New Valpo diner will have retro theme
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent May 12, 2013 9:33PM
Laine Kasarda stands with a pair of engine block grills outside the building where she plans to open All Soup'd Up, a retro-style diner, at the intersection of Morgan and Lincolnway in Valparaiso Friday May 10, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 14, 2013 6:11AM
VALPARAISO — The last of the 10 downtown liquor licenses may soon be claimed by a business that Northwest Indiana residents may know from festivals and the Hobart farmer’s market.
Laine Kasarda, owner of All Soup’d Up, plans to open a ‘50s diner-style restaurant at 301 Lincolnway, the former home of Main Street Motors.
The property has sat vacant since April 2012, since Main Street moved off U.S. 30 for more room, so Kasarda will also be transforming an empty property and hopes to have the license to sell cocktails along with beer and wine.
Valparaiso Economic Development Director Matt Murphy said that although Main Street Motors was grandfathered in, the current zoning wouldn’t allow a similar business.
“It’s a great location. It’s just the building and the parking situation that made it hard to get someone in there,” Murphy said.
Kasarda sees it as the perfect structure for a retro diner, a permanent site for offering catering and solidifying the operations of what she began three years ago.
“Business is just picking up, and I need more space,” she said. “It’s just time to step up with it.”
She plans to have a car-culture theme and will also do some grilling out on the hollowed out 327 Chevy engine blocks she now uses to grill for festivals and car cruise nights.
She discovered the unique grills while at a car show in Scottsdale, Ariz., and decided to start a business using them.
“Being a product of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I just want to kind of bring them back,” she said. “People love nostalgia.”
Besides having diner food like pot roast, meat loaf and hamburgers, Kasarda plans to offer the Polish and German foods of her heritage, and she plans to continue the homemade soups that are best sellers and a tribute to her late father’s cooking.
“There are no restaurants in town that do the food that I grew up on,” she said.
The restaurant location would also be closer to home for the Hobart native and now Valparaiso resident who began her first business, cleaning service Mopsters Inc., 28 years ago.
Kasarda looked at other sites, but this one was in downtown and allowed for the three-way liquor license.
The garage architecture also fit her nostalgia theme.
When she presented preliminary plans at the May 6 Valparaiso Site Review Committee meeting, City Planner Tyler Kent suggested she apply for a downtown facade approval grant.
The grant pays 50 percent of outside improvements up to $50,000.
“I think it would be a very unique venue downtown that people would be drawn to. It would be an attraction for downtown,” Kent said.
Although residents had spoken at a public planning session against having the used car dealership downtown, City Administrator Bill Oeding said he knew of no efforts to do so, especially by the city.
The business ran clean and was an asset, he said.