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Northwest Indiana

Moving from Queens to Chesterton, IN -- and (check this) commuting into Chicago.

Curious what kinds of Chowhoundie places there are in this area. I've heard lore about Strongbow Inn and Phil Smidts (sic). What else is there?

-- Chow Perch

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  1. Had dinner at Phil Smidt's last week and while there is an undeniable appeal in its unapologetically old-fashioned approach, the meal itself was somewhat underwhelming. The perch was fine if one-dimensional - dare I say boring? - after the first few bites. Ditto the sides. Didn't try the frog legs so can't comment. Service as friendly and helpful as could be. Finally, not sure why but the large rooms were nearly deserted on a Saturday night at 8:00 and had a forlorn air. Can't say if that is typical or not. In short, this place is very distinctive in its way and is fine for a dinner stop but I would not go with especially high expectations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: burton

      Check out the Miller Beach section of Gary. The Miller Bakery Cafe on Lake St.is always fantastic and they now how jazz on Friday and Saturday nights. The Bakers House on Miller Ave. is new and has the most amazing breakfast sandwiches, quiche, scones, coffee. It is only open until 3(as of now) but is gettig great reviews in the papers. It is in an old house painted yellow, has counter service and you eat in one of the side rooms. Also just opened this month is La Dolce Vita on route 20 in an old Pizza Hut. (Yeah I thought the same thing) the owners, who live in Chicago, did a nice job converting the place. Need to work on service a little but the pizza was great. They have a brick oven from Italy that makes a great crispy crust and at $10 bucks is a great deal. The pasta's were also good.
      Check out the Hungry Hound on Channel 7 ABC, he did a story on NW Indiana food. Actually I wrote him a letter complaining that he only does Illinois and he asked me to show him around. So I did and he did a show called Eating Out InIndiana, July 28th, 2006.
      Winey Beach Cafe
      1350 119th St., Whiting, IN

      Cafe Elise
      435 Ridge Rd. #8, Munster, IN

      Taqueria, El Asador
      922 Hoffman, Hammond, IN

      The Cavalier Inn
      735 Gostlin St., Hammond, IN

      Wagner's Ribs
      361 Wagner Rd.
      Porter, IN

      Miller Bakery Café
      555 S. Lake St., Miller Beach

      Phil Smidt's
      1205 S. Calumet Ave., Hammond, IN

      455 E. 84th Dr., Merrillville 219-736-5000

      Schoop's Hamburgers
      Various locations throughout NW Indiana

      1872 Indianapolis Blvd., Whiting, IN

      El Taco Real
      935 Hoffman St., Hammond, IN

      Giovanni's Restaurant and Lounge 603 Ridge Rd., Munster, IN

      Pierogi Festival
      Whiting, IN
      Downtown Whiting on 119th St.

      1. re: burton

        State Line Pizza is the best pizza in the area, the Dyer IN location is always on the money! Everything is made fresh and, did I mention the Pizza is superb, they use an in house blend of 4 cheeses on them! I recommend the thin crust.

        State Line Pizza also has an amazing Beef sandwich. This sandwich is far more than an oily pile of lard flavored beef stuffed into a soggy fat drenched bun. State line's beef has loads of flavor from marinating with fresh herbs, on a freshly toasted garlic rubbed french roll.

        For Sushi I have to say avoid House of Kobe. Little Tokyo on 45th Ave in Munster, is by far the only Quality Sushi in the area. Get the Tako salad they seem to be the only ones who have this particular type. And the Munster roll is my favorite.

      2. I pulled this from metromix.com.:

        Miller Bakery Cafe
        555 S. Lake St.
        Gary, IN 46403-2408

        International flavors -- including French and Asian -- mingle with contemporary American cuisine on the menu at chef Gary Sanders' place, a small, sophisticated former bakery. Specialties include pastas, salads (including a salmon-and-asparagus combination served with a champagne vinaigrette), foie gras and fish and seafood dishes, such as rock shrimp with andouille-sausage risotto.

        Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Dinner: 5 p.m. -9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. It's been featured on Check, Please too

        Across the street from Miller Beach Cafe is "Ming Ling's", a cantonese restaurant. It's been family run as long as I've been in the area which is 35 years. I love the sweet and sour pork and shrimp with lobster sauce.

        You might might to try (not to be confused with Miller Beach Cafe) "Beach Cafe" - a long time favorite of Miller residents with a 'supper club' atmosphere and delicious boned and buttered Lake Perch. Another long lived restaurant with a loyal clientele.
        903 Shelby Street 219- 938-9890

        Hope this helps!

        1. Chesterton is just five miles north of valparaiso, which has become a mecca of sorts for fine dining. Do some searches on the Midwest board for more info...my one suggestion there is Bistro 157, which is just off the Valparaiso town square.

          FYI, commuting from Chesterton to Chicago is not as bad as you may think. There's a commuter rail line that goes through town, and it's actually closer to downtown Chicago than Illinois suburbs like Naperville, Palatine, and Libertyville. But I must quickly add that, until construction on the Dan Ryan is completed, driving to/from work will be, um, interesting...

          2 Replies
          1. re: markh

            In Valpo, what about Dish? and Don Quixote? Any good?

            Dish Restaurant
            3907 Calumet Ave
            Valparaiso, IN 46383

            Don Quijote Restaurant
            119 E Lincolnway
            Valparaiso, IN 46383-5462
            Phone: (219) 462-7976

            I see a listing of Valpo restaurants at http://www.valparaiso.com/dining ...

            1. re: nsxtasy

              www.dishrestaurant.net, they just laid off their salad guy because he made $11/hr, he is a great guy, i'm kinda ticked.

              for more affordable food...

              Country Kitchen (valpo) for breakfast
              Main St. Pizza (kouts) for italian beef
              Three Floyds (munster) for beer
              Smokey's (furnessville, annexed by chesterton or porter) for ribs and pulled pork
              JJ's (valpo) for the Submarine
              Country Folks (kouts) for rural midwest pizza
              King Gyros (valpo) cheap fast food

          2. Thank you! I've heard about some good places in "Valpo" (I'm loving the ilngo) -- including the French place. As far as commuting, I will try the South Shore -- though it seems pretty old school...and Chicago is 85 mins from Dune Park stop (Chesterton). I was thinking may driving to a closer train stop -- but we'll see! At least the train goes right into my buildlng. Driving by Stony Island Drive (as Dan Ryan detour) -- seems faster, minimal traffic...but would cost a fortune in parking and gas!

            Sorry, I'm digressing away from food!

            1. Ok, you're basically in deep trouble... just kidding (not really).

              Its basically a chains chains chains. Strongbow Inn is not a chain... its been around a long time and people swear by it. Its ok for the area but you'll find tons of diners in NYC area with better food.

              Stick to eating at home... and head to Chicago for good chow.

              Don't mean to bum u out, just reality.

              3 Replies
              1. re: WineTravel

                ummm i don't really think its quite that bad. valpo and chesterton are going through rapid sprawl and gentrification from new families, so many new residents have commented that there is quite a bit of fine dining. I personally like the amount of blue collar food in the area. Its not a problem to find a good meal for $5.

                1. re: WineTravel

                  "Tons of diners" better than Strongbow Inn? It's strange that I'm defending a place I don't particularly like, but wow, talk about negativity on your part! I would urge the OP to go there once and make up their own mind. FYI, I don't like the place because I'm not a big fan of turkey, and it's to turkey as White Fence Farm (a place in the SW suburb of Romeoville which is similar in many, many ways) is to fried chicken. Both places are throwbacks to a different era, and going there with that knowledge can make it a VERY enjoyable visit.

                  "Reality"? The reality seems to be that you haven't been around the Valparaiso town square in the past, oh, 15 years. I would add here that Paul LoDuca, a restauranteur in Chicago who owns, among other places, Vinci and Adobo Grill, will soon be opening a place on the Valpo town square, a few doors down from Don Quixote (which IMO has better food, and is certainly more authentic, than any of the Spanish tapas places in Chicago!). Paul is a local NW Indiana guy...his father started, and his family still owns Giovanni's in Munster.

                  1. re: markh

                    Sorry, don't get me wrong. I actually like the area... just not a lot of great dining places... esp when you're coming from NY. Didn't say not to go to Strongbow's... its one of the better places... and of course you have the "days gone by" feel that is very cool... but the food from a chowhound point of view... is average... So, that's the point. Strongbows is one of the better (and many claim it to be the best) places in the area.

                    Now with all of the people moving to the area and commuting... esp. around Valpo... some new and better places will follow... as you suggested... and that's something to look forward to.

                    I'll have to try Don Quixote. Thanks for the tip.

                2. Great Diners in NYC? I lived in NYC for almost 20 years and I'm not convinced! Looking forward to local chow (both IN and IL). One place I like is REDAMACKS in New Buffalo, MI. Old school burger joint. You might laugh and call it low-end...but you're not going to find a place like that in the NY area!

                  Sure I'll miss the varieties in Queens -- but a change of scenery and tsates will be good!

                  1. When I was thinking of NY area diners, was thinking mostly of the places on Long Island and in NJ. Classic, huge menus, good straight forward chow... from breakfast (all day) to those great cheesecakes they always seem to have. You'll see... the best diners blow away Strongbows. But remember... Im saying to GO to Strongbows... its fine... esp for the area.

                    Im not trying to bum you out... just don't have high expectations of the local chow... you asked for chowhoundie places, right?

                    I do like the area... and one big attraction is that it's not far from Chicago (a great city with a lot of killer chow)... one of the USA's best cities for chow. Also, would love to be using O'Hare as my main airport. Aside from the problems that occur when the weather is bad... its a luxury to be able to fly to virtually ANY place NONSTOP.

                    ... and as was stated... the local food scene will only improve. I wish you all the best with the move.

                    1. Heh. I've been going to those diners my whole life. Guess I sort of take them for granted. Most of them aren't great, IMO.

                      Great cheesccakes in NYC is like great pizza. THey exist but they are very rare. Same goes for bagels. What I'm giong to miss about NY is the ethnic varieties. Indian-Chinese, Malaysian, Croation, anything.

                      Anybody ever try WAGNERS BBQ in or near Chesterton? Wife's family swear by it.

                      1. I haven't been to wagners (its not cheap), but I can speak up for smokeys BBQ in the opposite direction. I stopped there every Wednesday last summer between class and work for pulled pork (sauce on the side, they are kinda generous with it). Its a road side spot, looks like a dive, but its clean and kept-up inside. The service is simple and really good, there might be seating for 10 people in the whole place. You can bring your own beer and wine as long as you bring your own glassware too. Call ahead though, its been a while since I have been there, things might have changed.

                        I don't understand the appeal of redamacks, i had a burger there that was pretty dried out and overdone. It was on a bun like what they sell at a gas station, and the fries were the crinkle cut stuff out of a bag. Most porter county bars do a lot better, with much better people watching. King Gyros in valpo used to do an AMAZING fast food style burger, but they got smaller patties and it threw off the whole sandwich.

                        1. Is Smokey's the one near Michigan City? I've passed it and was wondering if it was any good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Steveh

                            I tried the Smokies in Portage and took a few bites and was immediately disguisted...tasted like they used Liquid Smoke...mac n cheese was not close to being homemade and the beans had no taste...the chopped brisket was fatty and tasteless...the ribs were ok at best...THIS PLACE SHOULD BE ASHAMED TO BE CALLED A BBQ RESTAURANT...IMITATION BBQ...For excellent BBQ in NW Indiana try Big Daddy's BBQ in Gary on Cleveland in the flea market plaza on the far south end...STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM SMOKIES!!!

                          2. between MC and chesterton on 20. If you go to wagners, make a post on here about it, i'm curious, it is a porter county institution that I have never been to.

                            1. Definitely will be checking out Wagners.

                              My burgers are Redamacks were juicy, the fried onions were definitely key -- and something about the cheez whiz made for sort of an alternate universe to NYC. But you're right, the fries pretty much suck there. Love the logo of the Redamacks guy...Coney Island-esque

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Steveh

                                Any updates on your quest for good chow in Porter County?

                              2. Ok, been here my whole life, traveled all over the world, let me give you the low down on the area.

                                Places you need to try in around 15-20 miles from where you are.and whats up with the ones above.

                                Southwest Michigan Redamacks. Good decent burger used to be fantastic but has faltered some over the past years, however if driving into Michigan, get off at exit 16 and take it into town on the right hand side is a place that has fantastic fresh homemade food. Homemade pies and the like. I used to stop there all the time, also good fried chicken in town as well on the left hand side.

                                Northwest Indiana
                                Whats your flavor?
                                Fresh Lake perch? I have two places that shine above the rest and a third place of course. Tiebel's in Schererville is the finest avalaible period, and if you go on a friday and ASK for it, the refills of perch are about $4.00 I believe, I need to get back there very soon, so incredible and the Friend chicken there is excellent as well. Been there at the crossroads of america for about 60 years and worth every penny. Second place for perch would be J.J. Camalick's of Calumet City, Illinois, fresh perch brought in constantly off Lake Michigan and deep fried and served with hot sauce, excellent if in that area, also been there forever. third place for my taste buds leads me to Schererville Lounge in Schererville , Indiana, good perch fresh taste but Tiebel's outshines them every time.

                                Steak your flavor? This one is a drive, but damn its worth it. Take a drive out to Homewood, Illinois and get to Bogart's Steakhouse. This place is worth any wait you have there. 2 Huge grills greet you as you open the door and the steaks are just wow, I always get the Filet Mignon there, king cut and let me tell you its two meals, both for you of course and the flavors are so good even if you bring it to work for lunch the next day and throw it in the micro, the flavor remains, defiantely worth every penny. The sides you get, lets just say everything there is made for a king. I hear good thinga bout Phil Schmidt for steaks as well but ill take the drive the other way. Also have had good ones at Kelseys Steak House

                                BBQ Ribs
                                well, outside of my fathers, which are the finest Ive ever had, I would go to Stone's Bones or go to Amarillo Roadhouse also very good chili there as well.

                                House Of Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
                                Good things and its the only choice. Ive had better downtown Chicago but we arent there now, are we?

                                Beef Sandwiches ( you are moving to Chicago area after all)
                                Zel's Roast Beef
                                a chain but damn they pile it on and fresh beef or if you want a local place head to Cedar Lake Indiana and hit Jeannes Wennies, same thing piled high fresh delicious beefs just wow.

                                Hard to beat Good old Schoops Hamburgers crispy edges good onion rings and so forth, best burgers are in Wisconsin Dells area downtown, the smells of fresh grilled onions and onion rings fill the streets and wow that place is the best but Schoops is great too. Second place is area goes to Culver's but if there get the chicken strips, yeah they are good

                                Grinder ( sandwich)
                                Bellacino's Pizza & Grinders yum period

                                Well the best in the area goes to El Taco Re'al Located in Hammond Indiana, but a very close second goes to Habeneros in Dyer Indiana with a thrid close placing to Jalapeno's in Schererville.

                                General Good food
                                The Patio Merrillville, Indiana
                                Don Quijote Restaurant (spanish Cuisine Not mexican)

                                there's more but that gets ya going anyways, as far as Pizza and Italian, Been to Italy and although in my travels I did find an excellent place in Naples Florida that was as close as it gets to Italy, any other place in Chicago is pretty tasteless for Italian and yes Ive tried most if not all. Pizza, yes there are tons of choices here and well the best crust sauce combo ive seen is sadly New York Pizza. The flavor of the sauce and crust was just amazing but anyways thats a long drive away. And if you disagree about the Italian folks, go to Italy and try it there, you'll come home and find out what they have that we dont, fresh ingredients.

                                Thats all for today

                                The Produce Guy

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Produce guy

                                  if you like zel's, try the swiss garlic melt at main st pizza in kouts. They are in the same league (similar beef), but main st won the champs, and zel's hasn't made it to the playoffs in 20 years. Seriously a great sandwich, great composition. Its the best food in kouts.

                                2. I have to chime in since my sister has lived in Valpo for ages.

                                  If you like breakfast out, there is a homestyle place called Suzie's which cooks from scratch and is good, It moved recently so I do not have the location.

                                  Dish,Bon Femme and Bistro 157 are the trendy but consistent places. Blue has a fixed menu and people seem to like it or hate it.

                                  CT Pizza is a good place to try Chicago style pizza.

                                  Miller's Bakery noted above is very good.
                                  If you check out Wagner's for BBQ be aware that the BBQ is beef ribs which are not what I look for in good 'Q

                                  And last but not least, there is a Portillo's at Southlake Mall. They are a Chicagoland based chain that have a decent hot dog. They also have Italian Beefs which I would have over Zel's.This is not their best location but you can try it and see what you think. They also have a Maxwell Street Polish which is a Chicago speciality too--it may be an acquired taste. It is a Polish on a good hard roll with greasy (in a good way) grilled onions and mustard.

                                  And in September you can go to the big fest in town--The Popcorn Fest. Orville Redenbacher's farms were in the area. Enjoy!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: fryrose

                                    a comment on suzie's, i had lunch there last summer... a blt & fries. mealy tomatoes, frozen fries, idk... its didn't seem any better than the big greek spots.

                                    BUT, in suzie's old location, there is now country kitchen. Its the same price as suzie's, but you get a much better effort from the kitchen. Bs&Gs, hash, potatoes, and sauces all from scratch. its my favorite spot for breakfast after a bender.

                                    1. re: fryrose

                                      Fryrose...did you go to blue? I think its really nice. The room could use something. But the food and friendliness is hard to beat. They change the menu a bit once or twice a year. The specials they put up are usually great and change daily for lunch or dinner. Including, if you catch it...their perch is the best I've had. Speaking of lunch...I love the blue burger or the California compared to the greasy schoops bugers hands down.


                                      1. I can't believe no one has mentioned Stop 50 Woodfired Pizza. Possibly the best thing that has happened to NW IN pizza in the history of mankind. The Napoletan-syle pizza being served here is so delicious and the chef/owner so sincere, you'll want to go as much as possible. Which can become quite the problem for those of us who are not as close as Chesterton. FYI: they are closed and on hiatus until February.

                                        Also do not miss: Schoop's - Produce Guy did not lie on this one, the best and most memorable hamburger in the area.

                                        Another Produce Guy tip of the hat, Tiebel's. Feels like you're walking into a 1960's supper club, complete with a relish tray. If you're feeling grubby, there is Tiebel's coffe shop attached to the back of the restaurant where you can have your perch and wear a baseball cap.

                                        You're going to need good Italian food eventually. Go straight to Cafe Borgia in Lansing, Ill. I repeat, do not pass go, do not waste time and money elsewhere, at least that has been my experience.

                                        As far as Redamak's in New Buffalo, Mich. is concerned, I go there at least once a year. Each time, a sense of well being washes over me and I'm a kid on summer vacation again. This place takes your worries away for two hours and that's without the need for drinks. Ok, maybe the burgers get a tiny bit dried out and are served with unpleasant american cheese (is it Velveeta?) even so I'll get there once a year no matter what.

                                        Millery Bakery Cafe gets thumbs up from people in a 150 mile radius and as far as Phil Schmidts goes, it is old school and when you decide to go that is exactly what the expectation should be. Don't go there to have your socks knocked off by the perch. But, if you can appreciate a great restaurant that has stood the test of time without changing, you'll have a good time.

                                        Okay Steve, hope you enjoy NW Indiana. Once you taste Stop 50 you're going to be thanking your lucky stars that I clued you in! Oh, one more thing, no one has mentioned how cool Chesterton is, well I think it is cool! Anyhow, every Saturday in the summer they have a Farmer's market downtown that rivals any Chicago farmer's market. Lucky you!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: sc60601

                                          Stop 50 is great if you like charred/burnt crust with the center of the pizza being a mass of amorphous goo. As you might guess, I'm not a fan of pizza in this style...I much prefer pizza from the likes of Arrenello's.

                                          I believe Cafe Borgia has closed in Lansing, and will be re-opening in Munster in a couple months. It certainly has/had great polenta, but overall I think Gamba in Merrillville and Anthony's in Highland are better, and Giovanni's in Munster is just as good. However, if Borgia brings back the BYO policy they had a few years ago, I'd quickly forget about the other three places!

                                          And for me, the best thing at Teibel's has always been their fried chicken. Fabulous stuff!

                                          1. re: markh

                                            Cafe Borgia is building a new restaurant in Munster but is still open in Lansing and will stay open until at least April.

                                            1. re: markh

                                              Interesting. That's the same criticism that some level at places such as Spacca Napoli in Chicago -- a place with exacting loyalty to the precepts of Neopolitan pizza, from the oven to the ingredients to (especially) the technique. As the OP coming from NYC already knows, charred, bubbled crust and a soft center are hallmarks of this style and, indeed, Stop50 does a great job with it. If you don't like that style, well, you don't like it. To each his own. (I like all styles of pizza if done well, but have a particular respect for those who take the time and effort to make something requiring the skill needed for the pies at SN and Stop50.) For further reference, some folks that have made a point of sampling the best Neopolitan-style pizza in the US recently wrote about the pies at Stop 50, here http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?.... The reviews have been positive. But again, either you like this kind of pie or you don't. Also, for further good information on the food in NWIndiana (more down-scale options, mostly) please see http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?.... Finally, a frequent contributor to Chowhound and LTH, ReneG, has been documenting the street foods in NWIndiana recently. Really interesting stuff about hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?....

                                              As someone who lives in Chicago but drives to the beach near St. Joes quite frequently, I can second or third many of the excellent recos above: Schoops, Redamak's (though some dislike it),Heston, Skip's, Tiebel's. I want to like Phil Schmidt's, but I think you can get better lake fish in various places (some mentioned above). Fresh perch and walleye are sometimes overlooked treats that are big in MI and WI but don't make it to Chicago menus enough. Clementine's up in St. Joe's MI (a fast 30 miles north from the IN border)does a good job with perch, too. [PS, the Culver's chain out of WI has branches in NWIN and MI, has good fast food burgers and often offers lake fish. The walleye is greasy but tasty (and huge).


                                              Last, I'd strongly agree that taking the Skyway to Stony to Lake Shore Drive is by far the best option to get into Chicago. An added benefit is that on Stony you are close to some of the great South Side takeout places, such as Lem's and Barbara Ann's for BBQ, not to mention nearby jerk chicken shacks, and you will be near the lovely but isolated "college town" of Hyde Park. Plenty has nbeen written regarding all of the above here and on LTH. The drive is very scenic from HP north as well -- much, much more so than the Ryan. Welsome.

                                          2. Grew up in the area and make it back a fair bit...Schoop's is definitely worth it for a burger, the Mickey is my favorite (single meat double cheese) with a green river and fries, it doesn't get any more NW Indiana than that. Aurelio's has always been my favorite pizza in the area. Definitely a pizza that will cause an argument, but I think it's at least worth a try since you'll be living there. Madvek's hot dogs in Hammond on Calumet Ave is definitely good as well as a gyro at Munster Gyros, also on Calumet Ave. Tiebels is good, but it's more novelty I think than anything else. The food is average and mostly out of a can but it can be tasty for perch or fried chicken. For steak, a great steak sandwich can be had at Freddy's on Kennedy Ave in Hammond. Definitely worth a trip.

                                            1. My sister and bro-in-law live in St. Joe, Michigan and we like to meet between Chicago and there for dinner. Our favorite place is the Heston Supper Club, just off exit 1 of I94 in Michigan. The food is definitely old-style supper club and the prices are very reasonable. We especially like the combo plates - prime rib and walleye pike or perch. The horseradish mashed potatoes are yummy! They've been around around since the 40s or 50s, and I've been going since my days in school in South Bend. Hope you'll give it a try and let us know what you think.


                                              Heston Supper Club
                                              Fail Road & CR 1000 North
                                              LaPorte, IN 46350

                                              219.778.2938 - phone
                                              219.778.4849 - fascimile

                                              1. I like Heston a lot and eat there fairly often but for that type of meal I prefer Skip's in New Buffalo.Skip used to own the Heston bar and Skip's used to be called Skip's Other Place ,the other place being the Heston bar.

                                                1. If you're driving from the East. You may want to stop in LaGrange IN. Maybe 5-10 miles off of the Tollroad. In La Grange (not far from Howe) try Foltz's bakery. Everything from Cherry cheese cups, salt-rising bread [good for toasting], and these flat squares with pecans and sugar/caramel topping---addictive. I believe these are called honey-nuts.

                                                  Also, in the crossroads of Topeka (a bit farther off the beaten track)there is a little cafe in the drug store where you can get simple food and ice cream with the locals. It's worth a look-see. The Amish folks are reserved but they will look you in the eye and give you a nod of the head or a wave as you pass their buggies. I really like the Auction House restaurant (also in Topeka). On certain days the lot is full of buggies there for the livestock auction. (Take a peek in there too.) Then eat at the small restaurant. Buffets or off the menu. Chicken and Noodles is often on the buffet along with bread pudding. Love that place. Enjoy, it's nice country...makes you slow down.

                                                  1. After living in "Valpo" for five years, I will give my two cents about the area:

                                                    1. Love Don Quixote...especially the paella. It's authentic and delish.

                                                    2. For a good beer, try PassTimes in downtown Valpo. Go for their stuffed mushrooms as an app. Can't beat 'em, plus they have 100s of beers.

                                                    3. Mexican: definitely try El Taco Real in Hammond area. Get tamales to go....they are amazing.

                                                    4. Breakfast: Try Suzy's Cafe. It's not your typical greasy breakfast place, but she has such great homemade food. (banana pancakes, etc.). It's one of my favs although I haven't tried it for any other meal.

                                                    5. Chesterton has a European Market during the summer and fall--hopefully you'll like it.

                                                    6. If you don't want to drive to Hammond for Mexican, try El Salto (get the chees steak tacos, they are amazing-although I get chicken instead of steak).

                                                    7. In Valpo I also like Bistro 157.

                                                    They are other good places as well...you'll just have to find them and will learn in time. Of course, you will be able to get any of your cravings in Chicago, but you'll pay. :)

                                                    I love the train, no parking, fairly convenient times, and it allows you to get work done on the way in and out of the city.

                                                    Good luck. Welcome to Indiana! :)

                                                    1. Lived in N/W Indiana for most of my life but now reside in Tucson. Love to read about my favorite eating establishments and always get an urge to hop on a plane and return just to chow down.
                                                      I can't believe that no one has mentioned Miner Dunn as a great place to get a awesome burger and perhaps the areas greatest shake. Located in Highland on Indianapolis Blvd.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Big Sausage

                                                        Absolutely...amen. The onion burger is worth the heartburn!!!!!

                                                      2. i just moved to nw indy from the north side of chicago. i never realized how good i had it there. i love to go to restaurants and i was spoiled on the northside. even in my nontrendy neighborhood i had cheap ethnic foods that were incredible. albany park was filled with asian restaurants, mediterranean, japanese, bar food, even the best greasy spoon you can find (charcoal delights). i have come across some excellent restaurants in nw indy in the year i have lived here though.

                                                        winey beach: i live about a half mile from it so i am a little tired of it. they always use the same sides - wish they had a bigger variety to choose from. wish they had more interesting specials. wish they did sushi. but they are an excellent spot for a shrimp wrap or grouper sandwich. and with $2 amstel lights you cant go wrong.

                                                        keiths grill - whiting: only open on friday and sat for dinner. too bad because they do it right. excellent pasta, ribs, steaks, seafood. their lamb loin is my favorite. i think they are open for lunch tues - friday too.

                                                        el taco real - hammond - my favorite mexican restaurant ever. hands down. try the pollo relleno for a weekend special. i like the cadillac margarita on the rocks. its not on the menu but they know what it is. it has grand marniet.

                                                        phil schmits - its like traveling back in time. i have eaten there three times. never really have a craving for it. other people want to try it because they have heard about it. i am very satisfied with my meal every time i eat there. not a huge fan of perch or frog legs which are their specialties.

                                                        horseshoe casino - believe it or not this place is awesome. i am not a gambler but i am glad the casino is in town just for the buffet. its a little pricey but if you have a big appetite i highly recommend it. they have everything there. even a vegetarian can leave full.

                                                        binyons steakhouse - this is on my list of restaurants to eat at. i have heard it competes with downtown steakhouses such as ruths chris or pete millers or any other big fancy steak house.

                                                        poplanos chesterton - nice to eat on the patio on a nice day. i really like their individual pizzas.

                                                        a must visit: calumet fisheries on the 95th street bridge in chicago. follow 41 north to 95th make a left and its right there on the bridge. they have the best fried fish in the area. really interesting place to go. great scenery around the place. if you are lucky, while you are waiting for your fish to fry you can watch an ocean liner enter the river and watch the bridges raise.

                                                        lyneths deli on 119th in whiting (really robertsdale) has food just like mom used to make. stuffed peppers, meatloaf, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and very good pierogis.

                                                        three floyds brewery - great beer. great beer. really good fish fry. and great beer.

                                                        nikos in griffith or highland. on broad street. really good. nice atmosphere. steak and seafood kind of place with a greek flavor to it. they have saganaki i think.

                                                        there is a pub that i really like in downtown highland that i can never remember the name of. if you go off of ridge road to the old road (maybe old ridge) its a tavern on the north side of the street that has very good entrees and an incredible hamburger. bar food with fancier entrees as well.

                                                        hope that helps.

                                                        btw, i love chesterton. my wife and i talk about moving there often. it would just be a very long commute for both of us though.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: ppm

                                                          I had the pollo relleno at el taco real and it was absolutely horrible.


                                                          1. re: ppm

                                                            Cafe Borgia is now open in Munster, went there last night and there was a 2 hour wait so we ate a crappy chain instead. I'll be waiting a bit before I try again, it's enormous compared with their spot in Lansing, I hope they are handling the size change well.

                                                            Not in NW Indiana but close enough to drive is Siam Marina in the River Oaks mall, excellent Thai food in a rather elegant setting (at least for Lansing/Cal City)

                                                            Also not in Indiana but just a mile or so away on Indianapolis Blvd. just over the state line is Delicioso Restaurante, the more upscale sit down side and Sabroso Grill, the casual side which also does take out. The chef is Geno Bahena (from Chicago's Tepatulco), I've had their take out several times and everything was delicious. I hope this restaurant makes it, that location has been a tough sell.

                                                            Miller Bakery and Keith's are two of my local favorites, just had dinner at Keith's on Friday, the seafood pasta and ribs were both excellent.

                                                            And for casual food, I like Zel's chili cheese fries and dipped roast beef and the gyros at Richway (Calumet Avenue, Hammond), the burgers at Schoop's, the stuffed pizza at Arrenello's in Highland.

                                                            In downtown Hammond I like the Mexican food at Don Andre's and the burgers at Nick & George's, both are on Hohman Avenue near St. Margaret's Hospital.

                                                            Phil Smidt's has really gone downhill since I moved here back in the late 1980s. It used to be one of my favorite places but I wouldn't voluntarily go back there.

                                                            1. re: ppm

                                                              My husband and I frequent Niko's Steak & Seafood in Griffith. We always have a great meal. Very friendly atmosphere. Delicious martinis. The lemon rice soup is my favorite, along with the fillet. Don't skip the twice-baked potato.

                                                            2. There is a fantastic new restaurant called Asparagus, just north of US30 and Broadway. It's a Vietnamese/Thai/French fusion restaurant and it is amazing! Not just for NW Indiana, but for anywhere.
                                                              Our go-to places for a good meal are Lucrezia's in Crown Point, the veal limone and lamb shank are universally adored. And Gamba's in Merrillville, we've done a world tasting of tiramisu and the one done there is better than the ones we've tasted in Italy!
                                                              I think Portillo's italian beef sandwiches are much better than Zel's, and since they have fantastic hot dogs and surprisingly upscale desserts too, that's our place for movie night ins. I'm torn between Jimmy Johns and Pot Belly's for subs, the latter might edge out the former in taste, but the former is willing to deliver, which is always a plus.
                                                              Other restaurants to recommend are Alladin Pita on US30 for Mediterranean. For a sports bar/upscale restaurant, The Circle on the square in Crown Point, has a unique niche and every item on the menu has been a winner (especially the calamari). Beggar's Pizza in Crown Point is the best for their buttery crust deep dish.
                                                              Islamorada Restaurant at the Bass Pro Outdoor World serves fresh seafood and has plenty to look at while your waiting to distract the kids.
                                                              I think Bistro 157 in Valpo has closed, which is always a risk in Northwest Indiana. Get to the good restaurants while you can!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: cpmom

                                                                I have to be honest and say that Islamadora at the Bass Pro Outdoor World was scary. To start things off..we saw that they offered oysters on the half shell. We loooove oysters. When I asked the waitress why type was offered (Blue Point, Malpeque, etc) she was very confused at first. I explained that there are different types and the tastes vary. Said she would go in the kitchen and ask around. She returned to inform us "it says on the can, fresh shucked." We passed. Our fish entrees came heavily crisscrossed with some strange mayonnaise based sauce I can only imagine was for aesthetics because it really ruined the taste of the fish. Veggies were also way overcooked. If you like your Ahi well done, Islamadora's might be your place, but we were really disappointed overall.
                                                                Asparagus looks really interesting. It's always exciting to see an independently owned restaurant open that really challenges the local palate. Can't wait to check it out!

                                                              2. It's quite funny, everyone here talking about the lack of vareity of foods! I moved to NWI back in '98 lived here till '00 moved back home for 2 years and moved back to NWI in '02! Everyone is talking about the lack of food in NWI! WOW! I grew up in a town that had a McDonald's, PIzza King (which has the best pizza EVER), Richards (Family) Resturant and Masons (in the summer). That was IT! It has expanded a bit, but nothing like here! I'm in the Merrillville area and I'm always impressed with the food places that have come up. Yes, not a lot of small mom'/pop diners, but look around! You have a bazillion and one McDonalds, Arby's, BK, Taco Bell, Pizza Huts. Then you have the TGI Fridays, Chilis, Texas Coral, Portillos, Panera Bread, Mexican Ole, the new Mexican place in the Kmart plaza (which beats Don Pablos or Pepe's any day). . . .House of Kobe (lunch only , cannot afford dinner prices), Cafe Fondue, Aspargus, the Patio, . . . cripes I could keep going on! I LOVE IT HERE!

                                                                1. Good to see a little NWI discussion! I'm surprised that no one has mentioned 2 of my favorites:

                                                                  Santiago's in Porter serves some excellent Mexican food, including homemade moles

                                                                  Aladdin's Pita in Merrillville (aladdinpita.com) for really tasty middle eastern

                                                                  1. Moving from SF Bay area to NW Indiana has been a tough adjustment, but we have discovered the following places:
                                                                    Exotic Thai in Highland has good everyday Thai food. I especially think their curries done in chicken are well done. meat is tender and sauces are layered.
                                                                    Bon Femme in Valparaiso has excellent duck and French food.
                                                                    For sushi we skip House of Kobe for Little Tokyo in Munster for everyday stuff. For anything special we head to Chicago.
                                                                    For upscale Asisan we love Asparagus. Thai/Vietnamese food and a white table cloth envirnoment.
                                                                    Aladdin Pita is the best middle eastern food I have had anywhere.
                                                                    Finally, 54 Main Bistro in Hobart is a fantastic place with a menu that changes daily. It always has good pasta, meat and seafood dishes in a place that overlooks the lake. I hope you gove these places a try as well.

                                                                    1. Well, whatever you do, don't eat at Hestons Supper Club in LaPorte, IN (close to Chesterton). We were just there a week ago. It was horrible. The service was bad, the management was inexperienced, portions of the meals came at the wrong time, the drinks we ordered were wrong and the food was cold. OH! And I almost forgot! They charged someone else's meal to our bill. It was a lovely touch. We will never return. For the price, if you want to spend around $150/couple, I would highly suggest Ruth's Chris by University Park Mall. You won't be dissapointed.

                                                                      1. Michigan City has at least two restaurants that are worth your while. In the summer months there's Bridges, an informal riverfront cafe that serves notable fried perch. It's not cheap, and the sides are lamentable (really awful rice and fries), but sitting out by the water watching the railroad bridge swing around is a great summer experience. I can also recommend Sahara at 1701 Franklin (http://www.sahara-restaurant.net/home...). Remarkably, you can dine on very good mediterranean food--fattoush, kibbe, felafel, lamb chops, etc.--in an attractive space in the reviving old part of town. Nice wine list, and it's open late.

                                                                        1. We are big time sushi fans. Have gone to the old stand by (House of Kobe) and it's not bad, really, but we have had better sushi. We have since stumbled upon Fuji in Portage, IN. Fantastic sushi and priced like a dream! We have been there several times now, and have never had a bad meal. Honestly, for the Lake Co. area, we were really impressed. Also, have to agree with Aladdin Pita...always delicious and we love strolling through that little shop attached to the restaurant...usually ending up with some sweet confection to take home and devour later.