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The Utlimate Burger

By Barbara Morrow, Midwest Living editor

Midwest Living editor Barbara Morrow has been sizing up burgers and other foods as part of researching travel stories across the region. The Octave Grill is just one of the exceptional eateries you’ll find in Northern Indiana.

Full disclosure: I love hamburgers in all their incarnations, so maybe I’m not as discriminating as those who can pass a Burger King without experiencing waves of temptation. I consider this possible lack of objectivity, juices and melted blue cheese threatening to dribble down my chin, as I plow through the “Holy Trinity” in the Octave Grill in Chesterton. No, I think it makes me better qualified to pronounce this perfectly cooked beef patty dusted with Cajun seasoning, slathered with aioli and stuffed with blue cheese, peppers, celery, onions possibly the best burger in the world. The brioche bun is soft on top but lightly grilled and crisp inside. (Later, a chef told me that peppers, celery and onions are the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun cooking).

I am accustomed to justifying indulgences in my burger passion by cutting the sandwich firmly in two and eating only half. But this time I can’t quit until only a few bites of the six-ounce patty remain. And then I can’t let it go. Yes, I’ll take a box. I would like to come back and try the rest of the creative sounding lineup that includes a Gouda BBQ burger and the hamburguesa with guac and locally grown habaneros. Even worse, I can’t resist the sweet potato nuggets that fill the rest of the plate; tastier still dipped in the stone ground mustard provided for that purpose.

How about some homemade dessert, the server asks cheerily. I had been eyeing the selection on a big chalkboard on a back wall that must conceal an impossibly small kitchen. Cherry cobbler with blueberry waffle cone ice cream has to be amazing, I’ve already decided. In fact, I admit to a little stab of anxiety as the server erased the entry just above it. Oh good, still some left. It’s served in a ramekin, the dollop of purplish ice cream just starting to melt into a fluffy not-too-sweet bread-like cobbler over warm fruit in light syrup.

Open just a year and wedged between downtown buildings like a kid vying for a spot along a parade route, this tiny cafe is worth finding even if you’re not a burger fanatic. I happened on it as I searched for this northern Indiana town’s well-known Italian spots (Popolano’s and Lucrezia’s). I parked and started walking. Peering in windows of others businesses closed late on a Sunday afternoon, I realized that they were people staring back from the Octave. You know how you get an immediate good vibe. Instead of feeling awkward walking into this tiny space not bigger than a good-sized kitchen with about a dozen or so tables, most filled with people, I felt welcome as a server ushered me to a small table.

Amy Capodice, sister of owner Sylvia Petro, says all the beef comes from newscaster Bill Curtis’ Kansas farm, and they get as many as possible of the other offerings from local producers, often at Chesterton’s European Market on Summer Saturdays.

Another customer raves about the stuffed green pepper soup. A colorful salad is tasty, fresh and just the right size. The menu board lists appealing sounding drink creations. Area artists’ works surround the star painting on one wall, fittingly a giant burger.