of a campfire.
"We opened a portion of the restaurant space as a cocktail lounge and pulled from some of the cooler hotel lobbies and lounges we've been to," owner Jay Rudy said. "We wanted a place where people can have a nice drink and hang out with friends. It's gin-focused because that's what we like to drink. We juice all of our citrus, use fresh premium ingredients and proper technique. There's technique and artistry to what we create."
The 21+ non-smoking lounge aims at a relaxing vibe with comfy leather couches, chess boards, and an arcade game that lets people play many different vintage games.
Rudy, along with Corey and Blair Muro, who also run Tomato Bar and Ricochet Tacos, took over the Strongbow space by U.S. 30 and Ind. 49 in 2016 after Luke Oil had made a last-ditch effort the save the legendary turkey dinner restaurant, a Region institution for more than 75 years. The new owners initially had a contemporary southern restaurant at the site, but shifted focus to weddings, banquets and other special events.
The Market started doing pop-up restaurants last year and was looking to expand upon that.
"We wanted to open it up more to the public and get people excited," Rudy said. "This will get more interaction than we do as an event hall."
A light food menu focuses on shareable plates, such as truffle tries, artichoke dip, duck confit on focaccia bread and veggie spring rolls. It offers different Adult Lunchables with a variety of cured meats, like the lamb Gin and Juice and Stagberry elk with blueberry; fancy cheeses like Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog and Beehive Cheese Teahive. The Adult Lunchable also comes with peppadew peppers, fried chickpeas, maple mustard and warm baguette.
"We've got a lot of cool stuff that goes beyond typical bar fare. We don't have any entrees but we have enough plates to make a meal," Rudy said. "They're super-shareable plates you can share with a group of people. You can just hang out with your friends with no hassle of feeling you have to leave after finishing a meal."
In addition to cocktails, including The Last Word, comprised of Hendrick's Gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and lime juice, The Market Lounge offers a selection of 10 craft beers on draft, including beers from Lagunitas, Revolution, War Pigs and Upland.
It seats about 50 people inside and will have a patio and live music. The room can be rented out for private parties and corporate functions and for weddings.
"Any wedding that ends in the grand hall also can continue the party there while it remains open to the public," Rudy said. "The ambiance is definitely modern. It's a nice setting, very intimate, with really comfy couches and armchairs."
The Market will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday but will stay open later if it is busy enough.
For more information, visit www.themarketvalpo.com, find it on Facebook or call 219-531-0162.
Fresenius Dialysis Center has opened at 4016 Main St. in East Chicago's Indiana Harbor neighborhood.
The treatment facility for those suffering from kidney failure is located in a new 9,000-square-foot building in the Main Street Downtown Corridor. The city and a developer partnered to replace an abandoned building in a $5 million redevelopment project. The new kidney care center was built on what had been a brownfield site.
For more information, call 800-881-5101.
Ashley Furniture HomeStore took over the big-box store formerly occupied by H.H. Gregg and Borders in the Highland Grove shopping center in Highland.
The furniture retailer had a grand opening for its new showroom at 10135 Indianapolis Blvd. Saturday.
The store sells a variety of home decor, rugs, accessories and, of course, furniture, including sofas, mattresses and full bedroom sets. The Wisconsin-based retailer sells Ashley Furniture-brand products at more than 700 locations nationwide, including at 1550 E. Lincoln Highway in Merrillville.
A Schererville store a few miles south of the new Highland location closed in 2017.
2 Old Goats Market moved from an industrial park in St. John to Cedar Lake.
The boutique shop is now located at 12615 Wicker Ave. 2 Old Goats sells repurposed antiques, women's clothing, vintage items, jewelry, candles, Dixie Belle Chalk Paints, man-cave essentials, gourmet specialty food and locally made artisan goods, including from Mother Wilma’s, Smudge’s Organics, The Gourmet Goddess and Wooden Jacket.
2 Old Goats teaches painting classes, and owner Abbey Sylvester said many events and workshops were coming up.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 219-390-7183 or find the business on Facebook.
Tri-town residents will have a harder time finding jerk chicken now that Phil's Caribbean Cuisine has shuttered its Schererville location.
The Jamaican restaurant opened in 2017 at 2330 Cline Ave. in a strip mall just south of U.S. 30 by Van Tobel. The 50,000-square-foot restaurant space, which replaced the Sal y Limon Mexican restaurant, had 60 seats and was extensively renovated by Phil's owners.
Fans of Caribbean dishes like curry chicken, beef oxtail and bone-in whole red snapper can still try Montego Bay Grille in downtown Hobart or the Cool Runnings restaurant and food truck in Michigan City.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Neopolitan and alla Romana pizza place coming to CP, Joe's Cafe and Debbie's Dresses closing, Harbor Freight Tool and Belle Tire coming
Battista's Artisan Pizzeria has swooped in to take over the restaurant space recently vacated by Mattioli’s Pizza in the Hall of Justice building in downtown Crown Point.
Chef Joe Gaal, the owner of the acclaimed Sage Restaurant in downtown Valparaiso, plans to open a Neopolitan and alla Romana gourmet pizza place, which will grow all its herbs hydroponically inside the building and handmake all its sourdough.
Gaal's "chic + casual" Sage is a trattoria that specializes in homemade pastas and American-Italian fusion cuisine. It's so classy that Google describes it as classy when you Google it.
"The nice thing is we can cook whatever we like there," he said. "But we have favorites that if we took off the menu people would throw bricks through the window. If I took the chicken marsala off the menu, I would fear for my life every time I went to my car."
At his new venture at 220 S. Main St. in Crown Point, Gaal hopes to introduce diners to more European styles of pizza. His second restaurant is named after his mother, whose maiden name is Battista.
"The pizza we have here in this country is basically Italian-American," he said. "It's New York-style pizza everyone's accustomed to. In Italy, there are a couple of different styles. There's alla Romana with the thin crispy crusts, and Naples-style with the big wood-fired crust. We'll be offering both Naples-style and alla Romana."
But there will also be a modern twist.
"It will be old world meets the new world," he said. "We do a classic Margherita and a classic buffalo Margherita with buffalo mozzarella. We'll also do a Cluck Cluck Boom, where the cluck cluck is chicken and the boom is lightly pickled banana peppers."
Gaal plans to smoke chicken, porchetta, pork shoulders and other meats that will be served on the pizza or with cheese on charcuterie plates. Basil, oregano and other fresh herbs will be grown hydroponically on-site. A major focus will be on the crust.
"Artisanal means you work with your hands," he said. "We'll be making dough with sourdough, the world's oldest bread that dates back to ancient Egypt. We're going to let the dough ferment for at least 30 hours. It's the old way of making it that brings more flavor. It gives the dough the chances to be alive and express itself. The yeast is alive, and the longer you ferment it, the more complex and bigger the flavor is. It takes hours and hours to master a living dough."
Gaal said he hopes to preserve the traditional artisanal ways of cooking.
"I've been doing this for 25 years and you have to have a passion for it," he said. "There's a right way to make things and a wrong way. You have to never stop learning, and dive into the studying. If you give your heart to it and have a passion for it, people notice."
He plans to source many ingredients from local farmers and farmer's markets. He makes the sauce with tomatoes picked at their peak of ripeness, with salt and olive oil, but no sugar.
"These are ingredients I fell in love with," he said. "I hope my diners fall in love with it too."
The 2,800-square foot restaurant will seat 48 initially and another 60 when the back room is opened later. It will employ 10 people and offer outdoor dining in the summer.
The South Side native always wanted to run a pizza restaurant and got the opportunity to do so when he found out the Mattioli’s space was opening up.
"The pizza stars aligned," he said. "It's a historic building and when you walk in it's like a corner on Italy, where you're walking down the street to a trattoria. Then you walk through a door and cross through the old world into the new world. At least I hope people will see it this way. It's like an alleyway in Italy and then you enter a more modern space we've been renovating."
Battista's Artisan Pizzeria will offer a featured pizza of the month, calzones, salads, espresso and desserts like tiramisu and cannoli. It will offer Italian wines, craft beers and imported Peroni, and cocktails.
"We'll have all the popular varietals and estate origin wines," he said. "The wine selection will be rotating and the wines won't break the bank. There won't be any $13 wine pours. We also plan to educate people with wine classes, bread-making classes, hands-on stuff."
Battista's Artisan Pizzeria will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, visit www.battistaspizzeria.com, or find the business on Facebook.
Harbor Freight Tools is coming to Portage, where it will employ 35 to 40 workers.
The California-based chain plans to open a new store next to Big Lots in the Portage Commons Shopping Center on U.S. 6, in the heart of the city's retail trade area.
Harbor Freight Tools purports to sell "quality tools at ridiculously low prices." It carries a selection of more than 7,000 tools that range "from hand tools and generators, to air and power tools, from shop equipment to automotive tools."
The family-owned chain has more than 1,000 locations across the country and has served more than 40 million customers since it was founded 42 years ago.
The 15,000-square-foot store at 5972 US Highway 6 is tentatively slated to open April 16, with a grand opening in May.
Belle Tire, a Michigan-based premium tire and auto care shop, will soon open new stores in Valparaiso and Merrillville.
Spokeswoman Sawyer Lipari said the Valparaiso store will open in a newly constructed building on Porters Vale Boulevard in September, and employ around 20, who will be hired locally.
"Belle Tire believes there is a lot of opportunity in the market, and the company can offer premium tire and auto services to the community," she said. "Belle Tire is planning to open a store in Merrillville as well, with its next closest store already located Michigan City, which has been open for two years now."
Debbie’s Dresses in Whiting is closing after 42 years. Debbie Manderino has run the prom dress shop at 1828 Indianapolis Boulevard.
“She will be officially closing up shop this spring,” her son Joey Manderino said.
Liquidations sales of up to 80 percent off will continue until May.
The business opened in 1977 when Manderino got a $1,000 loan from her mother. It became known for its bright purple awning and eye-catching window displays. The boutique “exploded into one of the most highly trafficked special-occasion destinations in the Region, outfitting thousands of girls a year with the perfect dress for their high school proms and formals.”
“Debbie’s has been the absolute joy of my life,” Debbie Manderino said. “But all good things must come to an end. And I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life. A chapter with more palm trees.”
For more information, call 219-677-1741 or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
Joe’s Cafe has served its final omelet in Crown Point.
The pancake house and diner at 1312 N. Main St. in Crown Point closed for good because of the death of the owner.
“Due to the passing of Joe Sila, his cafe has closed effective immediately,” a sign posted on the front door said. “We apologize for the abrupt nature but we know you understand given the circumstances.”
The cafe, only open for breakfast and dinner, was known for burgers, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, ethnic fare and endless cups of coffee.
Most people are streaming movies via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crackle or other streaming services.
Oasis Video at 8231 Hohman Ave in Munster, the town's last video store, went the way of VHS and disappeared.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Wine bar/deli/restaurant coming to Duneland, Hasta La Vista restaurant opens in Highland, White Castle reopens in Chesterton, Mattioli's Pizza closes in Crown Point
The owners of Beverly Shore's Hobgoblin, a high-end liquor store with an emphasis on wine, kept hearing the same complaints about how the lakefront beach community in Duneland lacked anywhere to grab coffee, breakfast or groceries.
So Dawn Huston decided to open the Goblin and the Grocer at 1 W. Dunes Highway in Beverly Shores. It's a cafe, restaurant and wine bar with a deli and market that sells charcuterie, fancy cheeses and other picnic items that could be taken in a basket to the nearby beach.
"We've been working for two years now," she said. "It's a brand new structure. It's about six weeks out now. It's going to be unique. It's not going to be so expensive that you feel you can't come often. We'll also be offering acoustic bands on a weekly basis."
Huston hopes to open the cafe and restaurant in mid-April and the wine bar in May.
The 3,600-square-foot building will include a coffee shop that serves a variety of coffee and espresso drinks throughout the day, as well as breakfast sandwiches, pastries, muffins, bagels and waffles. It will pour java made with locally roasted beans from Smalltown Coffee in Crown Point. Customers will be encouraged to hang out.
"For people at their beach homes, they can come in and bring in their computer," she said. "You can get away from your family and your husband for a little change of pace."
A full deli will specialize in cured meats like prosciutto and jamón, and serve up charcuterie plates that could be noshed on with a glass of wine.
"It will have international cheeses, smoked salmon, chicken salad, things you can gather in a basket and take to the beach," Huston said. "Oh, and there will always be fresh bread."
The wine bar will feature an international selection of vino from different countries and regions.
"We'll bring in a Spanish guitarist," he said. "We'll of course have wine dinners with pairings and have a partnership with the liquor store where if you taste something you like you can pop across the street to buy a bottle."
The restaurant will serve a gastropub-like menu of small plates of modern American cuisine. It will feature a chef-driven seasonal menu with moderately priced items like crab cakes, chopped salads, shepherd's pie, and shrimp cocktail. Huston is bringing in a chef from Chicago who can't be named yet.
"We're going to source as much locally as we can, from local farms and purveyors," she said. "There will be no fried food. There's so much barbecue and fried food along the beachfront, but this neighborhood is filled with hikers, bikers, cyclists and bird watchers. We feel like they don't really go together. We'll focus on more healthy food."
The restaurant will be able to seat about 90 in a cozy interior with two fireplaces, as well as another 50 or 60 outside in the summer, where there will be live music performances.
"It's gorgeous," she said. "It's up on the dunes. You can't see the beach but it's near the entrance and has a beachy feel like you're on vacation. It's a coastal atmosphere."
In addition to filling voids in Beverly Shores, Huston hopes to draw visitors "from Miller Beach to Long Beach," as well as people heading up to Lake Michigan to go boating or to the beach. It's in a high-profile location by the Beverly Shores Depot Museum and Art Gallery.
The Goblin and the Grocer name comes from a Hans Christian Andersen story about a goblin who must choose whether to save a poet or a grocer from a house fire.
"It's about how you do what you're passionate about and keep yourself fed," she said. "How do you do your life's work and keep feeding? The goblin falls madly in love with the poet but goes to the grocer to eat. He's faced with a choice of which to save, but in the end they both survive."
The Goblin and the Grocer will likely be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, visit www.goblinandthegrocer.com.
The Hasta La Vista Eatery has opened in the One Best Life at Tinker's Attic art gallery and music venue at 2513 Highway Ave. in Highland.
Susan Crouch opened the art gallery in downtown Highland about five years ago, where she sells the work of about 25 artists. It's become a popular destination for open mic nights, poetry readings and art classes.
Crouch always planned to add a restaurant component to draw more people in to view the art.
"Art and music appeal to a certain niche of people," she said. "But everybody needs to eat. We're looking to break down barriers and show what a melting pot Northwest Indiana is by serving international food to appeal to a diverse population of people."
The Hasta La Vista name has nothing to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous one-liner from "Terminator 2."
"It means see you again," she said. "It's an endearment that's consistent with living one's best life and being happy with yourself."
The chef-driven menu will feature a variety of foods like cajun sausage, Thai chicken soup, rustic tomato bisque, blackened catfish, lasagna, steak, $5 hamburgers and grilled pork tacos with mango salsa. Tuesdays will feature barbecue and live blues music.
"The food leans healthy and really is a melting pot," she said. "It's fine food but in a laid-back atmosphere where you can be really comfy and make yourself at home."
The restaurant can seat about 48 people. It will tailor orders to meet particular diets, such as vegan, low sodium or keto.
"If anyone has diabetes or any health issues, we can make anything around their dietary limitations," she said. "We have a good older crowd that comes in to listen to the music and we want to cater to them."
Crouch said the eatery will have a family-friendly atmosphere where musicians are often jamming on the small stage. It will sell beverages such as cappuccino, coffee, espresso, pop, water and fruit juices, as well as lighter fare like muffins, brownies, and fresh-made yogurt.
Hasta La Vista Eatery will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment, as well as for special musical performances on Sundays.
Mattioli’s Pizza in Crown Point has served its final slice.
The family-owned pizzeria at 220 S. Main St. in downtown Crown Point closed indefinitely after four years.
"Four years ago my family and I started with nothing but a pizza pan, a recipe and a dream," owner Rick Mattioli posted on Facebook. "What it turned into was some of the most challenging, and rewarding, experiences of my life. The business and personal relationships I’ve formed over the years will continue to impact and influence me for the rest of my days. Unfortunately, due to multiple unforeseen circumstances, I have to let that dream fade once again back into the ether."
The pizzeria used old family recipes and also sold sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
"I would like to personally thank all my customers for taking a chance on a small out-of-the way pizzeria in a basement," he said. "And thank you to all my family, friends and employees who supported me and helped me deliver pizzas, prep the food, and for slaving in 95-degree heat just to serve slices out of a tent to an eager crowd. Those miserable days truly were some of the happiest days of my life."
White Castle reopened its restaurant at 25 Indian Boundary Road in Chesterton after remodeling.
“White Castle has been part of the Chesterton community since 2003,” White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram said. “We know that our restaurants play a daily part in the lives of many community members and we’re excited to re-welcome them to this Castle.”
The restaurant seats 36 and employs 18.
“We’re thrilled to be once again serving delicious sliders to Chesterton cravers, and we’re thankful for our amazing team members who worked at nearby locations while this one was temporarily closed,” Ingram said.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Fine dining Italian restaurant and rooftop cocktail bar coming to Chesterton, Dry Goods planned at Southlake Mall, Nothing Bundt Cake opens in Schererville, Harold's Chicken coming to Michigan City
Abbiocco Italian Cuisine plans to bring Chicago-caliber Italian fine dining to Chesterton, drawing on a rich family heritage that includes the famous John's Restaurant & Pizzeria in Calumet City and Ciao Bella in Schererville.
A sister business, the rooftop bar Luna Kitchen + Cocktails, will open above it in a new building that's under construction at 600 Gateway Boulevard in Chesterton. It will have a retractable rooftop so it can be used year-round and in inclement weather.
A group that includes Agostino Femminella, the grandson of former John's Pizzeria cook Agostino "Gus" Femminella, and Ciao Bella owner Joe Scalzo are opening the 9,000-square-foot eatery that will seat up to 350 diners.
"We wanted a new place for Chesterton that's different and exciting," Femminella said. "In Italian, abbiocco means to feel fulfilled after having a great meal. It's going to be traditional Italian cuisine with a twist on it. And there will be a rooftop bar with small plates where people 21 and older can go to relax. It will be a little bit more casual with small plates, shareable appetizers and comfort food. It will be a little more American."
Abbiocco hired Chicago chef Josh Ramirez to serve as its executive chef. He's worked at Quartino Ristorante, Bar Siena and Custom House Tavern in the city and will craft a chef-driven menu for the new restaurant, which also may serve some Ciao Bella favorites.
The menu will include pasta, pizza, steak, seafood and daily specials, sampling different regional cuisines from across Italy.
"We want a place where everyone, whether white collar or blue collar, can feel welcome and comfortable and enjoy their meal," Femminella said. "We'll provide some live entertainment, mostly on the roof. You can come for a fine dining experience or to watch the game by the bar."
They expect it will be a draw from neighboring towns since it will be located just off Ind. 49 and the Indiana Toll Road, by AJ's Pizza.
"There's nothing like it in the area," he said.
Construction should be complete by the end of April. Abbiocco and Luna Kitchen then plan to hire about 30 to 40 employees and be open by early June, Femminella said.
The restaurant will be open for both lunch and dinner.
"My family has been in the restaurant business for a long time," he said. "My grandfather came here from Italy and one of his first jobs was at John's in Calumet City. We want to give people a good, fun experience."
For more information, visit abbioccoeats.com or find the businesses on Facebook or Instagram.
The long-awaited Nothing Bundt Cake has opened in Schererville's Shops on Main.
Yes, the pun is a reference to bundt cakes, the European-style ring-shaped cakes that are baked in bundt pans.
Valerie Warnell and Tammy Oliver, friends of 25 years, opened the franchise bakery at 69 U.S. 41. The pair has some personal history.
“We have been friends since our kids were little and now we have eight children and five grandchildren amongst us,” Warnell said.
The Dallas-based chain was founded in 1997 and now has 292 bakeries across North America. The Schererville bakery is its fourth in Indiana and 20th in the Chicago metropolitan area.
It sells bundt cakes made with eggs, butter and cream cheese in four sizes, 40 unique designs, and 10 flavors.
“Bundt cakes mean happiness and we can’t wait to spread joy in our community," Oliver said. "To be able to do it with my dear friend is frosting on the cake."
Nothing Bundt Cake is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-300-8570 or visit www.nothingbundtcakes.com.
Dry Goods will open at the Southlake Mall in Hobart during the first week of March, mall Marketing Director Kristi Jackson said.
"They are a national chain that sells women’s apparel," Jackson said. "They are located on the upper level near JCPenney."
Dry Goods started as an actual old-fashioned dry goods store, selling textiles and sundries in Davenport, Iowa in 1872. It now sells modern women's fashions at more than 40 mostly mall-based stores across the Midwest, including five in Indiana and nine in Illinois.
The Iowa-based retailer sells dresses, sweaters, jackets, T-shirts, rompers, kimonos, skirts, shorts, pants, jeans, jewelry, bathing suits, and accessories.
For more information, call 219-472-7670 or visit drygoodsusa.com.
Harold's Chicken Shack, the legendary South Side Chicago fried chicken restaurant, is eyeing a Michigan City location.
Signs posted in the window of a storefront at 11th and Franklin streets in downtown Michigan City say a Harold's is coming soon.
The fast food and takeout chain is widely celebrated for its southern-style fried chicken, which is often dipped in mild or hot sauce. Harold's has Northwest Indiana locations in Gary, Hammond, Merrillville and Dyer, which an article in Chicago Magazine claimed was the second best Harold's in a ranking many South Siders disputed.
Caring Hearts Adult Day Care opened in Portage to take care of people who are physically or emotionally impaired.
The business at 3391 Airport Road watches over and provides two meals a day to clients who currently range from 21 years old to 94 years old. They are taken care of in a family-home environment during the day, while their caretakers are at work.
“Our staff of caregivers is most patient, kind and understanding when it provides for the activities and entertainment of its charges,” owner Karen Ruiz said. “Virtually all efforts are made to make certain that the client is active and comfortable.”
Caring Hearts Adult Day Care accepts insurance, Medicaid waivers, and direct payments to take care of adults, such as quadriplegics or those who suffer from multiple sclerosis. They get access to nurses, beauticians, and podiatrists, and go on occasional field trips.
“We are happy to provide a place, comfort and opportunity for any person with disabling impairments to feel loved and comfortable,” Manager Rebecca Ames said.
For more information, call 219-841-5787 or visit caringheartsadultdaycare.com.
The straightforwardly named Booze Liquors at 820 W. 61st Ave. in Merrillville was acquired by a new owner and renamed Party Liquors #1. It continues to be a liquor store that sells booze, as the old name implied.
The small Party Liquors chain also has a location in Gary.
"Rivich Enterprises has been in business for 34 years in Northwest Indiana and Chicago," owner Rebecca Rivich said. "We work on location liquidating people's things of value, such as better antiques and quality jewelry, art and designer items — through estate sales and auction."
The pop-up shop runs through the end of March, but then must close because the property is being redeveloped.
For more information, find Rivich Auction on Instagram at @vintagechicagodesign.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Brickies Gyros expands, Aunt Millie's closes in Merrillville, Consider the Lilies sells crafts in Munster, Belle Tire coming to Valpo
Brickies Gyros is back, bigger than before, and now offers buckets of beer and live entertainment.
The gyro stand closed in August because the city of Hobart plans to demolish the Clock Tower Plaza where it was located. The demolition is part of a project to rebuild the East 3rd Street Bridge over Lake George. So the gyro place relocated a few blocks away, to a much larger location at 524 E. 3rd St. in Hobart, where it's more than doubled its staff to nine employees.
Formerly a small carryout restaurant, Brickies Gyros acquired and moved into a building formerly occupied by the Old Stove meat market and deli, which closed about four years ago, and the Mauer's Hospitality Room, a banquet hall that closed more than a decade ago. Brickies Gyros now has 60 seats.
"Before, customers could only sit outside on a picnic bench by the lake," owner Wendy Race said. "Now we have a lot of seating."
Brickies Gyros also gained a much larger kitchen that lets it run regular specials in addition to its usual offerings of Chicagoland staples including gyros, hot dogs, Italian beef, Italian sausage and meatball sandwiches. Specials that prove popular, like the pot roast sandwich, get added to the regular menu.
The restaurant has been in downtown Hobart for more than six years, and Race acquired it about four years ago, looking for a change of pace from being a Realtor.
"It's my whole life," she said. "It's all I do. I get up in the morning and go shopping for the restaurant. It's a full-time job. Then I go home and go to bed."
Race spent months renovating the new building, which has been decorated with nostalgic Brickie memorabilia, both of the city and Hobart High School. The restaurant now keeps a pot of chili going, has rolled out all-day delivery, and has snagged a three-way liquor license to help boost evening business.
"We can offer Long Island iced teas, margaritas, and reasonable bucket specials," Race said. "You can come in for a sandwich and have a glass of beer or wine with your hamburger. It's still a family-friendly restaurant where kids can come for cheese fries after school; it's just now more people can get a beer if they want."
About once a month, Brickies Gyros will host acoustic musicians or other live entertainers, like stand-up comedy or trivia contests. It plans to offer a family fun night every Tuesday with face-painting, balloons and other activities for kids.
"It's a lot nicer than the old place," she said. "Everything is made-to-order and reasonably priced."
A grand opening celebration will take place from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Feb. 28. There will be a pig roast with $8.99 plates of roast pork, potatoes, soup and salads. In the evening, Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor will make remarks and the country and classic rock band Nawty will play.
Brickies Gyros is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219-942-0101 or find the business on Facebook.
Aunt Millie's Bakery has sold its last loaf of bread in Merrillville.
The 118-year-old Fort Wayne-based bakery chain opened a store at 8280 Mississippi St. in Merrillville, in a former Tire Barn Warehouse across from the Southlake Mall, in 2015. It sold an array of whole-grain bread, buns, rolls, English muffins, bagels and muffins.
A company representative said it closed on Monday.
The company also operates a commercial bakery in Lowell, making hamburger and hot dog buns that are sold at grocery stores under the Aunt Millie's brand name. It cranks out as many as 69,600 buns per hour. The facility opened in 2017, employs an estimated 117 workers, and serves the greater Chicago area.
Munster resident Julie Kapteyn enjoys going to pop-up craft and artisan markets like The Fetching Market.
She wished there were someplace one could go at any time to find handmade goods, so she opened a shop herself, naming it after the Bible quote "consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin."
Consider the Lilies Giftery at 8237 Forest Ave. in Munster sells handcrafted work from more than 50 vendors. Most of them are local and within an hour's drive, but some hail from as far away as Kenya and Indianapolis.
The store sells jewelry, home decor, handbags, baby items, teddy bears, dolls, soup, candles and leather journals. Vendors include the Flannel Candle Co., Poppies Candles & Gifts, Bird and Bear Dolls, Tiddleywink Toffee, the Gourmet Goddess and Mother Wilma's Marshmallow Factory
"We have a real variety," she said. "I always want to open a little shop. I would go to popup markets, meet the vendors and see what they make. I was inspired by their passion and talent."
Kapteyn, who repurposes furniture for her own enjoyment, said the boutique was a place to find one-of-a-kind gifts.
"I have a lot of repeat customers," she said. "There are a lot of great artisans in the area. It's a place to find unique things and gifts. The work of the artisans makes the store what it is. It's a great way to shop small and local."
Consider the Lilies offers Door County Coffee and Tea from Wisconsin to shoppers browsing the store.
The store is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, find Consider the Lilies on Facebook and Instagram.
Belle Tire, a Michigan-based premium tire and auto care shop, plans to open in Valparaiso this fall.
The company, which was founded in Detroit in 1922, has more than 90 locations across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, including one in Michigan City.
Belle Tire President Don Barnes III told the trade publication Tire Review that the chain planned to open another 17 stores this year, mostly in the Indianapolis area, but including the store in Valparaiso.
The recently opened El Poblano Mexican Restaurant at 7600 Broadway in Merrillville just got a three-way liquor license that lets it sell beer, wine and liquor, owner Javier Paredes said.
The traditional Mexican restaurant that takes pride in its carne asada has started selling domestic and imported beers, sangria and a variety of margaritas in the former Delta Restaurant space.
New owner, name
Evanston-based Extended Care acquired the 216-bed facility of HCR Manor Care in South Holland for an undisclosed sum and rebranded it as the South Holland Manor Health & Rehab Center.
“With the addition of this former Manor Care facility to our roster, our world class services will now be available to the South Holland community,” said Dina Gallo, regional director of business development for Extended Care. “Our goal is to offer the full spectrum of health and rehabilitation services throughout the health care continuum in the south suburbs. ”
The facility offers recovery and rehabilitation care to both long-term residents and people who were recently discharged from the hospital.
“We can now promise the services, support, expertise and training from one of the largest and most complete post-acute health care teams to the people of the Chicagoland region, yet deliver it with the same ‘neighbors caring for neighbors’ community approach that will make these locations so special,” she said.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Thai and sushi restaurant opens in Valpo, Vegas Baby nightclub opens in Griffith, Big Frank's Sausage makes big move
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.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Lobster tacos and 60-ounce margaritas coming to Chesterton, Biggby Coffee caffeinating Michigan City, Brick Street Burritos to open in Valpo, Cozy Barn Signs opens in Schererville
A new Mexican fusion restaurant is being planned to take over the former Volstead space at 225 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton and its owner is looking to make a big splash.
Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila will feature lobster and octopus tacos, more than 60 different tequilas, and "the biggest margarita in Northwest Indiana."
"It will be 60 ounces and is enough for two people," said restaurant owner Monica Susoreny, who's also a public relations professional and the organizer of the NWI Food Truck Fest. "You don't want to order it without a designated driver."
Susoreny originally had planned to open a Los Mamacitas food truck serving tamales, including cheese steak and buffalo chicken ones. But then she found out one of her clients, the acclaimed unconventional fine dining spot Volstead, was closing and decided to take the space over.
"I was in the industry before I got into marketing," she said. "And my husband's been in the restaurant industry for 25 years."
Susoreny hired chef Michelle Gomez, who's worked at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach and most recently at a Marriott in Hawaii. She has done private catering events for celebrities like the rapper Jay Z and reality television star Jonathan Cheban. Gomez is planning a culinary training trip to Mexico where she will cook with families in Mexican homes.
"It's going to be out-of-the-box and unique but authentic Mexican dishes," Susoreny said. "People I talk to while networking light up and get excited when I explain it because at first they think it's just another Mexican restaurant concept."
Las Mamacitas will offer flights of different high-end tequila varietals, as well as flights of both tamales and tacos. The restaurant will initially employ about 25 people and seat 125 diners, including in an outdoor patio.
"The whole experience is the food," she said. "From the moment you step into the door, we want to create a fun and unique experience, whether it's a business dinner, you're going out with your family or it's a date night."
Renovations are underway to give the building a rustic but trendy look, with a fireplace and string lighting in the bar area. Susoreny hopes to have it open by April and to do a formal grand opening on Cinco de Mayo.
"We're really excited to be able to bring something like this to Chesterton," Susoreny said.
The Biggby Coffee chain from East Lansing, Michigan, is planning to open a new coffee shop on April 30 at 3091 Village Point in Chesterton.
Biggby recently opened its first Region location at 3401 Franklin St. in Michigan City.
"Our Biggby offers the convenience of a drive-thru, as well as a cool new space to study with friends or meet with clients,” said owner/operator Matt Lemmer, who opened the Michigan City store with co-owner Tara Walston.
“When we chose this old beat-up garage, we fell in love with the vision of what could be,” Walston said. “While most retailers are building new construction out by the highway, we wanted to be in the heartbeat of the community while helping revitalize and repurpose a great business district. Why let a building sit empty when we can breathe new life into an area that our customers live in and drive by every day?”
Founded in 1995 in the college town that's home to Michigan State University, the chain now has more than 275 cafes open in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. Positioning itself as a more accessible alternative to Starbucks, Biggby offers a "less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet cafe paradigm" and "connoisseur-worthy drinks with pronounceable names like Teddy Bear and Caramel Marvel."
Biggby sells a wide variety of coffees, freezes, tea lattes, and espresso-based drinks as well as a light food menu.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/biggbymichigancity.
Brick Street Burrito plans to bring San Diego-style burritos to Valparaiso.
What are San Diego-style burritos, you ask?
"It's a special burrito from California with carne asada, sour cream, french fries and cheddar," said Brian Susoreny of Costas Restaurant Group. "The founder, Evan Costas, went out to college on the West Coast and wanted to bring it back here."
Costas Restaurant Group plans to open the quick-serve restaurant in the former Valpo Vienna hot dog stand, which recently closed.
The new restaurant at 3 Napoleon St. in downtown will seat up to 20 inside and focus on a carryout business, with a choice of about eight to 10 different burritos. The 1,000-square-foot eatery will employ about 10-15 people and offer assembly line ordering in the manner of Chipotle.
"It's focusing on San Diego-style burritos while staying true to Northwest Indiana," Susoreny said. "This will be our first location. We're testing it out in Valpo."
Cozy Barn Signs recently opened a do-it-yourself sign crafting studio at 104 E. Joliet St. in downtown Schererville.
Owner Michelle Cowan opened the business where people can buy, stain and paint customizable signs they can place on their porch, in their kitchen or anywhere around the house. Her sister had opened a similar studio in the Denver area in Colorado.
"We design everything special for what they want to make," Cowan said. "Then they make it step-by-step. People like to personalize signs with their names, wedding dates and anniversaries."
Groups of up to 24 people take the three-hour class by appointment in the 1,200-square-foot studio.
"It's fun," Cowan said. "Even if you're not crafty, you can do it by yourself, or with friends or family. Everything is provided and it's introductory so you don't need any skills. We have a lot of repeat customers because everyone who comes had a good time."
A portion of the proceeds are donated to the sanctuary Erin's Farm in Hobart, a rescue for farm animals, including horses, llamas, pigs, goats and chickens.
"Everything is done by reservations," she said. "We typically have open classes on weekends and are also open for private parties and groups. People come to make wedding boards, to make gifts for their grandchildren that are more special and personalized, or because they like the farmhouse trend you see from people like Joanna Gaines."
A retail area offers candles, soaps and other odds and ends.
For more information, call 219-629-0005, visit www.cozybarn.com, or find the business on Facebook or Twitter.
Closing for renovations
Sports & Collecti-Balls at 2895 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville will close for a short time for remodeling.
The sports collectible store offers a wide variety of products made in the United States that represent teams in MLB, the NFL, NHL, NBA and colleges and some local high schools. A shrine to sports fandom, it carries authenticated autographed items, picture frames, license plates, garden flags, Sportula stainless steel grilling tools, Stadium Views wall art and sundry other memorabilia.
The shop has been in business for four years and has been featured on the Around Town segment on "WGN Morning News."
Owner Bob Wahlman said he hopes to have it reopen as soon as next week.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Fat Burrito expanding to Highland, Hardee's coming to Michigan City, Munster Donut has water pipe woes, Action Water opens storefront in Valpo
The Lord taketh away but also sometimes giveth.
Many fans of traditional Mexican food were bummed out when the beloved Memo's Taco Mex restaurant closed in Highland last fall.
But another Mexican place with a cult following plans to take over the 40-seat eatery at 2128 45th St. in Porte De L'eau Plaza.
Fat Burrito, which has been stuffing Crown Point residents since 2012, is renovating the restaurant space and hoping to open its second location within the next few months.
Co-owners Ben Parades Rojas and David Huetra De Jesus have been looking to expand for some time because of the brisk business at the original location at 1302 N. Main St. in Crown Point. De Jesus said they hoped to open the Highland Fat Burrito in a few months, possibly as soon as March, but that a lot of renovation still needed to be done.
"We're going to have to do some work in it," he said. "We don't know the date we're going to open yet."
Fat Burrito serves a variety of Mexican fare but is especially known for its huge namesake Mission-style burritos made with a 16-inch tortilla, melted cheese and red or green sauce on the top. They are indeed fat and not for the faint of appetite.
Also in Mexican restaurant news, Asada Grill & Cantina has completed its move from the former Niko's Steak and Seafood just south of downtown Griffith to the much larger former Zuni's House of Pizza at 2907 W. 45th St. in Highland, a short distance from the Griffith border.
The popular Mexican eatery has been working on the big move since last spring and recently passed final inspections with the town. It's going from a cozy 120-seat space it had been leasing to a much more spacious 250-seat restaurant with a 50-person party room.
Asada has been ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the state of Indiana by Yelp reviewers and offers an extensive wine selection to pair with items like whole tilapia and skirt steak.
The grill and cantina is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 219-934-0400.
Water pipe woes
The wintry fury of the polar vortex took a toll on Region businesses, extending temporary closures.
The popular Tuscan-style Italian trattoria Ciao Bella Ristorante at 1514 U.S. 41 in Schererville was closed for a few days early last week, alarming some. Diners showed up to find a darkened storefront and a sign saying it was closed for maintenance.
Ciao Bella needed to fix frozen water pipes and has since reopened for regular business hours.
Munster Donut, the beloved 24/7 donut shop on Calumet Avenue in Munster, suffered from a similar issue. It closed in anticipation of the -50 windchill Wednesday and remained closed Friday.
"So sorry, we will not be able to open tonight," Munster Donut posted on Facebook Thursday. "We are having issues with the pipes. Please check back for updates. Thank you for your understanding."
Munster Donut's owners said they hoped to reopen by 10 p.m. Friday.
Action Water has been serving Valparaiso by providing water softeners, reverse osmosis systems and bottled water delivery since 2005, and just recently opened its first retail storefront at 316 N 325 E Unit 2 in Valparaiso.
The water treatment company specializes in environmentally safe water filtration systems for homes, offices and restaurants, though the bulk of its business is residential. It delivers water softeners, salt for water softening and five-gallon water cooler jugs across Porter County, with a focus of the Valparaiso area because of the hard water there.
Action Water is owned by Doug Edwards, who has 15 years of experience in the business. Action Water offers free in-home water tests to potential customers.
"We treat well water and city water," manager Torrey Mullins said. "The water in Valparaiso is is between 20 and 25 grains per gallon. It's two to three times as hard as Portage city water, so we have a lot of business in Valpo."
Action Water's new storefront is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, call 219-299-8273, visit www.actionwatersolutions.com or find the business on Facebook.
The fast food burger chain Hardee's plans to open a new restaurant at 5223 Franklin St. in Michigan City, and is now hiring crew members.
The St. Louis-based chain is known for its charboiledthickburgers, hand-breaded chicken tenders and for its habit of garnishing specialty burgers with piles of pastrami, pulled pork and other meats.
Hardee's, which once courted controversy with racy television ads aimed at its young male demographic, has multiple locations across central and northeast Indiana. It once had restaurants in Merrillville, Portage and Rensselaer, but they have all closed.
All Starz Barbershop and Beauty Salon has consolidated its Hobart and Lake Station locations into a larger space in the former Paulie's Billiards at 3653 N. Hobart Road in Hobart. It's centrally located between its two former sites.
"Our new location is 2,800 square feet," owner Andrew Concepcion said. "The previous locations were both 1,300 square feet, so this is bigger than both of them."
The 11-year-old business offers haircuts, grooming and beauty services to both men and women.
"We offer modern cuts with a twist, everything from conservative to urban, all styles, all the latest trends," Concepcion said.
All Starz expanded to Lake Station about five or six years ago and built up a loyal clientele there, but Concepcion wanted a single larger location so the barber shop and beauty salon could better serve its clientele.
"We're very busy and it was wearing down our staff if we had one or two people missing," he said. "By putting it together, we have 10 barbers on any given day. We can serve our customers better and it's lighter on us. The flow's a lot better and the wait's not as long. We do recommend appointments at least a day in advance, but also take walk-ins."
The new barbershop has 15 barber chairs and 12 employees and is looking to hire.
All Starz is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. It's closed on Sundays.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Smoothie/juice bar and pizzeria come to Valpo, Buona eyeing C.P. site, TruFit Valpo expands to bigger location, Asada on the move
A new smoothie and juice bar on U.S. 30 in Valparaiso hopes to give residents on the south side of the city some healthier options.
The tropical-themed Island Nutrition Smoothies & More recently opened at 1675 Morthland Drive in Valparaiso.
Owner Scott Milligan said his smoothie and juice bar offers only clean, natural, non-GMO foods. It sells smoothies like a Strawberry Slam, Mango Crusher, Key Lime Sublime, and Berry, Berry Good. Juices include the Beet It Up, Kale Krusher, Citrus Coast, Sunrise Delight and Purple Rain with red cabbage, lime and apples.
"Everything is 100 percent clean and 100 percent natural," Milligan said.
Island Nutrition also offers detox drinks, pre- and post-workout drinks, low-calorie meal replacements and lifestyle shakes like the Banilla, made with banana, vanilla, vanilla whey protein and unsweetened almond milk.
"What inspired me was the need for healthier options," Milligan said. "I felt there was nothing like this on the south side of Valparaiso."
Smoothies and juices are the top sellers, but Island Nutrition also offers kombucha, CBD, supplements like protein powders, and healthy snacks like a smoothie granola bowl. A light food menu includes salads and sandwiches.
"There's quite a few choices to grab and go," Milligan said. "We've it set up with a tropical vibe and the colors of Key West that are warm and inviting. We want people to feel good about themselves and have fun."
Island Nutrition targets those who want to eat healthy, and its customers thus far have included high school students, busy mothers, blue-collar workers and business professionals, Milligan said.
"I want people to be happy with the choices that they make, to do something that's right for the community," he said. "It's just a healthier choice than the fast-food options out there. There's a lot of hustle and bustle, so it's nice when there's a healthy choice that's also convenient."
A ribbon-cutting with the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and an educational seminar about CBD are tentatively slated for Feb. 15.
For more information, call 219-242-8773, visit islandnutritionsmoothie.com, or find Island Nutrition on Facebook.
Valpo TruFit moved to a much larger space at 1155 Marsh St. Suite A in Valparaiso a few months ago.
"We are a personal training and small training studio where we work one-on-one, or in small group training sessions," said owner Luke Strain, a longtime personal trainer who has struck out on his own. "I've worked at quite a few big-box gyms, as you would call them. Our studio lets clients feel secure in a semiprivate setting where they're getting personalized attention from a trainer, and not distracted by gym traffic."
Strain and his wife Kayla Strain relocated their five-year-old fitness studio to the 4,400-square-foot facility with state-of-the-art equipment, a garage door and ample outdoor space for fresh-air training. They offer fitness training to a wide array of clients, including athletes in youth sports and seniors going through rehabilitation after surgery.
"We just needed more space," he said. "It's much more conducive to having more trainers under one roof, and we've been able to make good use of the garage door."
Valpo TruFit trains high-level athletes with power plates, vibration platforms, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, sleds, Jacob's Ladders and state-of-the-art equipment.
Training sessions range from a half hour for personal sessions to 45 minutes for group sessions. Group training is limited to 12 people to ensure quality.
The studio helps people toward a number of fitness goals, including building muscle, burning fat and losing weight. It specializes in conditioning for athletes, given Kayla Strain's experience as a collegiate softball player and former high school softball coach.
"We primarily do strength training but serve multiple populations," Luke Strain said. "It's not just for bodybuilding and sports performance. We help everybody move better."
Training sessions are offered by appointment between 5 a.m. and 8 or 9 p.m. daily.
For more information, call 219-242-1078, visit www.valpotrufit.com or find the business on Facebook or Instagram.
Amici Grill and Pizzeria, a popular Italian restaurant on Ridge Road in Highland, plans to open its second location in Valparaiso, across the street from the Valparaiso University campus.
Owner Rosemary Mouratides said the goal was to open at 1409 Lincolnway in the spring. The menu will be largely the same but tweaked to cater to the college crowd.
"We expect more walking traffic in Valparaiso," she said. "We'll sell pizza by the slice, which will be one major difference."
Amici's menu includes thin-crust pizza, pasta, calzones, salads, garlic knots, desserts and espresso drinks. It offers traditional Italian fare made with all-natural, high-quality ingredients, Mouratides said.
"The reason we got into the restaurant business is we were tired of processed frozen foods, not just at fast-food restaurants but also at full-service restaurants," she said. "The vast majority of the menu items in our restaurants are made from scratch. We make the dough and the sauces in-house. We do all the slicing and chopping ourselves."
The Mouratides family plans to turn the business over to their two sons, leaving the Highland location to one and the Valparaiso eatery to the other.
The Amici in Valparaiso has its own parking lot on-site and hopes to add an outdoor patio.
"Amici means friends in Italian," she said. "We try to make sure all the employees we hire are friendly so the diners have a friendly experience. It's also named in honor of our friends who always encouraged us to open a restaurant."
For more information, visit www.amicigrill.com.
The popular Italian beef chain Buona Beef is eyeing a location at Broadway and Summit Street in Crown Point, north of the Tomato Bar that's being developed, said Aaron McDermott, president of Latitude Commercial real estate in Schererville.
Plans also call for a Pita Pit, Anytime Fitness, Waxing the City, and car wash in that strip mall.
A staple at Guaranteed Rate Field, Buona Beef opened its first Indiana location last March on Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.
Highland has completed the final inspections to allow Asada Grill & Cantina to move from Griffith to a much larger location at 2907 45th St. The Mexican restaurant, which Yelp ranked as one of the best in Indiana, will take over the former Zuni's House of Pizza space that previously had been home to several nightclubs. Zuni's closed in December 2016.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Bombers BBQ and Dante's House of Pizza move in Munster, El Poblano opens in Merrillville, Nick's Tavern and Pizza Hut come to Cedar Lake
Bombers BBQ, one of the Region's most celebrated barbecue joints, has more than doubled its space in a new location at 435 Ridge Road in Munster.
The military aviation-themed barbecue restaurant, acclaimed for its brisket, rib tips and other smoked meats, has more than doubled its seating in the new space behind Mark O’s Bar & Grill in the former Harrison Ridge Plaza, now called the South Shore Plaza. Owners Chris Cole and Anthony Petrocelli had been looking for a larger space to keep up with demand, especially with catering orders.
Bombers had been in a strip mall on Ridge Road next to Johnny's Wings and Burgers since it first opened in April 2013.
"We probably outgrew our last location two and a half years ago," Cole said. "But opening a new facility is costly and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right."
Bombers BBQ more than doubled its square footage from 2,200 square feet to 4,500 square feet, which has been filled with long picnic table benches, stools and double the kitchen space. The restaurant is tripling its smoker capacity.
"We weren't able to take catering orders for weddings and other events on Saturdays," Cole said. "We've had to turn down weddings throughout the summer because Saturday is our busiest day and it was impossible to have enough room in our smoker to do a wedding offsite and meet the needs of our customers in the restaurant. Now we'll be able to cater for up to 500 people and deliver it. We're looking forward to doing weddings, rehearsals, graduation parties and other fun stuff."
The restaurant's sole smoker had been in an outdoor barn, but it will now operate all three smokers inside the kitchen.
"It's great for us and will improve the quality of the meat in the wintertime, because we won't have to move the meat from the cold outdoors," Cole said. "We'll also have the smoker capacity to try and experiment with new menu items, wood combinations and temperature combinations."
Bombers BBQ could start offering short rib dino bones, pulled chicken, whole smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving, and Christmas ham. Diners also can watch the meat being placed into or pulled from the smokers through large viewing windows in the dining room and by the counter.
"It's where the magic happens," Cole said. "It's pretty cool to be able to watch them load or pull meat from the smokers."
Bombers BBQ added four jobs during the expansion and is looking to hire more. It's looking at adding self-ordering kiosks because of the difficulty of finding enough cashiers, and will eventually take all to-go orders online. The restaurant might also partner with a delivery service.
"We'll be able to process orders faster and more efficiently," Cole said.
The barbecue joint's carefully curated selection of bottled craft beer won't return until the middle of February, because it had to reapply for its alcohol permit and couldn't get a hearing scheduled before then.
For more information, visit bombersbbq.com or call 219-836-2662.
Dante's House of Pizza, the popular pizzeria founded by the son of the restaurateur behind the legendary House of Pizza in Hammond, has moved just down the street to 1869 45th St. in Munster, right next to Danny Z's.
Danny Zunica, who named the pizzeria after his dad Dante Zunica, owns both establishments.
"We remodeled in both and have a brand new bar with 20 new taps," restaurant manager Leann Humpfer said. "We still have people's favorite things at Dante's: the lunch buffets, the pasta bar, and the dinner buffet on Thursday."
The new restaurant seats about 60 to 70 diners, and is connected by a doorway to Danny Z's, which can accommodate up to 110 people.
"The space was available, and the owners thought it made sense," she said. "Now we're all under one location instead of split between them."
Dante's has been remodeling the space and transporting over much of the art that decorated the previous location, at 1734 W. 45th St.
"We moved some art over so it has the old familiar feel," she said. "But it's a more modern space that's newly remodeled and so beautiful."
For more information, call 219-924-200 or visit dantesmunster.com.
Fans of the popular Fat Burrito in Crown Point might want to check out a new Mexican restaurant in Merrillville.
Fat Burrito alum Javier Paredes, with Edgar Tapia and Round the Clock veteran Freddy Palma, opened El Poblano Mexican Restaurant in the former Delta restaurant space at 7600 Broadway in Merrillville. Paredes is the brother of Benjamin Paredes, one of the Fat Burrito owners, and he and Tapio worked there for years before striking out on their own.
"We decided to find our own place," he said. "Some of our food is the same. I changed the name but we also have a large burrito with a 16-inch tortilla, melted cheese and red or green sauce on the top."
Paredes said they invested a lot of money in renovating the former Delta restaurant, such as by installing all new booths.
El Poblano specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine.
"There are more Tex-Mex restaurants around," he said. "This is more authentic Mexican food. We make the rice and beans fresh every day."
The 3,000-square-foot restaurant employs five and seats about 74 people. The menu includes carne asada, steak a la Mexicana, tacos and burritos. The El Poblano special piles steak, chicken, and shrimp on rice mixed with green peppers and onions, which is smothered with cheese sauce and ranchero sauce.
Breakfast items include steak and eggs and chilaquiles.
"We served authentic Mexican food," he said. "If you think the food at Fat Burrito is good, you will like our food."
El Poblano is open from 10 a.m to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 219-525-4193 or find El Poblano on Facebook.
Nick's Tavern, a Lemont bar that has been featured on Chicago's Best on WGN, is taking over the former Carlo's Pizzeria/Big Butt BBQ at 13231 Wicker Ave. in Cedar Lake.
"We're bringing our famous one-pound burger to Northwest Indiana," Nick's Tavern announced on its Facebook page.
Billing itself as a great place to watch the Chicago Blackhawks, football or other sporting events, Nick's has been serving its massive and acclaimed Nickburger since 1945, and keeps its beers "ice cold in its unique Bevador cooler."
The Cedar Lake location will serve lunch, dinner and drinks, offering waiter service and outdoor seating.
For more information, call 219-374-5500 or visit www.facebook.com/NicksCedarLake.
Pizza Hut, one of the largest pizza chains in the country, opened a new restaurant at 13300 Lincoln Plaza Way in Cedar Lake a few weeks ago.
The Yum Brands subsidiary is known for its restaurants' distinctive red roofs, the Book It! program that rewards young readers with personal pan pizzas, and of course the "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" song.
Pizza Hut says that "no one outpizzas the hut," a claim which could not be verified as of press time.
The carryout restaurant, which also delivers, is located in a strip mall just south of Hanover Central High School.
The Pizza Hut is open from 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 219-374-6845.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: New Mexican restaurants open in Portage, immediate care clinic coming to Munster, Core Crown Point moves to old John Dillinger Museum space
A few new Mexican restaurants have cropped up along one of Portage's busiest commercial strips.
The new JC Bocatas Mexican Street Food restaurant specializes in tacos, empanadas and cemita-style tortas that are served in a sesame seed-covered roll similar to a brioche bun.
The quick-serve restaurant at 6475 U.S. 6, across from the Portage 16 IMAX, also offers elote, cheesy roasted poblano soup, and battered yucca fries with mojo mayonesa. Tacos come topped with jalapeño lime slaw, a Mexican cheese blend and cilantro, with options including braised beef, achiote pork, chicken tinga, fish, vegetables and chorizo and potato.
"It's the best Mexican street food," co-owner Claudia Saenz said. "It's all made fresh the same day. Nothing is frozen. It's good, fast and fresh."
Her husband Jose Saenz had worked in restaurants for 20 years and always dreamed of opening his own place.
"He always worked long hours and said he should be working for himself," she said. "He had the opportunity to do it and just went for it. I have a job but help out as much as I can. He loves it."
The small restaurant has a drive-through and focuses on take-out orders. Customers will soon be able to order through the website.
"We eventually probably want to open more restaurants," Saenz said. "And we probably want to make this one bigger."
JC Bocatas is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and may eventually open on Sundays. For more information, visit www.jcbocatas.com or call 219-841-9523.
Tocayos Express Mexican Food aspires to be the Chipotle of authentic Mexican food. The taqueria at 6652 U.S. 6 tries to get all its food out fast and lets customers choose their own meat options for tacos and burritos, including ground beef, shredded chicken and grilled veggies, or premium options like asada, shrimp, al pastor and barbacoa.
"We're something similar to a Chipotle," owner Sarah Garcia said. "You can view the guys cooking the food in the back, cooking it on the grill."
The restaurant in the Diamond Plaza strip mall employs four and has a 3,000-square-foot dining room, plus a few seats for outdoor dining. It serves enchiladas, quesadillas, chips and salsa and dollar tacos on Tuesday.
"We try to get all the food out in less than five minutes," Garcia said. "We have a really good product with really good flavor, a good marinade. It's different than most Mexican food. It's more authentic and fresh and you can watch it being made at that moment."
Garcia eventually hopes to open more Tocayos express restaurants, including in Valparaiso and surrounding areas.
Tocayos Express Mexican Food is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 219-850-4458.
Not every IPA in Northwest Indiana is hoppy.
Illiana Power Asylum outgrew its space in the World Gym in Highland and is now located off the Cline Avenue service road at 7940 1/2 Nevada Ave. in Hammond. The gym caters to powerlifting and strongman athletes.
"Both the owners compete in strength sports," said Heather Dawn Gray, who handles marketing for the gym. "It serves a niche for strongmen and powerlifting. It's like an old school mom-and-pop-type gym where the strongest fit in and do their work."
Owners Evan Young and Andrew Jeleniewski filled the gym with free weights and specialized equipment like Atlas stones, prowler sleds, and giant tires that can be flipped in the parking lots. It offers discounts to active-duty military, police, and students with good grades.
The gym sells protein powders and other supplements, offers personal training, and sponsors a local powerlifting team that enters into competitions.
"It's fun and everyone is super-friendly, helpful and respectful," Gray said. "It's not like a commercial gym, where you expect the staff to put your weights back for you. It's one big family."
Illiana Power Asylum is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-803-0894 or find Illinana Power Asylum on Facebook or Instagram.
Core Crown Point has moved to a new studio in the space formerly occupied by the Dillinger Museum in the lower level of the old Lake County Courthouse in downtown Crown Point.
Owners Kelly Walden and David Walden opened the business a year ago in a 400-square-foot space on an upper level of the historic courthouse. They recently relocated to fill a 1,600-square-foot space right by the north entrance, nearly all of the space previously occupied by the John Dillinger Museum.
The gym offers small group classes in pilates, yoga, Bohdi suspension and indoor cycling. Walden said the goal is to offer the quality of group training one could get in Chicago at much more affordable prices.
"None of the classes have more than eight people," Kelly Walden said. "It's not just about how you feel after the workout, but also the connections you make in the class. The retention rate is so much higher when you make a friend in class."
Core Crown Point expanded quickly after Pilates of Northwest Indiana, the only other pilates studio in Crown Point, closed last March. Most of the instructors moved over to Core Crown Point, and brought their clients with them.
The fitness studio was drawn to the courthouse because of the affordable rent, but isn't as visible as when it had its own storefront.
"We've had to grow organically by word of mouth," she said. "We have seven instructors and they're all just fantastic."
Despite being hidden away, Walden enjoys the location.
"I just love the courthouse environment," she said. "It's a historical building but a living, functioning part of history. Prisoners used to walk through here on the way up to trial on the third floor of the courtroom. There's a lot of history."
For more information, call 219-202-8622, visit www.corecrownpoint.com or find Core Crown Point on Facebook and Instagram.
The long-awaited Community Immediate Care Munster at 1946 45th St. in Munster opens Jan. 28.
The immediate care clinic, in a newly constructed building by the Munster-Highland border, will offer walk-in healthcare services for minor illnesses and injuries and imaging services like MRIs. Doctors who practice Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Obstetrics, and Gynecology will be available to meet with patients there.
“When illness strikes, access to quick care is important,” Community Hospital CEO Lou Molina said. “With the addition of this new immediate care center, residents will have access to the same high-quality services found across our entire healthcare system in a convenient location.”
Community Immediate Care Munster will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, call 219-703-2420 or visit comhs.org.
Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Chipotle opens in Crown Point, Dickey's BBQ closes in Highland, Bee & Me Boutique moving
Chipotle Mexican Grill opens its first Crown Point location Tuesday to satisfy fans of fast, fresh carnitas, barbacoa and black beans.
The fast-casual Mexican restaurant, known for its huge burritos and bowls stuffed with highly customizable ingredients, is at 10715 Broadway in Crown Point. It will feature a drive-up digital pickup lane so customers can get orders they placed on Chipotle.com or the Chipotle app handed to them without even getting out of their car.
A favorite among millennials and anyone who likes cool, creamy guac, Chipotle also has Region locations in Highland, Munster, Merrillville, Portage and Valparaiso.
The new Crown Point Chipotle will be open from 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
A 2,100-square-foot Starbucks also is under construction on Broadway by Crown Point's new Chipotle restaurant.
Crown Point Planning Administrator Anthony Schlueter said the chain coffee shop, which will be the second Starbucks in Crown Point when it opens, is a standalone building with a drive-thru. Seattle-based Starbucks closed its coffee shop at 10761 Broadway nearby a decade ago when it shuttered more than 600 stores nationwide.
In a blow to local meat lovers and carnivores everywhere, Dickey's Barbecue Pit has closed its Highland location at 8359 Indianapolis Blvd. in the troubled Highland Ultra Plaza, which is being foreclosed upon after the anchor Ultra store closed as a result of the 2017 Central Grocers bankruptcy.
The phone is disconnected, and Highland has been removed from Dickey's locations page on its website.
A spokeswoman did not return a request for more information.
The Dallas-based chain claims to offer "Legit. Texas. Barbecue." Its menu features many slow-cooked meats like beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, which customers could sample on two-meat or three-meat plates.
The fast-casual counter-service barbecue restaurant chain shuttered its location a few miles south at 713B Indianapolis Blvd. in Schererville in 2014. It's down to just three locations in the entire state of Indiana, with the Portage restaurant at 6200 U.S. 6 being the only local Dickey's left.
It's the latest in a series of departures at the Highland Ultra Plaza, where Fallas, Dollar General, and Taco & Burritos Rancho Grande have also closed in the wake of the Ultra departure and foreclosure.
Bee & Me Boutique is on the move again after losing its lease to the former Renovar space at 100 S. Broad St., at the corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith.
But the five-year-old boutique, which sells Magnolia home decor and clothes, isn't going far.
Bee & Me is moving right across the street to the former Griffith State Bank, which is being transformed into The Bank.quet Gatherings & Events to host weddings, company parties and other special events. The boutique had been squirreled away in an industrial park on the southeast side of town before moving to the heart of Griffith's downtown earlier this year.
It's home to a Cute as a Cupcake express shop and also sells school uniforms, spirit wear and flame-resistant work clothes for steelworkers.
It's slated to close its current location on Jan. 12 and reopen across the street when the old bank renovation is complete.
A new strip mall is being built near the Strack & Van Til supermarket at 109th Avenue and Broadway in Crown Point.
Crown Point Planning Administrator Anthony Schlueter said the 5,400-square-foot strip mall would have three units. He's heard it will be home to a coffee shop and a pizza place.
Beer and barbecue soon will be replaced with down-home Southern cooking at the old Lowell water plant at 241 N. Liberty St. in downtown Lowell.
The Old Lowell Watering Hole and Bub's BBQ revived the historic building by the post office, opening in August but closing recently after the business partnership dissolved.
The building has since been sold to new owners, including Leigh Burke.
Burke said the new restaurant in the old water plant, which was decommissioned in the 1990s, would have more of a "Southern home cooking theme," would not include a brewery and would open in the next 60 days or so. A new name will be chosen "very shortly."
NWI Business Ins and Outs: CBD dispensary opens in Crown Point, poke coming to Merrillville, Dozeli Pizzeria opens in Schererville
Right after hemp was legalized with the signing of the U.S. farm bill earlier in December, Blackbird Hemp opened a CBD dispensary in Crown Point.
Owners Corey Lurtz and Dennis Hein opened the shop at 449 E. Summit St. in Crown Point. It sells CBD, or cannabidiol, products that are being hyped across the country as a treatment for inflammation, anxiety, depression and various other ailments. The business is cash-only, awaiting federal regulations that would allow banks and credit card companies to do business with hemp merchants.
Since CBD oil was decriminalized in Indiana in March, many retailers in the Region have started selling it, including pharmacies, fireworks stores and skateboard shops. Market researcher Brightfield Group estimates CBD may grow into a $22 billion industry nationwide by 2022.
Blackbird Hemp is focused entirely on selling CBD products. It carries more than 100 products including tinctures, capsules, gummies, bath bombs, salves, lotions, coconut oils and vaping cartridges. Users might apply a salve for a topical inflammation, take a pill for other issues, and use a vape cartridge for anxiety, because it is fast-acting, taking effect in about 15 minutes.
"We have just about everything," Hein said. "We have dog treats and pet tinctures."
The dispensary carries established brands such as Green Lotus Hemp, Lazarus Naturals Hemp and Sun State Hemp, and sources many of its products from small farms and co-ops in Colorado, Washington and Kentucky. Customers — who often skew older — use it to treat neuropathy, epilepsy, Parkinson's, inflammation and anxiety, among other conditions. Some try to use it to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure or digestive health.
"We try to educate our customers on what to take and how to take it," Hein said. "Education is a building block and the key. We point them to things they can go home and research on their own. For the longest time, hemp had basically been a boogeyman but it's becoming more normalized as more research and studies are coming out about the health benefits."
A post in Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Blog said CBD may be effective at managing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, but that it could have side effects like nausea and fatigue. Some CBD promoters overstate its curative powers, according to the blog, and more research is needed to determine CBD's effect. People should consult their doctors before using it, the Harvard blog concludes.
Blackbird Hemp hopes to organize an annual hemp festival with educational seminars at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point, launch its own Blackbird-branded products and open more locations around the Region. Once it can accept debit and credit card payment, it hopes to establish a subscription service in which payments are automatically deducted and CBD is mailed out to customers.
"We're looking to bootstrap this up," Hein said. "Expansion will be doable, but we'll do it step-by-step. We're focused on good-quality products and getting it out to the public."
The dispensary offers 15 percent discounts to seniors, first responders, members of the military and union members.
Blackbird Hemp is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, call 219-226-4154, visit facebook.com/blackbirdhemp, or find Blackbird Hemp on Instagram.
Poke places specializing in Hawaiian raw fish bowls have sprung up all over Chicago in recent years, serving sushi-like pieces of uncooked tuna and salmon tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil atop beds of rice, with avocado and other fresh ingredients.
A few places in Northwest Indiana have poke on the menu, such as Kitaro Surf & Turf in Munster, but the hot restaurant trend is finally coming to the Region.
A sign in the strip mall that's home to Panera Bread and Qdoba Mexican Eats at the corner of U.S. 30 and Broadway in Merrillville announced that Pokéman Restaurant is coming soon.
The owners could not be reached for comment. Apparently unrelated poke restaurants with the Pokeman or Poke-man name have cropped up in cities like Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Vancouver and West Hartford, Connecticut, but it's not clear if there's any potential intellectual property dispute with the popular Pokémon video game and anime franchise that enjoyed a massive resurgence in popularity when Pokémon Go was released in 2016.
South suburban Dozeli Pizzeria, which has locations in Chicago Heights and South Chicago Heights, has opened in the former Enzo's space at 1120 W. U.S. 30 in Schererville.
The pizzeria offers both thin crust and deep dish pizza, as well as "deluxe" sandwiches like Italian beef and chicken Parmesan. The extensive menu includes wings, salads, appetizers, and both hot and cold sub sandwiches.
The small Chicagoland chain, which was founded in 2008, bakes pies including Italian beef pizza, a chicken Alfredo pizza, and a "Meaty Lover's Pizza" topped with five different meats.
Unlike the other locations, the Schererville restaurant does not have a grill yet, so no hot dogs or hamburgers are available. With no dining room, it is carryout and delivery only, delivering within about a five-mile range.
Dozeli Pizzeria is currently open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-515-2876 or visit www.dozelipizzeria.com.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Stacked Pickle coming to Lansing, Fifth Third Bank, Burrito Stop and Mas Tacos open, Merrillville Tea Room temporarily closed
Former Indianapolis Colts player Gary Brackett plans to open a Stacked Pickle restaurant in Lansing before the end of 2019.
The linebacker and Super Bowl champion has been looking to expand his sports-themed sit-down restaurant and bar chain in the Region. He's also been looking for franchisees to open Stacked Pickle restaurants in places like Schererville, Merrillville, Crown Point and Gary.
The casual dining restaurant serves traditional American fare like burgers, wings and its namesake fried pickles in a "family-friendly atmosphere."
Founded eight years ago, the fast-growing Stacked Pickle now has nine restaurants in Indiana, and has signed on franchisees in Houston, Orlando and Dayton, Ohio.
How does that song go?
Stop, in the name of burritos?
Stop, it's burrito time?
At any rate, Burrito Stop Mex and American Grill recently opened at 1421 119th St. in downtown Whiting, adding to the lakefront city's Mexican cuisine options.
The fast-food restaurant, which incorporates a big red stop sign into its logo, offers burritos and bowls with a choice of steak, chicken, barbacoa, carnitas, ground beef and veggies.
Burrito Stop also serves gorditas, tortas, XL quesadillas, tacos, salads and dinner platters with steak or chicken that are served with rice, beans and tortillas.
Prices range from $2.25 for a taco to $14.99 for a flame-grilled skirt steak meal.
Burrito Stop is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It's closed on Sundays.
For more information, call 219-370-5151.
Also in taco news, Mas Tacos has opened a carryout restaurant at 8020 Kennedy Ave. in Highland.
The eatery, which has a small waiting area, serves tacos, tortas, sopas, gorditas, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, nachos, 99-cent chicken flautas and the Mas Special, which is rice topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos and one's choice of meat.
It's open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Sunday.
For more information, call 219-879-3326.
Fifth Third Bank recently opened a new branch on Franklin Street by Ames Field in Michigan City, Mayor Ron Meer said.
The branch, at 2604 Franklin St., has a drive-thru and an ATM.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, so named after the merger of Fifth National Bank and Third National Bank and not some random fraction, is a Fortune 500 company with more than 1,100 branches in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
Locally, Fifth Third has locations in Gary, Merrillville, Schererville, Crown Point, Highland, Hammond and Valparaiso.
The Michigan City branch is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, call 219-879-3326.
The Merrillville Tea Room, whose formal afternoon teas are a holiday tradition for many Region families, closed back in June, but that's only temporary.
The tea room in the Merrillville Florist Shop at 7005 Madison St. was closed after its chef left for a new gig, but owner Ramona McCrovitz said she hopes to reopen after finding a new chef.
"We're just busy right now with Christmas and will be busy through Valentine's Day," she said.
In addition to pots of tea, the tea room serves scones, salads and sandwiches in a peaceful and quiet setting.
Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Chipotle, Taco Bell, Anytime Fitness opening; Starbucks and Don Pedro's closing
Anyone who loves huge Mission-style burritos stuffed with their choice of fresh ingredients won't have to wait much longer for Chipotle Mexican Grill to finally open in Crown Point.
The widely influential Newport Beach, California-based chain, a favorite among millennials and anyone who appreciates a high degree of customization, plans to open its first Crown Point location on Jan. 8 at 10715 Broadway.
Chipotle is known for its assembly line-like service in which burritos, tacos, bowls and salads are constructed with a selection of ingredients like barbacoa, carnitas and guacamole. It has been considered the gold standard of the fast-growing fast-casual segment with many restaurateurs scrambling to be the first to open "the Chipotle of pizza," "the Chipotle of Greek food," and so on. But Chipotle's reputation was dinged after E. coli outbreaks and other food safety concerns in 2015.
Chipotle was originally supposed to open in Crown Point on Saturday but the opening was pushed back. A company spokesperson said no further delays are expected.
In a novelty for a Chipotle, at least in Northwest Indiana, the new Crown Point restaurant will feature a drive-up pickup lane for customers who place and pay for orders on the Chipotle app or at Chipotle.com.
The restaurant will be open from 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Also in Mexican-themed chain restaurant news, Taco Bell has opened at 917 Joliet St. in Dyer, near the Jewel-Osco supermarket at U.S. 30 and Calumet Avenue.
Especially popular among perpetually hungry teenagers and late-night bar-goers, the Tex-Mex-ish fast-food chain, known for a value menu where ingredients like Fritos chips are wrapped in a tortilla and sold for a buck or so, serves chalupas, XXL Grilled Stuft Burritos and whatever a "crunch wrap" is.
Taco Bell, owned by Louisville-based Yum Brands, describes the food as "Mexican inspired" on its website. It has 7,000 locations worldwide, including in Highland, Griffith, Crown Point, Winfield, Valparaiso, Hobart, St. John, Merrillville, Hammond, Portage, Munster, LaPorte, Chesterton and Michigan City.
The Dyer Taco Bell is open from 7 a.m. through 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. through 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Work off all those burrito calories at the new Anytime Fitness gym in Chesterton. The gym chain that allows members to workout around the clock has opened its 17th Northwest Indiana location.
The 24-hour fitness franchise at 757 Indian Boundary Road offers free weights, weight machines, cardio equipment, group training, personal training, tanning and hydro-massage therapy.
“For many people, joining a gym can be an intimidating experience,” Anytime Fitness Regional Manager Kevin Scott said. “Our gym is big enough to feature everything you need for a great workout and small enough to provide personalized attention for all of our members. Whether weight loss is your goal, or increased strength or improved balanced and flexibility — or a combination of some of those things — at Anytime Fitness, we’re able to help you achieve whatever results you seek.”
On average, Anytime Fitness gyms are staffed for 12 hours a day but can be accessed by members at any time day or night — hence the name — with a key fob. Members also have access to any of Anytime Fitness's more than 4,000 clubs worldwide.
“We make it easy for our members to exercise whenever and however they like,” Scott said. “We have personal trainers available to help you learn how to use all of the equipment and to develop an individualized workout plan, if you like. And, our Personal Training and Group Training programs are optimized to provide efficient workouts in 1-on-1 settings as well as small & large group settings. All training programs are designed to provide guidance, accountability and of course results.”
For more information, call 219.765.0382 or email ChestertonIN@anytimefitness.com.
Granite & Quartz Tops is moving into the former Lynn’s Bedding at 1862 W. U.S. 30 in Merrillville.
Merrillville-based Commercial In-Sites brokered the sale of the property to the new owner, which is opening its first location in Indiana. The showroom will feature custom granite, marble and quartz countertops.
Commercial In-Sites said in a news release the new countertop showroom should open in early summer 2019.
Starbucks shuttered its coffee shop at 2531 Willowcreek Road in Portage, the oldest Starbucks in Porter County's most populous city.
The Seattle-based purveyor of cold brew, Frappuccinos and other strong espresso drinks that power people through the day, still has two other Portage locations, at 6030 U.S. 6 and 6295 Ameriplex Drive.
Don Pedro's, a Tex-Mex restaurant that offered steak, seafood and Mexican staples like enchiladas, quesadillas and Huevos Con Chorizo, has permanently closed its long-standing location at 7840 U.S. 41 in Schererville.
A favorite spot for Mexican cuisine among many in the Tri-Town, the restaurant had a bar that served drinks like Corona-ritas with an upturned Corona bottle jutting out of a margarita glass. It had some authentic menu items like menudo and pozole.
"It is with great sadness that we inform you after 16 amazing years in business we have come to the difficult decision to close our doors and focus on our next business venture," the owners said in a note posted on the door. "It has been an incredible journey. Thanks to all our wonderful patrons and to the NW Indiana community. Please feel free to visit the original Don Pedro's located in Calumet City, Illinois. Thank you."
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Golden Corral and Vegas Cafe reopening soon in Schererville, Smallcakes has opened
The Golden Corral buffet will make its triumphant return to Schererville before year's end, though likely after Christmas.
The owners of the Merrillville Golden Corral have made extensive renovations to the Golden Corral at 915 Eagle Ridge Dr., by the Home Depot, in Schererville. The buffet had served its last slice of ham and scoop of mashed potatoes three years ago.
"We completely remodeled the place," General Manager Ken Churchill said. "We put in a fireplace, recessed lighting and all new decor on the inside. Everything is bright and shiny. It's like a brand new store opening."
There's no official opening date yet, but Golden Corral is working to hire 200 workers, including servers, cooks and cashiers.
"The menu will be pretty similar to the Merrillville location, with some small differences," Churchill said.
The Raleigh, North Carolina-based chain has been frequently updating its menu recently, adding new items every three months like prime rib, fajitas and different kinds of wings.
"It keeps the customers coming in," Churchill said.
Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery has opened at 336 Indianapolis Blvd., next to the new Rosati's Pizza, Buona Beef and McAlister's Deli in the Shoppes on the Boulevard.
Gloria Jean's franchisee Raed Naser, his wife Noor Musleh, his brother and their family opened the chain, which has been featured on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and "The View." It features 18 different flavors of cupcakes daily, including 14 regular flavors and four that change daily.
"We have 365 different recipes that we cycle through," Naser said.
Popular items at the 1,500-square-foot cupcakery and ice cream parlor, which seats 12, include red velvet cupcakes and smashes, in which a cupcake is paired with two scoops of ice cream in a mason jar.
"They're delicious and perfect for Instagram and social media," he said. "They look great, and people like to share it."
The restaurant employs 12 workers and serves only cupcakes baked freshly that day. Leftovers are donated to charitable organizations and other places like local hospitals and nursing homes.
"You can ask to be on the list, and then we call through it until we find someone to take the leftovers," Naser said. "We only serve fresh cupcakes."
A grand opening celebration is planned for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. Smallcakes will give away mini cupcakes while supplies last, offer 40 percent off on everything all day, have family-friendly activities like balloon animal-making, and will enter customers into a raffle.
For more information, visit www.smallcakesschererville.com or call 219-440-7155.
Vegas Cafe at 800 Cedar Parkway in Schererville was sold to new owners.
Jorge Armando and Shelly Ann Armando, the owners of Skillet's Bistro in Highland, bought the restaurant and plan to reopen it as Vegas Bistro Cafe in the middle of January.
The reborn eatery will focus on quick breakfast items and sandwiches. Nothing on the menu will cost more than $7.60, as the restaurant will target passing truckers and workers at stores and restaurants along Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville and Highland.
"We want to give workers a good-priced breakfast or BLT or something like that," Jorge Armando said. "It's going to be good for workers who come in the early morning on their way to work. Drivers can call ahead to order their food in advance. We have a huge parking lot and will bring it out to them. It will be like 1960s service without the roller skating."
Vegas Cafe Bistro will seat 46 people inside, and another 18 outside during warmer weather. It will serve beer, wine, wine-based cocktails and espresso drinks such as lattes and espressos.
The menu will include skillets, omelets, waffles and many items that can be prepared quickly.
"We have a good team and have been practicing getting breakfast sandwiches out in no more than five minutes," he said. "We want to offer a quick breakfast."
It will be cheap, with hot dogs for $2 and hot dogs with fries and a drink for $4.25. The lunch menu also will include burgers, soups and chili.
"Schererville was a point of interested because it's been a draw for all the towns around it, including Chicago," he said. "I've lived in Dyer for such a long time and see so many people, including from the city and Illinois, coming here to have a good meal, good shopping, or a buy a good house. Just look at the amount of cars going by."
Vegas Cafe will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Sophia's House of Pancakes replacing S'ville Applebee's, Birdie's $3 car wash coming to CP, Domino's and Big Lots open, Enzo's closes
There's no more "eating good in the neighborhood" in Schererville after Applebee's closed near the intersection of U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard, disappointing fans of $1 drink specials, 2 for $20 date nights, steaks crisscrossed with huge grill marks, and whatever riblets are.
The Schererville Applebee's has gone extinct but a new era of fluffy golden pancakes is upon us.
Sophia's House of Pancakes, a popular pancake house on Indianapolis Boulevard, plans to take over the space and open another location there.
A sign posted at the recently shuttered Applebee's Grill + Bar at 650 W. U.S. 30, in the Crossroads Shopping Center in Schererville, said Sophia's is opening there soon. The family-style diner, which also has a location at Orland Park in Illinois, is known for its stacks of old-fashioned, powdered sugar-dusted pancakes and for its hearty breakfasts with huge portions, including five-egg omelets. One reviewer on Yelp called it "the Grand Kingdom of Breakfast" with "a menu the size of the Sunday paper" and skillets "the size of glacially carved freshwater basins."
If $4 seems a little steep to you for a car wash, you're in luck.
Birdie's $3 Car Wash hopes to open as soon as December at 10567 Broadway in Crown Point.
Owner Mike Mahmoud has dreamed of opening a car wash since childhood.
"As a little kid I worked with my father at grocery stores in the city," he said. "There was a hand car wash with a line around the block. I saw the potential of how much cash a car wash could make."
Car washes start at $3 and go up, depending on the level of cleaning one wants. Similar $3 car washes have opened in recent years in Hammond and Dyer.
"It's a price point that's affordable to everybody," Mahmoud said. "If you drive by a $5 car wash, you think, 'maybe.' But $3 is a price you don't want to pass up."
Birdie's $3 Car Wash also will sell monthly memberships allowing people to get their car washed every day or as frequently as they want.
The Crown Point car wash is largely built-out and expects to open in a matter of weeks, in the busy season where many people try to get the road salt washed off their cars. It has a 140-foot tunnel and 20 vacuums. Mahmoud has talked with his banker about building 10 of them across Northwest Indiana and hopes to eventually take the brand national. The next one will be in St. John, and then he'll look at Illinois locations.
"We'll take baby steps," he said. "Of course I'd like to go nationwide. But these are big projects. These aren't $100,000, $200,000 projects. These are $4 million apiece."
Birdie's $3 Car Wash will employ about 15 workers in Crown Point.
"A lot of thought and hard work went into this establishment, and it's run by the owner himself," he said. "I built this car wash so my car could run through it. I'm a car guy who used to work in car sales. I wouldn't run anyone's car through it if I wouldn't run my own car through it."
Chicago Heights-based Enzo's Beef and Sausage restaurant expanded to 1120 U.S. 30 in Schererville in 2015, but has decided to refocus its efforts on its Illinois location.
"We decided that it was best for both the family and for the business to focus our time and energy on the original location," the owners posted on Facebook.
As the name suggests, Enzo's sells Italian beef and Italian sausage, as well as gyros, hot dogs and $1 slices of pizza. It used old family recipes and premium ingredients like top-quality pork butt and extra virgin olive oil.
Another Chicago Heights business may soon replace it in Schererville. A sign outside said Dozeli Pizzeria is coming soon.
Dozeli has been around for nearly three decades with locations in Chicago Heights and South Chicago Heights. It's known for both thin-crust and deep-dish pizza, wings and deluxe sandwiches.
In other pizza news, and who doesn't like pizza news, Domino's is opening a new "pizza theater" restaurant where customers can watch the pizza being baked at 1918 165th St. in Hammond, its second in the city.
“We are dedicated to the Hammond area and are excited to better serve its residents,” said Hammond Domino's franchise owner Jim Gronemann, who owns 15 other Domino's stores in Indiana and Illinois. “We have a deeply experienced team of folks who live and work in Hammond, and they are eager to offer our delicious products, exceptional service and innovative ordering technology to the community.”
The Ann Arbor-based pizza company, the largest in the world based on retail sales, will celebrate its Dec. 3 opening by offering medium one-topping carryout pizzas for $3.99 each through Dec. 30, and by having a drawing on Dec. 24 for free pizza for a year.
The Hammond pizzeria also will offer 50 percent off to police officers, firefighters, first responders and members of the military on an ongoing basis.
The store is hiring and features a large lobby where customers can watch their food being prepared, an electronic screen for tracking carryout orders and a chalkboard "to allow customers to express their creativity or leave feedback for the store team members."
For more information, visit www.dominos.com or call the pizzeria at 219-989-6550.
Big Lots relocated its Merrillville store to 3201 E. Lincoln Highway in Hobart and reopened with a new format, "which is part of a broader initiative to reposition the brand as a community retailer offering trustworthy value and friendly service," the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer said in a press release.
“We are excited to introduce our new store format to Merrillville,” stated Steve Haffer, senior vice president and chief customer officer of Big Lots. “It brings to life our new brand traits and showcases our product assortments of affordable solutions in furniture, seasonal, home, food, and consumables."
The discount retailer, which "offers a little bit of everything," moved about 100 feet over to a new unit in a strip mall that also includes Xfinity Store.
To celebrate the opening, Big Lots plans to donate $5 to Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana anytime a BIG loyalty member redeems a reward there through Jan. 12.
For more information, call the store at 219-649-7119.
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: uBreakiFix opens in Crown Point, Tim's Pizza closes, Family Dollar coming to Gary
The technology repair shop uBreakiFix has opened in Crown Point, where it will fix smartphones, tablets, computers, video game consoles and more.
The fast-growing company has 11 Indiana stores, including in Schererville, Michigan City and Portage. Franchisees Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos established the new Crown Point location at 864 N. Superior Drive and hope to open more in the coming year.
“Crown Point has experienced incredible growth over the last few years, and we are excited to serve the community by providing a trusted place for tech repairs,” Angelo Giannakopoulos said. “We love being able to bring uBreakiFix to new communities because we truly believe in the mission of this company.”
The company now has more than 460 retail shops across North America and had made more than 4.5 million repairs on electronic devices, including of cracked screens and malfunctioning cameras. It offers same-day repair for products like the Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixle.
For more information, call 219-299-7959 or visit ubreakifix.com/locations/crownpoint.
Tim's Pizza has baked its last pie in Crown Point.
The pizzeria at 1191 E. Summit St. specialized in crispy thin-crust, offering a slice and pop for just $2.50 on weekdays. It was a small take-out and delivery place that also served big burgers and appetizers like mozzarella sticks.
"It’s the last day for Tim’s Pizza," the owners posted on Facebook. "We will miss all of our customers; you were the best."
Tim's Pizza had been in business in Crown Point for nine years.
The North Carolina-based chain Family Dollar plans to open a new store at 1421 W. 25th Ave. in Gary this week.
“Family Dollar is pleased to invite customers to experience our great value and broad assortment of merchandise in the Gary community,” spokeswoman Heather Briganti said. “Our customers can rely on Family Dollar for everyday low prices on household products, food, beauty and essentials, seasonal merchandise, apparel and much more.”
A grand opening with giveaways, prizes, and a gift basket raffle will take place on Thursday. The first 50 customers in line on Saturday will receive a gift card.
The discount retailer has been in business for more than 55 years, and primarily serves urban and rural areas in 46 states.
Bailey’s Mini Mart opened recently at 4802 Drummond St. in East Chicago.
"The city of East Chicago welcomes new small business in our community and wishes them much success," the city said in a press release.
Bailey's has a small kitchen and sells dollar tacos on Taco Tuesdays.
The convenience store is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information call 219-354-8166
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Porto’s Peri Peri to open in Schererville; Venice Pizza, Which Wich and Griffith Meat Market close
Porto's Peri Peri is bringing its spicy flame-grilled Portuguese chicken to Schererville.
The Villa Park Illinois-based restaurant is opening in a strip mall outside the Shops on Main shopping center at Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard, just south of the Highland border.
According to the Regency Centers website, it will occupy 2,338 square feet and replace Meatheads, which closed in January after a four-year run.
Porto's Peri Peri is named after the super-hot chili pepper used in cuisines in Portugal, India and Africa. In Swahili, peri peri means "pepper pepper," or "strong pepper."
The cuisine has been gaining popularity in the Chicago area, with Nando's Peri Peri opening several locations in the city.
Porto's Peri Peri serves up chili-marinated chicken in portions that range from one-fourth chicken to a whole chicken, as well as platters. Beyond its signature entree, the restaurant serves couscous salad, quinoa salad, falafel, hummus, burgers and vegetarian options like paneer rice, along with sides like rice, steamed vegetable and flame-grilled corn on the cob.
"Our all-natural, vegetarian-fed chicken is fresh, never frozen and marinated for a minimum of 24 hours," Porto's Peri Peri said on its website. "Our unique Peri Peri sauces are made from African birds eye chilis mixed with fresh herbs and spices. Being nut, gluten and MSG free, our sauces are suitable for all."
The Venice Pizza restaurants at 1302 N. Main St. in Crown Point and 1233 Sheffield Ave. in Dyer have served their last slice of pie.
"It is with great sadness that Venice Pizza in Dyer is in fact closing its doors for good," Venice Pizza posted on its Facebook page. "As much as we appreciate and love our valued customers due to unforeseen and unfortunate property issues, we can no longer serve the Dyer community at this time. We are extremely sorry this didn't work out & for the abrupt closing. We thank all of our amazing customers! This isn't a goodbye, this is a hope to see you again. In the meantime, our Hammond location is still there & we recommend them to all. Thank you."
The pizzeria, known for its tavern-style square cut pizza and distinctive logo of a cartoonish mustachioed Italian chef, also delivered to parts of Munster, sold pizza by the slice and described itself as "a family tradition."
Venice Pizza is a 30-year-old family-owned business that grew to three locations, but only the Hammond location at 6940 Kennedy Ave. remains.
That pizzeria delivers to Hammond, Highland, East Chicago and Munster. In addition to specialty pizzas like taco pizza, The Hawaiian and chicken and broccoli, the eatery also serves Italian beef, pasta, chicken wings, calzones, cheese fries and shrimp dinners.
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Country Pancake House opens in Merrillville, Vegas Cafe to reopen in Schererville, Carlo's Pizza/Big Butt BBQ shutters in Cedar Lake
Petros House of Pancakes and Restaurant served its final omelet in Merrillville this summer, but a new diner stepped in to fill the space in the Crossroads Plaza Shopping Center.
Country Pancake House is now slinging eggs, biscuits and gravy and coffee at 6190 Broadway in Merrillville. The 160-seat breakfast-and-lunch pancake house, which employs 11 workers, opened two weeks ago.
Owner Jose Perez has worked in restaurants for years after starting as a dishwasher, and always dreamed of opening his own place. Now his dream has become a reality.
"He worked really hard all his life from the ground up," employee Kathy Taylor said. "After learning how to bus tables 30-some years ago, he worked really hard. He opened this restaurant through blood, sweat and tears."
Perez took over Petros in August and has since been renovating the building.
"We worked to make it nicer inside with a pleasant, clean atmosphere," Taylor said. "We try to give great service to the customers, who were glad to see the place come back. It is an entirely new entity with entirely new owners."
Country Pancake House has kept many favorites on the menu for the regulars who continue to frequent it. It serves omelets, burgers, skillets, biscuits and gravy, grits, homemade rolls, chili, burgers, soups like stuffed pepper and chicken lemon rice and, of course, pancakes, offering "big, generous portions."
A top seller has been the meat lover's omelet with sausage, ham, bacon, green pepper, onion and cheese.
"He loves to make breakfast," Taylor said of Perez. "We pride ourselves on customer service, good meals at an affordable price and being part of the neighborhood."
Country Pancake House is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219-888-9858 or find Country Pancake House on Facebook.
Also in pancake news, Buttermilk Pancake House is moving into the former El Salto space in the historic Old Town Hall at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. The new restaurant at 805 Ridge Road is now hiring and invites walk-in job applicants.
Sir Mix-a-Lot, who could not lie, likely would have liked Carlo's Pizza/Big Butt BBQ in Cedar Lake, but not enough people in town did to keep it open.
The pizza and barbecue restaurant at 13231 Wicker Ave., whose logo featured a cartoonish pig with an ample posterior, closed without warning. Its phone number was disconnected, its website was down, and the owners could not be reached for comment.
Opened in 2013, Carlo's Pizza/Big Butt BBQ was a family restaurant and sports bar that served barbecue styles from across the country, with a focus on South Side Chicago BBQ. It had an outdoor patio with cornhole games, and was known for its brisket and generous portions of ribs.
Vegas Cafe ran out of luck and closed in Schererville, but a new owner likes the odds of its succeeding.
The restaurant at 800 Cedar Parkway, a rare independent in a stretch of Indianapolis Boulevard that's heavily dominated by chains, opened in 2016. Vegas Cafe specialized in oven-baked, often open-faced sandwiches with Vegas-inspired names like the MGM Grand, Mirage, Venetian, Monte Carlo, Belagio, Excalibur and Flamingo.
Splashy Sin City decor lined the walls, and daily raffles and live musical acts gave diners in the Tri-Town a little taste of the Vegas experience.
The restaurant shuttered without explanation, but signs in the windows Thursday said it would reopen soon under new management.
Also in Vegas-themed restaurant news, the Vegas Baby Cafe is looking to open in the former Zuchez Restaurant and Bar at 211 N. Broad St. in Griffith.
Zuchez opened just north of downtown Griffith in 2017, aiming to be a nightclub with dancing, 64-ounce margaritas, a downtown date night-like restaurant and a breakfast joint serving biscuits and gravy. It lasted less than a year.
Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Sav-A-Lot supermarket coming to South Haven, Bin 27 closes in Dyer, fitness studio and Freshii opening in Crown Point
The unincorporated community of South Haven in Porter County has been without a grocery store since Al's Supermarket closed in spring of 2017, but that will soon change.
Save-A-Lot will take over about 18,500 square feet of the former Al's space at 390 U.S. 6.
“We are really excited for Save-A-Lot to join the center. There has been a great need for a grocer in the area since the last tenant left and I fully expect the community to completely embrace them,” said Brett McDermott of Latitude Commercial, a commercial real estate firm in Schererville that represents tenants, landlords and developers across Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs.
Save-A-Lot is a national discount grocery chain with local locations in Merrillville, Hammond, Michigan City, and Kouts. The local franchisee will run the new South Haven store, which will offer fresh produce and meats sliced daily.
An F45 Training fitness studio and a Freshii fast-casual restaurant are coming to Broadway in Crown Point.
Freshii is a Canadian fast-casual chain most commonly located in urban centers. It sells fresh, healthy food like burritos, salads, wraps, and yogurt. The lunch-oriented restaurant has multiple locations in Chicago's Loop.
F45 Training is a national gym chain with 1,300 locations in 36 countries. It offers 27 different 45-minute high-intensity interval training workout classes. Its workouts cycle through 4,000 different exercises so gym-goers don't ever do the same workout twice, and their fitness doesn't hit a plateau.
“This is a great first location in the area for F45," said McDermott, who represented F45 in the lease transaction. “I really think the community will embrace the concept as we have nothing like it around us.”
Bin 27 Grille & Lounge, a fine dining restaurant that specialized in steaks and seafood, has served its last glass of wine. The restaurant at 275 Joliet St., Dyer, was named after its carefully curated selection of 27 wines.
Comcast plans to open a new Xfinity Store at 1918 165th St. in Hammond early next year.
“The stores are awesome places to visit and learn more about Xfinity products and services from the trained store staff,” said John Crowley, Comcast’s greater Chicago region senior vice president. “Visitors are welcome to come in and experience our products and services like they would at home.”
The store will sell Comcast services such as cable, internet, home security and mobile phone service. Visitors can use display iPads and other mobile devices to check out apps like the Xfinity Stream that lets people watch live TV on mobile devices when connected to wifi.
The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
One of Comcast's biggest competitors, AT&T, just opened a new store at 7917 Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond.
“It’s great to have this new space in Hammond where you can walk right in and quickly learn about AT&T’s many tools and services that benefit our residents, businesses and tourists,” Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. “Improving the livability of our community is very important to us, and we’re excited that AT&T shares in our enthusiasm about the city.”
The 3,500-square-foot store features many different screens displaying AT&T's video, internet and wireless services. Customers can check out tablets, smartwatches and VR glasses.
“We’re delighted to be opening this new entertainment-focused retail store in Hammond,” said Thomas Monahan, AT&T vice president and general manager of the Great Lakes region. “The Hammond store is designed for an evolution in connected entertainment, and customers will be able to interact with content across many different screens.”
The AT&T store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.