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.

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Frozen Yogurt Express – Munster, Indiana: Shake It

Coming home after a rough day, I found myself with a horrible toothache. However, this wasn’t your typical toothache that could be remedied by a dentist visit or brushing with Sensodyne. No, the only thing that could satiate this unnerving pain was a nice, cold, ice cream shake. That’s right…it was a sweet toothache.

 

Biking out to Wicker Memorial Park in Highland, I connected with the Little Calumet River Trail and followed it down to Calumet Avenue. Once I hit the end of the trail in Munster, I immediately glanced to the left, my Sugar Sense was tingling. Just a few pedals up the road was an old frozen yogurt shop I had visited awhile back with my father, the Frozen Yogurt Express.

Gladly submitting to temptation, I advanced toward the quaint little hut. Merely a counter and a kitchen, this tiny building was a delightful, rusty penny amongst the more impersonal structures of the area.

During my last visit, I was bold enough to ask what was the most original dessert they make. The cashier said if she had to choose her favorite, most original menu item it would have to be the Swedish Fish Shake-It… Unfortunately, I wasn’t bold enough to try it.

Settling for an Oreo Shake-It, their most popular, not their most unique, I was pleasantly surprised with the result. Literally what it sounds like, a Shake-It is a frozen yogurt shake with cookies, candy, or cake rolls, pulverized into it. While I thoroughly enjoyed this liquified masterpiece, I know some people who’ve said they didn’t care for the gritty texture. So if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, you might want to grab a cone instead.

Mentally preparing myself on this return trip, I was crazy enough to try the Swedish Fish Shake-It. However, when I was faced with a cup full of pink slop and red specks, I began to re-evaluate my decision-making skills. Closing my eyes, I took a nice, deep slurp. Pleasantly surprised, this blend of fruitiness and creamy frozen yogurt tickled my tongue and gave me a slaphappy sugar buzz. While I still prefer the Oreo Shake-It a little bit more, the Swedish Fish made for a good non-chocolate substitute.

 

Having only experimented with Shake-Its these past two visits, I asked the cashier what were some of their other popular creations. She said that their most popular item had to be the 24 oz Root Beer Float, but a lot of people come in for a quick cone or the sugar-free flavor of the day as well.

Although this shop was opened by the husband and wife team of Bob and Linda back in 1989, it will be moving into a strip mall up the road in late October. While I’ll certainly miss the cute stop-and-go style stand, it’ll be nice to see what they can do with a newer facility. Perhaps, I’ll swing by for another visit after the move if it’s not too cold.

Lincoln’s – Highland, Indiana: Bunny Girl

Although I’ve taken the Highland bike trail to the Calumet River many times, today I saw it as a great opportunity to visit one of my favorite sandwich shops, Lincoln’s.  Right off the bike trail on Highway Avenue in the heart of downtown Highland, Lincoln’s has been a revered local favorite of Northwest Indiana for quite some time.

Literally at the halfway point between my traditional Griffith to Calumet River route, Lincoln’s was absolutely no trouble to get to. However, they are a tad bit hidden behind some trees lining the downtown sidewalks which can make it difficult to spot.

Parking my bike on a rack just a few paces to the right of the place, I strolled into store faced with the traditional lunch rush. Although not as busy as I’ve seen it in the past, the 12-1p crowd can sometimes keep you waiting about 5 minutes or more depending on the day. Not an insane wait unless you find yourself in need of a quick grab and go.

Ordering my traditional demasculating sandwich, the Bunny Girl, I was just thankful that they didn’t shout the name across the counter after I ordered it. Ham, lettuce, tomato and mayo piled on a warm flakey sub roll, the Bunny Girl has been my absolute favorite since I was a little boy. I also took a scrumptious helping of Ham and Bean soup, however I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want uninviting tunes on the journey home. Thick with carrots, ham and of course, BEANS, this piping hot soup was still inviting even on a mild fall day.

The staff was very kind, courteous and surprisingly bike friendly, offering to refill my water bottle with ice, keeping my to-go sandwich under the heating lamp and even bagged my leftovers in paper and plastic so I wouldn’t bath in mayo the rest of my ride.

Though I had been here dozens of times throughout my life, this was the first experience I had visiting on bike. I must say, it was definitely well worth the trip. The food was, as always, delicious, the staff extremely hospitable, and the location perfect. The only advice I have to give to anyone planning on venturing up is bring a backpack. Trust me, you won’t be able to finish all the food there…

Calumet River – Hammond, Indiana: Over The River And Through The Woods…

Coming home after a day of frustrating traffic, bad parking spots and annoying colleagues, I poured myself a glass of ice cold milk (contemplating a margarita instead) and wondered why I even bothered to crawl out of bed this morning.

Once again having to crash another one of my daily pity parties, I listened to that sweet loving voice inside my head telling me to hike up my big boy pants and BE A MAN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Without a single dignified retort to that admonishment, I proceeded out onto the bike paths to begin reevaluating my masculinity.

Cruising past the rustic railways of Griffith’s train-ladened kingdom onto the Broad Street bike path, just across from Griffith Historical Park (something cool to see if you get the chance), I soon found myself en route to the meticulously shaved, emerald green grass of the Highland trail.

Venturing all the way down the trail past Highland and into the border of Hammond, I reached a curious, rusted steel bridge extending over a turquoise stream. Testing my balance on the bike the way moguls challenge an Olympic skier, I carefully made my way over the springy wooden planks of the bridge, slowly preparing myself for the gravel road on the other end. Fortunately the crusty rock of the trail had been firmly padded down due to yesterday’s light rain.

Following this detour around a vast manmade pond with the eclectic Indiana Welcome Center prominently stamped in the distance, I arrived at Kennedy Avenue. Just across the intersection was an identical steel bridge leading straight onto the Calumet River Nature Trail, a personal favorite of mine. Though forced to walk my bike up a few rocky slopes to this isolated overpass, I found myself instantly back in the zone as soon as I reached the clandestine wilderness lurking on the other end.

Absconding to an oasis filled with the exotic symphony of cicadas and tranquil harmony of song birds, I lost myself in the arms of this blemished Eden. Trees rustled restlessly in the warm midday breeze as I rode through a canopy of grasshoppers jumping exuberantly into the golden kiss of the sun.

As I neared the end of the trail, my journey finished amongst a graveyard of gnarled dead trees protruding out of the swamp like vicious claws thrashing towards the sky. This bleak, dead marsh, forged by the flames of a long ago fire, was the definitive ending to this routine trip (especially in the Pre-Halloween season).

Spine-tingling screams echoed through the damp air as hawks scoured over the wooly amber waves of grass. Crickets chirped meekly, like gentle taps sounding in the distance. And the dark painted wings of butterflies floated in the wind, wraithlike ashes whispering tales of the old fire. Even under the bright, protective light of the sun’s gaze, this place had a foreboding presence that always seemed to haunt me whenever I passed through…

The road now merging with the loud, bustling traffic of Cline Avenue, the roar of engines and machinery distracted me from the fleeting fantasies of my romanticizing antics. Leaving the supernatural forest behind, I made my way across Cline Avenue to Griffith Boulevard and back to good Ol’ Broad Street. Though I was able to pedal on home from this point, the great thing about Broad is it’ll lead you right back to Griffith Historical Park if you happened to drive there from somewhere further away.

This is certainly not one of my more creative nor adventurous rides. But, for those of you who find yourselves a little too caught up in the urban rat race, it might do you good to simply run into the forest and see just where your mind might take you…