Whenever Dave and I get in the car and cross over the state line to Indiana, we yell out, “We’re on vacation!” Yes, I know, we need to get out more.

The significant part of crossing the line into Indiana near Grant Park is going to Lowell. Really, it’s a great community. There are interesting things to do, see, and yes, unique little cafes that are absolutely delicious. Here are several, to name a few: Gold Star Café and Catering, McVey’s Restaurant, George’s Family Restaurant, Mi Ranchito, a few pizza places, and a new little café that is out of the way, yet worth the effort to find it — The Mason Jar.

For my birthday, our family gathered together in a central location in Lowell. We met at The Mason Jar for lunch. This was the first time I had seen my children and grandchildren all together since last December. First came my spine surgery, followed by pneumonia, and of course, COVID. I couldn’t have received a lovelier gift than the gift of family togetherness.

We sat outside to dine al fresco under their covered deck. I began with a Bloody Mary (naturally served in a Mason jar), not the super Bloody Mary that came complete with a complete lunch on a stick. I mean, I saw one with a slider on a stick!

We could have breakfast or lunch, both menus available with a variety of choices. Most of the family ordered breakfast. Dave ordered the MJ breakfast with three eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, and toast or biscuit. Kelly opted to try their biscuits and gravy; even a half-order portion was large.

Several other breakfast items that looked tasty were the stuffed French toast with sweet cream and berries, topped with whipped cream or the breakfast sandwich on toast or biscuit with egg and cheese. Of course, you can add meat for a small charge.

I was torn between breakfast and lunch but opted for lunch. My plan was to take my lunch home with me because Kelly ordered a triple chocolate cake with fudge frosting from a local bakery, Suzie’s Café & Catering, Valparaiso. I’m saving Suzie’s for another column. The cake was excellent; the ultimate chocolate cake that rich and moist.

I ordered their Italian beef on Italian bread. It was delicious, moist, and served with a delicious au jus on the side. Our daughter-in-law, Wendy Markland, ordered one of their specialties, the brisket Philly with fire-roasted veggies and melted queso cheese served with creole mayonnaise. It came with an order of homemade chips.

Several different hamburgers arrived at the table like the Mason Jar burger with caramel goat cheese, bacon jam, and garlic mayo. Tim Markland, our son, ordered the breakfast burger with bacon and American cheese. I’m not sure who ordered it, but it was the Classic Western burger with bacon, barbeque sauce, onion rings, and cheddar cheese. The Mos burger looked delicious with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, baby swiss cheese, and garlic mayo.

Most kids love mac and cheese; I know mine does. There is a build your own Macaroni and Cheese menu. Start with the basic mac and cheese topped with breadcrumbs, add either diced bacon, pulled pork, diced ham, vegetables, chicken, or upscale to shrimp, steak, or brisket.

The café is known for its signature homestyle cooking. I know this to be true. Start off with one of their appetizers; some I’ve never heard of but will try. The barbeque pork totchos are tater tots fried the topped with queso cheese, house-smoked pulled pork, barbeque sauce, sour cream, and green onions. This could be a meal on its own.

It’s hard to find a restaurant that serves fried green tomatoes, but Mason Jar has them. Thick slices of green tomatoes, breaded, fried to a golden brown, and served with their homemade marinara sauce. Another was the avocado toast with smashed avocados, red onion, and tomato on bread.

Stop in for lunch and have one of their salads. The chicken salad is made with grilled or fried chicken, cheese, tomatoes, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs.

The Mason Jar salad is loaded with spinach, red onions, bacon, mushrooms, pickle, hard-boiled egg, and a homemade dressing.,

Colder days are upon us. How about a hot bowl of made from scratch soup?

For dinner entrees, they have country-fried steak, southern fried catfish, jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and homemade meatloaf.

The Mason Jar has a full bar and offers catering services as well.

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