Five Star Thai Cuisine – Crown Point, Indiana: Warm Weather and Hot Curry

“If things can always be worse, then now is always better.”

Daniel J. Mitchell

This unexpected turn in the weather has permitted my father and I to take one last weekend bike ride out to Crown Point for some delectable Thai food!

Located just off the Lincoln Highway at 5124 Pine Island Court, is a quaint, hidden kitchen with literally the best Thai food I’ve ever had, the Five Star Thai Cuisine. Owned and operated by colleagues and friends, Jillian and Tana, this popular local eatery has been bringing Crown Point authentic Thai cuisine since 1986. Jillian was originally a waitress working her way through college around the time the restaurant was first established. When one of the original founders resigned, Jillian was asked to abandon her career as a photographer to help keep the establishment alive. Still taking pictures, traveling the world (including a recent visit to, you guessed it, Thailand) and co-running a business, it would seem she hasn’t so much as abandoned her career as simply embraced life.

Famished already from the windy six mile bike ride up, we ordered some pot stickers as a starter. Light, airy, golden fried dumplings stuffed with ground chicken and vegetables accompanied by a sweet and tangy ginger soy sauce, this rich and delicious appetizer was the perfect prelude to the incredible dinner to come.

For the main course, I chose the spicy and savory, Panang Curry, while my father helped himself to the Sweet and Sour Dish. The curry was absolutely mouthwatering; a succulent blend of hot red curry, coconut milk, peanut sauce, Thai basil leaves and crisp bell peppers. Though a seemingly odd combination of flavors at first glance, I was astounded at not only the way the tastes complemented one another but the fact that I was able to detect each and every one of them, despite their varying levels of boldness. Each curry does come with a choice of meat (or tofu/vegetables for you vegetarians), chicken, beef and pork or shrimp for $2 extra. Although I went with the chicken, I’m sure it would taste fine no matter what ingredient you select.

The Sweet and Sour Dish wasn’t the typical fried chicken with veggies coated in thick sugary sauce my father and I had come to expect. Instead, the dish included a large helping of grilled chicken and vegetables drizzled in a light, broth-like sauce which made for a smooth, perhaps healthier (wishful thinking) approach to the Chinese rendition of the meal.

To finish, we shared a traditional Thai dessert of sticky rice paired with a serving of coconut sprinkled ice cream. An elegant mix of sweet, cold ice cream and mild, warm, starchy rice, this rich and filling dessert made for the ideal close of our dining experience, and sleepy and slothful ride home.

Kowloon – Schererville, Indiana: Chinese Food for The Region

The unfortunate autumn rain forced me off the trails and onto the road today, causing me to temporarily break my “bike only” vow for the convenience of a car ride.

Warming up at an old favorite, my family and I drove out to Schererville for some of the best Chinese food in The Region. Just off the intersection of Cline Ave. and US 30, Kowloon, has been my family’s go-to restaurant for Chinese cuisine since they opened.

Coming around dinner time, our meals had a $2 additional charge since it was past 3p (lunch hours $5 – $6 range). However, you didn’t see us arguing because we knew full well that we’d be getting our money’s worth.

My father ordered the Orange Chicken, breaded chicken lathered in a tangy sauce accompanied by firm vegetables. Taking one of her more traditional favorites, my mother had the Sweet and Sour Chicken, soft breaded chicken, pineapple, tomatoes and peppers drizzled with ruby red sweet and sour sauce. Playing it a little adventurous today, I decided against my usual (Chicken w/ Broccoli) and went for the spicier, General Tso’s Chicken, crispy breaded chicken with crunchy peppers and broccoli clothed in a spicy citrus glaze. Every dish game with fried rice, an egg roll and the best egg drop soup I’ve ever had, no exaggerations.

 

 

 

Run by husband and wife, Steve and Lucy, the Kowloon is named after the Chinese town Steve grew up in. Moving to America in 1974, then from Chicago to Schererville just a short while ago, these two have been gracing Northwest Indiana with the greatest Chinese food for almost three years now. Working six days a week and loving every minute of it, Lucy tells me the best part of her job is the people. Always stopping by every table and constantly striking up conversations, this gregarious girl loves to be a part of the community on the most intimate level. As long as you’re in her restaurant, you’re part of her family. The only thing you don’t have to worry about is the dishes.

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.