2022 Guide to Outdoor Dining: Da best is over dare!
A challenger to Chicago’s supremacy for outdoor dining? C’mon man! Nobody comes close to Chicago when it comes to food… including New York!
When the Big Apple called Chicago “The Second City,” it inspired culinary greatness. But now it’s Chicago that has inspired greatness, and it’s coming from the least likely of places. Today, you’ll discover the ultimate guide to outdoor dining. Hey, Chicago, da best is over dare!
Hey, Noo Yawk… Nobody Does It Better than Chicago? No way – Fuhgeddaboudit!
My kind of town! From deep-dish pizza to outdoor dining…. the chip on the shoulder attitude was the driving force that allowed Chicago to take anything New York does, and make it better. Chicago didn’t stop with making the food better, they made the experience better. Chicago is a friendly city with a strong international influence. The second city status inspired a cultural movement. Hey, Noo Yawk… Nobody does it better than Chicago? No way – fuhgeddaboudit!
Well, now it’s Chicago that loves to brag! Along with the Windy City’s great cuisine comes great arrogance. Chicago is the best and they’ll let you know at every turn. So if Chicago is numero uno, who is the new Second City? Valparaiso—that’s who! While Valpo and Chicago have both mastered the art of infusion cuisines—combining international cuisine with the American palate—Valparaiso is raising the bar through innovative outdoor settings. Today you’ll discover the ultimate guide to outdoor dining.
Sorry, Chi-CAW-go! Da best is over dare…in Valpo!
Valpo Is More than Just World-Class Cuisine… It Comes With a Culture of Outdoor Dining
With roots in Chicago and strong international influences ranging from Spain, Greece, Italy, Japan, and Mexico, Valparaiso’s chefs are winning over even the most pretentious foodies and critics.
If you ask the city’s chefs about dining, they’ll respond by saying the Downtown Valpo Restaurants are not just an offshoot of Chicago’s offerings. Valparaiso has developed a culture of infused cuisine and remarkable outdoor dining.
Cultural ethnicity has inspired much more than just the Valparaiso cuisine. Diversity is the driving force behind the hard work, dedication, and impeccable service that drives people to visit these restaurants. Such influence is the cornerstone of Valpo’s outdoor dining scene!
In Valpo, a great outdoor dining experience must have this ingredient
According to Radius’ Chef Chris Pavlou, the secret ingredient to Valparaiso’s reputation comes from pairing great food with robust fun. Radius features live music, high-energy servers, innovative cocktails, and a great outdoor dining experience.
Chef Pavlou also believes it comes from making every customer feel welcome. Pavlou tries to greet every customer, makes the rounds to assure customer satisfaction, and thanks to each customer as they leave. Pavlou is inspired by his father’s work ethic and Greek heritage. While Radius is known for the All-American Hamburger, its Mediterranean influence is distinct.
“Everyone at Radius works as a team to create a great experience for our guests. Everything and everyone must work together to achieve this end, from selecting the finest ingredients, creating new recipes, updating the wine and beer selection, and offering the best live music. Everything we do is driven by the reward of seeing customers smiling and having a great time. We even chose our location because it’s perfect for outdoor dining. People love the view of all the beautiful people walking around the square. Valpo’s a gorgeous town!”
In a recent interview with Cool Cars.No Boundaries, Pavlou stated, “If it was just about the food, people would stay home and cook for themselves. People want to be entertained by live music. They want to people watch. They also want great food. Nothing beats sharing a glass of wine with friends on a beautiful summer night… and nothing beats the fun of outdoor dining”.
Happiness Is…Outdoor Dining!
Valpo’s strong outdoor dining scene and culture of working together originated from a group of business and restaurant owners who believed that the key to developing a wonderful community was working together & creating endless entertainment. The grassroots approach evolved into the Valpo Restaurant Association. Soon, the spirit of working shoulder-to-shoulder became contagious, and outgrew the downtown’s historic district!
Just a few blocks North of Valpo’s historic downtown is one of the region’s best restaurants: Martinis. Martinis has a huge following for its remarkable cuisine and outdoor dining. Welcoming owners Louie and Sophie Kalafatis bring class and leadership to the Valpo Restaurants. Their establishment also broke barriers of exclusivity. Just recently, the Valpo Restaurants welcomed Veleros and Rudy’s BBQ on the northside; Tommy B’s and The Abbey on the Southside; and Amici to the East.
Clearly, Valpo’s future looks bright; but this hasn’t always been the case. Where did Valpo’s great taste and culture for outdoor dining start? It all started 35 years ago when a Spanish Restaurant owner fell in love with an American woman and pursued her to Northwest Indiana to marry her. It was a love story that changed Valpo forever!
Outdoor Dining. It Started 35 Years Ago with Bull Fighting and a Spanish Tradition
Like most cities in the ’80s, Valpo was losing its downtown to malls and big-box stores. Valpo’s storied past, spurred by settlers way back in 1834, was on the decline. When people wanted to shop, they went to malls. When they wanted a great dinner, they went to Chicago.
That all changed in 1986 when Carlos Rivero opened Don Quijote Restaurant in Valpo’s declining downtown.
Chef Carlos Rivero wanted to share his passion for Spanish food and wine in his adopted country. With a father who was a celebrity chef in Spain, Carlos loved to cook. Carlos had a vision for Valpo that he learned from growing up in different regions of the Mediterranean. He introduced weekly live entertainment and outdoor dining. Perhaps his greatest influence was his passion for helping new restaurants learn how to survive.
People Laughed at Carlos’s Outdoor Dining and Even Placed Bets that He Wouldn’t Last a Year!
Perhaps his greatest contribution to his adopted town of Valparaiso was the tradition of working as a community. In Spain, restaurants and city officials work together as a community to create an entertaining experience for visitors. People from Mediterranean countries put politics aside and work as one to create a great alfresco experience. The Spanish Tapa (small plate servings) originated from people touring various restaurants—stopping at each restaurant for a small plate and glass of wine.
At first, not everyone was thrilled by Carlos’ Mediterranean traditions or international cuisine. One reporter sarcastically published an article that suggested the Spaniard was “trying to bring Bull Fighting to Valparaiso.” Some people didn’t give Don Quijote a chance at surviving and were placing bets on when Chef Carlos would close.
The results? It’s 40 years later and Don Quijote is one of Valpo’s oldest, most famed restaurants. Carlos is celebrated for the influences that made Valparaiso the destination. Ironically, it was the newspapers that didn’t survive. I wonder what happened to the reporter? Maybe Carlos can offer him a job washing dishes.
A Destination for Great Chefs and People that Love Dining Al Fresco
Carlos’s influence did more than attract customers from Chicago. He attracted innovative Chefs that were inspired by Valpo’s ‘no paradigm’ movement. Chef Saul is renowned as one of Chicago’s top chefs. He took his upscale Mexican cuisine and remarkable seafood to Veleros. Chef Paul Loduca opened his 1940s Chicago Tavern Steakhouse. Chef Paul operates several restaurants in Chicago’s Gold Coast region, including the legendary Adobo Grill on North Ave and Vinci on North Halsted. Loduca saw Valpo’s potential. Loduca and Rivero became immediate friends and worked hard to bring the community together for festivals, food events, and charitable fundraisers.
More recently, Chris Pavlou opened Radius in downtown Valpo. Like Carlos before him, nobody gave Pavlou’s restaurant a chance when he opened—with the exception of none other than Rivero himself! Carlos stood shoulder to shoulder with Pavlou and helped him get through a turbulent start. Pavlou was recently named NWI Restaurant of the Year by South Shore Tourism.
Chris Pavlou seems to be the reincarnate of Chef Carlos, which Chris considers an honor. But Pavlou is quick to point out that he is “much better-looking!” Joking aside, Carlos believes Chris can carry the baton of Valpo’s progression.
Valpo’s Outdoor Dining Grew with a New Generation of Courageous Chefs.
Outdoor dining got a jump start in 2006 when a group of restaurants came together to create the “Jano Concerts on the Square.” It was a free festival series that provided outdoor dining on the Court House Lawn. Each festival showcased the culinary skills of Valpo’s talented Chefs. Each festival was widely attended and a huge hit with people all over Northwest Indiana! It demonstrated that people love an alfresco experience in Valpo’s historic downtown.
According to the article, Uptown Helps Make Valpo Community a Great Place to Live, the Jano Festivals started off with humble beginnings. A band performed in front of the Porter County Court House without a stage. The restaurants lined the Court House lawn with tents, grills, burners, and small tables. While people enjoyed samples of each restaurant’s cuisine, the events would raise food and money for charity by raffling gift certificates to each restaurant. Each festival was unique with a theme worthy of an MLB ballpark. Every aspect of the festivals was grassroots and subsidized by local businesses.”
Soon, word got out. People from all over the region were visiting Valparaiso for each festival. The first summer, they had seven festivals. The strategy worked! Valparaiso was building a brand that attracted restaurants from Lake County & Chicago. Valpo was becoming the destination. After a few years of hosting the Jano Festivals, Valparaiso was getting a reputation as a great place to live and a destination for outdoor dining!
Learning from Chicago’s Remarkable Culture
Most of the Chefs that make up the Downtown Valpo Restaurants have roots in the Chicago culinary scene. Valparaiso wouldn’t have its culture and great restaurants without Chicago’s influence. Many were influenced and trained by Chicago’s best chefs.
Just look at Pikk’s Tavern owner and Chef, Paul Loduca. Loduca splits his time between his 2 Chicago restaurants and a single Valparaiso restaurant. Loduca’s success can be attributed to spending his childhood working for his father’s award-winning Italian restaurant in Munster. Loduca spent every Friday and Saturday night working for this legendary Chicagoland restaurant. It made him an amazing chef. His pursuit also made him learn the importance of creating a great dining experience.
While Chef Loduca is known for his innovation and courageous transfusions, it was his father’s influence that sharpened his instincts that brought him to Valpo. Loduca saw the town’s potential, and he set up his restaurant in a location that allows guests a VIP view of live concerts at Valpo’s Central Park.
Chicago Taught Danny the Art of Japanese Cuisine…Valpo Taught Danny the Art of Community
The wonderful thing about the culture of Valpo Restaurant Group is the “pay it forward” attitude of the Downtown Valpo Restaurants. Chef Danny at Furin Restaurant gets it! When he first came from Chicago to open his Furin Japanese Restaurant, he had many challenges and learning curves.
Rather than looking at Danny and his wife Annie as competition, Carlos, Chris, and others from the Downtown Valpo Restaurant Group would help Danny, advise him, and offer words of encouragement.
Now outdoor restaurant seating at Furin is one of the hottest tables in Northwest Indiana. With Danny’s infectious smile, impossible knife work, and mastery of Japanese cuisine, the Chef is now a pillar in the outdoor community. Danny was moved by the support and sense of community that allowed him to become a success and looks forward to helping the next new restaurant that opens. It’s the Valpo way!
The Only Thing Better than Valpo’s Outdoor Dining Is This!
I think you’ll agree, nothing can beat an outdoor dining experience at one of these great restaurants…. or is there?
Valpo Restaurant Catering | Wedding, Event, or Home Party!
Imagine having these restaurants help you curate your special occasion. Think about the joy of guests when you tell them your event is catered by one of Valparaiso’s remarkable chefs. Name-drops will never be more fun!
Picture stress-free wedding plans because your biggest day ever is being catered by one or more of these restaurants. These restaurants can do more than just deliver great food and wine to your wedding or event. They can offer a great culinary experience that your guests will remember for years to come! Choose individual restaurant catering, or select multi-restaurant catering for a unique international theme. Make it seamless and stress-free with one-stop planning!
Learn More: Valpo Restaurants Catering
Guide to Outdoor Dining | 2022 Edition
Meet Da’ Best…
Smoketown Blues | Valpo’s Outdoor Dining Goes “Up” in Smoke!
Just when we thought Valparaiso’s outdoor dining was as good as it gets, everything went up in smoke! By “up,” we mean better, and by “smoke,” we mean “blue smoke.” But before you think Chicago is opening its dispensaries in Valparaiso, let me clarify. A new restaurant named Smoketown Blues has elevated Valpo’s claim as the best destination for outdoor dining (Sorry again, Chicago) with a fresh take on traditional southern BBQ.
Everything about this restaurant is fresh and natural, and it owes its remarkable flavors to its blue smoke. We first learned about this innovative restaurant from Radius’ owner Chris Pavlou. Pavlou stopped by the new restaurant to welcome them and let them know the Valpo Restaurant Group could be counted on if they needed anything. Known for his own Radius BBQ sauce, Pavlou was all praise for the new restaurant, especially the quality of meats and smoke-kissed flavors of this fine-dining restaurant. According to Pavlou, Valpo’s outdoor dining stature just got better!
The Story Behind “Blue Smoke”
Most great restaurants have an inspiring story, and Smoketown Blues is right up there with the best of them. Even their name has a cool backstory! According to its owner, Steve Niemels, “Smoketown Blues owes its name to the clean fire and thin blue smoke that gives this remarkable cuisine its delicious character.” The California native describes Blue Smoke as a, “fire optimized to the perfect temperature, which has the appearance of blue smoke.”
The blue smoke gives Southern BBQ that familiar, delicious characteristic that makes the flavors of Smoketown Blues so unique!
But there’s more to love about our newest member of the Valparaiso Restaurant scene—especially its outdoor dining.
Alfresco is typically meant to describe outdoor dining, but it owes its origins to the Italian word for “fresh.” No word better describes this innovative restaurant! Everything about Smoketown Blues is fresh. It starts with Chef Mireya’s ingredients. The Smoketown ribs infuse the flavors of Southernwood with premium cuts of meat and house-crafted BBQ sauces. Everything on the menu seems to come from local farmers. The sauces are made from fresh ingredients and the sides are homemade from scratch. The chocolate cake is Chef Merya’s specialty, made from real cocoa!
But the freshness transcends the food. The indoor bar section has several tables overlooking the magnificent Central Park. The wood and repurposed brick infuse the modern design with an appearance reminiscent of the American South. The main dining room offers a taste of California.
But it’s outdoor dining with friends that secured a spot on our list. Positioned directly in front of Valparaiso’s Central Park, Smoketown Blues and Pikk’s Tavern offer some of the best outdoor dining experiences in Chicago and Northwest Indiana—especially during an outdoor concert. But make no mistake about it; the star attraction on a gorgeous summer’s night is the signature ribs and house-crafted BBQ sauces like Cherry Chipotle, Tennessee Whiskey, and Honey Habanero. Sorry, Chi-CAW-go south siders! Da best is over dare…in Valpo!
The sizzle | Best outdoor dining experience during a live concert. Great beer and wine selection. BBQ combines a unique balance of the finest meats, smoke-kissed flavor, locally farmed ingredients, signature sauces, spice blends, and woods sourced from the South. Premium cuts of meat and house-crafted BBQ sauces like Cherry Chipotle, Honey Habanero, and Tennessee Whiskey.
Visit the Smoketown Blues Menu on the Valpo Restaurant Site | Visit the Smoketown Blues Website.
Amici Grill & Pizzeria | A Paradise for Meeting Friends!
The Valpo Restaurants have become a destination for outdoor dining through their remarkable variety of fresh ingredients infused with flavors spanning the globe. So what could be any more appropriate than to welcome a restaurant that brings all these wonderful characteristics into a single restaurant? On the eastern edge of Valparaiso’s historic downtown district on the original Lincoln Highway is Amici Grill & Pizzeria. Amici offers everything you could ever want in outdoor dining—and they have great parking!
More and more people are talking about Amici as the perfect place to meet up with friends. This is largely due to its ideal location and social setting. Just across the street are the towers of Uptown East Apartments and Valparaiso University. Amici is also on the eastern edge of Valparaiso’s downtown. Valpo’s cityscape can be seen from the patio while sharing a pizza and beer with friends. Ok, maybe Valpo’s skyline doesn’t compete with Chicago’s, but Amici’s pizza does!
You may think Amici Pub and Pizzeria’s reputation as one of Valpo’s best outdoor patios is due to Valpo’s rendition of pizza pies. It also could be the enterprise’s lunch specials and proximity to—well, everything! But according to its owner Johnny Mouratides, there’s more to it. His family’s recipes brought friends together for years and were the inspiration for opening his restaurant.
Amici Grill & Pizzeria | A Paradise for Meeting Friends!
According to Mouratides, “Amici means ‘friends’ in Italian, and it’s our friends that got us here. Whenever people would taste our family recipes at dinner parties, birthdays, and local festivals, they would say, ‘You gotta open a restaurant.’ Finally, after years of their loving nagging, we decided to do it.” But Johnny’s plans to open his restaurant included the love of his life, Samantha Kerber. What could be more appropriate for a restaurant built on the traditions of love and passion?
The Mediterranean tradition of showing your love for family & friends through cuisine also means using only the freshest, highest quality ingredients. Mouratides states, “We serve the same fresh dishes we serve our family and friends. We use natural ingredients and source locally whenever possible—not because it’s trendy, but because that’s how we cook at home.” We agree! Food tastes better when you keep it real. While Johnny runs the back of the house, Samantha uses her infectious smile and warm personality to welcome guests.
While Johnny is proud to share the family recipes of his Greek & Italian heritage, he also enjoys the close friends he has developed as a member of the Valpo Restaurant Group. The restaurant industry is not for the faint of heart. While Johnny and Samantha create a wonderful experience for friends to get together, it’s the diverse menu that makes every visit different.
The Valpo-Pizza Infused with New York’s Style, Chicago’s Flavors, and the Traditions of the Mediterranean
Amici’s menu is as diverse as it is fresh… and that’s a tall order. It includes everything from calzones, hamburgers, Philly Cheesesteak, Italian sausage, and Gyros. While the All-American comfort food is a real crowd-pleaser, it’s the Italian and Greek influences of growing up in the traditions of Chicago pizza that was the catalyst to Amici’s pizza. People in Valpo believe it’s the best around, including the pizza “over by dare!…Chi-CAW-go!”
Anyone that has tried to master the art of making pizza will tell you nothing is more challenging than making authentic New York Style Pizza. It takes years of practice. Crafting New York-style crust requires the finest high protein flours, your family’s multi-generational yeast, and an oven that can crank up the heat.
Amici’s pizza, “The Valpo” infuses the discipline and ingredients of the best New York Style with flavors of Chicago. When Chicagoans and New Yorkers want to fight about whose pizza is best, we think Amici can offer them something they can agree on!
The Sizzle | Outdoor Dining with great parking, Fresh & Diverse Menu, Valpo Style Pizza, Great Beer & Wine Selection, Grab & Go Lunch Specials with Pizza by the Slice.
Martinis | Outdoor Dining with Class
Martinis is one of the Valpo Restaurant’s classiest outdoor dining spaces. Always innovative and always fresh, owners Louie and Sophie were recruited to join the restaurant group for their selfless leadership and sense of community. Martinis also helped break barriers that now welcome restaurants into the group that aren’t solely based in Valpo’s historic downtown area.
Why would the downtown restaurants break borders to include this sensational restaurant? According to Radius-Valpo’s Chris Pavlou, “Martinis’ inclusion into the Valparaiso Restaurants brings world-class credibility to our member-portfolio. It also expands our boundaries to include Valparaiso’s ‘Near Northside’.”
Carlos Rivero, owner of Don Quijote, agrees with Pavlou. “We think that as a group, our restaurants can compete with cities around the world for international cuisine. It’s even more remarkable when you consider Valpo’s size. Having Martinis in our group helps elevate our reputation as a world-class destination for great cuisine and outdoor dining.” So what makes Rivero such an expert? The Chef has owned several restaurants in Spain and his father was a celebrated Mediterranean chef.
Martinis’ Restaurant Outdoor Seating Is the Perfect Rendezvous!
Martinis’ restaurant’s outdoor seating is the perfect rendezvous for friends and lovers. Nestled between the flowers and herbs, you’ll quickly forget you’re sitting on Calumet Avenue in the Vale of Paradise. In the Greek tradition, the herbs for your cocktail are freshly picked right before your eyes. The sound of the outdoor waterfall as background music serenades around you will take your party away to an unforgettable experience. This cozy atmosphere is the perfect get-a-way and a top pick for alfresco dining fans from Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
The atmosphere is equaled by the fine selection of wines, culinary cocktails, and craft beer options. But make no mistake, the star attraction at Martinis’ is the fresh, handmade Mediterranean cuisine. At Martinis, you can be sure everything is prepared from scratch using the freshest ingredients. From authentic Greek to hand-tossed pizzas, Head Chef Louie is a hands-on owner that puts his signature on every dish. This Chef is as real as it gets!
Alfresco as defined by Martinis
People often search for the definition of “alfresco.” While alfresco, or “dining al fresco,” is often defined as dining in open air, Chef Louie likes to include the word ‘fresh’ in his definition. But then again, this chef likes to include freshness in everything he does! He cooks from scratch using the freshest ingredients. His seafood is delivered every day and his menu is always evolving. If that’s not enough, the chef recently renovated Martinis inside & out. Even the Martinis outdoor dining space has a fresh new look for 2021!
‘Fresh’ is the quintessential component of everything this chef does.
So it shouldn’t surprise you that Chef Louie defines “dining al fresco” as lounging in the fresh air with fresh food, fresh wine, and good friends!
The sizzle! | Newly Renovated Restaurant with Refreshed Restaurant Outdoor Seating, Live Music, Outdoor Dining, Wine List, Tropical Cocktails, Craft Beer, Handmade Modern-American & Greek
Pikk’s Tavern | Outdoor Dining That Raises the Steaks!
The outdoor dining at Pikk’s is the best seat in Downtown Valparaiso during a live concert at Central Park. It’s like having a VIP box at a world-class venue! While watching a music performance is always remarkable from Pikk’s Tavern’s outdoor dining area, the real star attraction is the food and drinks.
Chef Paul Loduca just might be one of my favorite Chefs ever! Loduca’s innovation was inspired by his father, a renowned Chicago area chef & restauranteur. If you’re looking for a classic Chicago dinner, Pikk’s “raises the steaks.” When it comes to Ribeye, New York Strip, and Filet Mignon, Loduca brings his Chicago talents to Valpo’s remarkable outdoor dining scene.
Other popular entrees include Plank Salmon (Citrus-pecan butter with broccoli), Shrimp Diablo (linguine tossed with shrimp, tomatoes garlic, chile-infused olive oil, parmesan), Fish Tacos (Beer battered tilapia with cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle mayo, Mexican rice), Ribs (Hickory-charred with fries & coleslaw), Fish & Chips (beer-battered fish with fries, coleslaw, malt vinegar, and Pikk’s tartar), Fish Tacos (Beer battered tilapia with cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle mayo, Mexican rice), and for fans of authentic Italian, the Rigatoni (Vinci’s tomato sauce, meatballs, mozzarella). LoDuca uses his recipe and sauces from his Italian Restaurant Vinci’s on North Halsted in Chicago’s Old Town.
Pikk’s Outdoor Restaurant Seating Is Just as Remarkable on a Gorgeous Summer Day as It Is on Date Night!
Pikk’s Tavern is perhaps the most innovative restaurant I’ve been to. The spot hosts a 1940s Chicago Tavern theme with a transfusion of American, Italian, and Mexican cuisine. The background music adds volumes of coolness thanks to well-engineered acoustic treatments!
Pikk’s outdoor restaurant seating is the best view in Valparaiso. With tables, lounge chairs, and the best view for a live concert, the Pikk’s outdoor dining experience is extraordinary!
The Legendary Pikk’s Tavern Burger
Paul LoDuca was one of the original restaurateurs to support festivals and build Valparaiso’s reputation as a destination for outdoor dining. His vision paid off. According to the article, Uptown helps Make Valpo Best, “After five years of holding numerous festivals every summer, the City built a permanent structure called the Central Park Amphitheater and started having its own festivals.” Pikk’s position across the street from the Central Park Amphitheatre makes it the best seat in town during a live concert or festival.
With a gorgeous view of a live concert, the outdoor experience at Pikk’s is as good as it gets. The combination of the Pikk’s Tavern Burger, Potato Skins, and a craft beer became renowned with visitors from Chicago. The Tavern Burger is prepared over charcoal mixed wood chips, choice of fresh cheese, caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon, and fries. For fans of filling up tables with appetizers, offerings like Mini Burgers are sure to satisfy! They come with Pikk’s famous blue cheese and caramelized onions. Other popular choices for sharing include the calamari (fried calamari, spicy tomato sauce, tartar) and oysters, which can be ordered fresh or grilled.
Pikk’s is also a destination for craft beer fans. Just sit at the bar, order a delicious Tavern Burger, and start sampling. Cheers!
The sizzle! | Outdoor Seating in front of Central Park and Concerts. 1940s Chicago Tavern Theme, Steaks, Wine List, Cocktails, Craft Beer, Bed & Breakfast overlooking Downtown
Elements Wine Bar & Albano’s Cuisine | Where Culture Gets Amped with Rustic Italian Cuisine
To be a challenger to Chicago’s great outdoor dining scene requires cultural diversity. Chicago has remarkable blues and thanks to Elements Wine Bar, so does Valparaiso. Other Valpo Restaurants have always welcomed Elements for elevating Valpo’s brand as a community rich in culture. Chefs love recommending their customers stop by Elements for a post-dinner glass of wine and live entertainment. It’s part of the Valpo experience!
While Elements has earned praise for its cultural contribution, Michelle always dreamed of serving food that paired with her wine. It might seem backward until you start looking forward. A formally-trained sommelier and certified Italian wine expert, Michelle is an expert at wine and food pairing. Any cuisine would need to pair nicely with her wine and high standards in music.
True to her values, Michelle resisted the temptations of caving to the never-ending requests to serve food. That all changed when Nick Albano brought his rustic style Italian cuisine to Elements!
Elements Wine Bar | Valpo’s Alfresco Destination for Fine Wine, Live Music, and Nick Albano’s Cuisine
“Keeping it real” has been the key ingredient to the Elements experience. It’s also the signature of Nick Albano’s Italian cuisine. With a passion for keeping it fresh, Albano spends several days a week shopping for the best ingredients from local farms.
If that isn’t “real” enough, Albano’s creations typically use only 3-4 ingredients per dish. Authentic Italian is all about simplicity and using only the finest ingredients. So what can be better than Albano’s handmade pasta, cheese, bread, and sausage?
Wine! In case anyone forgot, Michelle Prossure is a certified Italian wine expert. Albano and Prossure work together to bring food and wine pairings to the next level—and Valpo has it!
The Ambience to Die for!
Elements’ outdoor seating is the perfect venue for talented musicians. The acoustic resonance created by the cityscape provides the perfect imagery for live music. While the setting is ideal for tunes, it’s the unique surroundings that add so much to the Elements Wine Bar experience. With strands of amber lights running adjacent to the streets and positioned in the heart of Valpo’s historic district, Elements entertainment paired with Albano’s cuisine is the perfect compliment to Valparaiso’s diverse restaurant scene.
While Elements brings the finest Mediterranean traditions and culture to Valparaiso, the music is pure Americana.
From a lady performing the blues to a full band rocking the house, Element’s live music brings an edge to the Vale of Paradise.
Great Musicians Love the Connection at This Intimate Outdoor Venue
The sizzle! | Wine Bar with a remarkable selection of wines from around the world. Areas best outdoor setting for live music in North Washington Historic District. Chicago and NWI’s destination for Blues, Jazz, and Rock . Bands & Solo Performances.
Veleros Mexican Restaurant | Upscale Mexican Seafood & Wine
The Perfect Vessel for Lobster, Shrimp, and Seafood
The Experience Is Akin to A Vacation in Cancun!
Radius | Valparaiso’s Award-Winning Restaurant with Outdoor Dining
Radius-Valpo was named Restaurant of the Year by South Shore Tourism in 2019 and Best Signature Burger at the Chefs of Steel Competition. But according to Chef Chris Pavlou, the biggest reward is the unbelievable reviews and tremendous following Radius earns online.
Just drive by Radius and it’s sure to be jam-packed with happy, smiling people. The excitement must be contagious—or perhaps it’s just the Radius cocktails and delicious craft beer. But even the customers are nice! Ask people what they recommend and you’ll get an energetic answer. People love the Radius menu! You’ll find something for everyone… from signature sandwiches to the All-American Burger. Chris even has a huge following for his Keto menu!
Driven to Create a Remarkable Outdoor Dining Experience
His creative recipes are especially popular with the outdoor dining crowd. Chef Chris considers himself an artist, and his burger the canvas. His creativity knows no bounds! The charismatic chef uses the freshest ingredients to infuse extraordinary cocktails and tropical drinks—perfect for a night of alfresco dining!
Radius | Valpo’s Best Bloody Mary Is Perfect for Outdoor Fun!
The insatiable desire to please customers doesn’t stop with innovative recipes found in his diverse menu. Chef Chris set up his family restaurant in a location that is as extraordinary as his palette. Downtown Valpo’s historic district is a special place, and Radius has the best view in town for a little people-watching. Nothing beats al fresco dining at Radius!
That’s entertainment! The live entertainment at Radius taps into some of the region’s most gifted acts. Radius earned a top pick nomination for Valpo’s best music venue!
Everything about Radius is fun. Even waiting for an outdoor dining table can be an adventure! Radius recently doubled the size of its bar. So with a fresh selection of craft beer, cocktails, and delicious wines, waiting for outdoor seating is a delicious, fun experience!
Valparaiso’s Award-Winning Restaurant with Outdoor Drinking
Radius-Valpo’s outdoor dining is legendary in Valparaiso. The award-winning restaurant has won virtually every award imaginable, from Best Burger to the Best Restaurant awards. But while food critics and foodie fans love Radius for its fresh menu, enthralling entertainment, and high-energy fun, Radius is also known as Valpo’s award-winning restaurant regarding outdoor drinking.
With so many season-fresh cocktails, craft beers, and wine options to pick from, illustrated below are a few tips for finding the perfect beverage for a perfect evening of alfresco fun!
Cocktails: Getting a seat at Radius is worth the wait. If you’re at the bar, stir up a little conversation with the Radius Bar Team. Chef Chris, Bartender Jenn, and the other bartenders collaborate in creating refreshing cocktails—and the enthusiasm shows. You’ll love the names and stories that surround these seasonal drinks! You’ll also find an assortment of cocktails being enjoyed by people outdoors. Maybe it’s something in the drinks—but people dining outdoors at Radius love to talk about the cocktails and offer up recommendations!
Craft Beers: With the ever-changing menu of seasonal craft beer, I like to use my smartphone to browse through the Radius drink menu. If you’re still not sure, or have it narrowed down to a couple crafts, the Radius server can help you decide.
Bloody Marys: The Radius Bloody Marys are to die for! I might once again recommend using the Radius website to select a Bloody Mary. The Radius website is easy to navigate and creates a great user experience. The homepage has an image carousel that includes images of the various Bloody Mary offerings. Furthermore, the drink menu has a dedicated page on the Radius website.
The sizzle! | Live Music, award-winning burgers, signature sandwiches, keto menu, Wine List, Tropical Cocktails, Craft Beer, Outdoor Seating, NWI Restaurant of the Year
The Abbey Italian Steak House | Casual Outdoor Dining
The Abbey Italian Steak House is a chic and swanky restaurant that brings high-spirited fun to casual dining. Its star attraction is the Italian-infused steak. But make no mistake about it—this restaurant is quickly becoming a destination for people that love a full menu of food and wine!
Steak houses tend to get labeled as spots for pretentious, uptight people. But this isn’t your typical steak house. The Abbey Italian Steak House is this trendy, modern restaurant with patio dining. Everything about the Abbey Italian Steak House will put you into a relaxed state of mind.
Then again, why shouldn’t you feel like you can rest at ease? The Abbey Italian Steak House is the restaurant and tavern of Valparaiso’s legendary four-season resort! Its eclectic lobby is reminiscent of the great Chicago hotels from the 1940s. The grand piano brings a touch of class to Abbey’s lounge. Nestled just outside is the cozy al fresco dining area. It’s easy to forget that you are just minutes from Valparaiso and an hour from downtown. For a vacation state of mind, order an appetizer, a steak, and a great bottle of wine.
Alfresco Dining | Credentials for Fun!
Alfresco Dining is supposed to be fun, and the owners of the Abbey are legendary for making it fun.
The Outdoor Dining at the Abbey is an eclectic blend of fresh, modern cuisine in an Inn that was once a horse stable. But it’s the history of this 19th Century Inn that adds so much soul to every outdoor dining experience!
Beneath Abbey’s Restaurant Patio Are Hidden Tunnels from the Underground Railroad!
While ordering a glass of wine or a refreshing cocktail from the bar, ask your bartender to show you Abbey’s hidden trap door at the end of the bar. This hidden trap door leads to a channel of the Underground Railroad, where abolitionists hid runaway slaves.
Having a glass of wine will never be more spirited! Learn more:
Once called the Timber Lake Farm, beneath the Abbey Italian Steak House lies flagstone and timber tunnels. As part of the Underground Railroad, these tunnels gave refuge to people escaping to freedom.
The sizzle! | Fresh Italian Infused Steak House. Rated one of Valpo’s top restaurants with Outdoor Seating. The full menu includes steak, seafood, burgers, and appetizers. Home of Underground Railroad. Four-Season Resort/ amenities include limo service, golf course, swimming, and hotel. 6 Minutes from downtown Valpo – 60 minutes from Chicago Loop.
Tommy B’s Clubhouse | The Spirited Restaurant on Valpo’s Southside
Tommy B’s brings the culture of Aberdeen to the Valpo Restaurants portfolio. This sports bar is known for its great food, drink menu, and spirited fun.
For people in Valpo, Tommy B’s location is perfect for a get-a-way feel while still being just 6 minutes away. For people that live in Aberdeen, paradise is in their own backyard! Ideally positioned across the street from the Aberdeen Inn and a few blocks from the Aberdeen Golf Course, Tommy B’s is known for its cozy outdoor dining and its two-sided bar experience. Fans of Tommy B’s have a choice of a sports bar and a lounge.
Tommy B’s serves pizza, hamburgers, flatbreads, and lake perch with a unique style infused with the traditions and culture of Aberdeen’s history. This restaurant with outdoor drinking includes a tasteful wine menu, seasonal craft beers, and handmade drinks.
Tommy B’s Owner Helped Make Valpo a Destination for Festivals, Infused Cuisine, and Outdoor Dining
When the Valpo Restaurants expanded its membership enrollment to include Aberdeen, they didn’t bring in a new restaurant—they welcomed an old friend. Tommy B’s is owned by one of the OGs of the Downtown Valpo Restaurant Group: Barb Sexton. Barb has owned several restaurants in Valpo’s historic district, including Tommy B’s.
The restaurateur moved Tommy B’s to Aberdeen because she saw the potential for a sports bar in the avant-garde neighborhood. Aberdeen houses a four-season resort, golf course, swimming pools, and upscale homes.
Tommy B’s sports bar exemplifies a modern restaurant that infuses its culinary traditions with the culture of a forward-thinking community!
The OGs of Outdoor Dining
Barb Sexton helped make downtown Valparaiso a destination for outdoor dining restaurants. Along with Carlos Rivero from Don Quijote and Paul Loduca from Pikk’s, George Nissan (see bottom of article) from Bon Femme, and Nicole Bassett of Bistro 157, these restaurateurs helped change Valpo’s culture and economic engine. In turn, these community architects helped make Valpo an award-winning city.
Together, these restaurateurs established an association, created innovative themes, cross-promoted partners, and worked together to create an outdoor dining culture that attracts foodies from Chicago and throughout the Midwest.
The sizzle! | Sports bar, Lounge, and Outdoor Dining. The fresh choice for innovative cuisine, handmade drinks, wine, and craft beer. Spirited atmosphere. Aberdeen Golf Course.
Very few cuisines capture the essence of summer and outdoor dining quite like Southern BBQ. With Valparaiso’s remarkable outdoor dining culture, it’s not a surprise that BBQ has become so popular in Valparaiso. But in a town known for its authentic cuisine, it’s not acceptable to serve BBQ sauces from a jar. No, Sir! Valpo loves its real and authentic components, so obviously they love Rudy’s BBQ!
The Rudy’s BBQ reputation was legendary in Valparaiso long before its owner set up his restaurant on North Calumet Ave. Years before bringing his talents to Valpo, fans would say that any true fan of Southern BBQ would need to leave Valpo if they wanted it authentic. Fortunately, they didn’t mean Texas or Kansas; they meant Wanatah. That’s where Rudy Messer prepared his sauces, smokes his meats, and established his prestige. Despite being a small, hole-in-the-wall location, the food was amazing—especially the brisket.
But with so many people raving about Rudy’s ensemble of brisket, ribs, and southern cuisine, Rudy decided to take his BBQ cuisine to Valparaiso. Soon, the sweet aromas of BBQ were attracting anyone passing by his Northside restaurant. The word—and smell—were out!
The menu items are also perfect for a little alfresco lunch. While the selection is diverse, some notable choices include the Cuban Panini, Italian smoked brisket, and the legendary Rudy’s Burger. The star attraction at Rudy’s is the brisket and ribs. Children love the kid’s menu—especially the pulled pork and mac & cheese!
By the Pound
Furin Japanese Restaurant & Bar | This Outdoor Dining Comes with a Tokyo State of Mind
One of Valparaiso’s very best restaurants, Furin Japanese Restaurant and Bar, brings international culture and good taste to Valpo’s outdoor dining scene. Chef Daniel Young Hui Wang brings Japanese mastery to Furin’s gorgeous al fresco setting.
For a Tokyo state of mind, Furin Japanese Restaurant’s indoor space is as authentic as it gets. Fans of Furin love to sit at the bar and watch the Furin Chefs demonstrate their traditional Japanese knife skills.
From cooked sushi to traditional sushi, sampling this Japanese menu comes with a remarkable view at the corner of Valpo’s historic Lincoln Highway and Franklin Street. The outdoor dining experience at Furin is the perfect setting for fans of this beautiful cultural experience. Even Furin’s namesake lends itself to al fresco dining. Furin (translated to “wind chimes”) are a symbol of summer in Japan.
Meet Chef Danny & Annie… and Discover Why They Have Captured the Heart and Imagination of Valparaiso
But at the heart of the Furin Japanese Experience are its remarkable owners, Annie Zhang and Danny Young Hui Wang. It’s easy to fall in love with this wholesome, all-American family! Along with their daughter, this family embodies the American dream.
Chef Danny moved to Chicago at a very young age and was trained in Japanese culinary and masterful knife skills working at some of the best Japanese restaurants in Chicago. Danny’s passion for cooking motivated him to learn both the art of Japanese cooking while offering a diverse menu that appeals to a range of American palates. Fans of Furin love the opportunity to sample sushi as cooked and traditional Asian cuisine.
Furin Japanese Restaurant’s diverse menu includes classic Japanese offerings accompanied by an assortment of modern rolls, steak, sushi, sashimi, ramen, teriyaki and bulgogi (Korean style barbecue marinated beef and pork). The Furin Japanese Bar is one of Valpo’s most diverse offerings, ranging from Sake, craft beer, fine wines, and culinary cocktails.
The sizzle! | Authentic Japanese cuisine, Fresh seafood, Sushi (cooked & traditional) Japanese knife skills, Saki and Asian Beverages, Craft beer, Wine List, Tropical Cocktails, Outdoor garden, Japanese Deco & Music
Restaurante Don Quijote | The Restaurant That Started Valpo’s Outdoor Dining
It might seem odd that Valparaiso’s first restaurant to offer outdoor dining is the last establishment to make our Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Dining. Why end with the restaurant that started it all? Because it’s how Chef Carlos swings! Putting other restaurants first is how this Chef helped Valparaiso become a destination for outdoor dining.
Chef Carlos and his warm-hearted partner, Elena Jambrina, always seem to put themselves last in everything they do. From their countless fundraisers, community leadership roles, and initiatives towards assisting Valpo restaurants succeed, Carlos & Elena represent the best of Northwest Indiana. Valparaiso is a much better place because of Chef Carlos and Elena. It’s also much more fun!
Carlos and Elena did more than just make Valparaiso a restaurant destination—they made it a cultural hub. They set a standard for fine dining and remarkable wines. Furthermore, they were the first to regularly offer live music. When people laughed at Chef Carlos’s idea to offer outdoor dining, Carlos simply smiled and tuned out the critics. Fortunately for fans of al fresco dining, Chef Carlos’s tenacity helped develop the outdoor dining culture that defines the Valparaiso we know today!
Mayor Jon Costas once said Valpo’s downtown is the heart of the city. When the heart beats strong, the body is healthy. If the downtown is the heart of Valpo, Carlos is its soul.
More Than Just Outdoor Dining—It’s an Outdoor Culture with a Taste of the Mediterranean
Don Quijote is often described as an “experience.” The outdoor dining at Don Quijote is the perfect venue to spend a romantic rendezvous with someone special or family & friends. It dawns the ambiance of any cool summer night. Nestled one block east of the magnificent Court House Square, the outdoor setting is surrounded by flowers while being covered by a retractable awning. When the sun is too intense or a chance of rain threatens the perfect night out, Don Quijote’s venue covers the bases!
The perfect al fresco dining experience starts with a pitcher of fresh sangria or a glass of wine from the famed Don Quijote wine cellar. Chef Carlos is passionate about wine and has something for most tastes and budgets. Not sure what to order? Want to explore the wine regions of Spain? Just ask Carlos for a recommendation. Carlos loves to talk about wines and can even help you discover which wines compare to the wines of Italy and France.
Tapas: The servers at Don Quijote are well-versed in helping you find a few tapas to get you started! Tapas are small plate appetizers that are meant for sharing. Spanish food is intended to be shared with friends and family. They pair well with wine, yet many people opt for a refreshing craft beer or glass of fruit-infused sangria.
The Secret to a Perfect Alfresco Experience at Don Quijote
Many people will fill the table with a variety of tapas to channel the unique regions of Spain and the Mediterranean. Notably, Don Quijote’s seafood menu has won praise by the Chicago critics and media. Carlos only orders the freshest seafood. His calamari and gazpacho are considered by many the best they’ve ever had. Carlos was raised in Galicia, a maritime city known for its seafood, sensational wines, and outdoor dining. His father was a celebrity Chef on a cruise ship, and Carlos inherited his father’s diverse Mediterranean recipes and extraordinary cooking skills.
Nothing Can Top the Restaurant Outdoor Seating Experience of Don Quijote
For a memorable cultural experience, you can’t top restaurant outdoor seating at Don Quijote—especially when it’s served with paella and a bottle of Tempranillo. Paella is the national dish of Spain, and Tempranillo is considered by many to be the world’s best wine.
While Don Quijote offers many varieties of paella, Paella Marinara has to be my favorite. Embellished in specially prepared saffron rice, the dinner includes shrimp, cod, baby clams, scallops, mussels, squid, and crab legs. The Tempranillo grape varies in each Spanish wine region and pairs with the culture and food of these regions. In Spain, you don’t order the wine by the grape—you order it by the wine region! My favorite? A Tempranillo from Rioja! Absolutely nothing compares. To learn more about the Spanish wine regions, check out Chef Carlos’s blog.
The perfect ending to the Don Quijote outdoor dining experience is Chef Elena’s fresh selection of desserts (postres). The famed desserts of Don Quijote are considered by many to be the best in the region! Meant to accompany any dessert, Carlos’s port (Oporto) is a dessert wine that Carlos blends in his cellar.
Nothing can top the restaurant outdoor seating experience at Don Quijote, especially when it’s served the way the Spanish do—with great food, wine, and the people you love. Salud!
The sizzle! | Indiana’s only authentic Spanish – Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood is shipped daily for the freshest choice, including Paella. Full wine cellar representing all the Spanish Wine Regions Outdoor Seating. Live entertainment & music.
Reserve Your Table – Don Quijote Reservations
Uptown East Apartments | Valpo’s Best Place to Live for Foodies, Alfresco Dining & Things to Do!
Imagine living in a place where you have a remarkable outdoor patio with strands of party lights & festive music, setting the tone for a night of outdoor dining with friends and neighbors. Now imagine Valparaiso’s top chefs serving you their best international cuisine. Yum!
Each month, Uptown East features a different Valpo Restaurant chef to serve remarkable cuisine to their residents. On Cinco de Mayo, they served Veleros, Valpo’s upscale Mexican food. The previous month, they served authentic Japanese sushi from Furin. The month before, Pikk’s Chef Paul Loduca served his prime chili. LoDuca is a well-respected Chicago chef.
At Uptown, Sometimes You Go to the Restaurants—and Sometimes the Restaurants Come to You!
There’s only one thing that could top this alfresco experience on a beautiful summer’s night; having all this without cost! Yup, FREE! Each month, the Uptown East staff shows their appreciation for residents by providing a complimentary night of outdoor festivities. That’s showing residents some serious love!
But then again, Uptown East is all about good living. From private balconies to a clubhouse with the finest amenities, Valpo’s upscale apartment was strategically positioned to attract people that want to live close to the fun.
The outdoor dining scene is so big in Valparaiso that it is believed some will choose to live at Valparaiso’s first upscale apartment just for the culture and restaurants. Uptown also sponsors the Valpo Restaurant’s year-round culinary events!
Shoulder to Shoulder with the Chefs | It’s All About Community!
Uptown first got involved with the Valpo Restaurants long before Valpo became a destination for outdoor dining. In fact, they helped get it going!
According to the blog, Uptown Helps make Valpo Community Best Place to Live, Uptown’s Developer, Larry Gough worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Valpo chefs to create festivals & events nearly 15 years ago. Outdoor dining was the natural progression of the free outdoor culinary festivals they organized.
Gough’s business model for his developments is to offer his residents the best amenities and endless things to do. Uptown partners with established Valparaiso businesses like Perma-Green Lawn Care, Gieger’s Motors, and Jano-Digital to subsidize the cost of events, like the annual Outdoor Dining Restaurant Week. Working with the chefs to offer the community year-round fun and outdoor dining gives his Uptown residents culture, entertainment, and endless things to do—especially outdoor dining!
Outdoor Dining Restaurants, Private Balconies for private outdoor parties, Participation & VIP status to Outdoor Dining Week, Adult Trick Or Treat, Christmas Event, etc
Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Dining: Da Best Is Over Dare…in Valpo!
So is Valparaiso the next “second city?” Meeting the Chefs in downtown Valpo might suggest it is. But with Valparaiso’s chip-on-the-shoulder attitude mixed with an infusion of international cuisine, the Downtown Valpo Restaurants believe they have what it takes to say: da best outdoor dining destination is over dare…in Valpo!
…and Noo Yawk? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Written by Jim Jano Janesheski
All rights reserved. Copyright 2022 Contribution by John Janesheski
In Memory of George Nissan, Owner of Bon Femme & One of Valpo’s Original Outdoor Dining Restaurants