Crown Point, Ind., in Northwest Indiana has a rich history, not the least of which is the escape in 1934 by John Dillinger from the then-Lake County jail. Crown Point still boasts a town square anchored by a red-brick courthouse known as The Grand Old Lady. The building no longer serves as a government office. Instead, it houses a museum, grand ballroom and a gallery of quaint shops on the ground floor that are a must-see. Among them is Valentino’s Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor.
Currently owned by the Jaroscak family and in existence since 1978, Valentino’s Cafe is named after silent-film star Rudolph Valentino, who was married in the courthouse in 1923 when it was known as “the marriage mill.” The actual marriage license is displayed by the register. As you might expect, pictures of Valentino line the walls of the quaint restaurant.
But it’s the good, simply served food that is the star here. The salads, chili and soups are homemade and I heartily recommend the Portobello Rice (call ahead to see when they’re serving it). The 6-ounce burgers are hand-formed and come in at least eight varieties. The selection of sandwiches is amazing — cold, hot, club, dips, melts, reubens. You name it, they make it. Main-course salads, hot dogs many ways, and a kids’ menu for those younger than 12 are available.
Some of the more unusual items on the menu include the veggie burger and salmon burger. I had the latter and it was superior. My guess is that a 4-ounce fillet had been chopped and seasoned before being formed into a patty and sautéed to a golden turn. It was served with chips and a homemade dill dipping sauce. In fact, all the chips are accompanied by the sauce, but I put it on my burger and it was a real winner.
Valentino’s serves Sherman’s ice cream and yogurt in a multitude of flavors, and gourmet cookies and brittle for dessert or a snack while you’re touring the rest of the courthouse or antique shops on The Square.
Your meal might take a while, but that’s because Valentino’s is not a fast-food restaurant. The wait is worth it. Prices are mid-range and beverages are not included with the meal. You can dine in or carry out, and there is outdoor patio seating from May to October. Give Valentino’s a try and soak up some Crown Point history while you’re at it.
Valentino’s Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor
Address: 3 Old Courthouse Square, Crown Point, IN 46307
Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays