Zodiac Cafe – Crown Point, Indiana: Kronos

“I only let fate decide what I can’t control.”

Daniel J. Mitchell

Busy, busy, busy. Unfortunately the past few days have been so hectic, I haven’t had the chance to hit the trails and blow off some steam. Luckily, today, there was just enough of an air pocket in my schedule to journey up to Crown Point.

Taking my most utilized path at this point, the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, I rode back to Crown Point’s downtown square in search of a notable local eatery, the Zodiac Cafe.

A bit easier to reach and close to the trail, the Zodiac Cafe is located right at the mouth of the square.

Their dining area is absolutely gorgeous, arranged with multiple seating variations from casual couches to more formal tables. They also have outdoor seating available in a nifty little ally and a bar in the back for the dinner crowd and the “I’m having a hard day” lunches.

Relaxing on one of the couches looking out onto the streets, I watched a lone girl decorating the cafe for Halloween. As frustrated as I would be handling all the tape, thumbtacks, and clips by myself, she informed me that this whole ordeal was to be a “team effort”. However, on this day in particular, everybody magically had something come up keeping them from all the… “festive fun”. Trying to get her to look on the bright side, I suggested that she would be the one to get all the credit, but that didn’t seem to keep her mind off planning vengeance against the skaters. So for those of you who didn’t show up, watch out. I think she’s saving thumbtacks.

 

The waiter, Keith, had a little sit down with me about the cafe. Zodiac is owned by the Papas family, the same people who own the Main Street Cafe next door. While Main Street is more of a “breakfast” place as he put it, the Zodiac was built for lunch and dinner. They do occasionally have artists/comedians come in from time to time to perform, and every month they celebrate a new sign of the Zodiac by offering specials on specific drinks named after the celestial bodies.

During my stay I ordered the Kronos sandwich, named after the father of Zeus, off the $5 lunch specials menu (offered 11a – 3p). Consisting of turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese and crispy bacon piled between two slices of soft, doughy pretzel bread, this fistful of goodness was a unique spin on a Turkey Club Sandwich. It comes with a side of pasta salad which I found to be a little bit zesty for my taste.

No matter what constellation you were born under or what advice your horoscope gives,  Zodiac Cafe offers a brilliant dining experience that not even fate can refuse.

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What’s the Scoop – Crown Point, Indiana: Roadrunner Raspberry

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

Daniel J. Mitchell

As fall slowly takes hold of the elements, I find myself filled with bittersweet feelings. Though autumn is my favorite season, full of bright colors, cool weather, and amusing festivities, it is still a promissory note that winter is soon to follow.

Getting in what biking I can with the time I have left, today I hit the freshly paved Erie-Lackawanna Trail and made a return ride to the Crown Point Downtown Square.

Relatively comfortable in the mild weather, I decided it couldn’t hurt to stop by a Crown Point favorite, What’s the Scoop, and grab an ice cream cone.

This adorable shop located just off the square in a 100 year old historic building, had always grabbed my attention with its brilliant holiday displays and Candyland-esque decor. Established 9 years ago, Sabrina, the owner, took over this “sweet spot” from a former hardware store and has transformed it into the quaint colorful parlor you’re only used to seeing in Christmas cartoons.

As everything, “fell into place”, as she puts it, What’s the Scoop has become a popular hang-out for many of the locals. It’s a place to sit-down and enjoy a freshly made sandwich and warm bowl of soup, or simply to drop in for a sweet, cold ice cream cone. During special occasions, they’ve even been known to reserve the back room full of retro arcade games for birthdays and other events.

Today, experimenting with a new flavor of ice cream (abstaining from my Cookies N’ Cream/Cookie Dough addiction), the cashier at the desk turned me onto the Roadrunner Raspberry. White chocolate ice cream mixed with raspberries, and raspberry-filled chocolate chips, this waffle cone contained the perfect ratio of fruit and sugar!

So stop on in next time you’re in the square and grab a sandwich, play a game, or simply find out, “what’s the scoop”.

Crown Point Downtown Square – Crown Point, Indiana: Square Route

With the Southlake YMCA’s two week annual maintenance shutdown finally over, I decided it was time to get back to the gym. Still preferring to spend more time outside, I figured the ten mile ride there and back would be more than sufficient  for my cardio, leaving the tedious strength training for indoors.

Mounting the bike, I hit the Erie-Lackawanna Trail in Griffith and journeyed on towards Crown Point. The great thing about this path in-particular was its consistency. One long stretch of asphalt with practically no interruptions breaking the pace (save for two or three busy roads to cross), it was an ideal route for my cardio workout.

Riding past Merrillville and spelunking through the thin cement cave under Route 30, I made my way to one of the most beautiful portions of the trail I had ever seen. Running behind the Lake County Government Center, flanked by gorgeous fields of green, smooth wooden fences and vibrant colored flowers, it was almost like stumbling into the fanciful summer meadows of Narnia hidden right in Northwest Indiana’s backyard.

The path curved around the natural landscape gently massaging the shallow hills. Traversing  a comely bridge extending over a creek, I came across the Charles & Mable Swisher Park. Just a small plot of groomed grass and four benches, this concealed little oasis was a perfect, tranquil spot for an impromptu picnic. It was too bad I ate before I came. Maybe another time.

So caught up in the beauty and peacefulness of the whole experience, it wasn’t until this point that I realized I had forgotten my YMCA membership card. Taking this misfortune in stride, I figured if I’ve already come this far, I might as well drop by and visit the Crown Point Downtown Square.

Reaching the end of the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, I hopped immediately onto West Street and moseyed on towards the bright orange tower of the Crown Point Courthouse peeking over the tree tops. It wasn’t long before I was in the heart of the square, with cars zipping by and visitors casually touring the novel, local shops. With the picturesque courthouse now in plain view, I made my way around its side to the Historical District on South Main Street to get a glimpse of my two favorite buildings: the old Lake County Criminal Court, and the Sheriff’s Building, where the notorious John Dillinger made his famed escape in 1934.

It wasn’t too long ago that Director Michael Mann came to this very location when filming his own Dillinger story, Public Enemies. I still remember standing out in the bitter cold just to get a peek at the action. In retrospect, it isn’t something I would consider doing again without a bucket full of hot chocolate…

My heart rate lowered to a lazy pace as I leisurely took in the rustic and gritty architecture of these yesteryear masterpieces. It wasn’t until I finally let out a long and content yawn that I knew it was time to get my legs back on those pedals.

Bidding farewell to the marvels of the downtown square, I started on my journey home.

Perhaps I would go to the gym tomorrow…