“¡Felicitaciones!” This Spanish word translated in English means “congratulations”. With that, we say felicitaciones to Casa del Mar Mexican Bar & Grill on 5 years of serving delicious Mexican cuisine in downtown Valparaiso.
Casa del Mar opened in downtown Valparaiso in January of 2013 on the first floor of the building that was once the Porter County Sheriff’s Office. This re-purposed building, just south of the downtown square, has afforded Casa del Mar the unique opportunity to take advantage of a large space that features both a front and back outdoor patio, plenty of seating for both small and large groups, a large bar area with an extensive option of beverages and ample parking on the back side of the building that is exclusive to the restaurant.
Casa del Mar features many of the traditional dishes you will find at a Mexican restaurant such as tacos, burritos and fajitas. Though what sets Casa del Mar apart from the others is an open, friendly atmosphere where their family treats you like family. Along with the traditional favorites, their menu also features some dishes you may not be able to find elsewhere. One dish, in particular, is the red snapper taco. This unique taco is served with red snapper fish, cabbage, tomato and cheese. “They are very popular, along with our carnitas,” says Casa del Mar bartender and 3-year employee Patty Mireles. Not only will you find delicious food here, but delicious deserts as well. “Our top sellers are our chocolate cake and our fried ice cream. Our fried ice cream is vanilla ice cream topped with corn flakes, cinnamon and sugar that is lightly deep fried. We then top it with strawberry, chocolate and a little bit of whipped cream,” says Mireles. With a large bar area, you will find your traditional favorites such as margaritas and piña coladas. However, you will also find specialty drinks as well. One drink, in particular, is one that Mireles describes as a “skinny margarita”. “Every bartender here has their own drink that they offer to their customer,” says Mireles. If you are looking for live entertainment, Casa del Mar also features live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night beginning at 7:30.
Downtown Valparaiso has undergone great changes over the last few years. From the addition to so many new and unique restaurants to the addition of Central Park Plaza, downtown Valparaiso has become a destination for great food and entertainment. In her time at Casa del Mar, Mireles has definitely taken notice of that fact. “I love it here in Valparaiso, because it is just so cozy. Just to walk by the park area, to see the stores and to enjoy the lights during Christmas time. In the summertime, it’s great to walk around in downtown with your dog.”
Casa del Mar is located at 157 Franklin Street, at the intersection with Monroe Street. You can find a full food, drink and desert menu by going to their website at eatcasadelmar.com. Their website also features a list of upcoming live entertainment. You can follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/casadelmarvalpo/.
Who says you can’t go home again? After spending time in Chicago, Paris and New York City, George Djurovic returned home to his native Valparaiso… bringing back with him a world of culinary knowledge under some of the world’s most well-renowned chefs. That culinary knowledge led to the opening of downtown Valparaiso restaurant Main + Lincoln.
The journey for Djurovic began in Chicago. “I left Valparaiso and went to school in Chicago. While I was going to school, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get a job at a really nice restaurant. That was it for me. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Djurovic said. After making the decision to leave college, Djurovic devoted himself to the love of cooking. “I decided that if I really wanted to take this seriously, I should go to culinary school. That is what led me to France. I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where I did an externship at Lucas Carton.”
Once his visa expired, he returned to the United States for another stint in Chicago. While there, he decided he wanted to try something different, so he left for New York City. “I wanted to go to New York, so I went there with a stack of resumes and no job. I ended up getting a job at Union Pacific with Rocco DiSpirito. I worked there for over a year, and then I told the chef I wanted to try something new, and he got me my job at Le Bernardin. He was friends with the chef there and put in a call there for me. For me, Le Bernadin is where I associate my career the most.”
After his time in New York, he returned to Chicago and opened up a grocery store. “We did it for about three years. It didn’t work, so I had a career change. I came back to Valparaiso and started working for my dad. After about a year or two, this project presented itself.” That project was Main + Lincoln, which opened up in March of 2014. Described as a “New American Restaurant”, Main + Lincoln is a place where Djurovic brings his love and knowledge of cooking to the visitors of downtown Valparaiso. With an open kitchen concept attached to the bar area, one can often catch Djurovic prepare his exquisite dishes with an artistic touch.
With Main + Lincoln being part of the downtown landscape for the last three years, Djurovic described what makes Valparaiso such a unique place to visit. “The support we get from the community and the city is amazing to me. Having worked everywhere I have worked, I get to come back here and do what it is that I trained to do for 20 years. That, to me, is something I do not think you are going to find anywhere else.”
Main + Lincoln is located 210 East Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso. They are open Monday through Saturday beginning at 5:00pm. Reservations are strongly encouraged by phone at 219-510-5548. For more information, including a full food and bar menu, visit their website at www.mainandlincoln.com. You also can follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MainandLincoln/.
The restaurant industry is a very competitive market that sees many businesses fail within the first few years of their existence. To see a restaurant celebrate their ten year anniversary speaks volumes for the time and effort that is necessary to stand out in an industry that often witnesses failure. “It’s tough, because there are so many options in downtown, but we all work hard together to keep this place open by offering great service to the public,” says manager Guillermo Torres.
Open since June of 2007, Pikk’s Tavern has become a staple of the ever-changing landscape of downtown Valparaiso. Torres, longtime employee and manager of Pikk’s, discussed the changes he has seen in his time with the restaurant. “It is a lot different than it was when I began here nine years ago. There are more businesses now and having Central Park Plaza across the street from us is very nice.”
Along with the success that Pikk’s has had in terms of their longevity, Torres has also had his share of tremendous success as an employee of the restaurant. “I started off bussing tables for my first few years and then I started running food for about a year and a half. After that, I was expediting and running food at the same time. I then I went from assistant manager to manager.” A true example of reaping the benefits of putting in hard work.
A restaurant known for their steaks, Pikk’s is also a place where you can always find weekly specials known as Mexican Wednesday Night and Thursday Italian Night. They also have a new specialty burger every month. One such example is a burger called the Greektown. “The Greektown comes with beef, lamb, tzatziki sauce on pita bread,” says Torres. With a full bar where you can get many specialty drinks made to order, Pikk’s also has a wide variety of bottled and tap beers. The first Thursday of every month at 5:00pm, Pikk’s hosts an event called Eat Up Wine Down. “We always offer mini burgers with American or bleu cheese with fries for $6, along with $6 drinks. Every month, we offer other different items that pairs with the different wines.”
Pikk’s offers a large outdoor patio on the side of the restaurant for those warm Indiana months. Along with the outdoor patio, they also offer a large downstairs area that can play host to various events. “We can fit up to 100 people in our lower level, which is good for hosting rehearsal dinners, graduations and many other kinds of parties.”
With the holidays fast approaching, many restaurants offer gift cards. Pikk’s also offers gift cards, which comes with an extra incentive. Torres says, “If you spent $100 on a gift card, we will give you a $25 certificate.” A great gift idea to treat your loved ones to some great food!
Pikk’s Tavern is located 62 W. Lincolnway, just west of the downtown Valparaiso square. For more information, including the monthly burger option, you can visit their website at www.pikkstavern.davinci-group.com. You can also find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Pikks-Tavern-90392714164/. If you are interested in table reservations or renting the downstairs for an event, you can call them at 219-476-7455.