Miller Bakery Cafe in Gary reborn
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 June 13, 2013 11:10PM
Miller Bakery Cafe owner Jack Strode stands in his new eatery at 555 S. Lake St. in Gary's Miller neighborhood on Thursday, June 14, 2013. | Sun-Times Media
Miller Bakery Cafe
555 S. Lake St., Gary
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
5-10 p.m. Saturday
4-8 p.m. Sunday
Updated: July 15, 2013 7:59PM
GARY — Fine dining based on contemporary American cuisine including fresh fish and aged steaks are the trademarks of the newly reopened Miller Bakery Cafe.
Jack Strode heads up the venture with his mother, Diana Twyman.
While the restaurant opened quietly last month, it’s holding a grand opening Friday with a 5 p.m. ribbon cutting with complimentary champagne and live music.
“We wanted to work on the menu, and do staff training. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready,” said Strode who grew up in Detroit but has spent the past 20 years in Chicago. He’s since moved to Miller.
A restaurant management veteran, Strode has run Chicago eateries including Smith and Wollensky, Rosebud Prime and the Cheesecake Factory.
He said he spent plenty of time in Miller at his grandmother’s home as a youngster so he’s familiar with the city.
Strode purchased the cafe at 555 S. Lake St. after it fell into foreclosure, although he said he never ate there during its 21 years operation.
Originally, the building housed a bakery until it closed in 1986. A Chicago couple reopened it as Miller Bakery Cafe in 1989 and hired a young chef named Gary Sanders. Two years later, Sanders bought the restaurant and expanded it, buying an adjacent building in 2003.
Sanders, who also operates Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill and Tavern in Beverly Shores, closed Miller Bakery Cafe in 2010.
Strode has altered the appearance of the restaurant, shifting from dark earth tones and stained wood to a brighter, warmer look. “We really brightened the place up and added lots of blues,” said Strode. All the art work on the wall is by local artists and is for sale, he said.
While holding interviews to select a head chef, Strode said picking Cheryl Bernacchi came easy. “Her food is wonderful. When we were interviewing, we went through the process of having them cook for us. Once we tasted her food, it was a no brainer.”
So far, Strode thinks Bernacchi’s stuffed pork chops filled with prosciutto, heirloom spinach, and Fontina cheese is her signature dish. “It’s a lot of flavor, but it’s not in your face,” he said.
Other menu items include lobster martinis, avocado slider sandwiches and reserve cuts of steak, aged 25 to 30 days.