Fine. American. Food.- The Dish Restaurant: Incredibly popular since opening 18 years ago

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Published on November 13, 2019 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons

How good does a restaurant have to be before you say, “I don’t care what’s in it. I just want it”? That’s the article of faith declared daily by dozens of fans of the “box lunches” at The Dish restaurant in Valparaiso.

Those white boxes filled with lunchtime-sized sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts are a “Signature” item for the iconic restaurant and incredibly popular.

“It was our gimmick; it brought people in,” explains owner Linda Skolak. “Every restaurant has to have one. It was an item customers would love and talk about.  One of the things we became known for.”

And “known for” they are, with different sandwiches, soups, and salads every day, a surprise from the chef and a delight for the customers. Not just for “takeaway”, the boxed lunches can be enjoyed in the restaurant too. What they provide, in addition to convenience, is a reliable lunch treat. And people choose it, day after day, without knowing what it will contain, because the food is hand-made from fresh ingredients, with a long track record of deliciousness.

The fame of the “box lunches”, is rivaled only by the fame and popularity of the rest of The Dish’s menu – from their Gorgonzola chips to the Sesame Chicken.

“We have a very loyal customer base,” Skolak says proudly. “They are everything to me and to the restaurant. Some of our offerings – like the Gorgonzola chips and the Sesame chicken – are so popular, if I took them off the menu, people would throw eggs at the windows.”

Well, maybe not actual eggs, but . . . who knows? The Dish has been incredibly popular since its opening 18 years ago, building an enviable customer base with a large and varied menu of creative dishes, a wine list featuring the best of American wines, and a cozy full bar with renowned Martinis, cocktails, and Moscow Mules.

“We opened a month after 9-11,” Skolak remembers, “when people didn’t really know yet what was happening. Opening a restaurant seemed a risky thing to do but it was already underway. But it all turned out well. We’ve been non-stop busy since Day One.”

Much of that popularity comes from a menu that is both exciting and predictably delicious. “Our chefs are very creative and the food is always the best,” Skolak says. “We use only the best fresh ingredients and everything is made in-house, never packaged.”

There is also the “open kitchen” concept which doesn’t wall-off the chef in a hidden kitchen but opens up the chef and the cooking area to view so the customers can see the chef and vice-versa.  It was a novel concept 18 years ago and is still a popular one.

The restaurant layout also contributes to its charm and attractiveness. A large, open-aire seating in the main dining room gives way to a semi-private dining area for smaller groups and parties.  There’s also a large private room for parties and meetings, and the relaxing bar for intimate groups.

All in all, something for everyone, Skolak summarizes. Even for kids.

“We are incredibly kid friendly,” this mother of five explains with a smile. I love kids. I love having them here. I love that their dads lift them up to see the chef at work. We don’t have a ‘kids menu’ but we always work something out for the kids to eat and enjoy.”

Maybe it’s those facts – being a mother of five and loving kids – that make Linda the perfect, successful restaurateur. Like all successful business owners she “loves what she does”, every day, easy or hard. She loves people and she’s a self-declared “foodie.” She even loves the paperwork.

“I really do,” she laughs. “If I wasn’t in the restaurant business, I’d be an accountant.”

But it’s people that drive the business, from Linda herself – a restaurant worker all her life, with 30 years’ experience in the industry – to her own grown children who have all, at one time or another, worked at The Dish or helped out with its success.

Marlene, the restaurant manager, has helped keep things running smoothly for six years. She’s a well-known Valparaiso figure who knows everyone and is known by everyone else.

Then there are the chefs, the wait staff, and the service workers who combine their talents to make the customer dining experience a memorable and enjoyable one.

And, on top of it all, fabulous food and drink – the foundation of any fine restaurant.

For a taste of these memorable dishes and drinks, visit The Dish at 3907 North Calumet Ave., Valparaiso 219-465-9221. Open Mondays through Fridays, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for lunch and dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, or visit 

Elegant. Refined. Minimal.

Our classic American cuisine is highlighted by a number of delicious dishes with some surprising twists.

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