Beach Cafe returns to Miller with new vigor
By Mark Taylor Post-Tribune correspondent January 25, 2012 4:24PM
If you go
What: Beach Café
Where: 903 N. Shelby St., Gary
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar stays open later.
Appetizers begin at $3.99 for deep-fried mushrooms or cauliflower, $4.99 for our Maryland crab cakes, $5.99 for our saganaki, $6.99 for our cevapis. Prime rib cuts range from 12 to 22 ounces and cost $14.99 to $23.99. Steaks are $9.99 for a chopped steak to $17.99 for our Mario’s Cut ribeye to $24.99 for the 24-ounce Beach Café ribeye. Half- and full-size portions of chicken and ribs range from $8.99 to $17.99. Shrimp dishes $9.99 to $13.99. Fish selections start at $9.99 for a whole catfish to $39.99 for lobster tails. My wife’s lake perch was $17.99.
The Beach Café offers full bar service, a variety of cocktails and a broad selection of reasonably priced beers from $1.50 to $3. Wines cost $4 to $6 per glass, and bottles are $15 to $22.
Updated: February 28, 2012 8:07AM
When an established restaurant changes hands, loyal fans often cringe.
Will the new owners retain the staff, service, menu and reputation of the place they love? Or will they ride on the coattails and good name of their predecessors while slowly running the place into the ground?
So when I heard that the Beach Café in Gary’s Miller neighborhood had reopened in May 2011 after several ownership changes and a two-year closure, I was both hopeful and hesitant. I wanted to see this place come back.
And my message is clear: It’s safe to come back to the Beach Café.
The food, service and ambience were commendable. The latest version, while sparely decorated, features polished woods, warm earth-toned walls and framed South Shore posters. A stone wall features a glowing fireplace.
This Miller landmark, which dates to the 1940s, has long offered fine steaks and seafood dishes to local residents, beach goers and tourists. Luckily, longtime fans will appreciate familiar favorites like lake perch, walleye, shrimp, ribs and steaks. But new owners Marash and Aga Nikolaj, ethnic Albanians who emigrated from Montenegro, have branded their eatery with a few Balkan specialties, such as cevapis (spicy sausages) and saganaki (flaming cheese pie).
We dined with friends and began our meal with the cevapis, saganaki and crab cakes.
The cevapis, which included four 3-inch grilled sausages served with slices of feta cheese, red onion and crusty warm rolls, were satisfying and delicious.
The saganaki was equally tasty and flambéed at tableside by our friendly and competent server.
The Maryland crab cakes were less successful. The two crisp, deep-fried, panko-crumb crusted crab cakes tasted commercially purchased and not particularly memorable. They were served with small plastic containers of cocktail and tartar sauce.
Our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. And while my wife and I both chose soup, I was impressed by the salads our friends ordered, which included plenty of dark, healthy greens and sliced vegetables.
My chicken noodle soup was rich with vegetables, thick noodles and large chunks of chicken in a clear, tasty broth. My wife’s avgolemono (lemon rice soup) was overly thickened with cornstarch and missing the memorable chicken and lemon flavors of this Greek classic. I’d pass.
While Beach Café offers fine sandwiches and burgers, pasta, chicken and seafood dishes, we knew what we were going to order: the lake perch and the Mario’s Cut ribeye steak.
The perch were perfectly cooked, lightly dusted filets sautéed to a golden hue with a light buttery taste. My wife requested the cole slaw, which tasted fresh and was surprisingly good. The dinner was served with fresh, lightly sautéed vegetables.
My steak was delivered just as I requested. It was juicy, tender and beautifully seasoned.
The same mélange of vegetables joining my wife’s entree included broccoli, cauliflower and carrots and brought a healthy touch to our meals.
For dessert we chose the German chocolate cake and the pecan pie, neither or which were prepared in house. The cake featured nuts and toasted coconut, but was a little dry. The pie was tasty, but strangely lacking in pecans.
As someone whose family emigrated from Eastern Europe, I know how good the desserts are there. I would urge the new owners to prepare some of the delectable cakes, tortes and strudels from that region.