There are plenty of unique places to dine in the Region. The Times' Eloise Valadez has visited a few. See what she has to say here.
Restaurant Scene: Coffee and food items star at Comfort Roast
At Comfort Roast Coffee House and Cafe in Whiting, customers can definitely get a good cup of coffee. But they can also get various breakfast items, sandwiches, soups, salads and assorted desserts.
The coffee house, which flowed onto the restaurant scene on Whiting's 119th Street in 2017, recently added food to the menu. Various food items, including breakfast dishes, are available all day at the eatery.
Comfort Roast sports a comfortable setting with sofas and inviting chairs as well as tables and chairs and a counter with stool seating.
Diners can watch as servers prepare coffee drinks and other beverages. Piped-in music also plays in the cafe.
The eatery is a good place to gather with friends or even just to spend some time alone enjoying a soothing beverage, a sweet or other dishes.
We visited Comfort Roast on a recent Monday afternoon. Various breakfast items and sandwiches were tempting. We decided on the Towel Bread Toast, ($7.25), which was a unique dish. Listed under the breakfast items, the dish is advertised as "French Toast only better." It's prepared with a blend of pretzel bread and day old bread. It's seasoned, pan-fried and then served with apples in a bourbon caramel maple syrup.
The combination of apples and bourbon caramel maple syrup flavored the dish very well. It was a filling creation and some of it was saved to cart home for an evening snack.
The beverage ordered to accompany the dish was the Apples to Oranges Tea ($3), which was made from loose leaf tea.
Other menu items include Corned Beef Hash & Eggs ($7.40); Roasted Veggie Hash & Eggs ($7.40); Egg Salad Sandwich ($7.25); Turkey Apple Panini ($8.35); Country Cheesy Sandwich ($8.35), which is a type of Sloppy Joe with pepperoncini rings and onions and served on grilled Texas Toast; and The Cuban ($9.35).
Drip Coffee Drinks include Americano ($2.25 and $3); Red Eye ($2.50 and $3); Espresso ($1.75 and $2.50) and more.
Smoothies, Bubble Tea, Milk Tea and Comfort Roast Specials also are available at the restaurant.
Restaurant Scene: Heritage Buffet offers hearty selection of recipes
Visitors to Ameristar Casino will find a variety of dining spots to satisfy their appetites.
In addition to other restaurants at the East Chicago casino, its Heritage Buffet is one of the popular stops for hungry diners. As is customary for buffets at gaming establishments, the Heritage Buffet features a selection of stations starring assorted cuisines.
Everything from traditional American barbecue fare and carved meats to Asian entrees, Mexican-inspired recipes and more stars at Heritage Buffet.
We visited the eatery on a recent weekend for Sunday brunch, which is served from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Our booth was located in the main dining area, not far from the food stations. The first stop was for breakfast items, which included Biscuits and Gravy, Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes and Eggs and Ham with Cinnamon Apples.
Other selections included Made-to-Order Omelets as well as Made-to-Order Waffles. Our waffle choice that morning was blueberry with pecans.
For our lunch portion of the meal, we chose a selection of items, including a slice of the just-made Vegetable Pizza, Orange Chicken, Salad, Mashed Potatoes and more.
The Asian station also included Sauteed Bok Choy, Asian Dumplings, Crab Rangoon and other items.
The station featuring American fare starred Fried Chicken, Roast Beef, Broccoli with Cheese, Pork Chops and a selection of other dishes.
For dessert, diners could choose everything from warm Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla Panna Cotta, Lemon Meringue Pie or various other pastries.
Hosts and servers at the restaurant were extremely cordial and regularly came to check up on customers. The friendly chef even made stops at the tables to talk with customers. It didn't matter how long diners stayed to enjoy the feast, servers never rushed anyone along. Our meal lasted a little over two hours and not once did we feel rushed.
Heritage Buffet features brunch only on Saturdays and Sundays. Other special dining themes are Crab Leg Nights on Fridays and Saturdays.
Best of the Region 2018: Readers' picks for the top food and dining in Northwest Indiana
Best Asian Food
House of Kobe
1951 U.S. Hwy. 41
When customers visit House of Kobe, they come not just for the fresh, high quality cuisine, but for a fun and lively dinner experience. “We are a Japanese steakhouse and we are unique in that the chef comes out and cooks in front of you. Our chef will entertain you while they cook your dinner. That’s what separates us from most common restaurants,” says Jerry Chiang, general manager.
Customers can enjoy a Teppanyaki-style Japanese meal where food is prepared on an iron griddle. “We like to entertain people, especially families,” says Chiang. “You get to see the fires and tossing shrimp and watching the food being prepped in front of your eyes.”
The atmosphere is kid-friendly and the restaurant attracts multiple generations. “We have patrons that grew up with us and who are now bringing their kids to our restaurants,” says Chiang.
House of Kobe also specializes in sushi and there is seating in a separate dining room for those looking for a quieter and more intimate setting.
2999 E. Lincoln Hwy.
2552 45th St.
921D Ridge Rd.
A place for dessert and delicatessen items, Butterfingers offers a luscious assortment of sweets such as chocolate-dipped strawberries, cookies including chocolate chip, double chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chunk, mint chip cocoa crispie, cashew milk chocolate, oatmeal raisin, oatmeal butterscotch, and dried cranberry white chocolate chip. Also on the dessert menu are chocolate soufflé brownies and specialty cakes.
For savory treats, there’s spinach pasta salad, broccoli cranberry salad and spinach ravioli.
8314 Calumet Ave.
Best Banquet Facility
3550 E. Lincoln Hwy.
Avalon Manor has been executing amazing events of all kinds for the past 17 years. General manager Katie Kucharski attributes that success to many factors—the well-maintained and updated facilities, the flexibility available to customers, the menu choices and the attentive staff.
“We have really great staff here and have many employees who have been here since the beginning,” says Kucharski. “We make people feel comfortable from the time that they book. We have a great office staff here that makes planning easy and stress-free and great servers that take good care of them. Our goal is to make the day as smooth and fun as possible.”
The venue has three full ballrooms that can be adjusted for smaller parties or combined for larger events. Two gazebos provide a setting for beautiful outdoor weddings and off-site catering is also available.
Kucharski lauds the kitchen staff and the menu choices. “We can do menus as elegant as people like or as casual as people like,” she says. “We try to give as many options as we can so that every potential client has something that appeals to them.”
With family-style options for those looking for variety to plated meals of beef medallions or chicken stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella and basil, there are dishes for any taste.
Center for Visual & Performing Arts
1040 Ridge Rd.
1775 U.S. Hwy. 41
White Rhino Bar & Grill
101 Joliet St.
With 130 beers and food offerings such as traditional sports bar classics such as burgers, pizzas, salads and sandwiches as well gourmet food options (think Mango BBQ Shrimp and Rib eye) plus more than 20 TVs, Ryan Glowacki, who owns White Rhino with his wife, Diane, says that people are often surprised—and pleased—with all they have to offer.
“I think so many people vote for White Rhino because most everyone can find something they love about White Rhino, whether it's the daily food and drink specials, our create-a-salad, or events like Cubs trips, painting classes and tastings, or even just the comfortable atmosphere to meet with friends or watch a game,” says Ryan.
Franklin House Bar & Grill
58 S. Campbell St.
In a Victorian-era building in downtown Valparaiso, the Franklin House Bar & Grill opened as a railroad hotel and place to dine in 1857.
“The depot was next door and this was the place for people to stay,” says general manager Shawn Ewing.
Now known for its “house builds” as in build you own burgers (beef and black bean), chicken, turkey, tots, roast beef, fries and grilled cheese sandwiches as well as more than 120 beers, it also features live bands.
“Most of our staff have been here for a long time so they really care about our customers ,” says Ewing, who started as a server 12 years ago and has been general manager for the last decade. “And we’ve won a lot of awards for our burgers so that’s another plus."
108 N. Broad St.
121 N. Griffith Blvd.
Doc’s Smokehouse & Craft Bar
1420 Calumet Ave.
“Doc’s follows a traditional Southern barbecue process that is unlike any other in the Region,” says Brent Brashier, chief BBQ officer, who with Dr. Himanshu Doshi, opened the first Doc’s in Dyer in 2016 (they now have several locations). “We use 100 percent hickory wood and a dry rub, never saucing the meats while they smoke. The sauce is on the table, not in the kitchen. Our goal is for the quality and flavor of the meat to shine.”
Brashier says they also credit their local purveyors having only — since day one— served brisket from cattle raised in Crown Point by Zac and Fred Linz, owners of Meats by Linz in Calumet City.
True Southern hospitality is another key to their success.
“We strive to make the Doc’s experience like going to one of my family gatherings growing up in Alabama,” says Brashier, crediting the restaurant's staff, many of whom have been with the business since it opened, with its success.
439 Ridge Rd.
361 Wagner Rd.
Strack & Van Til
“We really care about our customers and provide them with the best quality foods at an affordable price,” says Brenda Wright, catering manager for the Indiana Grocery Group, which owns Strack & Van Til grocery stores.
Wright was busy planning the preparation of 2,575 lunches for ArcelorMittal employees to be served on National Safety Day when she heard they’d been voted the Best of the Region for catering.
“We also provide a service that others don’t,” she says. “We provide attendant services so after we deliver the food we stay to help out.”
As for the demand for their catering services, Wright says, “it gets bigger all the time.”
9585 Industrial Dr.
Rob's Meat Chop & Deli
2123 Northwinds Dr.
Alfredo Anguiano - Lucrezia Cafe
428 S. Calumet Rd.
“I learned to cook at the culinary school of hard knocks,” says Alfredo Anguiano. “As a teenager, I started as a dishwasher, then prep cook, and worked my way up the line to learn the craft. I like cooking simple and flavorful foods as they do in Italy. I always stress quality and consistency to my staff. It has to taste the same way each and every time, so for example the lamb shank, one of our signatures dishes, tastes the same way it did 20 years ago.”
Anguiano has been the head chef at Lucezia Cafe's flagship location in Chesterton for almost 20 years since it opened, says owner Nada Karas.
“He has trained every cook that has ever worked in our kitchens,” she continues. “It’s hard to explain to family and friends the way in which a well-run kitchen actually operates. There are so many moving parts, and it’s a beautiful thing to see it all in motion on a crazy, busy night. We are fortunate and grateful that he is a member of our team. He does a great job conducting the orchestra.”
Anguiano says that though he's honored to be voted Best Chef, it is truly a team award.
“No one person can tackle the volume and scope of what we do,” he says. “Without the passion and hard work of my team, I could not have won this award. Thank you for recognizing our hard work.”
1155 Joliet St.
9750 Indiana Pkwy.
Best Chicken Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings
There are many places to visit if you’re looking to enjoy some wings and beverages, but it was Buffalo Wild Wings that came out on top for “Best Chicken Wings” this year. According to marketing manager Rene Barber, “Buffalo Wild Wings is about three things: Wings. Beer. Sports. This is what our fans want and that’s what we’re all about—making our fans happy,” she says.
Each location is equipped with at least 30 flat screen televisions. “Our Schererville location has wall-to-wall TVs that play all the sports action that any fan could imagine,” says Barber.
Offering 16 signature sauces and five seasonings, there’s a taste for everyone from the most cautious to the most daring. And if you’re in a hurry at lunchtime they offer a “fast-break” menu with a 15-minute guarantee.
The restaurants also give back to the communities that support them. “Buffalo Wild Wings prides itself on the company’s community involvement,” says Barber. “We strive to maintain long-lasting relationships with local youth programs, teams and organizations.”
439 Ridge Rd.
For decades, residents of the Region have been making their way to Dunkin’ Donuts for a sweet treat for breakfast—or a dessert or snack. And we all know that where there are doughnuts, there must be coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts can brew quite a cup of Joe and it has become loved as much for their coffee as for their doughnuts.
No matter what your hot drink of choice is—cappuccino, latte, espresso, macchiato, tea, chai tea, hot chocolate—you can grab it to go and be on your way quickly. And if iced coffees and teas are your thing, or even frozen coffee drinks, Dunkin’ Donuts has it waiting for you.
146 N. Broad St.
Best Family Restaurant
Toast & Jam
7311 Mallard Lane
“I couldn’t do it as the owner without our great customers and staff,” says Sam Cappas, owner of Toast & Jam in Schererville. “It’s definitely about the team.”
And the food as well. Toast & Jam focuses on fresh and homemade menu items as well as interesting and eclectic breakfast and lunch offerings—an assortment of benedicts (crab or pork in a siracha hollandaise), skillets, breakfast specialties like its poblano casserole and breakfast po' boys, omelets and classics--country fried steak and eggs and pork chops and eggs.
There’s also homemade jams including a flavor of the month.
“We like to do things the old-fashioned way,” says Cappas. “That’s what we’re about.”
Round the Clock
1775 U.S. Hwy. 41
Best Fine Dining
7501 Constitution Ave.
A beautiful view of Cedar Lake. A large selection of fresh seafood. Premium steaks served on a sizzling plate. A growing wine and cocktail menu. An elegant, but friendly venue. All of these factors helped to earn Lighthouse Restaurant a win in the category of “Best Fine Dining.”
“It’s a great award to get,” says general manager Shane Keeton. “It has a lot do with our great food and great service. A lot of our staff has been here since we opened. They’re a great group. They’re professional, but fun and friendly, as well, and they make it feel relaxing, not stiff.”
In the next year, Keeton says that they’ll be focusing on expanding the wine options and craft beer and cocktail program. “We’re trying to make it more of a desirable destination for those who like fine wines. We’re working on that and hope it will be one of the best wine lists in the area.”
Keeton is also pleased that so many in the region have made Lighthouse Restaurant their go-to place for celebrating special occasions. “That’s an honor for us,” says Keeton. “To be able to keep up the level of service we have, it is a testament to our staff. They’re phenomenal and care about the people who come in here.”
302 S. Main St.
428 S. Calumet Rd.
455 E. 84th Drive
Hamburgers were 15 cents when Allen Schoop opened his first restaurant in Hammond in 1948. Eleven years later the second Schoop’s opened in Munster, and now there are Schoop’s restaurants throughout Northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago.
“We still make hamburgers the way they always have—meat ground fresh every day, never frozen, handmade into patties and we cook them so they’re crisp around the edges,” says Art Mascarello, who with his wife Deborah, was the first to purchase a Schoop’s franchise in 1984 and now owns three stores in Crown Point, Hobart and Merrillville.
But it isn’t just his stores that make Schoop’s a favorite, says Mascarello.
“It’s about all the stores and operators,” he says. “We’re all following the great Schoop’s tradition of great food and great service. We have waitresses who know our customers so well that when they hear they’re coming in, they have their food waiting for them.”
Being voted Best Hamburger in the Best of the Region is an honor for all the stores, says Mascarello.
“It’s not fast food,” he says. “It’s fresh food fast.”
3304 Calumet Ave.
813 W. Lincoln Hwy. Suite B
Best Hot Dog
555 E. 81st Ave.
Portillo's has been serving all-beef hot dogs in the Region since 2006, when it opened its first Indiana location in Merrillville. "Portillo's has been well received in Mishawaka and Fishers, as well," said Merrillville manager Michael Hels. "Two more locations are headed to Avon and Greenwood this year." That will bring the total Indiana locations to five. The original hot dog stand—a 6-by-12-foot trailer in Villa Park, Illinois, known as “The Dog House”—opened in 1963.
“We take great pride in the Chicago-style dogs we serve to Northwest Indiana,” says Hels. “Mr. Portillo's standards are just as high as they were in 1963.”
“It's nice to have our efforts appreciated and the quality of our products recognized by our guests,” he says. “We couldn't be happier with the turnout, year in and year out.”
“Good food and quick service set us apart from our competition,” says Hels. “The friendliness of the service in the drive-thru cannot be compared. The atmosphere inside is like a step backward in time with bustling crowds in a 1930s setting.”
Dick Portillo has been quoted as saying: "Long lines don't impress people. Long lines that move fast impress people.”
Portillo's also serves Italian beef, burgers, fries, shakes, and their world famous chocolate cake "along with a summer full of limited time offers," said Hels.
Arnie’s Dog House
8125 Calumet Ave.
Corky's Dogg House
12421 Wicker Ave.
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
57 Monroe St.
It’s all about tradition at Valpo Velvet.
Since 1947, the company has been using the same recipes for its ice cream, and it’s clear customers continue to enjoy it, owner Mike Brown said.
“Once you’re a customer, you’re a customer for life,” Brown said.
He said Valpo Velvet’s attention to detail and fresh ingredients have contributed to the business’ success.
“Quality is what’s kept us in business all these years,” Brown said.
In addition to the wide variety of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sorbet flavors, Valpo Velvet also has a few vegan options.
“More and more people want vegan,” Brown said.
Customers can find Valpo Velvet products at the Valparaiso location, area grocery stores, and some ice cream parlors, Brown said.
The company also offers a variety of catering options to provide scoops at weddings, parties, and other events.
7102 Calumet Ave.
2034 Austin Ave.
13134 Lake Shore Drive
Cold Stone Creamery
Best Italian Food
428 S. Calumet Rd.
302 S. Main St.
117 S. Main St.
Michael and Nada Karas have owned Lucrezia for almost 20 years in Chesterton and 15 years in Crown Point. “I believe our customers know that we strive for excellence and consistency, so the lamb shank for example, will taste the same each time they dine with us,” said Nada. “Many of our regulars, enjoy our chef features, which change weekly to capture fresh produce, meats and fish.”
Nada adds that Lucrezia is a scratch kitchen, and it is always looking for the best ingredients. “We make everything from scratch, even our desserts,” she said. “There are no deep fryers or microwave ovens. You will not find any frozen, vacuum sealed entrée pouches to reheat from a corporate warehouse.”
Lucrezia is family owned and Nada said she and her husband, Michael, respect their customers and their staff that have been with them for many years. “Everyone at Lucrezia is passionate about what they do, and we all get along and work well together. I think our passion shows in the food and service, thus making us No. 1,” she noted. “The restaurants are in domiciled in historic houses. When you dine here, you are in our home.”
The Karases said they are always honored and humbled to win the No. 1 spot for Italian Food, which they have won year after year. “Owning a restaurant is not glamorous; it’s a lot of hard work 24/7. Winning is the best affirmation that our hard work is appreciated by our growing number of customers,” Nada said. “ You are the reason we are here. Mille grazie!”
1155 Joliet St.
3123 Calumet Ave.
717 U.S. Hwy. 41
269 W. 81st Ave.
When dining at a Mexican restaurant, those who are of age know that the best complement to their meal is an authentic margarita. At La Carreta in Schererville and Merrillville, the margaritas don’t disappoint.
First and foremost, are the five impressive drink sizes offered – from a basic 16 oz. serving to 60 oz., a veritable fish bowl! Then there is the wide selection of flavor options, with the most popular including strawberry, raspberry, mango, lime and peach. The fruity flavors appear on the menu on a regular basis and an additional flavor is rotated in on occasion.
The Merrillville location began operation 11 years ago and Schererville opened a few years later. Traditional Mexican specialties are available daily for lunch and dinner.
Casa Del Mar
157 S. Franklin St.
650 Ridge Rd.
Best Mexican Food
El Taco Real
935 Hoffman St.
Even though El Taco Real has been a Hammond mainstay for more than four decades, Raymundo Garcia still feels like it is an honor and a privilege to serve his faithful customers.
“For me, it’s not just a capitalist enterprise, it’s in my blood,” says Garcia, who refers to himself as the head busboy. “I’m honored to win, but don’t take it for granted. We do what we do with a lot of pride, and think it’s a privilege to serve people.”
The restaurant serves a wide offering of dishes, from their queso fundido appetizer to tacos, enchiladas and fajitas.
He takes pride in the fact that people come in hungry and leave happy.
“We treat our customers as guests, friends, family. We greet them at the door, sit them down, and give them drinks and food,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling to have them laughing and smiling and satisfied when they leave.”
717 U.S. Hwy. 41
269 W. Lincoln Hwy.
“If you’re not a good pizza, you’re not going to be around for 59 years.” So says Joe Aurelio of the pizza chain his father started in 1959.
Joseph A. Aurelio Jr. opened the first Aurelio’s Pizza at 2041 Ridge Rd. in Homewood, Ill., and expanded into an old warehouse there at 18162 Harwood Ave. in 1977, creating their flagship restaurant. In 2001, the senior Aurelio passed away and son Joe took over the family business.
Aurelio’s continues to grow and has expanded its slice of the pizzeria market with 40 locations in six states.
This year is its 59th anniversary. “It’s a big deal because we started in 1959, and we’re running promotions all year,” said Joe. “We’re kicking off a trivia contest on Facebook Live on 5/9 (in keeping with the theme) that will run through the summer with fabulous prizes.”
Later this year, Aurelio's will attach golden tickets to random boxes of pizza for pickup or delivery entitling winners to a pizza a week for a year.
In addition, Aurelio’s is making 59 surprise deliveries by Joe, franchise owners and celebrities. For example, Joe and former Chicago Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick delivered pizza to the Chicago Police and raised $8,000 for a bulletproof vest in memory of Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Joe is excited to announce that Aurelio's is opening a store near Wrigley Field at Clark and Grace Streets and hopes to be open for the Crosstown Classic, when the Cubs host the White Sox May 11-13.
“Thank you to our loyal customers,” said Joe. “We are committed to the community and giving back, and we hope to be around another 59 years.”
Tomato Bar Pizza Bakery
2310 LaPorte Ave.
79 U.S. Hwy. 41 Suite 220
Best Place for Breakfast
Toast and Jam
7311 Mallard Lane
Sam Cappas has fond memories of the big, hearty and tasty breakfasts his grandmother used to make. He lovingly refers to his Toast and Jam restaurant as “Grandma’s Kitchen” and tries to emulate her cooking at his establishment. “At the restaurant I try to do things I learned from her, including serving high quality food,” he said. “We try to do as much homemade as we can.”
Toast and Jam serves many unique and popular homemade items; especially the ones that cross over from breakfast to lunch. A customer favorite is The Farmhouse, which includes a half order of biscuits and gravy, two eggs, two sausages, two strips of bacon and a side of toast or pancakes.
Though technically the owner of Toast and Jam, Cappas said he doesn’t have employees. Rather, he explained, “we’re all a team here” and that outstanding team works to make sure customers have a positive experience.
Toast and Jam is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and weekends from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., with breakfast available all day. “If someone walks in at 2:59 p.m. and wants bacon and eggs, they’ll get bacon and eggs, even though we technically close at 3,” said Cappas. “We’ll stay open for that customer. Without our customers, we wouldn’t be here.”
Jelly Pancake House
399 E. 81st Ave.
936 Joliet St.
The Scrambled Diner
250 W. 81st Ave.
Best Place for Brunch
Toast and Jam
7311 Mallard Lane
If you can’t decide between breakfast and lunch, Sam Cappas, owner of Toast and Jam recommends the best of both worlds — brunch. Toast and Jam, he said, serves brunch all day and uses many of the same cooking methods his grandmother used. “I like to call it ‘Grandma’s Kitchen,’ ” Cappas explained. “We try to do as much homemade as we can.”
While the restaurant serves time-honored dishes such as biscuits and gravy, Cappas said that because the location is off the beaten path, it's added a lot of unique items. A customer favorite is the Poblano Casserole, with chicken, poblano peppers, cheese and other ingredients.
Some customers opt for a more “lunch-centric” meal at brunch. “Our crowd really likes our burgers, which are all 100 percent Angus prime beef,” Cappas noted. Popular burgers include the Crosstown (a classic with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and pickle), the Rodeo (jalapeno cream cheese, pepper jack cheese and onion string toppings) and the Carolina (barbecue sauce, bacon, cheese and coleslaw topping).
Cappas refers to everyone as a team, rather than employees. “I don’t have employees; we’re all a team here and it’s our job to make our customers happy,” he said.
Toast and Jam is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on weekends from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Center for Visual and Performing Arts
1040 Ridge Rd.
Sophia’s House of Pancakes
9344 Indianapolis Blvd.
Best Place for Lunch
Panera Bread is a cozy spot where you can enjoy a casual meal, log on to your device and linger for bit. Salads are fresh and crisp with appealing flavor combinations that include berries, avocado, almonds, quinoa and chicken breast. Soups are hot and hearty — classics such as chicken noodle, creamy tomato, broccoli cheddar, baked potato and more seasonal or specialty varieties including summer corn chowder and black bean.
But it’s the fresh breads that are the cornerstone of this busy cafe chain and take its sandwiches up a notch — tomato basil, asiago cheese, sourdough, ciabatta and others cradle clean ingredients to make a mouthwatering meal. Panera is committed to serving antibiotic-free meats and ingredients free of artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors.
Pastas and lentil and noodle bowls have also made their way on the menu, along with plenty of options for the kiddos.
146 N. Broad St.
Best Polish food
2180 Glenwood-Dyer Rd.
Delivering a feast for the eyes and for the appetite, the buffet at the Warsaw Inn in Lynwood is brimming with authentic Polish food. For 38 years, owner Angie Golom has been feeding the Region with delicious made-from-scratch recipes.
Golom went into business with her family in 1972 at another location and opened the Warsaw Inn in 1980. Since then, the restaurant has had a very loyal following, with people coming from near and far for their homemade pierogis, stuffed cabbage and Polish sausage. In addition, the restaurant makes its own potato pancakes, desserts and more on the premises.
“We still pinch our pierogis by hand, one at a time,” noted Golom. “It’s really rewarding when we have multiple generations come in and the young children go to the buffet and go right for the pierogis.”
Golom maintains that you don’t have to be Polish to enjoy good home cooking and welcomes everyone to come and eat at the Warsaw Inn. She is also very appreciative of her customers and her employees.
“We’re very honored that we won, and we’re thankful for our customers,” she said. “I also have wonderful employees; it’s a real team effort.”
735 Gostlin St.
2945 Jewett Ave.
Lincoln Carry Outs
1203 N. Main St.
1002 Lincoln St.
This family business loves to serve fresh food, fast. That’s the company’s credo, says owner Scott Underwood, whose dad founded the business in 1979. “Our goal is to provide Northwest Indiana with high-quality sandwiches at a reasonable price and a good pace.” Staff are attentive to the lunch rush at both locations and work to serve their customers as efficiently as possible.
Signature menu items include the Regular Italian sub, the Lincoln Burger on French bread with all the trimmings, and a rib-eye steak sandwich. “Thanks to everyone who voted for us,” says Underwood. He and his family are passionate about providing the community with good food and good service.
7501 Constitution Ave.
How do you become the best seafood restaurant in the Region? First, you start with the freshest seafood you can get. “We purchase the freshest available to us,” says executive chef Ken McRae of the Lighthouse in Cedar Lake. “There is a great variety of fresh and salt-water seafood. Variety is what makes it a great place to come to.”
Each day you’ll find a seafood dish on the specials, so there will always be something new in addition to the regular menu items. On any given day, there are about 10 to 12 different seafood dishes available.
When it comes to shrimp, there are several ways it can be prepared—grilled, scampi, fried, Buffalo. “We prepare it a lot of different ways and people appreciate it,” says McRae.
“We take care of how we handle our seafood and prepare it,” says general manager Shane Keeton. “We have some unique preparations, like our macadamia nut crusted walleye, which is very popular.”
Lobster, grouper, salmon and perch can also be found on the regular menu.
1775 U.S. Hwy. 41
7501 Constitution Ave.
The quality cuts of beef, served on a sizzling, 500-degree plate, have earned Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Lake the title of “Best Steakhouse.”
“Our value is what sets us apart,” says general manager Shane Keeton. “We offer a good steak dinner and you don’t have to save up for two months for it. It’s all inclusive with soup or salad and a side. A lot of places do a la carte.”
Keeton says that for the “high volume steakhouse,” it is all about quality and value.
Among the steak options are three different sizes of filet mignon, New York strip, rib-eye and top sirloin. Guests can choose from a number of crust toppings, including parmesan, horseradish and bleu cheese.
Executive chef Ken McRae believes that one feature of the restaurant that makes it a great place to enjoy a steak is the view. “The sunsets are spectacular and that’s a big draw,” he says. “People will sit a little longer to watch it. It is an added attraction and just a peaceful atmosphere looking out on water.”
Kelsey’s Steak & Seafood
2300 U.S. Hwy. 30
Restaurant Scene: Giuseppe's Ristorante welcomes master pizza maker
Cooking techniques from the Old Country are an important part of the Belmonte family's culinary philosophy.
Brothers Joe and Antonio Belmonte are co-owners of Giuseppe's Ristorante in Schererville where pizza, authentic pasta dishes, meat entrees and more are in the spotlight.
The restaurant, which was established in the fall of 2011, is located on Eagle Ridge Drive.
Earlier this week, the Belmonte brothers welcomed master pizza maker Don Antonio Starita to their restaurant to demonstrate how to make Neapolitan and Roman style pizzas.
Starita, from Italy, was in the Chicago area this past weekend to make appearances at the National Restaurant Show at McCormick Place. He and representatives from flour company Molini Lario visited Giuseppe's.
Antonio Belmonte said they use the Italian flour in making pizza dough and bread at Giuseppe's. Among reps from the company at the Schererville restaurant were Alessandro Proverbio, who's in charge of quality control at the flour company and Ilaria Fabbri, export manager for Molini Lario.
At Giuseppe's, the owners focus on from-scratch cooking with fresh and authentic ingredients. Belmonte, who designed the restaurant, also visited Italy in search of special ingredients prior to opening the eatery.
He also went in search of expert pizza makers and heard about Starita.
Belmonte said he's been making pizzas since he was a teen and started out at the eatery Pizza Pete's in Calumet City.
The brothers were happy to welcome Starita to the restaurant and thankful he could demonstrate the Old World pizza making techniques to eatery staff and other guests.
At Giuseppe's the pizza is made in a stone wood burning oven, which was built by Antonio Belmonte. The Neapolitan pizzas served at the restaurant are specialties.
Belmonte's parents Delia and Umile hail from the Calabria region of Italy and the recipes served at Giuseppe's are prepared in the Calabrian style, which focuses on simplicity and fresh ingredients.
While the Neapolitan pizzas are regularly on the menu at the restaurant, Belmonte said he's planning to add the Roman style, which is pizza with a thin to medium thin crust and a crunchy texture, sometime in the future.
The family is planning to expand the restaurant to the space/building next door to Giuseppe's sometime soon and will add new offerings at that time.
Restaurant Scene: It's always dumpling time at Dan's Pierogies
Pierogi Fest begins July 27 but Region fans who visit Dan's Pierogies in Highland can enjoy multiple flavors year-round at the restaurant.
Dan's Pierogies, which is family run, features various flavors of the popular Polish dumpling as well as other Polish and European specialties.
The restaurant, on Jewett Avenue, is a small eatery, with a few seats for dine-in customers. The eatery does a healthy carry-out business as well.
Pierogi are available cooked or frozen. Other items such as Cabbage and Noodles, Sandwiches, Stuffed Cabbage and Stuffed Pepper Dinners also are available.
At Dan's Pierogies, guests will find 14 different flavors of the specialty foodstuff. A combination of savory and sweet pierogi stars at the restaurant. Among flavors are potato and cheddar cheese, sweet cheese, cabbage, strawberry, mushroom, meat, spinach, blueberry, plum and cherry. Cost for pierogi is $7 per dozen for frozen or 75 cents if they're cooked. The dessert or fruit flavored varieties, in addition to mushroom, are $8 per dozen for frozen.
The eatery will once again make an appearance at the 2018 Pierogi Fest, which runs from July 27 to 29 in downtown Whiting. Dan's Pierogies has been a constant at the fest for many years.
In addition to the pierogi, various dinners and other foods are sold at the restaurant. Italian Beef and Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($6 each) are among items on the menu.
Guests also will find Sauerkraut and Sausage, Polish Sausage on a Bun; Potato Cakes; Loaded Potato Pierogi; Cheese Blintz and more on the menu.
Diners won't leave Dan's Pierogies hungry. Whether you want only a few pierogi, a hearty sandwich or a dinner, which comes with mashed potatoes, vegetables and bread, you'll satisfy your appetite at the eatery.
Restaurant Scene: White Birch Market offers menu of fresh sandwiches, salads, more
Guests who visit Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, have a variety of dining options.
In addition to The Buffet, Timbers, Hard Rock Cafe and Copper Rock Steakhouse, there is White Birch Market.
White Birch Market is a gourmet market and coffee shop located off the main hallway of the casino. The shop offers an assortment of coffees, teas, other beverages, sandwiches, salads, gelato, pastries and more.
The eatery and market is open 24 hours daily with the exception of Tuesdays, when it closes from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.
During a recent visit to White Birch Market for lunch, we opted for sandwiches and a muffin.
The Loaded Chicken Wrap and the Nueske's Ham Sandwich (both $7.50) were filling and flavorful choices. The Cinnamon Muffin ($3.50) was also the perfect dessert choice to satisfy a sweet tooth.
White Birch Market features rust/colored and brown hues throughout with Native American-inspired art work hanging on the walls. Guests may also sit on a cozy patio outdoors in nice weather.
Among menu items at the eatery are Biscotti, Jumbo Cookies, Scones, Lemon Bars (all $3.50); Breakfast Croissant ($4.50); White Chocolate Berry Cake ($5.50); Quiche of the Day ($5.50); various Grilled Panini Sandwiches ($7.50); Four Winds Gelato in assorted flavors (various prices); and more.
White Birch also serves Starbucks coffee and Tazo Teas. Among Coffee Chillers available are Chai Cream ($5); Funky Monkey ($5); Vanilla Bean ($5) and others. Bottled beverages include Lemonade, Almond Milk, Soy Milk, Specialty Sodas, Craft Beer (all between $2.50 and $5) and other items.
Customers may dine in the market which has limited seating options or carry out their food.
Bombers celebrates fifth anniversary in Munster
While many food fans begin to turn their thoughts to barbecued fare when the temperatures start to heat up in May, barbecue is always in the spotlight at Bombers.
Bombers BBQ, on Ridge Road in Munster, has starred on the fiery food scene in Munster since 2013. On May 7, the popular meat lover's eatery will celebrate its fifth anniversary.
In the last five years, fresh smoked barbecue has been in the forefront at the small restaurant. The eatery does a hoppin' dine-in business but its carry-out fare is popular as well.
There always seems to be a line at Bombers, but service is usually quick.
At Bombers, fresh is definitely the key word as everything is prepared on the premises daily and the meat is never chilled and reheated. Meat is cooked over a combination of apple and cherry wood.
While the restaurant's menu hasn't changed much through the years, the Bombers team occasionally debuts new items. Recently introduced on the menu was Fried Macaroni and Cheese Bites.
Bombers' menu features various meats, sandwiches, appetizers and assorted sides.
Items featured include Bacon Jalapeno Bombs ($7); Mississippi Won Tons ($5); Bang Bang Shrimp ($7): Brisket Sandwich ($8 a la carte); Burnt Ends ($9 a la carte); Baby Back Ribs ($14 for half slab); St. Louis Ribs ($12 for half slab); Pork and Beans ($2); Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread ($2); and more. Kids Meals also are available.
For those who love to test barbecue sauce, available at the restaurant are Bombers sauce, which is the house specialty and features a combination of spiciness and sweetness, to Mustard sauce and Vinegar sauce. Those who can stand the heat can test the Nuclear sauce, which you must sign a waiver to try. The "hot" culprit in that sauce is the fiery Ghost Pepper.
Craft beers also are available at Bombers. The restaurant also has a catering menu.
Variety stars on Eli's Golden Apple menu
If you're looking for a hearty meal, journey to Eli's Golden Apple Restaurant and Pancake House.
The restaurant, in Crown Point, offers diners a large selection of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Whether you have a taste for old-fashioned pancakes or waffles, assorted crepes, egg dishes, sandwiches, quick appetizers, full meals or tasty desserts, you won't go wrong visiting Eli's Golden Apple.
The eatery, which is comfortable, and features table and booth seating, also has a bar on the premises. TVs abound throughout the eatery. There are even small television sets at each of the booths for diners' enjoyment.
While diners will find a traditional American menu at the restaurant, there's also a menu of Macedonian specialties at Eli's. That specialty menu features items such as Smoked Macedonian Leek Sausage (Lukanci) for $12.95; Chebapi ($10.95); Pork or Chicken Kabobs ($12.95) and more.
We visited Eli's on a recent Saturday afternoon for lunch. Our meal choices were the Hot Turkey sandwich ($8.29); and the Half Fried Chicken ($9.59). The meals came with a choice of soup or salad so we tried both a cup of lemon rice soup and the dinner salad with creamy garlic dressing.
The lemon rice soup had a medium consistency and was well seasoned. The garlic dressing was one of the best we'd tasted and was on the sweet side.
Both the turkey and chicken meals were substantial servings and proved flavorful.
Eli's menu also features assorted breakfasts such as Golden Brown Oven Baked Large Apple Pancake ($11.95); Oven Baked German Pancake ($10.89); Crepes Suzette ($7.69); French Opera Crepes ($7.95); Bacon Waffle ($7.89); Gypsy Skillet ($7.95); Sonoma Skillet ($8.59); various omelets, Benedicts; French Toast; and other dishes.
Assorted lunch and dinner items include an appetizer Sampler Platter ($12.95); Taco Salad ($7.89); BLT Cheese Wrap ($7.59); Burritos ($7.95); Full Slab Ribs ($17.95); Ribeye Steak ($13.95); and a lot more.
There's much to choose from at Eli's and it's safe to say no one will leave hungry.
The Simple Greek opens in Munster
MUNSTER — Signs on the empty storefront in the town's Centennial Village advertised for months that something fresh was on its way.
Diners now can enjoy the simple, fresh ingredients and meals at The Simple Greek, which opened in the new shopping center Monday.
The Simple Greek, located on Calumet Avenue, is the first restaurant to open its doors in the shopping center. Diners will find it to be a casual eatery with a food-ordering concept similar to other fast-food sandwich shops and Mexican eateries where patrons can customize their orders.
The restaurant, owned by Adam Robertson, offers pitas, bowls, soups, salads, desserts and more. While the menu isn't large, diners may choose from various ingredients to fill their bowls and top their meals with assorted dressings and vegetables.
We visited The Simple Greek on Monday, its first day of operation. The lines were long and the wait was understandably longer than it probably will be in coming days and weeks. The staff, which was friendly, was still getting used to the workings of the restaurant yet did a fine job at getting orders to all the hungry folks in line.
On that first day, we tried the salad bowl ($8.95). When you step up to the counter to order, you're asked to Build Your Own by choosing either a Pita or Bowl. Then you choose a Protein, a Sauce and Toppings and Finishes.
Our bowl was heaping with chicken gyro meat, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, garbanzo beans, onions, olives and garlic cream dressing. It was filling and the ingredients were indeed fresh.
Among other items on the menu are Avgolemono (Lemon Rice) Soup ($2.95); Greek Fries ($2.95); Garlic Green Beans ($2.95); Dolmades ($3.45); Baklava ($2.25); Rizogalo, which is rice pudding ($2.95); and more.
The restaurant also offers a Kids Meal. Stop in at The Simple Greek for a fresh, healthy meal.
Order a quick meal at El Salto Express
El Salto Express has been offering its Mexican specialties since the fall of 2015 in Schererville.
In addition to the Express location, El Salto has full service, sit-down restaurants in Munster, Chesterton, Valparaiso and Merrillville. At the Express rendition of the eatery, guests will find a smaller menu.
The concept at the Schererville location is similar to the ordering process found at other popular chain eateries that specialize in customizing orders and choosing and 'layering" ingredients to make up certain dishes.
For instance, at El Salto Express, guests order in Steps. Step 1 asks to choose your "Item," from a list that includes Burrito Bowls, Tacos, Salad Bowl, Tortas and more. In Step 2, you choose your "Protein" and Step 3 asks you to choose your "Toppings."
During a recent Monday night dinner visit to El Salto Express, we ordered the Taco Salad ($6.75). Our choice of protein was Carnitas and toppings included rice, pinto beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, corn salsa, red mild salsa and pico de gallo on the side.
Diners may also choose Guacamole or Queso Dip as toppings with both costing $1 extra.
The Carnitas were well seasoned but not spicy. Among other proteins available at the restaurant are Grilled Chicken, Veggie, Chorizo, Steak, Shrimp, Ground Beef and other meats.
Also on the menu are various soups ($4.95) including Chicken, Tortilla, Meat Rice Soup or Sopa De Fideo; Corn in a Cup ($3.50); Walking Taco ($6.25); Carne Asada Fries ($6.75); Flan ($3.50); Tres Leches Cake ($3.50) and more.
The Nino's Menu (for children 12 and younger) offers a Taco dinner ($5.25) a Kids Quesadilla ($5.25); or Walking Taco ($5.25). Chips or rice and a small drink accompanies the kids meals.
Diners also may order at the drive-thru window. El Salto Express now offers online ordering at elsaltoexpress.com/online-ordering.
Among daily specials at the restaurant are Souper Mondays, featuring 10 percent off soup; Fry Wednesdays offering Carne Asada Fries for $5.75 or Combo Friday, where guests can purchase any combo meal and add a drink for a $1 extra.
Chill out at Bartlett's Fish Camp
Bartlett's Fish Camp in Michigan City stars a nautical theme and a menu of appetizing seafood among other dishes.
The restaurant, located on the premises of the Michigan City Yacht Club, is owned and operated by the same family who is at the helm of Bartlett's Gourmet Grill and Tavern in Beverly Shores. Bartlett's is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Nicole Bissonette and Gary Sanders.
At Bartlett's Fish Camp, guests will, no doubt, feel like they're on a vacation. The eatery looks out over the waterfront and there are windows all around the main dining areas and the bar for diners to enjoy the view.
As one enters the restaurant, they'll face an open kitchen and a raw bar. To the left is the Michigan City Yacht Club.
We visited Bartlett's Fish Camp on a recent Saturday for lunch and enjoyed a leisurely meal in the casual back dining room. Our table faced the water and it was extremely calming to look out over Lake Michigan.
Our meal that day included the MCYC Clam Chowder ($6.50 for a cup, $8 for a bowl) and the Fish Camp Fried Seafood Basket, ($18) featuring shrimp, fried fish and Lobster Shrimp Hush Puppies.
The breading for the offerings in the seafood basket was lightly fried and proved flavorful. The basket also featured a serving of French fries. The clam chowder was also a good choice and was prepared New England style.
Among other menu offerings at Bartlett's Fish Camp are Chef's Shrimp Ceviche ($11.50); and Tuna Tartare ($11.50), from the restaurant's Raw Bar; Lobster-Shrimp Fritter ($12); Fish Camp Crab Cakes ($14); Chicken Fried Duck & Waffles ($11); French Style Steamed Mussels ($10); Fish Camp Hummus ($9.50); Little Gem Wedge Salad $8.50); and more.
Sandwiches offered at the eatery include Beef Brisket Sandwich ($11.50) while dishes on the Stones Throw From the Lake category include Dozens of Cloves of Garlic and A Pair of Chicken Breasts ($18); Brined Double Cut Pork Chop ($26); and Dijon-Herb Australian Rack of Lamb ($32).
An interesting offering at the Raw Bar remains the Seafood Tower (market price) with a daily selection of raw oysters, Peel n Eat Shrimp, Crudo Fish and Seafood Salads.
There's much to explore on the Fish Camp menu. Diners won't be disappointed.
Boz Hot Dogs still a popular stop on Ridge Road
Hot dog fans in the Region have frequented Boz Hot Dogs for decades.
The hot dog joint got its start in 1969 in Dolton where it stood at 142nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
Boz Hot Dogs on Ridge Road in Lansing has a casual setting which is also retro-inspired as it sports old-fashioned decor and signage. Northwest Indiana residents also will find a smaller Boz on Sheffield Avenue in Dyer.
During a recent stop at the Lansing Boz, we felt as though we'd taken a journey back in time. Customers walk up to the counter to order and then can take their food to a table or booth on the premises to dine in.
While we dined in the restaurant, there were quite a few people visiting the eatery to carry out their food. Retro tunes played on the radio in the restaurant as we dined. It definitely felt like a throw-back to high school days where "good fast" food such as hot dogs, cheesy fries, onion rings and chili cheese dogs were a favorite.
Our dinner choices that evening were the Boz Hot Dog ($2.60) and the Italian Beef Sandwich ($6.25), which I had heard good things about. The hot dog had all the fixings of a Chicago dog and got a thumbs up from us. All hot dogs come up mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and hot or mild peppers. Other ingredients, such as celery salt, hot giardiniera, lettuce, sauerkraut and other items, are available.
The Italian Beef Sandwich featured tender roast beef and a flavorful, sweet Marinara sauce. Green peppers were also plentiful in the sandwich.
Boz' menu also stars Bratwurst ($3.65); Italian Sausage ($4.55); BBQ Beef ($6.25); Pizza Bread ($2.25); Egg Salad ($3.39); Nachos ($3.35); Chili Boat with Cheese ($3.55); and more.
The restaurant has a variety of regular combos as well as daily specials.
Indy Perk offers coffee, tea and more
Have a taste for a specialty cup of coffee, a smoothie or other comforting beverage? Stop in at Whiting's Indy Perk for a soothing drink, sandwich or soup.
The coffee shop/cafe, located on quaint 119th Street, is a casual eatery with an artsy-inspired environment. It's a small cafe with a friendly atmosphere as well.
Indy Perk, presented by Erica Hernandez, the former owner/operator of the now closed Indy Cafe in East Chicago, is the perfect little getaway. Piped-in music plays in the background as guests enjoy their libations and treats.
During a recent Monday evening visit to Indy Cafe, we ordered a meal at the front counter and then sat in one of the booths near the entrance of the restaurant.
For dinner, we chose the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which is served with Chipotle Tomato Bisque ($7). The sandwich wasn't your typical Grilled Cheese creation as it was made with a flavorful combination of Swiss, Havarti and Cheddar cheese. The sandwich came with the bisque, which received praise at our table for its slightly tangy/spicy and sweet taste.
Dishes on the menu are made-to-order. Other food offerings at Indy Perk include El Cubano, ($9), which is a sandwich created with Tasso ham, pulled pork, pickles, caramelized onions, mustard and Swiss, and then served on Ciabatta Bread. Chips are served on the side.
Diners also will find a B.L.T. ($8); Hummus & Veggies ($7); Tinga Bowl ($8), which is chipotle braised chicken on a bed of greens; Greek Salad ($2) Green Posole ($5); and Tomato Caprese ($7) on the menu.
The drinks menu stars various coffees, including Americano ($2.50 and $3); Cappuccino ($3.30 and $3.80; Golden Milk Latte ($3 and $3.50); assorted Teas; and more. The cafe usually has various food specials, which are regularly listed on the chalk board at the front of the eatery.
Various pastries, cookies and other treats are featured as well.
La Fogata Taqueria offers much more than tacos
Hammond's La Fogata Taqueria serves up an assortment of Mexican dishes daily.
The restaurant, located on Calumet Avenue, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and stars an assortment of recipes that feature different touches from what's found at other Mexican eateries. Everything from traditional tacos to specialty seafood dishes, soups, combination plates, drinks and more star on the menu.
Colorful paintings/drawings and bright walls are part of the decor in the casual eatery. Guests will find a lunch buffet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, which features a variety of Mexican favorites.
The eatery's name La Fogata, translated as bonfire, features logs as part of the decor. The logs are placed around the restaurant. In addition, one of the corners of La Fogata features a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During a recent Monday dinner, we ordered a Cecina Taco ($2.25) and Chicken Tostada ($3.25). The Cecina Taco featured thinly-sliced aged beef, which was flavorful and the chicken in the tostada proved tender. Included with the meal is a trip to the salsa and chips bar at the front of the eatery. At the salsa bar, guests will find assorted recipes, from pico de gallo and mild variations to carrot and cauliflower spicy mixtures and more.
Among other items on the menu are Mole Poblano ($12.09); Parrillada (a grilled platter) ($39.59); Torta Dinner ($7.99); Nopales Quesadillas ($4.19); Carne Asada ($15.99); Huevos Rancheros ($7.89); Camarones (Shrimp) a La Diabla ($16.49); Caldo 7 Mares or Seven Seas soup ($16.49); and more.
Among appetizers are Queso Fundido ($6.39); Buffalo or BBQ Wings ($5.49); and other items. On weekends, the restaurant features Menudo or Pozole ($7.99).
Drinks included on the menu are Horchata, Jamaica juice, the Agua of the day, Licuados or milk shakes and other beverages.
The restaurant also features karaoke from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Visit Canton House for Chinese fare
If you have a taste for a flavorful Asian dish, head to Canton House.
The eatery, located in Munster, is in a strip mall on Calumet Avenue. While the restaurant is small and does a big carry-out business, there are a few tables for dine-in customers to enjoy a quick meal.
Canton House's menu is extensive, inexpensive and includes a lot of the favorite Chinese fare customers have come to expect from local Asian eateries.
Offerings include categories such as Vegetarian Dishes, House Specials, Cantonese Style, Subgum Chop Suey, Fried Rice and more.
Canton House features a relaxed and very casual setting with Asian decorations and pictures hanging on the walls.
During a recent Monday dinner stop at the eatery, we had a taste for a meatless dish and opted for the Vegetable Egg Foo Young ($4.25 for two patties). Each patty was fairly hearty and filling. The sauce, which topped the Egg Foo Young, was flavorful and not salty. It's easy for cooks to go heavy on the salt with this dish but thankfully, Canton House's recipe didn't go overboard on the sodium. The Egg Foo Young was accompanied by a serving of white rice.
Among other items on Canton House's menu are Beef Satay ($6.5 for 6 appetizer portions); Hong Sal Shrimp ($7.15 for small); Moo Shu Shrimp ($9.85); Szechuan Pork ($5.75 for small); Seafood Delight ($14.55); Hot Pot for 2 ($16.95); Tangerine Chicken ($6.85 for small); Hong Kong Steak ($13.95); Hawaii Fried Rice ($4.80); and more.
The restaurant also serves a Super Value Lunch Box until 3 p.m. daily. The lunch special includes an egg roll and chicken fried rice with the main entree.
Also on the menu are Canton Deluxe Dinners for two, three, four or five people. A variety of Smoothies, including Watermelon, Banana, Kiwi and others, also are available for $3.25 each.
Catering and Party Trays are also featured at Canton House.
Hokkaido offers a taste of Japan
Diners with a taste for sushi, miso soup or tempura will find all of that and more at Hokkaido Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar.
The restaurant, located on quaint Franklin Street in Michigan City, features a menu starring Japanese favorites such as specialty rolls, teriyaki entrees, desserts and other dishes. Chinese BBQ items also are on the menu.
We visited Hokkaido on a recent Monday night for a late dinner. The eatery features colorful decor starring red and white hues, seating at both booths and tables and other Asian-inspired decorations.
Piped-in contemporary music played during our dinner. We also watched as two chefs crafted sushi rolls at the bar.
Our dinner choice that night was the Seafood Pineapple Fried Rice ($15.95). The entree came with a choice of soup or salad. We decided to try both and ordered the Miso Soup with the dinner and the Green Salad ($1.95) on the side.
The rice entree was indeed an out of the ordinary dish. Various seafood, including shrimp and scallops, were mixed with the rice and served in half a pineapple. Melted cheese was served on top, which made it quite the filling entree.
Hokkaido's Green Salad featured a fresh, flavorful ginger dressing while the Miso Soup was a soothing choice. For dessert, the Mochi ice cream ($1.50 for a scoop) proved a good choice. Our order featured green tea ice cream with a coating around it and then it was sprinkled with chocolate syrup.
Among other menu items at the restaurant are Flying Fish Roll ($5.95); Special Dragon ($10.95); Rainbow Roll ($10.95); Lava Roll ($11.95); Crazy Tuna Roll ($11.95); Shrimp Teriyaki ($15.95); Chicken Tempura ($12.95); Pork BBQ ($13.95); Banana Tempura Roll with Honey Sauce for dessert ($4.95); and Ice Cream Tempura ($3.50).
Various salads on the menu include Avocado ($3.95); Seaweed Salad ($4.95); and Squid Salad ($5.95).
Hokkaido also offers carry out service.
See previous Restaurant Scene stories here:
Marilyn's Bakery reopening for season
Marilyn's Bakery and Cafe in Hobart beckons diners with its quaint and unpretentious setting.
The eatery, which has a friendly atmosphere, is on the grounds of Johnson's Strawberry Farm in Hobart. It was established by Marilyn Johnson Pearson in 1986.
The bakery/cafe has been closed for the past season and will reopen March 1. It recently had special pop up hours for Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras.
Cake orders have been accepted, though, through the bakery's regular number.
Marilyn's Bakery is easily found on Ridge Road and isn't tucked away or hidden from view. Being right next to Johnson's Strawberry Farm, it's easily spotted.
Diners can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lunch at the eatery from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. From March 1 through Easter, Marilyn's is open from Mondays through Saturdays and after Easter, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch seven days a week. Call for more information.
The restaurant's menu regularly stars soups, sandwiches, teas, coffee and pastries of all types. Eatery personnel are friendly and always willing to answer questions about menu items.
Among lunch items on the eatery's menu are homemade soups, including beef vegetable and chicken. Soup flavors rotate on a regular basis. Sandwiches include favorites such as chicken salad, turkey and beef, while other meal choices include pot pies, quiche and specials on occasion.
While surveying the sweets in the pastry case, visitors will find everything from specialty cakes and pies to assorted other pastries.
Cake flavors include Mandarin Orange, Marble Fudge, German Chocolate, Banana Torte and more. Pies include everything from Apple, Banana Cream and Chocolate Cream to Cherry Crumb and more. Sugar-free pies also are available.
Marilyn's features fresh, from-scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients. Diners looking for quality fare will find it here.
Rancho Grande offers a mix of Mexican specialties
Diners looking for authentic Mexican fare will find it at Rancho Grande Tacos & Burritos in Lansing.
The eatery, which is located on Ridge Road, has several locations in the Region. Among other locations are Dyer, East Chicago and another Lansing restaurant on 172nd Street.
Walking into Rancho Grande, diners will find a colorful setting and an aroma of delicious Latin flavors.
Guests order their meals at the counter and may then be seated to dine or simply carry out their food. The restaurant features an extensive menu with breakfast offerings, appetizers, Burritos/Bowls, Tortas, full dinners; Quesadillas and more.
During a recent Monday dinner visit to Rancho Grande, Mexican music played in the background making the setting comfortable and festive.
We sat at a booth in the back of the restaurant near the open kitchen and could watch while dishes were being prepared. The restaurant's decor is colorful and the walls are adorned with murals and other pictures.
Our dinner choices were fish tacos ($2.69 each) and guacamole with chips ($2.99 for medium). The tacos, which were flavorful but not spicy, were made with lightly breaded pollock. They also included onions, cilantro and lime. The guacamole was also a flavorful recipe and was well seasoned.
The restaurant also offers shrimp tacos.
Among items on the Rancho Grande menu are Nachos Rancho Grande ($8.49); Homemade Chorizo Tacos ($2.29); Vegetariano Tostadas ($3.29 each); Cubana Tortas ($6.09); Milanesa dinners (breaded steak or chicken) ($10.99); Enchiladas Suizas ($9.99); Chiles Rellenos ($10.99); Fajitas de Camaron (shrimp) ($11.99); and more.
The restaurant also stars assorted combo meals/dinners including a Taco, Tostada and Quesadilla for $8.89; Tamales for $6.89; Flautas for $8.89; and other dishes.
Specialty dishes, which are served on weekends only, include Barbacoa (steamed beef) ($8.99 a pound); and Carnitas (braised pork) (also $8.99 a pound). Menudo also is offered on weekends.
Catering also is available at Rancho Grande.
The Buffet offers Valentine's chocolate weekend
There are many meal options available during a visit to The Buffet at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan.
The eatery, which is open daily, stars an assortment of food stations with international offerings in the spotlight.
Guests visiting the restaurant this weekend will be in for a treat. In honor of Valentine's Day, The Buffet will offer a Valentine's Chocolate Weekend from Friday through Sunday. Sweets lovers will find a chocolate fountain, assorted chocolate desserts and made to order chocolate beignets.
The Buffet regularly features an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of varied dishes. Stations include Italian, Asian, Mexican, Salad Bar, American fare, a separate Pasta station and more.
There's a spacious dining area at The Buffet and most seats are not far from the food area.
For those starting with the salad bar, selections include everything from tossed salad, pickled herring, kidney bean and seafood selections to noodle, vegetable and other creations.
Guests can choose everything from tacos, beans, chips and salsa at the Mexican station to sweet and sour chicken, egg rolls, salt and pepper shrimp, sweet and sour soup and more at the Asian station.
If you want helpings of meat, visit the carving station which usually features turkey and beef with prime rib on certain days.
Have your fill of mashed potatoes, corn, ribs, pot roast and other items at the American side of the restaurant.
Breakfast dishes are available during both breakfast and lunch hours.
And desserts are plentiful at The Buffet. Included on the list are hand-dipped gelato, chocolate cake, specialty pastries, cookies and much more. Look for a surplus of chocolate sweets this weekend.
Other special days at the eatery include Signature Seafood Buffet from 4:30 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays; and Sunday Supper from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Sunday.
Gather for breakfast or lunch at The Pancake Club
Diners looking for a place to have breakfast, won't go wrong choosing The Pancake Club in Schererville.
The eatery, located in a strip mall on busy U.S. 41, has a cozy small town atmosphere and friendly servers.
During a recent visit to the restaurant on a recent Sunday morning, the eatery was packed. The hostess asked if we wanted to be seated at a booth or table so we chose a booth near the eatery's counter and open kitchen.
The Pancake Club features a setting akin to an old-fashioned diner where families and groups of friends can easily gather to enjoy a meal and conversation. Many diners in the restaurant that day seemed to know one another as they shared conversation across the various tables.
The restaurant's menu is fairly extensive and includes everything from specialty pancakes and waffles to Gourmet Burgers, Gourmet Sandwiches and Greek specialties.
For our breakfast, we decided on Crepes, ($7.99) which is one of the restaurant's specialties, and the Golden Malt Waffle ($6.19).
The Strawberry Crepes are served either stuffed with fresh strawberries or have fresh strawberries sprinkled on top. For my crepes entree, I had the crepes stuffed with strawberries and a side of strawberries sprinkled atop. As a berry fan, it was a perfect combo.
The Pancake Club's menu also features French Crepes ($6.49), which are ultra-thin; Country Skillet ($8.59); the Gypsy Skillet ($8.99); Omelets such as The Works ($8.99); Tex-Mex ($8.29); Hawaiian Paradise ($8.29); Eggs Benedict ($7.99); Breakfast Sandwiches, Wraps and various Breakfast Combos.
There are also items for healthy eaters under the For The Healthy Enthusiasts category. Dishes include Bill's De-Lite ($7.99); Veggie Omelet ($7.99); and Wheat French Toast ($6.99).
On the A Little Touch of Greece side of the menu, guests will find dishes such as Spinach Pie ($9.99); and Chicken Kabobs ($9.99).
Among other menu items are Chicken Caesar Salad ($8.99); Ham & Cheese Club ($7.99); Tuna Avocado Wrap ($8.99); and more.
The restaurant also features a Kids' Menu.
Pizza, pasta reign supreme at Giordano's
In July, Schererville became home to Northwest Indiana's first Giordano's.
The restaurant, which specializes in stuffed deep dish pizza, also features a full menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, Italian entrees and more.
Joe Chojnowski, owner of Schererville's Giordano's, said the local restaurant offers the same quality of food offerings found at all other Giordano locations.
"Everything gets delivered daily from the Giordano's commissary," said Chojnowski, who also owns Giordano's restaurants in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood and the South Loop.
The Schererville restaurant also features a large bar area with attractive decor throughout the eatery.
"We have 16 tap handles with domestic, imports and craft beers," Chojnowski said, adding a full line of liquor also is sold.
A neon Giordano's sign is featured at the restaurant and the year 1974 is emblazoned on a wall near the bar — 1974 is the year the restaurant was established in Chicago. The kitchen also features a large window so diners may watch as cooks hand toss the pizza and prepare other items.
The restaurant seats 270 with room for nearly 300 people when the eatery's patio opens in late spring/early summer.
Chojnowski said he's happy that Region pizza fans have had an enthusiastic response to the opening of Giordano's in Northwest Indiana.
The most popular item on the menu is definitely the stuffed deep dish pizza with other entrees, such as lasagna and spaghetti, ranking as favorites.
"Seventy-five percent of our sales is the deep dish pizza," he said.
Around Valentine's Day, Giordano's offers a special rendition of its pizza. Heart-shaped pizzas will be available Feb. 9 through 18 at the eatery. Cost for the heart-shaped creation starts at $19.25 for a cheese pizza.
"They're a big hit," Chojnowski said, about the heart-shaped pizzas.
Schererville's Giordano's will also be starting a full-delivery service soon. Currently, delivery is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch. Chojnowski said delivery is available to locations within a four-mile radius of the restaurant. Online ordering is also available.
Chojnowski described how Giordano's deep dish pizza is made daily on the premises.
"We start out with a layer of dough followed by meat (whatever meat customers choose) then it's covered with mounds of cheese, then another layer of dough and then sauce," he said.
"It's a pie-style pizza and every one is made to order," the owner said, adding it can take from 45 minutes to an hour to cook.
Among pizzas starring on the menu at Giordano's are different variations of the Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza; Hand-Stretched Thin Crust Pizza; Crispy Extra Thin Crust Pizza; and Thin Crust Gluten Free.
Other items on the menu include Tomato Bruschetta ($7.95); Fried Mozzarella Triangles ($7.95); Chopped Salad ($5.95/$11.50/21.95); Chicken Parmesan Sandwich ($8.95); Spaghetti with meat sauce ($8.95/$16.95); Lasagna ($10.95/$20.95); and more. Diners may also order from the Create Your Own Lunch portion of the menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Guests may pick a main course and one side for $8.45.
Reservations are not accepted on weekends at Giordanos, and during the week reservations are only accepted for parties of 10 or more.
Visit Sophia's for breakfast and lunch favorites
Sophia's House of Pancakes beckons food fans with a large menu of comforting breakfast and lunch dishes.
The restaurant, located on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland, may be known as a place to get a great pancake but many other creations at the local eatery stand out for flavor and presentation.
Sophia's menu stars various categories of food from Eggs, Eggs Eggs, and Fluffy Omelettes to Sizzling Skillets, Cool and Refreshing items, Open Face Sandwiches and Wraps-N-Stuff.
Visitors won't leave this restaurant hungry. Most portions are huge and will fill you up.
When we visited Sophia's on a recent Saturday afternoon, the eatery was filled with diners. At Sophia's, guests may order breakfast all day, so there were plenty of tables with egg dishes, pancakes, skillets and more.
Our lunch that day was the Chuck Wagon Skillet and the Popeye Salad. Both entrees were extra large portions. The Chuck Wagon Skillet featured a choice of eggs, potatoes, ham, corn, red peppers and a choice of pancakes or toast.
The Popeye Salad starred spinach, mushrooms, chopped bacon, tomatoes, red onion and egg with a vinaigrette dressing. Guests may choose a different dressing if they'd like as well.
Among other menu items available at Sophia's are Multi-Grain French Toast; German Pancakes; Bananas Foster French Toast; Silver Dollar Pancakes; Sophia's Crepes; Belgian Waffles; Biscuits & Gravy; Ribeye Steak with Eggs; and more.
In the South of the Border section, guests may order Huevos Rancheros or the Rio Grande Breakfast. Benedicts include the Seafood Benedict; Country Benedict and others.
The Skillets category offers a variety of flavors including Italian, Greek, Rajun Cajun and more.
Diners also may order Black Angus Burgers; Open Face Sandwiches such as Hot Beef, Pork Tenderloin and Meatloaf; as well as Triple Decker Clubs; Paninis, Croissant Sandwiches and much more.
In addition to the Highland location, Sophia's also has restaurants in Orland Park and Bolingbrook.
Bohemian Joe's beckons with convivial setting
If you're looking for flavorful dishes in an unpretentious setting, stop by Bohemian Joe's.
The restaurant, located on Torrence Avenue in Lansing, offers a varied menu with sandwiches, salads, specialty pizza, assorted appetizers and more. Many of the dishes have a different spin to them and are not items you'd find everywhere.
Bohemian Joe's has interesting decor throughout as it features geometric shapes on the wall as well as some retro designs.
Booth, table and bar seating is available at the eatery, which is housed in the former Popolano's restaurant that was a longtime Lansing dining spot.
When entering Bohemian Joe's, guests walk through a foyer first before stepping into the actual restaurant. There's a convivial atmosphere within the eatery. A separate private/party room is located in the back of the restaurant and there are TVs located in the bar and even slot machines in one corner of the eatery.
The restaurant is an ideal locale for diners of all ages with varied appetites. A children's menu also is featured at the restaurant.
Among favorite dishes at Bohemian Joe's is BBQ Mac ($11), which is the eatery's specialty mac and cheese layered with pulled pork. A tasty Honey BBQ sauce accompanies the dish.
Other items include Small Plates such as Beer Nuggets ($9); Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado ($9); Beef and Mushroom Poutine, ($10); and Buffalo Curds and Cauliflower ($9).
In the entrees category at Bohemian Joe's, diners will find dishes such as Angry Chop ($18), which is topped with an Angry Orchard Hard Cider reduction and includes fried onion straws; Joe's Catch, ($11); Blackened Ribeye ($23); burgers such as Portobello Burger ($10); and BBQ Burger ($11); salads such as Grilled Sweet Potato ($10); Apple Feta ($10); and Citrus, Chicken and Quinoa ($12); and more.
Specialty pizzas include Hawaiian; Margherita; and Oinker (which are $15.99 for 12-inch; and $21.99 for 16-inch); and sandwiches such as Avotacos ($10); Joe Mama ($10); and Beef Manhattan ($10).
The restaurant also features a good-sized bar menu and Carry-Out food service.
Miner-Dunn offers a bit of nostalgia in setting and food
Diners looking for a retro feel won't mind stepping into Miner-Dunn for a meal.
The restaurant, located on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland, is an old-fashioned eatery with stools, a counter, booths and retro decor.
Miner-Dunn opened its doors in 1932 when Harold Miner and Ralph Dunn established the eatery on Calumet Avenue in Hammond. It's been a popular Region joint for burgers, fries, hot dogs, shakes and more.
The restaurant's reputation was built on what's called "real hamburgers" as the eatery's outdoor sign proudly proclaims. The burgers are hand-crafted on the premises. Other popular items include fresh-cut French fries, sherbet made in-house and homemade onion rings.
While visiting Miner-Dunn for a recent weekend late lunch, it was easy to feel as though you were stepping into a retro soda shoppe. Canned music played in the background and restaurant personnel were extremely welcoming.
We enjoyed a Chili Dog ($4.49) as well as a Mushroom Burger ($7.99 for deluxe). Deluxe orders come with French fries and the eatery's signature soft serve sherbet.
Among other items available on Miner-Dunn's menu are dinners such as Homemade Meatloaf ($8.99); Cod Dinner ($8.99); roast beef meals including Italian Beef ($5.99); French Dip ($5.99); Hot Beef Dinner ($8.99); and salads such as Chef's Salad ($7.69); and Grilled Chicken Salad ($6.99).
There's also a Kiddie Size menu category at Miner-Dunn, featuring such items as Burgers, Hot Dogs and Chicken Tenders.
Hamburgers are a specialty at Miner-Dunn and the restaurant's burger category stars recipes such as The Miner-Dunn Hamburger ($4.29); Western Cheeseburger ($6.69); Salad Burger ($5.09) and other dishes. On the sandwich list are items such as Egg and Cheese Melt ($4.99); BLT ($4.69); Turkey Club ($5.99); and a Meatloaf Sandwich ($5.99).
With the variety available at the eatery, guests likely will find something on the menu they like.
Enjoy Mexican favorites at Taqueria La Soga
Authentic Mexican food is what husband-and-wife Gilberto Munoz and Martha De La Torre wanted to bring to diners when they opened Taqueria La Soga.
The small eatery, located in Lansing, was established in November 2016. Taqueria La Soga is largely a carry-out restaurant but there are two tables and a small counter with stools where diners can sit.
At the restaurant, Mexican food fans can order all the traditional favorites from Tacos and Burritos to Tortas (which are sandwiches) Combination Plates and even breakfast items.
We visited the Taqueria on a recent Monday morning for breakfast. The breakfast items as well as other items were available to order at 10 a.m. that morning.
Our meal choice was Huevos Rancheros ($6.25). It was a fairly large serving and was accompanied by rice and beans. The eggs were ordered over-easy and were placed on top of two corn tortillas. The Taqueria's sauce was flavorful and not overly spicy.
Among other breakfast items on the menu are Huevos con Chorizo ($6.25); Huevos a la Mexicana ($6.25); Chilaquiles ($6.50); and more.
On the lunch and dinner menu, guests will find assorted tacos, including Carne Asada, Carnitas, Veggie and Lengua (tongue); as well as various sizes of Burritos, from mini to jumbo.
Various plate specials include Fajitas de Pollo (chicken); $12.25; Enchiladas ($9); Flautas ($9); Chiles Rellenos ($9.10); and more.
Listed under the Home Specials are items such as Gorditas ($2.50); Tamales ($1.25 each); Double Cheeseburger ($4.99); Chicken Wings ($5.50); and the dessert Flan ($3).
The Taqueria features a daily soup and on weekends sells Menudo. Specialty Mexican drinks at the eatery include Horchata, Jamaica and other offerings.
Appetizers include Guacamole ($5, with chips); Super Nachos ($6.10); and the popular Mexican Corn in a Cup ($2.50).
Taqueria La Soga also offers catering. Call the restaurant for more information.
Porkchop brings on the barbecue
Visitors to Merrillville have been anticipating the opening of one of Chicago's popular eateries.
Porkchop has finally come to the Region. The restaurant, specializing in barbecue, opened a week and a half ago at Southlake Mall.
The eatery, which has locations throughout Chicagoland and its suburbs, features a casual setting and Southern comfort food.
"Porkchop is a restaurant and bar that dishes out an urban interpretation of a Southern backwoods experience," according to the eatery's website.
We decided to check out Porkchop last Sunday for a late lunch. Walking into the restaurant, one definitely gets the feeling of visiting a Southern dining haven.
Wood and barbecue-themed decor is featured throughout the restaurant. A drawing of the parts of a pig stars at the entrance to the eatery.
After reading the menu, we decided on a pork chop meal with two sides ($19). We chose mashed potatoes and baked beans to accompany the dish.
Our wait for the meal was longer than expected. Because the restaurant had only been open for a week at that point, everything was a bit slower than usual. Servers and the manager on duty that day cordially apologized for the delay, adding that in addition to having recently opened, there was a large rush of customers that Sunday afternoon.
All dishes are made to order at Porkchop so customers can expect to wait a bit for their meals. Although it took awhile to get our order, we weren't disappointed with the quality of food served at the restaurant.
Other dishes at nearby tables also looked appetizing.
The pork chop, which was served with the bone out, was flavorful and perfectly charred. The baked beans at Porkchop are also unique in that the serving features a mix of beans - not just one type.
The mashed potatoes received praise at our table as well. When meals are served at Porkchop, guests are also given four sauces. Starring in the sauce department at the eatery are Texas, Chicago-style, Chipotle Bourbon and Damn Good. Our favorite was the Texas rendition, which was on the sweet side.
Among menu items at Porkchop are Starters such as Smoked Wings ($11); Mac & Cheese ($10); and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp ($12); and Entrees such as Smoked Salmon ($16); Shrimp & Grits ($13); Brisket ($12 for half) Chicken & Waffles ($15); Slow Smoked Pork Ribs ($17 for half) and more. Sandwiches, Salads and Desserts are also featured.
Restaurant Scene: Create your own picnic meal at Charcuterie
GRIFFITH — Foodies interested in creating a lunch or dinner meal for a casual setting or a picnic need only visit Charcuterie for ideas.
Charcuterie, located on Broad Street in downtown Griffith, offers a variety of gourmet products, fresh deli meats, imported and domestic cheeses, jams, wines, specialty snacks, candy and other assorted items.
The gourmet business was established last year by Valerie Gonzalez and Skip Jones. The couple's goal was to offer a variety of upscale and out-of-the-ordinary products that consumers couldn't easily find in the area.
Shoppers also will find that Charcuterie carries items and specialty products from local manufacturers such as Crown Brewing, Mother Wilma's Marshmallow Factory, Sprigati Spaghetti Sauce from Munster, Bnutty peanut butter and others.
While Charcuterie is not a restaurant, sandwiches are made on the premises for customers to carry out. We visited the specialty shop on a recent Friday afternoon and purchased an assortment of items for a casual picnic-type lunch.
The offerings for our casual picnic were a Pastrami and Swiss Sandwich on Marbled Rye ($7.99); Pineapple Coleslaw ($2.84 for a container); and a container of House Made Bruschetta ($4.55). We also bought a package of Life of Provence Cocktail Party Toast ($1.99) for the bruschetta.
To drink, we purchased Crown Brewing's Orange Dream soda ($1.99); and Craft Root Beer ($1.50), which is made in Rosemont.
The sandwich was a delicious combination of quality meat and cheese with all the usual fixings such as lettuce, tomato, onions and mayo — other additions also are available. The bruschetta was a standout for its slighty sweet flavor. The balsamic wasn't too sharp or tangy.
Crown Brewing's orange beverage is similar to the nostalgic Dreamsicle ice cream treat in flavor.
Among other sandwiches available at Charcuterie are Ham and Muenster on a Rustic Hero Roll; Roast Beef and Cheddar on a Rustic Hero Roll; and Roast Beef and Cheddar Sauce on an Onion Roll. All sandwiches are $7.99.
Charcuterie also offers sandwich platters and meat and cheese boards that can be ordered in advance for parties and gatherings.
It's easy to get creative in putting together a meal from products available at the specialty shop.
Restaurant Scene: Pizza, pasta and more star at Barton's Pizzeria
Barton's Pizzeria in Hammond is filled with not only various selections of specialty pizzas but assorted sandwiches, chicken and pasta dinners, appetizers, shrimp, ribs and much more.
The small food establishment, which specializes in carry-out orders, doesn't have diner seating available. There is, however, a long bench-like seat on one side of Barton's for people to wait for their orders. And guests may play a few pinball/video games which are housed on the premises while they wait as well.
During a recent Monday evening visit to Barton's, most customers were ordering pizza. For our dinner, we chose the Baked Spaghetti ($5.75 for small) as well as a slice of pizza ($3).
The slices, which can be ordered with three ingredients, are fairly large and are the equivalent of two good-sized pieces of pizza. Our slice featured sausage, onion and pineapple and a good amount of cheese.
The Baked Spaghetti, although it was a small, was also a hefty portion and was covered in cheese. The dish was served piping hot and you could feel the heat through the paper bag it was in. The entree came with a side salad and garlic bread.
Barton's pizzas come in Original Hand Tossed, Thin Crust or Double Dough. The slice was the Original Hand Tossed rendition.
Among specialty pizzas on the menu at Barton's are the Double Neapolitan; Beef Sandwich Pizza; Garden Pizza; Taco Pizza; Hawaiian Pizza; Stuffed Pizza and more.
Sandwiches include Stromboli ($5.50); BBQ Beef ($5.55); Italian Sausage ($5.25); Chicken Parmesan ($7); Italian Chicken ($7); Beef Bacon Cheddar ($6.50); and others. Appetizers include Breaded Cauliflower ($4.95); Tater Kegs ($4.60); Fried Pickles ($4) and other items.
Rib fans will find BBQ Rib Dinners at Barton's. A Half Slab costs $9.95 while a Full Slab is $18.40. Shrimp Dinners ($6.50) and Chicken Alfredo Dinners ($6.50) also are available. Daily specials are available at the restaurant. Specials range from discounts on pasta dinners on Wednesdays to discounts on Medium pizzas on Mondays.
Where to score a premiere pizza in the Region
Restaurant Scene: Pork is the word at Hog Haven
Meat lovers will relish a visit to Hog Haven in Dyer.
The eatery, which is advertised as the "Home of the 1-1/4-inch thick Pork Chops," has been offering its BBQ and meat-laden menu for the past two decades in the Region.
On the eatery's menu, guests will find an assortment of food, including Ribs, various sandwiches, combo baskets, assorted sides and more.
When the restaurant was established, pork chops figured prominently on the menu and were virtually the main thing featured. Through the years, the menu has evolved to include all sorts of offerings.
Hog Haven has recently added a 16-ounce Choice Cut Porterhouse Steak ($24.99) to its menu. The steak dinner comes with fries and a choice of baked beans or cole slaw. Fried Chicken also has been added to the offerings.
All items at Hog Haven are made to order. Among popular menu items at the eatery are BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($8.99); Full Slab of Baby Back Ribs ($20.99); Lake Perch Dinner ($11.99); Shrimp Basket ($10.99); Catfish Nuggets ($7.99); Hot Wings ($8.99); and more.
Other menu items include Pork Chop and Rib Combo ($24.99); the Huge Pork Chop Sandwich ($10.99); Brisket Sandwich ($9.99); 1/2 Chicken Dinner ($12.99); and Corona Beer Battered Cod Fish Basket ($7.99); and Bosco Sticks ($2.99), which are Italian flavored bread sticks stuffed with mozzarella cheese.
Hog Haven also offers Psycho Fries ($4.99), which feature Cajun seasoning and other spices, cheese and ranch dressing. Guests may add Psycho Fries to any sandwich for an additional $2.
On the sides menu, customers will find everything from Homemade Potato Salad ($4.49 a pound) and Breaded Mushrooms ($3.99) to Cheese Fries ($2.99) and Oven Browns ($2.99).
Hog Haven serves beer and also offers on-site catering. Customers with larger orders can phone ahead.
Restaurant Scene: Stop in for a bite at Bass Pro Shop
If you're shopping at the Bass Pro Shop in Portage, you can make time to enjoy a meal at the eatery on the store's premises.
The World Famous Islamorada Fish Co. Restaurant features a menu of everything from seafood and salad to sandwiches, tacos, burgers, pasta and other items.
The restaurant, situated on one side of the massive store, has an appealing nautical theme. As you walk in, you'll easily feel as though you're stopping for lunch or dinner at an island eatery.
The name Islamorada means "Purple Isle." Near the entrance of the restaurant, and located in the bar, is a 13,000-gallon saltwater fish tank, which is fascinating to see.
In the bar, lighting is a bit dim, but if you'd like a brighter spot to eat your meal, choose the back dining area. That room is lighter and features fish and other beach/nautical decor on the walls.
At Islamorada, the menu, which is changed periodically, offers a good mix of items. Among the popular offerings are Uncle Buck's Fish and Chips ($13.50); New England Clam Chowder ($4 for a cup; $6 for a bowl); Fish Tacos ($13.50); The Tournament Burger ($11), which features double stacked Angus beef patties, smoked bacon and American cheese; and Shrimp Alfredo ($15.25).
Among other dishes to enjoy at the restaurant are Cajun Catfish ($14.25); Honey Sriracha Salmon ($20.50); Ribeye ($24); Brisket Sandwich ($11); Cobb Salad ($8.25); and more.
If you crave a burger, there are a variety to choose from including the Wild Boar Burger ($15); Steakhouse Burger ($12); and Western Barbecue Burger ($13).
Starters on the Islamorada menu include Alligator ($13.75), which is a spicy hand-breaded creation with sweet jalapeno cream sauce; Salt and Pepper Calamari ($10.25); Soft Bavarian Pretzels ($6.50); and Brisket Nachos ($8.50).
There also are various specials at the restaurant on a daily and weekly basis. Call the eatery for more information.
Restaurant Scene: Tandoor stars delicately seasoned specialties
Whether diners have a taste for a meat, seafood or a vegetable dish, they'll find a good selection of recipes at Tandoor Cuisine of India.
Traditional Indian dishes star at the restaurant, which is located on U.S. 41 in Schererville.
The restaurant, which was remodeled in the last three years, features an expansive dining room, much bigger than what it previously was. Tandoor also offers party, catering and banquet services.
Upon entering the restaurant, guests will find a welcoming atmosphere starring colorful decor in purples, oranges and rust colors. Traditional Indian decorations are also featured throughout.
Tandoor's menu features a substantial amount of offerings. While perusing it, it's hard to choose a meal because so much sounds appetizing.
One of the popular dishes, which gets high marks in the taste department, is Chicken Tikka Masala ($14). Basmati rice is a good addition to the dish. Choosing plain Naan ($3), which is an Indian bread, also is a perfect accompaniment to the meal.
The Chicken Tikka Masala dish is embellished with a medium spicy cream sauce. Among other offerings at the restaurant are Vegetable Biryani ($13); Signature Kabab Plate ($11); Mulligatawny Soup ($5); Tomato Cilantro Soup ($5); Ginger Chicken ($14); and Lamb Tikka ($16).
Other menu items at Tandoor include Shrimp Vindaloo ($18); Lamb Saag ($15); Chicken Curry ($14); Shrimp Korma ($18); Bengal Fish Curry ($19); Lamb Chops ($22); and more.
Various desserts, tea beverages, beer and spirits are also offered at the eatery. Diners visiting the restaurant during the afternoon should know that the restaurant is closed from 3 to 5 p.m. daily. Buffets are available at the restaurant as well. Call Tandoor for buffet hours and other information.
Restaurant Scene: Dos Sabores blends Mexican and American fare
Diners who want to choose from a varied menu can do so at Dos Sabores Restaurant.
The eatery, located on 119th Street in Whiting, debuted on the food scene last October. On the menu at Dos Sabores, visitors will find a variety of traditional Mexican dishes as well as American fare.
Upon entering the restaurant, guests will find a convivial atmosphere. The eatery is decorated diner style with one dining room sporting blue booths, tables and chairs and the other dining room featuring hues of purple.
Pictures of pop culture icons, such as Marilyn Monroe, Superman, Audrey Hepburn and others decorate the walls of the restaurant. Also on another wall, guests will find a picture featuring Latin pop culture figures, including Mexican comic film actor Cantinflas.
During a recent Sunday morning breakfast visit to Dos Sabores, various songs played throughout the eatery as guests enjoyed a variety of Mexican and American dishes.
Our choices for breakfast that day were Posole, ($7.99 for large), which is a Mexican stew packed with pork and hominy; as well as the Denver Skillet ($6.99).
The Posole was filling, not too spicy and very flavorful. The Skillet proved a large serving and was enough to cart home for a dinner treat.
Among other items on the menu at the restaurant are Milanesa Dinner ($9.99 for chicken); Costilla de Puerco ($10.99); Taco Dinner ($7.99); the Dos Sabores Skillet ($7.49); Tricolor Omelet ($6.49); Meat Lover's Omelet ($7.99); and others.
Diners with a taste for burgers or sandwiches can order a Mushroom Cheeseburger ($8.49); Turkey Club ($8.99); Monte Cristo ($8.49); Chicken Sandwich ($8.49); and other selections.
In the Mexican breakfast category, everything from Huevos Rancheros ($6.99) to Huevos con Chorizo ($7.99) and Chilaquiles ($6.99) are available.
In addition, diners will find salads, various combo baskets, desserts, soup and more at Dos Sabores.
Restaurant Scene: Enjoy supper on Sundays at Big Daddy's
Barbecue is good any time of year. But when one thinks of a perfect summertime meal, barbecue often comes to mind.
At Big Daddy's Barbecue in Gary, barbecued meat, sides, tasty desserts and more are in the spotlight.
Big Daddy's Barbecue is owned by Gordon "Big Daddy" Biffle and his wife Darquia.
The Biffles established their Big Daddy's Barbecue eatery on Cleveland Street in Gary in 2010 and later opened a location in Hammond.
At Big Daddy's, visitors can enjoy a variety of meals, including the special Soul Food Sunday meals.
We visited Big Daddy's on a recent Sunday and were welcomed into the restaurant by one of the servers who told us about the Sunday special. That day, Big Daddy's also had gumbo as a special on the menu.
After looking at the restaurant's offerings, we decided to try the Sunday deal. Big Daddy's Soul Food Sunday special, which costs a reasonable $11.99, features a choice of meat, sides, drinks and a designated dessert for that day.
Diners simply pick a sheet, which has the choices on it, fill it out and take it up to the cashier.
Our supper consisted of Rib Tips and choice of three sides, which was Macaroni and Cheese, Snack Cole Slaw and Baked Beans. Sweet Tea was the drink choice with Peach Cobbler as dessert.
During a past interview, Gordon called his barbecue "backyard style." Among items on the menu are Spare Ribs ($19.99 for a slab); Baby Back Ribs ($22.95 for a slab); Hot Links ($6 for regular); Fried Wings ($5.50 for 4 wings); Turkey Tips ($13.50 for large); Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($6.25); Maxwell Street Polish ($5); Turkey Burger ($5.25); desserts such as Banana Pudding ($3 for regular); Pound Cake ($3 for regular); and more.
Various combos also are available at Big Daddy's and different specials are offered on certain days. For more information on the menu at the eatery, visit EatBigDaddys.com.
Restaurant Scene: Enjoy sweet scoops at Gayety's
With July being National Ice Cream Month, it's the perfect time to visit Gayety's Chocolate and Ice Cream.
The sweet shop has locations in Schererville and Lansing. We visited the Schererville location recently for a cool ice cream treat on a recent Sunday.
That day a steady stream of customers lined up at the counter to order everything from sundaes and shakes to malts, candy and more.
Gayety's Chocolates and Ice Cream was originally established on Commercial Avenue in South Chicago in 1920. The company has been a hit with sweets lovers for nine decades.
The store was later moved to Lansing on Torrence Avenue and then moved to its downtown Lansing location on Ridge Road. Schererville is the latest location for Gayety's and it's been in that spot for the last few years.
On the menu at Gayety's, guest will find much to choose from. When surveying the offerings, it's hard to decide which ice cream treat to indulge in. During our visit, we decided on the Hot Fudge Banana Split ($7.25). The treat featured vanilla and banana ice cream and was topped with nuts, cherries and whipped cream. We ordered the various toppings on the side so we could put as much as we wanted on the treat.
Many guests that day were enjoying their ice cream inside the cafe. Guests may also eat outside or carry their items out to enjoy at home.
Among items on the menu are The Lover's Delight ($7.25), a sundae starring a fruit salad topping; Muddle Sundae ($7.25); Pecan Sundae ($7.25); Milk Shake Float ($6.75); Malted Milk Shake ($6.75); Pineapple Nut Sundae ($5.50 for one scoop and $7.25 for two scoops); and more.
Ice cream fans will also find The Gayety Special ($7.95) on the menu. It stars three scoops of ice cream, fruit salad, whipped cream and chopped nuts. A majority of the sundaes at the shop are available in full and half portions.
If you're visiting Gayety's for candy or other goodies, there's a variety of selections including Chocolate Almond Clusters, Muddle Pecan Caramel Candy, Butter Toffee, Hand-Dipped Caramel Apples, Specialty Popcorn and more. The specialty chocolate candy is hand-dipped at Gayety's.
Restaurant Scene: Check out White Rhino's menu and roster of special events
There's much to choose from on the menu at White Rhino Bar and Grill.
The Dyer restaurant, which opened in 2008, not only offers a varied menu to diners but food fans will find assorted happenings at the eatery.
Whether you'd like a sandwich, specialty pizza, creatively made appetizer, seafood or other items, the eatery presents a diverse collection of recipes on its menu.
White Rhino Bar and Grill, which has a sports bar theme, also has a loft above the dining room where various events take place. The restaurant, featuring high ceilings, has televisions situated around the room, a full bar, and booth and table seating.
On any given day, customers will find specials on the lunch and dinner menus as well as the tried and true favorites that are usually found at the eatery.
"Our create your own salad is one of the popular dishes on the menu," said Diane Glowacki, co-owner of White Rhino with her son Ryan. Glowacki said lake perch and ribs also are two favorite items.
Glowacki said, in addition to the diverse menu, they make it a point to offer customers a variety of special events, including everything from beer and wine dinners to painting nights, yoga sessions and more. Live entertainment is frequently presented at the restaurant.
Among items on White Rhino's menu are appetizers such as Calamari, Mango Barbecue Shrimp, Macho Nachos, Mini Burgers and Fried Green Beans. Dinner options include dishes such as Ribeye Steak, Frog Legs, Artichoke Linguine, Chicken Parmesan and more.
On a recent lunch specials menu, the restaurant offered items such as Homemade Meatloaf, Chicken Caesar Wrap and Cajun Grilled Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich.
The restaurant has an extensive bar menu filled with assorted wines, specialty cocktails and beer.
Diners interested in visiting White Rhino for its special events, can check out the following list
- Aug. 3: Yoga and Beer Night
- Aug. 15: Zumba in the Loft (no charge)
- Aug. 23: Sea Glass Wine & Small Plate Event ($29)
- Aug. 25: Paint with Kids ($25)
- Aug. 30 Paint with Cocktails ($27)
Call the restaurant for more information and prices.
Restaurant Scene: Fortune House offers mix of recipes
If you've got a taste for Asian flavors, plan to visit Fortune House in Munster.
Fortune House, located on Calumet Avenue, specializes in Chinese fare. The restaurant's menu offers a large selection of dishes. Dishes are broken up into categories including Chef's Specialty, Appetizers, Vegetable Dishes, Lo Mein or Pan Fried Noodles, Soups, Egg Foo Young and more.
The eatery's interior features table and booth seating and a variety of Chinese decor throughout. During a recent lunch visit to the restaurant, soft Asian music played creating a relaxing setting.
While looking at the menu, it was difficult to choose from the many selections available.
We decided on the Kung Pao Beef lunch special ($5.99). The special included soup, egg roll and fried rice along with hot tea. While the Kung Pao sauce was on the spicy side, it also had a bit of sweetness to it. The portions at Fortune House are pretty large so there's always enough to take home for later.
Prices at the restaurant also are reasonable and there's something for every taste on the menu.
Among items on the Chef's Specialty portion of the menu are Four Happiness ($9.99), which features Shrimp, Chicken, Beef and BBQ Pork with Vegetables; Salt and Pepper Shrimp ($13.99); Crystal Shrimp and Scallops with Glazed Walnuts ($13.99); Tangerine Chicken and Beef ($9.99); Sweet and Sour Won Ton ($10.99); and more.
Also available are various Egg Foo Young, including Vegetable or Mushroom ($4.25 for two patties); Cashew Pork ($5.99 for small ); Chicken Almond Ding ($5.99 for small); Beef Rice Noodle ($9.99); Teriyaki Chicken ($5.99 for small); and other dishes.
On the lunch combo portion of the menu, guests will find dishes such as Shrimp Kow ($6.50 from Mondays to Fridays); Sesame Chicken ($5.99 from Mondays to Fridays); and Beef or Chicken Chow Fun ($5.99 from Mondays to Fridays).
Fortune House also has a traditional Chinese menu. One need only ask to see that menu.
There are also Deluxe Dinner options at the restaurant. The Deluxe Dinners are served for two, three, four or five people and range in price from $19.99 (for two) to $49.99 for five).
Restaurant Scene: Omelette House features varied menu
If you're hungry for a hearty breakfast or lunch, plan to visit Schererville's Omelette House Restaurant.
The eatery, located on U.S. 41, is one of the popular breakfast joints in the area. On weekends, people usually find a line of people with their names on the waiting list to get in to enjoy a morning or afternoon meal.
We visited Omelette House on a recent Saturday for a late breakfast. We found the restaurant packed with people so we had to place our name on the list. But, the wait wasn't very long at all. We were quoted a 15-minute wait time but within 10 minutes we were seated at a window booth ready to order.
Our meal that day consisted of a few items - a Belgian Waffle ($6.49); the Against All Odds ($8.59 for deluxe), from the Burgers and Special Sandwiches category; and the Peasant Omelette ($7.59).
The omelet was a filling concoction with bacon, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and Swiss cheese. The Against All Odds was a unique creation featuring a sirloin burger, dark rye bread with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, onions and topped with mozzarella cheese. The deluxe order was served with French fries.
Our waitress proved cordial during the entire meal and frequently came around to our table to ask if we needed anything.
Food fans will find that Omelette House has something for everyone. Menu categories include everything from Eggs, Omelets, French Toast, Crepes and Skillets to Fresh Garden Salads, Heart Healthy Specialties, Hot Sandwiches and Kid's Meals, which are available for dine-in only.
Among menu items are the Country Breakfast ($7.59); Route 41 Omelet ($7.99); Fresh Cinnamon-Apple Pancakes ($7.49); French Vanilla French Toast ($6.69); Corned Beef Hash Skillet ($8.59); Florentine Eggs Benedict ($7.79); Avocado Crabmeat Salad ($8.99); and more.
Restaurant Scene: El Gran Taco offers dishes big on flavor
You'll immediately be struck by the festive atmosphere as you enter El Gran Taco Mexican Grill in East Chicago.
The restaurant, located on Indianapolis Boulevard, features colorful murals inside and outside as well as other Mexican decor throughout.
El Gran Taco's menu highlights various tacos ($1.99 each) from Pastor (pork with onions) to Barbacoa (steamed beef) and Cecina (marinated steak) as well as Tortas ($5.99 each), Burritos ($6.49 each) and various specialty Platillos (dinners).
While the menu isn't extensive, the food offerings are quality selections. Among the dinner offerings are steak and chicken options. Breakfast is also served at El Gran Taco with entrees priced at $7.49 each. Available are Huevos Con Chorizo; Huevos Rancheros; Huevos con Jamon (ham); and others.
In the Drinks category, diners will find traditional Mexican beverages such as Horchata (rice water), which costs $1.99 for a small. Flavors for Licuados or milkshakes include Platano (banana); Fresa (strawberry) and Avena (Oatmeal).
On weekends only, El Gran Taco customers may order menudo or pozole ($7.99 for dine-in). A 1/2-gallon to go costs $13.99.
During an early dinner at the restaurant, we tried the Pechuga de Pollo Empanizada, which was a Breaded Chicken Breast entree. The chicken was pounded thin and the breading on the poultry was light and flavorful, nothing too greasy. Served on top of the chicken were slices of cactus, which were grilled and nicely seasoned. Entrees are served with rice, beans and a salad. The salad had a slice of avocado as well.
On each table there was a large container filled with jalapeno, sliced carrots and cauliflower in vinegar, all meant to be condiments to enjoy with your meal.
The salsa brought to the table prior to the dinner was made with roasted tomatoes and was served warm. It was the perfect sauce to dip tortilla chips into. And the fact that it was warm enhanced the flavor even more.
El Gran Taco also offers delivery service and catering.
Restaurant Scene: Balkan Grill offers Eastern European favorites
It's long been said that truck drivers know where to get a good meal.
One can believe that when visiting the Balkan Grill Restaurant which is frequented daily by many truck drivers.
The Balkan Grill Restaurant, off Interstate 94 in Gary, is located right next to the Petro gas station and annexed truck stop. It's definitely a tiny, no frills type of joint, and is housed in a yellow trailer.
The menu isn't large but diners will find various Eastern European dishes in the spotlight.
Upon entering the trailer/diner, guests will find two high-top tables and a refrigerated case holding drinks, including the Slovenian beverage Cockta Original.
Guests simply step up to the counter and order their food. During a recent visit, I decided to order the Serbian dish Ground Meat Links or Cevapi ($8.99). Items are made to order and the Cevapi took 15 minutes to cook.
However, the wait was worth it. The dish featured ground meat links served on a special flatbread accompanied by two dips and cabbage and onions on the side. The dish could be eaten as a sandwich or the meat could be eaten separately if so desired.
The cevapi was a good helping and the meat was flavorful and enhanced with various seasonings. The Cockta beverage was a perfect accompaniment to the meal as the drink was refreshing and flavored with rose hips, various herbs and lemon and orange.
Diners may eat at picnic tables outside of the trailer, at the tables inside or carry-out their meals.
Among menu items at Balkan Grill Restaurant are the Stuffed Burger or Punjena Pljeskavica ($9.99); Grilled Chicken Filet ($7.99) Pork Kebabs or Raznjici ($9.99); Ustipak ($9.99), which is ground meat mixed with garlic, cheese, ham and hot ground pepper; and The Balkan Special Plate ($40.99), which is four pounds of mixed meat.
Restaurant Scene: Emerald Green Restaurant beckons with golf course view
If you're interested in dining with a view, make plans for lunch or dinner at The Emerald Green Restaurant in Hammond.
The Emerald Green Restaurant, located at Lost Marsh Golf Course, offers a good view of the course. Guests can also see toward Chicago on one side and the steel mills and oil refinery on the other end.
The eatery, housed on the second floor of the club house, has a modern look and features wood throughout, a full bar, fireplace and windows.
We visited The Emerald Green Restaurant on a recent Thursday evening for a late dinner and the eatery still had a number of guests dining.
As we surveyed the menu we had a difficult time deciding on what to order. Many offerings sounded delicious. A variety of the dishes also were Italian-themed, including sandwiches, appetizers and main entrees.
Our meal that night featured Bruschetta ($8) and the Chicken Vesuvio Sandwich ($12). The Bruschetta was prepared on toast-like bread and not the crunchy bread that most diners are used to getting with Bruschetta. The softer bread, though, was a welcome change and the tomatoes, cheese and various seasonings added to the good flavor of the dish.
The Chicken Vesuvio Sandwich also was a hit at our table. The sandwich featured fairly large pieces of chicken and French fries accompanied the dish.
Among menu items at Emerald Green are Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers; Crab Cakes; Cajun Shrimp; Caprese Salad; Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich; Capri Panini; Lobster Ravioli and Blackened Chicken Gnocchi.
Guests also will find Linguini Alfredo; Grilled Whitefish; Chicken Marsala; Build Your Own Burgers; and other items.
A Kids Menu is also featured at the eatery. Weather permitting, diners may want to dine al fresco at The Emerald Green. The patio boasts a pet-friendly environment.
Restaurant Scene: Enjoy Sunday brunch at Harbor View Buffet
Whether you have a taste for breakfast foods, carved meats, old-fashioned fried chicken or other dishes, Harbor View Buffet at Majestic Star Casino features an assorted selection of offerings.
The eatery, which overlooks the lake, has everything from ethnic food stations, regional Southern cuisine, salad and desserts, a grill station and more.
We visited Harbor View on a recent Sunday for brunch and found an extensive selection of dishes. Brunch offerings that day included breakfast items from scrambled eggs and omelets to roasted potatoes and a chef's cooking station which featured everything from French toast and pancakes to made-to-order egg dishes.
The dining space at Harbor View features different areas including tables which are near the buffet on a lower level, a mid-section with booths and tables on an elevated level and a lower level of booths and tables closer to the windows.
There are also tables with umbrellas on the patio for alfresco dining if customers would like that. We chose the mid-upper level for our meal and had a great view of the lake.
A projection screen placed outside the buffet with the name of the eatery on it has a blue hue and background with what looks like waves moving around the letters.
Also starring at the eatery are various action stations, including the grill, wok and carving stations.
After we enjoyed the breakfast items, we also tried various other dishes, includinga juicy carved roast beef to chicken kiev, peel-and-eat shrimp, homemade soup and chili, cod and more.
Harbor View features special themed nights as well. Seafood and Prime Rib nights are also available on Fridays and Saturdays.
Interested diners should visit the Majestic website for more details on Harbor View, including hours, themed nights and specials.
Restaurant Scene: Boss Man Tacos offers creative recipes on menu
Diners who have a taste for a taco or two, will be more than satisfied with a visit to Boss Man Tacos in Highland.
The restaurant, on Indianapolis Boulevard, was formerly El Hefe de Tacos. The name change happened only a few weeks ago. Customers will find a variety of tacos on the menu as well as other items such as burritos, appetizers, assorted sides, soup, salad and more.
Boss Man Tacos doesn't sport a huge menu but diners will find that some of the offerings are definitely different from what is found at the ordinary taco joint.
For instance, there aren't many places one would find Sweet Hog Taco, Cajun Fish Fry Taco or Asian Steak Taco. The Sweet Hog Taco ($3.50) features al pastor pork in chipotle sauce with avocado, roasted corn relish, house fritos, roasted corn relish and cilantro garlic aioli on a corn tortilla.
We visited Boss Man Tacos for dinner on a recent Monday. The restaurant had a good amount of customers. The TVs around the dining room had The Chicago Bears game on so people were dining and enjoying the happenings on the football field.
Many guests were ordering what Boss Man calls its street tacos, which are only $1 everyday. The street tacos are available in steak, pork, chicken and beef variations.
Our dinner featured a steak taco on a corn tortilla and the chicken taco on a flour tortilla. Both were flavorful. The steak taco was served with cilantro and onion while the chicken taco featured hefty helpings of lettuce, tomato and cheese. A basket of chips with a tasty roasted dark salsa was delivered to the table prior to the dinner.
Among items on the menu at Boss Man are Charbroiled Steak Burritos ($7.15); Hangover Helper Aka Chilaquiles ($3.50); Crispy Veggie Taco ($3.50); Bloody Mary Tacos ($4); Chicken Tortilla Soup ($4); and more.
For appetizers, diners can choose from items such as Beer Battered Cheese Curds ($7); Traditional Guacamole ($7); Los Nachos ($12) and other items.
There are various specials offered on certain days as well.
Restaurant Scene: Authentic Italian recipes star at Pucci's
Diners looking for a delicious authentic Italian meal won't go wrong visiting Pucci's Restaurant and Pizzeria.
The restaurant, which has served food fans for more than three decades, is located at the corner of Indianapolis Boulevard and Ewing Avenue on Chicago's Southeast Side, only a stone's throw from the Indiana border.
Dishes served at the eatery are derived from Pucci family recipes. Everything from pasta dishes, seafood and meat specialties are in the spotlight here. Pizza has always been a favorite of diners as well.
The restaurant building that Pucci's is housed in was once the site of the former Salvino's, which was another Pucci family restaurant.
Servings at Pucci's are often large. Many dishes have flavorful sauces accompanying them.
The restaurant opens for dine-out service at 2 p.m. from Mondays through Saturdays and at noon on Sundays.
Among popular dishes at Pucci's are Braciola; Stuffed Shells; Fettuccine with Meatballs; Mama's Lasagna; Pan-Fried Chicken; Sirloin Steak; Baby Back Ribs: Boneless Lake Perch; Manicotti and more.
The Braciola, which is one of Pucci's specialties, is a seasoned pork rolled in a slice of beef. It's served with spaghetti and covered with a rich, red sauce.
Entrees at Pucci's come with a choice of soup or salad.
In addition to Pizza, other items that are big sellers at the restaurant are the Italian Breaded Steak Sandwich as well as the hefty helping of Lasagna. Other items featured on the menu include Vesuvio Chicken Sandwich; Italian Sausage Sandwich; the Pucci Burger; the Pizza Burger; Italian Burger; and Fried Chicken.
Carry-out service, delivery and catering are also available at Pucci's.
Restaurant Scene: Ribs and more are specialties at Wagner's
Diners with a taste for ribs should quickly make a reservation at one of the Region's popular rib haunts.
Wagner's Ribs, located in Porter, specializes in Texas-style dry rubbed ribs and also features a variety of other dishes including sandwiches, burgers, seafood, steaks and more.
Walking into the restaurant, located on Wagner Road, is like taking a stroll back in time. The eatery is housed in a rustic-looking building, which essentially looks like an old house.
There's a bar located just after you enter and one gets the feeling that you've walked into an old saloon. Once inside, diners are either immediately seated or must place their name on a waiting list to be seated.
We visited Wagner's on a recent Saturday. Diners filled the seats at tables in all three dining rooms, including the bar area. We placed our name at the waitress station but only had to wait 10 minutes.
Most diners had huge plates of ribs in front of them. It was obvious that the ribs are the most ordered dish at Wagner's.
The aroma of smoked meats filled the restaurant and definitely influenced our decision to indeed try the ribs. Our meal was the choose-your-own combination plate which starred a half slab of ribs and lake perch ($19). We also ordered the Haystack Onions appetizer ($8).
The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and the barbecue sauce was a hit at our table for its slightly spicy and sweet flavor. The Haystack Onions was also a good choice for an appetizer as the breading on the onions wasn't too greasy and was very tasty.
Among other menu items at Wagner's are Fresh Fried Zucchini ($7); Steak and Mushroom Tidbits ($9); Traditional French Onion Soup ($6); Grilled Kabobs ($13); Black Angus Ribeye Steak ($16 for 10-ounce); BBQ Pork Sandwich ($9); Fish & Chips ($9) assorted burgers; and more.
A note for diners: Individuals must be 21 and older to eat at Wagner's. There's an age restriction because the only entrance to the restaurant is through the bar. (However, individuals who are 18, 19 or 20 may enter with an adult but must show proper ID.)
Restaurant Scene: Skyway Dog House specializes in red hots, beef sandwiches and more
Diners with a taste for a good hot dog, burger, Italian beef sandwich, a milk shake and more, will want to make a stop at Skyway Dog House on Chicago's Southeast Side.
Skyway Dog House has been a haunt of many food fans since 1969. It's located on Ewing Avenue, not far from the Indiana Border and a stone's throw from the 95th Street Bridge and another favorite South Side eatery, Calumet Fisheries.
Many people stop at Skyway to cart their hot dogs home. Some diners will eat on the premises, but be advised there are only a few counter seats in the restaurant. During the summer and in nice weather, diners can eat outdoors.
Skyway's hot dogs rank as favorites but their Italian Beef Sandwiches are also popular.
During a recent visit to the eatery, we ordered the Italian Beef ($6.49) and had it dipped. The sandwich is a hefty creation, filled with what seems like at least a pound of beef. Some diners even take a helping of beef out of the sandwich to save for another meal.
The meat was seasoned very well and the bun didn't fall apart after being soaked with juice. Sweet peppers were added to the sandwich for extra flavor.
Among other items on Skyway Dog House's menu are Hot Dog & Fries ($2.99); Jalapeno Poppers ($3.50); Shaggy Dog & Fries ($3.39); Double Burger ($4.19); Pizza Puff ($2.79); Cheese Fries ($3.50) and more.
Diners may also order ice cream, shakes, nachos, corn dogs, fried pickles, fried mushrooms, onion rings, and other items.
Though it's a small eatery, with just a walk-up counter for ordering, visiting Skyway Dog House is like a walk back in time when malt shops and diners were all the rage.
Restaurant Scene: Kitaro offers a taste of Japan
Japanese specialties are starring at one of Munster's newest restaurants.
Kitaro Surf & Turf & Sushi, which opened earlier this year, features sushi, meat options, rice and noodle dishes and much more. The restaurant, which has a sleek, modern setting, is decorated with chandeliers and marble floors. The eatery is located in Munster's new Centennial Village.
Seating options include tables and booths as well as chairs at the bar in front of an open kitchen. If you choose to sit at the bar in front of the kitchen, you can watch while chefs prepare sushi and other dishes right in front of you.
We visited Kitaro on a recent Monday for lunch and were seated at a window near the entrance of the eatery. After being greeted by a friendly hostess, we were led to the table and met our waitress, who was equally cordial. The atmosphere in Kitaro was calming. Contemporary music played in the background adding to the pleasant setting.
After checking out the menu, we decided to go with a lunch special. There were a few to choose from but that afternoon the bento box meal sounded appetizing.
Our choice was the Power Lunch Bento Box, featuring chicken ($14.95). In addition to pieces of tender, grilled chicken in garlic butter and sesame seeds, the lunch featured soup, two spring rolls and six pieces of California maki. Other lunch specials include the Sushi Special A ($13) and the Poke Lunch Bowl ($15).
While the Power Lunch Bento Box wasn't a huge offering, it was perfect for an early afternoon meal. And for the price of $14.95, guests are offered a mix of food with soup to start.
Also on the menu at Kitaro are Cold and Hot Japanese Tapas such as Oysters in Half Shell ($13); Sashimi Sampler ($13); Brussels Sprouts ($8); Kitaro Tempura ($11); Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($12); as well as Fried Rice in various flavors ($13 for steak); Miso Ramen ($15); an entree of Filet and Shrimp ($35); and a mixture of Sushi, Maki, Sashimi; and more.
Diners will find there's much to explore on the Kitaro menu. Plan to visit soon.
Restaurant Scene: Visit Tzatziki for a taste of Greece
Fans of Greek specialties will want to schedule a visit to Tzatziki Greek Street Food.
The Hammond restaurant, which was formerly The Stuffed Pepper, stars a mix of items from Traditional Greek Dishes such as Moussaka and Dolmades to various Kabobs and a choose-your-own style featuring a make-your-own dish option.
During a recent lunch visit to Tzatziki, we found the eatery comfortable with a casual setting. If guests want the choose-your-own-style option, they can visit the corner of the restaurant and step in line to order. There, guests choose whether they'd like a pita sandwich, sauce bowl, rice bowl or salad. Then they pick a protein and sauce and toppings for their meal.
If you'd rather not choose-your-own, then you simply take a seat and a server will assist you at a table.
We chose the dine-in option for our lunch. The meal consisted of the Moussaka, which is akin to a type of Greek lasagna featuring eggplant, potatoes and ground beef ($14.95); and the Shrimp Kabob dinner ($9.95).
Both meals were filling. The Moussaka also came with a salad, which had feta cheese, olives and Greek seasonings in it.
Among other items on the menu at the eatery are Pastitsio; Dolmades; Tiropita; Lemon Rice Soup; Spanakopita; Pork or Chicken Kabobs; Various Gyros and more.
There are also Hand-Packed Burgers including a regular Hamburger; Lamb Burgers; Double Lamb Burgers and other dishes.
On the Appetizers and Side Orders region of the menu, guests will find Greek Fries; Rice Pilaf; Spinach Rice; Roasted Potatoes; White Beans; Olives and more.
Desserts include Baklava, Melomakarona and Kourambiedes.
For a mini taste of Greece for lunch or dinner, guests will enjoy a visit to Tzatziki.
Restaurant Scene: Cajun/Creole dishes star at Dixie Kitchen in Lansing
If the flavors of New Orleans and Southern-style fare are what you crave, stop at Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Lansing for a meal.
The Lansing restaurant is currently the only Dixie Kitchen in existence now. Among the restaurant's previous locations were Hyde Park and Evanston. It was the Hyde Park location which President Obama visited when he was a senator for his appearance on "Check, Please!"
Dixie Kitchen stars a menu of tasty fixings including everything from Po' Boys, Big Easy Pastas and seafood specialties to Jambalaya, Gumbo, Burgers, Salads and more.
When we visited Dixie Kitchen for an early lunch on a recent Saturday, the restaurant was already bustling with diners. The atmosphere was friendly and casual and the servers and hosts were pleasant throughout the dining experience.
We decided on the Crawfish Etouffee to start the meal and then ordered the Fried Catfish Filet and Smothered Pork Chops. All meals at Dixie Kitchen come with a basket of Johnny Cakes, which are a cornbread-style pancake with sweet butter.
Two sides are offered with full entrees as well.
The pork chops proved extremely tender and the onion gravy was flavorful and not too spicy. The breading on the fried catfish wasn't greasy and was fairly light with delicate seasonings.
Dixie Kitchen's Crawfish Etouffee had a good amount of crawfish and the spiciness of the dish was well balanced.
Among the dishes featured on the menu at the restaurant are Fried Jumbo Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice, Dixie Wings, Fried Green Tomatoes, Sweet Plantains, Peach Chicken with Cheese, Salmon Salad, Chicken Salad, Cajun Pasta, Shrimp Salad, Seafood Pasta and many more dishes.
So many items sounded appetizing on the menu that we vowed we'd have to return to try other recipes.
Restaurant Scene: Explore offerings at The Eatery
The Eatery at Hammond's Horseshoe Casino has been offering a variety of dishes for the last three years. It debuted on the scene in December of 2016.
A food hall concept, The Eatery is located on the first level of the casino. Diners at The Eatery have a full view of the slot playing and table games action around them.
There are four different restaurants within the food hall. They include the state-of-the-art 360 Pizza; Fresh; Cafe and H Burger.
In the past we've tried dishes at H Burger and 360 Pizza. For our lunch on a recent Sunday, we decided to order from Fresh, which features a variety of sandwiches, salads and soups.
Our choices were the Pot Roast Sandwich ($9); and the Chicken Philly Flatbread ($9). The beef in the Pot Roast Sandwich was tender and flavorful juices added to the delicious taste of the dish. The Chicken Philly Flatbread, though messy, was a tasty choice. It was filled with large pieces of chicken, tomatoes, cheese, onions and lettuce.
All of the other food stations also had people in line to order everything from hefty burgers at H Burger to creative pizzas at 360 Pizza. At 360 Pizza, all pizzas are cooked in a modern-styled brick oven that's covered with gold tiles.
Guests may order specialty pizzas such as Chicken Alfredo, Veggie and Spicy Hawaiian or choose a Build Your Own Pizza option.
Those with a sweet tooth will love Cafe at The Eatery. Coffee, various beverages and an assortment of pretty-looking and appetizing desserts are featured at that food station.
After ordering at any of The Eatery's stations, guests are given a restaurant pager or beeper. You simply wait until the buzzer goes off and the pager lights up and then go up to the counter to collect your meal. In our case, the wait was less than five minutes.
Food is ready in a good amount of time at all of the stations at The Eatery. Most guests seemed to have to wait only a few minutes for their orders.
Restaurant Scene: Brews and food star at Shoreline Brewery
Diners who'd like to enjoy a special beer with assorted menu items would do well visiting Shoreline Brewery in Michigan City.
Shoreline Brewery, on Wabash Street, was founded by and owned and operated by Sam Strupeck. The brewery opened in 2005.
The establishment features a variety of creative brews, other beverages and a full menu of globally-inspired recipes.
Whether diners want a sandwich, meat dish, pasta entree or an assortment of appetizers, Shoreline has a good mix of food to satisfy hungry appetites.
We visited the brewery on a recent Saturday for dinner. Since the establishment doesn't take reservations, there was a bit of a wait for a table. We were told the wait would be anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes when we got there at 6 p.m. And the wait was indeed about 40 minutes.
When our table was ready, the hostess escorted us to a center seat in the middle of the room. Shoreline was bustling that day as people were ordering a mix of beers, small plates, appetizers and full entrees. We watched as appetizing plate after plate came out.
Our dinner that day consisted of the Shoreline Fish & Chips ($15); and Cavatappi Positano ($13). Both were good choices. The fish was heavily battered but not greasy and the fish was perfectly cooked. The Cavatappi Positano featured mushrooms, pan-roasted eggplant, spinach, tomato and basil marinara with Cavatappi pasta and shaved Parmesan on top.
Among other items on the menu are a Black Angus Burger ($10); Grecian Lamb Burger ($14); Veracruz Fish Tacos ($13.50); Handmade Old World Pierogi ($9); Asian Tuna Tataki Sliders ($11); and more.
Among brews available are Stellar Blue; Foggy Loggy; Don't Panic; Beltaine; and Singing Sands.
Guests sitting closer to the bar area will have a view of the actual brewing facility, which is located behind the bar. Stop in for a drink and a bite to eat at Shoreline.
Shoreline has won various awards through the years for its beers, which the restaurant's website states are "brewed on the edge of Lake Michigan."
Restaurant Scene: Skillets offers diverse menu
Diners will find a variety of menu items at Skillets Bistro in Highland.
The restaurant, located in a strip mall on 45th Street , features a homey atmosphere with booths, tables and counter seating.
While the restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, patrons may enjoy breakfast and lunch throughout the day.
When we visited Skillets recently on a Sunday, the restaurant was filled with diners enjoying a mix of dishes. Many ordered from the diverse menu while others chose the buffet.
A brunch/buffet which is set up along the window at Skillets is available from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. It often includes different international dishes as well as traditional American fare. On the buffet, guests will find breakfast items such as French toast, pancakes and crepes to hash browns, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and more. Other items during our visit included various dishes from turkey to chicken fajitas, tamales and mixed fruit to oatmeal and other selections.
We chose the buffet, which, of course, was an all-you-can-eat option and we went up to the table a few times.
Those who'd rather not order the buffet have their choice of a mix of items from the regular menu.
Among dishes on the regular menu are Oreo Pancakes ($8.29); Multi-Grain Pancakes ($7.89); Bacon Skillet ($8.89); Irish Skillet ($ 8.99); various omelets, Benedicts, crepes and other selections.
Also featured are the Monte Cristo sandwich ($8.29); Philly Beef ($8.89); Corned Beef Sandwich ($7.89 for deluxe); Grilled Pork Chops ($9.89); Greek Salad ($8.19 or $9.29; Stuffed Tomato ($8.49) and other assorted recipes.
Restaurant Scene: Stephano's Pizzeria offers pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more
Whether you have a taste for pizza, pasta, a burger, salad or sandwich, pop into Stephano's for a bite to eat.
Stephano's, located in a strip mall on Burnham Avenue, offers a full menu of favorites. While there are two tables in the small eatery, Stephano's is largely a carry-out business. Delivery is also available.
During a recent Monday evening visit to Stephano's, there were about four people in line before me. Guests were ordering everything from full pizzas to appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and pasta dinners. The wait was about a half hour since everything was made to order.
Our dinner that night was an order of Grilled Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo and a Perch Dinner (both were priced at $7.99).
The Grilled Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo proved a flavorful dish with a creamy sauce and good-sized pieces of chicken. The Perch Dinner included two pieces of fish with a light breading that was a bit heavy on the salt. Both came with garlic bread. The perch also came with French fries and coleslaw.
For diners who like a sweet pizza sauce, Stephano's Pizza is a standout. Pizzas come in Specialty renditions or Made Your Way. Guests may also order slices, which are pretty big pieces, at the pizza joint.
Among Specialty Pizzas are Hawaiian, Ranch Supreme, BBQ Chicken, Garlic Supreme and others. In the Made Your Way category, guests may order Double Decker, Stuffed, Deep Dish or a Calzone.
Also on the menu at Stephano's are Chicken Melts ($5.39); Meatball Sandwiches ($5.50); Mushroom Swiss Burgers ($3.95 for a single); Mac & Cheese Fries ($2.99); Caesar Salad ($2.95 for small); Baked Spaghetti ($6.99); Ribs ($8.99 for a half slab); Shrimp Basket ($7.19) and more.
Catering is also available through Stephano's Pizzeria.
Restaurant Scene: Mexican specialties star at Asada Grill and Cantina
Diners with a taste for Mexican fare will definitely have their appetites satisfied at Asada Grill and Cantina in Griffith.
The restaurant, located on Broad Street, features a casual/comfortable setting with dim lights, a bar area and assorted Mexican decor on the walls.
We visited the eatery on a recent Monday evening. There were various tables taken that night and filled with diners who were trying a variety of dishes.
We'd heard from many locals that Asada Grill was the real deal and served up authentic, flavorful fare. That was certainly the case. As we surveyed the menu, so many dishes sounded tempting. And the prices at the restaurant were reasonable for the amount of food one receives. Most plates averaged anywhere from $11.99 to $17.99 for substantial portions.
Our dinner that night consisted of a combination plate featuring a Chile Poblano, Pork Sope and an Enchilada. The Chile Poblano, prepared Chile Relleno style, was flavorful and had a good amount of cheese in it while the enchilada was nicely spiced and the Pork Sope featured robust spices and a flavorful sauce.
The serving was plentiful and almost half of it was able to be carted home for lunch the next day.
Among various items on the Asada menu were Rib Eye Ranchera, Carne Asada, Chicken A La Mex, La Ranchera Suiza, various enchiladas including El Agave Enchiladas, Traditionales Enchiladas and Enchiladas Suizas, as well as Taco Salad, Shrimp A La Diabla, Red Snapper A La Veracruzana and more.
On the drink menu, guests will find everything from Beer and Wine to Margaritas and Specialty Drinks, including Pina Coladas and Daquiris.