MICHIGAN CITY — The Radtke sisters aren’t too different from most people in their generation. Ellie Hoener, Nicole Bennett and Anna Radtke each moved away from home, leaving Michigan City behind when they graduated from college.
Hoener and Bennett were living in Chicago and Radtke had moved to Oregon.
But in 2002, when their father purchased an old restaurant on Trail Creek, they decided to move back to Michigan City, excited about working together to help in the revitalization of their home town.
That old building, the former Seafood Delights restaurant, is now Bridges Waterside Grille, a beach-themed, seasonal restaurant that perhaps draws just as many out-of-towners as it does locals these days.
Hoener and Bennett own and operate the bar and restaurant, which is located at 508 E. Second St., with younger sister Radtke serving as manager.
“It was never our thought to have a restaurant,” Hoener said, adding that she was a communications major in college.
By chance, the sisters happened to be home visiting over the Easter holiday in 2002 when their father decided to purchase the property, she explained. “He showed it to us and we thought it could be adorable … but it needed a lot of love.”
Justin Post, who serves as the bar manager, said the old restaurant wasn’t much more than an old fish shack, saying, “There wasn’t much to it.”
Within two months of that visit home, the Radtke family was able to transform the old building into a colorful waterside restaurant that seems to fit right in along Lake Michigan.
“It was a tiny, little beginning and every year we’ve grown a little bit,” Hoener said. The original Bridges deck was about half the size of the existing one, she said, lacking a bar because they didn’t have time for a beer and wine permit that first year.
But now in its 15th season, Bridges is making a name in the city as a place to dine and relax along the water.
Radtke said the menu was inspired, in part, by the many seaside destinations her family would visit while vacationing over the years – places like Jamaica, Mexico and the East Coast.
“We grew up going to beaches on vacations, but of course you want to do (a menu) that fits with how a place looks,” she said, explaining what she calls the restaurant’s “beachy” feel.
Radtke and Post agree that the fish tacos are by far the best selling menu item, followed by burgers and fired perch.
The menu also features several vegan and vegetarian options including a variety of salads, a caribbean faux fish wrap and a multi-grain burger.
The Bridges name, as explained by Hoener, comes from four landmark bridges that can be seen from the restaurant’s deck: The old U.S. 12 bridge, the new U.S. 12 bridge, the Franklin Street bridge (when the draw bridge is open) and a rotating Amtrak bridge.
Bridges is open seasonally – generally from the end of April through early October. Business hours are Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
More information about the restaurant is available by visiting www.bridgeswatersidegrille.com or calling 219-878-0227.