Originally from a small village in the mountainous region of Galicia in Spain, Carlos Rivero opened his first restaurant in Madrid before moving to the United States. It was his dream to introduce Americans to his native cuisine, and after several years of planning, he found his spot in downtown Valparaiso, Indiana. As head chef of Don Quijote, Carlos works with his assistant chef and business partner Elena Jambrina—also a native of Spain—to serve a menu of fresh seafood delivered weekly, 25 different tapas dishes, four versions of paella, bocadillos, flan, and other specialties from their home country, as well as over 110 Spanish wines.
Inside Don Quijote’s dining room, guests share meals and wine by candlelight while a continuous slide show provides them with a visual tour of Spain. In the warmer months, guests can drink and dine outside for an experience reminiscent of European sidewalk cafés that’s infinitely more pleasant than sitting on a curb reciting the rules of Spanish verb conjugation.
Martinis Culinary Cocktail Lounge is aptly named—the bar's martini list boasts a roster of cocktails more than 120 drinks long. However, bartenders also pour top-shelf spirits and craft beers to complement their Mediterranean plates, which range from chicken parmesan and tortellini to build-your-own pizzas. The kitchen staff also whips up seafood dishes, such as shrimp stuffed with blue crab and linguine with clams, which evoke Italy’s seaside regions more appetizingly than free glasses of salt water. As patrons drink and dine, the lounge’s weekly shows entertain with comedy sets and live music.
Executive chef Jack Rickey brightens up his dishes at Billy Jack’s Bar and Grill by packing every recipe with crimson tomatoes, yellow sweet corn, and other colorful southwestern ingredients. The fiery flavors of chipotle peppers and chiles stimulate tongues when blended into the poblano-cream sauce poured over sizzling steak and shrimp or the aioli drizzled over sweet and spicy pork medallions. Bold ingredients find their way into seafood dishes as well, from the peaches that sweeten the BBQ roasted salmon to the jalapeno sauce that coats the restaurant's crab-stuffed tilapia and crab-stuffed piñatas.
Eight decades ago, the land that Strongbow Inn now stands on was filled with 1,500 turkeys, gobbling under the guidance of founders Walter and Bess Thrun. The family’s storied history has since been tied to that plot of land, from the construction of Strongbow Inn and US 30 in the ‘40s to the turkeys they continued to raise and dish up until the '80s. Three generations have built the restaurant to its current glory, serving turkey-centric comfort fare in an upscale, white-tablecloth-clad dining room and a casual wood-paneled lounge that made it onto WTTW’s Check, Please!.
The menu showcases fresh poultry in dishes that range from turkey schnitzel to turkey pot pie and Thanksgiving-esque feasts of carved turkey with homemade cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. Poultry-free fare also stakes out a space for itself, boasting grilled lamb chops and crab cakes made in house. Beside each menu item, the restaurant lists ideal wine pairings, such as a Leonard Kreusch with the turkey dinner or an Ecco Domani pinot grigio with the crab cakes.
In a dining room suited for big groups, plates rest near floral centerpieces surrounded by scalloped napkins. Patrons can also sup in the Blue Yonder lounge, where curly chandeliers hang above wooden lattice-backed chairs. Over the lounge’s bar, a populous fleet of model planes hangs from the ceiling ready to skywrite love notes to special guests or dive bomb dates who stole the last bite of pie.
Chefs at Burgerhaus give the American hamburger an international twist by decorating their quarter-pound patties with toppings from around the globe. The Rhinelund's beer-braised onions and whole-grain mustard evoke the flavors of Germany, and The Yucatán stamps taste buds' passports with a fiery combination of spicy mayonnaise, pepper jack cheese, and roasted green chilies. At the same time, the chefs dole out some all-American staples such as Angus three-bean chili and thick, cold shakes made with Valpo Velvet ice cream.
The worn wooden floorboards, exposed-brick wall, and deep earth tones of Burgerhaus's dining room complement the menu's relatively humble inspiration. Low light from wall sconces and pendants lend an air of refinement to the diner-like collection of dark wooden tables and straight-backed booths. Behind the bar, bartenders pour drafts of Miller as well as Bell's Two-Hearted Ale and other popular craft brews.
The iconic comic-strip character and namesake of Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes peeps out from the first “o” in the deli’s logo, embracing not his wife, Blondie, but the signature Dagwood sandwich. With its four meats and pair of cheeses, the delicious (if slightly intimidating) sandwich represents the more than 20 signature subs and clubs that grace Dagwood’s menu. Meats ranging from premium roast beef to tender pork loin share slices of bread with cheeses, crisp pickles, and all the condiments one might expect of an old-fashioned deli. Those too young to appreciate the shop’s Sunday-paper references will at least enjoy kids’ meals such as the classic grilled-cheese sandwich. Aside from their in-store selections, the deli caters events with colorful trays of meats and sack lunches served by a curiously cartoonish wait staff.
A velvet rope-lined red carpet welcomes diners as soon as they enter Paparazzi, leading them into the dining room. Constructed with a number of reclaimed materials, the dining room embraces its star-struck theme by featuring large black-and-white photos of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe along a cerulean-blue wall. The exposed brick walls and copper bar lend a casual air to the room, and hanging lanterns and flat-screen televisions light the space. While guests feel like VIPs at their tables, the cooks bake and grill a selection of traditional Italian comfort fare that occasionally feature modern twists, as embodied by oven-crisped pizzas with truffle oil, soft-poached eggs, or digital pasta.