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Dec 22, 2006 08:30 PM

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 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

        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 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 ...

            1. re: nsxtasy

    , 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.