The Unexpected Journey

 

“Expecting the unexpected creates great expectations.”

Travane Phoenix

IMG_3022

Great news! “Just How I Bike It” has been picked up by Chicago Now! The blog will be retitled “O-Regionality” at its new home, http://www.chicagonow.com/o-regionality/!

This new blog will have me exploring Northwest Indiana’s most popular and hard-to-find eateries, recreational activities from nature trails to sledding hills, tourist attractions, and local festivities, but be unrestricted by a “bikes only” theme. Everything else that you know and love will remain the same; interviews with local business owners, hints and insider tips about upcoming events and community-friendly promotions.

Thanks for your continued support! I hope to see you there!

-Travane Phoenix

Advertisements

Arnie’s Dog House – Munster, Indiana: Polish Sausage and Cheese Fries

Returning to Wicker Memorial Park, I was excited to explore what culinary marvels awaited me in Hammond. However, as I made my way down the rough and dusty path encompassing the park, I found the exit to the Little Calumet River Trail closed for maintenance.

Frustrated, since this was the only route I bothered to research for today’s ride, I was forced to rely on the intuition of the 1/16th Cherokee heritage in my blood. Unfortunately, it only gave me 1/16th good direction.

 

 

Following the alternative path around Wicker Memorial Park, I ran into an ice cream stand that I had been meaning to try, BrrWick Ice Cream. But, as luck would have it, the shop, like the trail, was closed. With no visible signs displaying their hours, and judging from the bareness inside, it appeared that they might be closed for the season. Although, I’m not entirely sure.

Not giving up after strike two, I ventured out of the park and took a right down the sidewalk along Ridge Road.

Attempting to take a safe back road to Calumet Avenue, I passed yet another six roads closed for construction. Now, not even paying attention in the slightest, I took an impulsive right down an unknown road and continued this pattern of irregular turns until I magically made my way onto Calumet Ave.

Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I sighed in relief having found a familiar scene, the Frozen Yogurt Express. Though I was tempted to take a second visit to this delightful sweet shop, I knew what I really needed was lunch.

Moseying along the road, my hungry eyes were met with a deliciously nostalgic sight, Arnie’s Dog House. A place where my grandmother had been taking me since I was three years old, I couldn’t deny the inevitable hand of fate that guided me here.

Famished and exhausted, I propped my bike against the restaurant and sluggishly entered, ready to eat!

Since I hadn’t been to this All-American eatery in a very long time, I had to ask the cashier, Amanda, what she recommended. Turning me onto the Polish Sausage, accompanied by an order of my absolute favorite cheese fries, my unwavering trust in strangers’ suggestions was once again reinforced.

A bright red sausage covered in a blanket of onions, mild peppers, mustard, and my Chicago treasonist addition of ketchup, this bad boy was the perfect way to slow down my ride by at least 5 miles per hour. Of course, the golden and crispy fries partnered with a cup of bright yellow cheese made this a delectable greasy garden that almost brought me to tears.

Spending a little more time with the team behind the counter, I basked in their grub-gathering wisdom. Asking them to bestow their knowledge of the best and biggest eats on the menu, aside from the Polish Sausage, some of their other popular products include: the Chicago-Style Hotdog, Italian Beef and Pizza Puffs (Pizza Roll-like snacks).

 

Serving Northwest Indiana for 26 years, this family owned restaurant has been feeding the community comfort food since 1986. Although, I’ve been coming to this Arnie’s since I was a toddler, they tell me there is a second location in Whiting.

Though I journeyed here by a rather unorthodox route, they are just up the road from the Little Calumet River Trail, which will optimistically be the way you get to take when stopping by. However, if you find yourself with an insatiable hankering for a mouthwatering Polish Sausage, you can always take the more direct, but bumpy, Ridge Road sidewalk to Calumet Ave.

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.