The year was 1985. Michael Jordan was playing in his rookie year, the highest-grossing film was about a teenager in a time-traveling DeLorean and a Spanish restaurant opened up in downtown Valparaiso that is still in operation, in its original location, 33 years later.
Don Quijote has become a mainstay in landscape of downtown Valparaiso. It has become revered for its Spanish cuisine, a wide selection of wine and a friendly staff that goes above and beyond to make you feel like you are part of their family. “I feel like what has made us successful is the dedication, making friends rather than customers, not being arrogant and a love for what you do,” says Carlos Rivero, the longtime and original owner of Don Quijote.
His love for cooking goes back to his childhood in Spain. “My mother was a very good cook and my dad was a chef on a transatlantic passenger ship. He traveled all over the world and when he was home, he would cook and I would watch him. It’s that love for the kitchen and for the food that I owe to my parents.” That love for the kitchen and food inspired Rivero to open up a restaurant after getting married and moving to the United States. “I came here and started working at the steel mill as a bricklayer. After awhile, I started bringing some money over from Spain, which was enough to open this place. When this location became available here in Valpo, I loved it right away, because it was a place right on the main street. I made the best decision of my life establishing myself here in Valpo.”
From Paella to Gazpacho to Cordero Asado, these are just a few of the many Spanish-inspired dishes you will find. When it comes do his food, Rivero believes that all of his dishes should be made with the freshest ingredients. “One thing I strongly believe in is if there is something we have in this restaurant, we have to have the highest quality and freshest that can be found. My fish comes twice a week. I like to run out of it. I keep 10-15 pounds at a time. When I run out, I call again. Nothing is ever stored in a warehouse. Same thing goes for my vegetables. I have a garden in the summer and everything that I use in the restaurant comes from my garden.”
Another major draw to Don Quijote is the vast amount of different wines you can find. “I have 119 wines. In my menu I have about 70, but many of the other wines are specials. I love wines. I could talk about wines for 20 days!” Not only can you drink the wine, but you will also find it is an ingredient in many of the dishes you will find at Don Quijote. “My most famous appetizer is chicken with sherry. Many of my fish I use wine as well.” ¡Salud!
Don Quijote is located at 119 E. Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso. For more information, including their menu, you can visit their website at donquijotevalpo.com. You can also like them on Facebook. If you are driving on some of the interstates around The Region, look up and you just may see Carlos on a billboard!
Ricochet Tacos takes everything you know about the traditional taco and puts a spin on it that has kept people returning for more. For example, if you were to order the Gin-Jitsu, it would come with seared ahi tuna, napa pico, avocado, spicy mayonnaise, radish, cilantro, Japanese barbeque and sriracha. That is just one of the many unique dishes for which Ricochet is known.
Before opening Ricochet in February of 2017, its predecessor restaurant, Valley, was very popular in its own right. Valley was well-known for its farm-to-table style, but concerns about future growth within the concept prompted a shift in culinary direction. “We wanted to go out on the highest note that we could before being hit with an industry-wide saturation. We went back to a concept that had been derived about five or six years ago,” said Daryn Frank- head chef at Ricochet.
Once the decision was made to make the concept of Ricochet a reality, Frank’s culinary background allowed him to create the unique dishes that set Ricochet apart from other restaurants that serve tacos. “What sets us apart is my background in fine dining and world cuisine. I have spent 12 years studying food and working at high-end restaurants. The idea was to take Ricochet, to take contemporary American ideals and put it into a taco shell. We went back to the basic root of what a taco is by definition- it is food encapsulated in a tortilla. I have studied tacos, and I came up with what I would want to eat on a taco. I then put it out there for others to enjoy.”
Along with Ricochet’s regular menu, you will also find a Taco of the Month, along with some very unique and unusual tacos. “I had a one day only taco that I named the Keith Richards- a tribute to a man who is too tough to die. It was a smoked pork country rib taco with ticking Pop Rocks, fried onions, jardinière. It was a real punch you in the face kind of taco.” Many of the special tacos are also created to pair well with certain alcoholic beverages. “On Black Friday, we did a special taco with the Devil’s Trumpet Brewery to go with their Chocolate Taco, their special beer release. It was a chicken mole taco that people are still asking me about months later.”
Being such a unique restaurant, Frank finds satisfaction in making the ordinary extraordinary. “We reach out to clientele that come through our doors and they see the eclectic food that we have, and they are taken aback by it, and they do not know what to think. Once they try it, they realize that they have just eaten the best taco they have ever had. Expanding your palate, giving you something exciting, giving you something that is more of an experience than just eating. People come in here and they want to try something new. You are going to get something new here.”
Ricochet Tacos is located on the east side of the courthouse square at 55 Franklin Street. You can find their website, along with their hours of operation and menu at ricochettacos.com. You can also find them on Facebook at facebook.com/ricochettacos/.
“¡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.
It is commonly accepted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how often does your breakfast consist of Cajun shrimp and crawfish? Along with Andouille sausage, ham, rice and scrambled eggs; this unique Southern-style dish is appropriately named the Forrest Gumbo.
“Breakfast here is a lot of fun,” says Keith Gurley, co-owner of the Southern-inspired restaurant Fork and Cork. “I try to go with more of a Southern flare with breakfast. You can go other places and get your typical eggs and bacon. You can get those here as well, but I do like to put a twist on some things.”
Gurley began his restaurant endeavor in 2005 when he purchased French-themed Bon Femme from the original owner. Last October, he decided to move the restaurant in a different direction. “I wanted to change it to more of my background of food, since I am a Southern boy.” Going in a different direction from the French cuisine served at Bon Femme, Gurley began the process of finding a new name. “I was having some drinks with some friends and we were mulling over some names. There were a lot of names shot out there, but I remember Fork and Cork being one of the names that stuck.”
Although most of the dishes you find at Fork and Cork are inspired from recipes while growing up in the south, some of Gurley’s own creations have actually been created in his dreams. “I’ll go to sleep at night and wake up at 3 in the morning. I’ll have this crazy recipe in my head and I’ll make it the next day just to see if it works.” One such dream-inspired dish is a breakfast lasagna that was recently added to the Fork and Cork menu. “The bottom layer is hash browns, then you take cheddar cheese, and then it gets a mixture of roasted red peppers spinach, bacon sautéed all together. Then it gets more cheddar, sliced fresh tomato and fresh mozzarella, then we pour scrambled eggs on top of that. After it’s done baking and sliced into a lasagna piece, it gets sausage gravy over the top of it.”
With the holidays right around the corner, Valparaiso will be hosting events such as Holly Days and Winter Dazzle. Gurley says that Fork and Cork also participates in these various events. “For Halloween, we do something outside for the kids. For Winter Dazzle, I will go out front and I will give away turkey chili. I also do the same thing for Holly Days. We also play host to private events as well.”
Along with breakfast, Fork and Cork is also open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. As the word “Cork” in the name suggests, they have a great number of different wines and spirits from which to choose. They are located at 66 W. Lincolnway, directly across the street from Central Park Plaza in downtown Valparaiso. For more information, including their full menu, you may visit their website at http://forkandcorkvalpo.com/cafe/
You can also like their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ForkCorkValpo/