The scent of sizzling lake perch, ice cold homemade root beer, the countless family dinners… Every Regioner has special memories tied in with the restaurants of yesteryear. We asked you to take a trip down nostalgia lane to revisit the beloved businesses that have since closed their doors for good and tell us which ones you wish would open their doors once more in Northwest Indiana.
Some of these bygone eateries were easy to find, with countless articles and homage posts announcing their bittersweet departure, others were buried in historical entries and library catalogues, and others have sadly disappeared without a trace- however, we did our best to dig up the top restaurants of the past!
Shakey’s Pizza Parlour- Calumet City, Merrillville, Highland, Valparaiso
Everyone has a story about Shakey’s. Many locals remember Shakey’s as being one of their first jobs, some of whom met their spouses at the restaurant. For others, it was a family buffet tradition every Sunday after church. Especially notable were the delicious pizza buffets, the old-time feel and game areas for kids. Shakey’s still exists in states like Alabama, California and Washington- but sadly none less than 600 miles away exist.
Ted’s Drive In – Gary
Near Routes U.S. 20 and U.S. 12 in Gary, Ted’s was a place of true American nostalgia, this drive in had car hops in vintage uniforms serving up classic dishes right to the car door.
Big Wheel Restaurant- Valparaiso
Surviving from the ‘60s to 2006, Big Wheel had been an enduring part of Valparaiso history. Friends, families and spouses still recall gathering at its neon sign lit location on Lincolnway, though it has been demolished for years.
Old Style Inn- Valparaiso
Open for more than 80 years, Old Style Inn was a special spot in downtown Valparaiso for many. From steaks to pasta, this place served as an institution that served generations of families for a delicious, old-world dinner.
Country Lounge- Hobart
The Hobart landmark closed its doors after 70 years of good food and good memories. Those who frequented the restaurant said the vintage lounge atmosphere and hearty cuisine was what made it such a loved spot for locals to dine.
Red Lantern Inn- Beverly Shores
The beautiful lake scenery is most definitely remembered among those who dined there and stayed at its picturesque hotel rooms. The restaurant and inn opened in the late ‘60s, and was a resort facility with a bathhouse. Paying homage to The Hammer restaurant owner’s parents who owned the closed dining spot, a Red Lantern Inn mural can be found at The Hammer, located on U.S. Highway 20 in Michigan City.
The Lure- Portage and Gary
A relic to the days of diner fries and shakes, The Lure also boasted of their delicious, meaty burgers like “The Big Lure.” Being truly authentic in its vintage atmosphere, a family could go out for a meal and not break the bank.
Jack Spratt Ice Cream Shop- Miller
A favorite memory from childhood, a stop at Jack Sprat’s was sure to excite kids and parents alike for some good, old-fashioned ice cream. Near the beautiful Miller Beach, the summer was truly this spot’s prime time.
Phil Smidt’s- Hammond
Praised as having the “best perch and frog legs,” this nearly 100-year-old restaurant has served countless delicious meals to generations of locals. Along Indianapolis Boulevard, Phil Smidt’s was a hub for people of all ages to crowd in for a delectable lunch or dinner, especially for those who love seafood.
Giggle’s Pizza- Valparaiso and Chesterton
The Region knows pizza, which is why when a restaurant who knows how to sling its dough closes, it’s a travesty- despite the many options at hand throughout Northwest Indiana. Its Yelp and other review pages still stand past the business’s closing, still showcasing decades of locals gushing about their delicious, oh-so-flavorful pizzas and friendly staff.
Jim Dandy’s Diner- Valparaiso and Hobart
This spot was like a time machine to the fifties for the true jukebox, small-town diner feel, and was likewise owned by a local couple. Homemade burgers and hand-dipped malts were favorites of customers, who came back for decades until it shuttered its doors in 2014.
Stones’ Bones- Munster
The savory smell of barbeque, and the smoky scent of a big rack of ribs- that’s what customers remember about Stones’ Bones locations.
Strongbow Inn- Valparaiso
If there ever was a place to eat Thanksgiving dinner outside of the family kitchen, it was Strongbow Inn, with its mounds of gravy and heaps of steamy turkey. For more than 70 years, Strongbow had been a destination for locals and travelers alike, who dined happily among its rustic halls. The Market currently stands in its place as the area’s new banquet hall.
Fasel’s Rustic Inn Pizza and Bakery- Valparaiso
Once located off of U.S. 6 and Meridian, past customers raved about their cheesy sheet pizza, something of a special food native to Northwest Indiana.
Hannon’s Root Beer Stand- Valparaiso
Many Valparaiso residents can recall the rich, bubbly goodness that was homemade root beer from Hannon’s, especially when it was topped with a dollop of ice cream for a tasty float. The stand opened in 1956, ultimately shuttering its doors in the late ‘90s.
For the lucky ones who dined at Frank-N-Stein’s, the image of the big green monster holding a huge mug of root beer and a hotdog is still clear as day when imagining the towering statue standing outside of the restaurant. Even better of a memory is the taste of their classic hot dogs, which date back to the ‘60s.
Burch’s Family Restaurant- Gary
A favorite spot on West Ridge Road, Burch’s was an enduring hub for delicious steak and barbeque, served up in a little silver diner reminiscent of the restaurants of yesteryear, even gaining the title of “Indiana’s oldest operating dining car.” From homemade soups to their famous meatloaf, there will never be another place like Burch’s.
Ming Ling Restaurant- Miller
A fixture of amazing oriental cuisine in a historic building, this area favorite served its last customers in 2010. From deep-fried wontons to flavorful eggrolls, Ming Ling’s will always be missed as the top Chinese restaurant in the area.