Cafe 339 – Hobart, Indiana: Wraps, Paninis and People

It’s the weekend! You know what that means? Yes, the weekly father and son bike trip!

Meeting up with my father for our traditional ride, the two of us decided to go a little out of the box today and endeavor to make it all the way to Hobart. A realistic plan to be sure, but a half-baked one nonetheless.

Taking the Oak Savannah Trail starting in Oak Ridge Prairie, we made our way through the shady, wooded path straight into Hobart.

At Main Street we took a left and headed into the center of downtown Hobart where we found a thriving, new restaurant, Cafe 339.

Entering the cafe, we were instantly surprised to see how packed it was. I always take this as a good sign whenever trying out a new place. Everyone was chatting and smiling, the owner seemed to know every patron’s name, and the waitress struck up conversations with old friends and new faces alike.

The owner, Dimitri, met us at the door and offered seating either inside or at one of the three small outdoor tables. Although we wanted to keep an eye on our bikes, with the sun high in the sky and our pale Irish skin swiftly turning tomato red, we felt it was in our best interest to eat inside.

 

Once safe in the air-conditioning, we took a gander at the menus and bravely advanced into the unknown. My father ordered the special of the day, the Southwest Wrap, and I took the Cuban Panini, per our waitress’ suggestion.

Each dish came with a bowl of Mediterranean Chicken Soup, which is a blend of delicious vegetables and broth-moistened chicken. The Cuban Panini was loaded with pork, red peppers, onions and melted cheese crunched between two crispy slices of toast. The Southwest Wrap was no slouch either with chicken, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onions and black beans rolled up into a grilled tortilla.

Both dishes were absolutely delectable. The Cuban Panini was warm and crunchy, almost comparable to the feeling of biting into a Philly Cheese Steak, except with pork. The Southwest Wrap was a tad bit softer and perfect for dipping into a bowl of creamy, spicy ranch dressing.

 

 

After sufficiently stuffing our faces, I asked to talk to the man…well, family behind Cafe 339. Steve, the son of the owner, told me that this cafe was indeed a family-operated establishment. Open for only about two years, their business has been widely renowned amongst the locals and have recently been awarded the Hobart Chamber of Commerce’s “Outstanding Business of the Year” in 2011.

Asking him what inspired this business venture, he instantly pointed me to his father, Dimitri, who said there were only two reasons he wanted to start a restaurant: cooking and the people. Never growing tired of meeting new faces or slaving over the hot stove, Dimitri is a man who appreciates the power the table has to bring people together. All about the community, the soul of the city can literally be seen in every corner and on every wall within the cafe. The entire establishment is covered in purchasable artwork painted by local artist, Peggy Davis, proving that even the drywall feeds the community.

Grindhouse Cafe – Griffith, Indiana: Pulled Pork

Not giving up my quest to seek out Northwest Indiana’s best delicatessens, I systematically interrogated my fellow bloggers to get the scoop on any good eateries.
That’s when I got the word from Melissa, currently working on her new blog, Nothin’ But Eats, that the Grindhouse Cafe in downtown Griffith was the place to be.

Curious and hungry, I mounted my bike and set out for this hip new hangout. Just off Broad Street and yet another location not too far from the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, this cozy corner shop wasn’t at all hard to find.

Although there were no bike racks outside the place, the giant windows looking out onto the street gave me a good sense of security.

Faced with Grindhouse’s monolithic menu, I was a tad bit overwhelmed by the amount of choices. Fortunately, thanks to Melissa, she had already recommended I try the pulled pork. So, as suggestible as I am, that’s what I ordered.

When the food was brought out to me, I had to double check to make sure what I received was actually a pulled pork. Unlike any pulled pork sandwich I have ever had, this delicious beast was comprised of smoked tossed pork topped with an amazing red slaw, all sandwiched between a crispy croissant. Although I’ve never had a pulled pork quite like this one, I assure you, Grindhouse has set the bar pretty high for the next unfortunate barbecued pig to stand in my presence.

After wolfing down this edible work of art, I tried to keep my mouth empty long enough to socialize with some of the cliental. Given some inside tips from two ladies stopping in for a bite, they enthusiastically recommended I try the chicken salad, and iced tea next time I visit. Coming here for quite some time now, one the ladies told me she even rewards her son for good grades by taking him out here for a sandwich and a latte.

Wanting to learn a little more about the people behind the counter, I spoke with Gabe, who runs Grindhouse with his sister Kate.

This brother and sister duo went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (Le Cordon Bleu), and later decided to bring the fruits of their labor back to the town they were raised, Griffith, Indiana. When they learned about some open real estate in the area through a network in the Imagine Griffith team, Gabe said that he envisioned this corner of downtown Griffith to be the ideal location for their unique cafe. With lots of windows, natural lighting and a decent amount of dining space, it made for a casual, relaxed environment where people could just sit and enjoy the atmosphere.

When I asked Gabe what specifically made Grindhouse distinct from other cafes, he told me that the biggest difference had to be the food. In most cafes, coffee is the main focus and the food becomes somewhat of an afterthought. Wanting to alter that perception, Gabe and Kate strived to create a place where you can get coffee and quality cuisine as well.

Noticing the daily specials, I further inquired him about the possibility of seeing new menu items in the future. Always enjoying to explore and invent, he told me they’re constantly making new additions to the menu. Preferring to keep things fresh, and fearless enough to take a chance, they like to rotate the items as often as possible. Just recently they had served a special frozen lemonade known as the Cactuar (the name of an infamous Final Fantasy enemy), that was so popular they’re considering making it a permanent beverage on the list.

With my stomach finally rested, I thanked Gabe for the good conversation, while my growling belly thanked him for the food. I certainly owe a special thanks to Melissa as well for referring me to this wonderful hangout. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I get to pay Grindhouse another visit.