The new Chart House Miller restaurant in Gary’s Miller Beach neighborhood will be a home base for many other ventures, including gourmet cooking classes, coffee and pastry sales at the train station, a new food menu at a neighborhood bar, and maybe even a dog park.
Chef Angela McCrovitz, who previously owned Angela’s Pastry restaurant in the Miller section of Gary, has returned with a new, nautically themed restaurant, where diners can even eat outside in a vintage antique boat.
"It's a gathering place," McCrovitz said. "It's not just a cafe. It's community-oriented. We don't just want to turn over tables. We have 3,000 cookbooks people can look at, and games."
Chart House Miller is part of an ongoing resurgence of the the lakefront Miller neighborhood in Gary that includes 18th Street Brewing and new boutiques. Just this year, The Brasserie coffee shop, the Vibrations Juice Bar and Beach Art Studios opened along Lake Street, the beach neighborhood's main commercial strip.
"It's the fourth new business in as many months," said Meg Roman, executive director of the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District. "It's absolutely wonderful to see what we've been working on, bringing back economic vitality and showing Gary is a community to live, play and work in."
McCrovitz makes many different seafood dishes such as shrimp and grits, lobster mac and cheese and a Seafood Benedict. Chart House Miller also offer pastries, brunch and "unique foods for discriminating tastes" like an arugula beet salad with blue cheese, red onion, sprouts and balsamic dressing.
The seafood is regularly flown in, and never frozen. McCrovitz said the restaurant doesn't even have a freezer.
“I do a lobster roll that would make Maine cry,” she said.
McCrovitz is brimming with plans to improve the neighborhood, including a food menu she’s catering at Thumps Up Tavern, a cart that would sell coffee and pastries at the South Shore Line station, and a dog park she wants to build in front of the restaurant if someone donates money for a fence.
She offers fresh baked dog treats for free to lure dog owners in to her restaurant at 6004 Miller Avenue, which is in a house that used to be a convent for the nearby St. Mary of the Lake church.
The restaurant business is extremely competitive, so new eateries have to try to stand out and differentiate themselves, said Anthony Sindone, a continuing lecturer of economics at Purdue University Northwest who had previously owned a restaurant in LaPorte. Margins are thin except on alcohol. It's a tough business so promotion is increasingly essential to get customers through the door, he said.
"I like how they're (Chart House Miller) aggressive and assertive with promoting their business on Facebook," he said. "Whether they're going to be successful will depend on whether they serve good-quality food and drink, offer good-quality service and are consistent."
Poor quality in those areas is the No. 1 turn-off for customers at restaurants, Sindone said.
McCrovitz hopes Chart House Miller, which has diverse food offerings including a prime rib sandwich and buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, will be a neighborhood hub for dog owners and a destination that will draw people from as far as Chicago and New Buffalo. She’s the owner and chef of Sweet Revenge, which had been the catering company at Marquette Park, and was a food stylist for Better Homes and Gardens and a general manager for Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market in the New York City area who returned to her native Gary to take care of her dying father.
Chart House Miller can seat up to 100 people inside and out. Seashell decorations and ocean pictures reinforce the nautical theme. There’s a captain’s room, a mermaid room, and the bathroom is called the poop deck. McCrovitz is planning on hosting regular crab boils, possibly every Friday night.
She'll also have cooking classes and open mic nights there and rent out the entire restaurant, such as for graduations, wedding receptions, and birthday parties.
Chart House Miller is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch throughout the week.
For more information, call 515.343.7997 or find Chart House Miller on Facebook.