McGowan’s Seafood – Good eating, wines, classes

Written by Contributor. Posted in Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Published on April 01, 2020 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons

Have you always envied people who can turn out pan-seared scallops or salmon with a shrug and a smile? Would you sell your most precious jewelry for Blackened Red Fish with Char or a Sazerac cocktail like you enjoyed on vacation in New Orleans?

Are you looking for a “natural” wine, made without sulfites, or the perfect wine to complement your salmon dinner? Have you searched in vain for Black Truffle Balsamic Glaze or Spanish saffron?

All these questions can be answered by one place—McGowan and Sons Seafood and Provisions in Valparaiso. The name is deceptively mundane. McGowan’s is actually a fresh seafood paradise, a gourmet cook’s Nirvana, and the Promised Land for Foodies.

That husband and wife team Rob and Leslie McGowan should bring their considerable talents to Northwest Indiana is a fortunate quirk of fate.

Leslie was raised here; Rob, in Wisconsin. They met in college and worked in Milwaukee for a while, where Rob honed his culinary skills at Cajun and vegan restaurants and high-end hotels. After some years, the couple ended up in San Diego where Rob exercised his skills as a chef at the Hotel Metro and the renowned Bernard Guillas’ Marine Room in La Jolla.

Family business brought them back to Valparaiso in 2016.

We started planning this shop in 2017,” Rob remembers, “expecting to provide a lot of catering and a line of gourmet foods and wines. The fresh seafood just took off, more popular than we expected. Things grew.”

They did indeed. The fresh seafood case—the focal point of the main shop area—is just teeming with amazing seafood offerings from large Black Harbour salmon from New Brunswick and Caribbean red grouper to Mahi Mahi and whole Branzino. The sashimi-grade tuna loin is stunning, as are the extra-large Gulf shrimp.

If customers don’t see what they want, it can probably be ordered,” assures Corie, the friendly assistant manager. And, to prove her point, a phone call came in from a customer requesting live lobsters.

Customers also come in for advice, consulting Corie or Leslie on plans for parties and menus and recommendations for appropriate wines.

I love the wines,” Leslie declares. “I choose our selection based on what I like and my desire to offer wines not usually seen in the area. We have wines to go with all our seafood, and even steak, which we don’t sell.”

In addition to a selection of Beaujolais, chardonnay, rose, and sparkling wines which are somewhat familiar, McGowan’s also offers “natural” wines. Made largely without sulfites, “natural” wines are often made with organically grown grapes and without other additives. Leslie answers questions about menus and wines, helping customers achieve the perfect combinations for dinner parties, events, or cozy dinners for two. This hands-on service is what makes the business successful and what provides Rob and Leslie the greatest satisfaction.

In addition, the shop offers shelves of kitchen “must-haves” from knives without which no cook can function, to whiskey-aged shoyu, rice wine vinegar, and toasted sesame oil for Asian-inspired dishes, to arborio rice and paella to Israeli couscous, and lots more.

Specialty items from the hands of Chef Rob include demi glaze (for steaks), blackening/boiling/jerk seasoning, remoulade, and foie gras sized for the home kitchen cook.

Hungry now? Well, you don’t have to cook; you can be the guest for lunch in McGowan’s dining area. Choose from the best of their seafood offerings including fresh salmon, grouper, scallops, or snapper, or shrimp in your favorite style—blackened, jerk, or lemon garlic butter– with soup of the day for starters or oysters or salad.

Their fully stocked bar provides your choice of drink as accompaniment.

And for those who want to add to their cooking skills, there are cooking classes such as the recent “Basic Fish Prep” where participants learned to sear salmon and scallops and prepare lemon garlic butter shrimp. Class included the opportunity to enjoy the class creations with salad and a drink.

And finally, McGowan’s offers special events like the Mardi Gras pop-up which includes a four-course New Orleans dinner of gumbo, blackened red fish with char, jambalaya, and bourbon pecan bread pudding. New Orleans’ signature cocktails (Sazerac, Hurricanes, and French Quarter Candy) round out the celebration.

Whatever your culinary interests, Rob and Leslie are ready to provide an exceptional experience at McGowan & Sons Seafood and Provisions, 1607 Burlington Beach Road, Valparaiso. The shop is open Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information call 219-241-5016 or 219-299-2336 or visit


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