Sunday, January 24, 2010

12 Hours in Munster, Indiana

My favorite part of the New York Times is getting great travel advice from their "36 Hours in..." series. For a reference, check out their article on Vancouver, BC. I decided to take a hint from their wildly popular series and create my own "12 Hours in..." series. Naturally, to get my feet wet, I decided to start with a city I'm familiar with - my hometown. Munster, Indiana is located a mere 31 miles from downtown Chicago and it's truly a booming, progressive town. It's no surprise that Munster is considered one of the most livable places north of Indianapolis and south of Chicago. I visited Munster on a Wednesday. So here goes nothing.

12 Hours in Munster, Indiana

Munster is known for many things, among them a great gyros restaurant, a tiny gloriously rundown donut place and of course, Community Hospital (in case you fall down or something.) Munster features one public high school, one public middle school and three public elementary schools. For the religious, Munster offers some private, God-inspired educational institutions as well. There's an art center for those who like to take a ride down culture lane and then there's the parking lot behind Taco Bell - a popular destination for teenagers on weekend evenings.

2:30 pm
I enter Munster at Exit 1 off of I-94E and drive down Calumet Ave, passing the Hammond Clinic and Canton House Restaurant, among other gems. On the corner of Ridge and Columbia, I come across Bieker Woods. Bieker Woods is known for a scary Halloween event annually. This area of town is considered the historic district, as there's an old school house and also another building. Rumor has it that an old lady lives there and yells at kids who pass through the woods to get from Wilbur Wright Middle School to Long John Silver's on a half day of school.

I decide to grab a bite at The Commander (745 Ridge Rd). The Commander has been a Munster landmark for decades. My grandfather would drive his Oldsmobile there daily for his "cigarettes and coffee." The Commander is known for it's lemon rice soup and club sandwiches. Get your shmooze on in front of the pie display while locals read "The Times" and discuss politics, Purdue football, and the newest prices at Munster Car Wash, conveniently located a few blocks down on Ridge Rd. Beware of the after school rush of 14-17 year olds wanting to get their fill of that oh-so-good soup.

5:00 pm
After a filling meal, I decide to head over to my mom's house to play with Scooby the dog and do some laundry. On my way to my childhood home, as I'm heading south on Columbia Ave, I pass Munster High School, or as the students call it, "school." I see the tennis team practicing on my right and the football team practicing on my left. The Munster Mustangs athletic department has a rich history of both success and failure. The swimming and tennis teams are usually pretty good, while the football and basketball teams are mediocre at best. But I honestly have no idea how any teams have done in the past 8 or 9 years.

7:30 pm
After sitting around the house with my mom and Scooby for a couple hours, we decide to grab some dinner. There are many choices. Do we pick Giovanni's (603 Ridge Rd) for fine Italian dining or head southwest to Three Floyd's Brew Pub (750 Indiana Parkway) for unique beers and pub food? My mom also suggests going to Charlie's Ale House, but Mom, we always go to Charlie's. OK, she says. We settle on Munster Gyros, which locals will tell you is the absolute best gyro spot on the planet. I couldn't disagree. We each order a Gyro Platter with one extra pita (one just isn't enough - my ONLY complaint about this place).

8:15 pm
We were tired after dinner, but we decided to hit the town in the spirit of this article. We head to Johnny's Tap (8050 Calumet Ave), where a neon sign outside reads, "Mr. Fun is Here." This dive bar has frosted mugs for your ridiculously cheap domestics. We found locals playing bar games like darts and Golden Tee. The jukebox blasts everything from Metallica to Brad Paisley to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. We decided not to talk to the other 6 patrons at Johnny's because, well, they'd been there all day.

9:30 pm
Our next stop was Munster Donut (
8314 Calumet Ave), made famous by the Facebook Group - 'People Who Love Munster Donut.' We each order the donut-on-a-stick which features a happy face frosting smile. We sit at the counter with 2 of Munster's police force. I recognize one of them from the D.A.R.E. program in 5th grade.

10 pm
We head home - it's late.

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