“I have a lot of faith in Michigan City, and La Porte County as a whole. What a great place to think about starting small businesses and watch them build into thriving ones.”
Patrick Wilkins sees the potential for Michigan City to become a booming, thriving city akin to Indianapolis. He first illustrated that faith by opening the illustrious Patrick’s Grille right in the heart of the city. On a busy highway nestled among chain restaurants, Patrick’s Grille offers a singular dining experience unlike any other in the area.
“We’re one of the only fine dining locations where you don’t need to have a membership to come in,” Wilkins said. “We are the perfect, go-to place to have a nice anniversary or birthday dinner, a business luncheon, or a celebratory gathering.”
Wilkins knew the challenges of the industry he was saddling up in when he first started Patrick’s Grille. Perhaps more importantly, he accepted the challenges of the niche market he was entering.
“I realize the challenges in doing this kind of business, but I also realize that there aren’t a lot of businesses nearby doing dining at this level,” Wilkins said.
In previous business ventures, Wilkins spent a lot of time on the road, travelling to meet customers and network with other companies. He dined in so many different restaurants that the idea of opening his own naturally wedged its way into his mind. As time passed and Wilkins distinguished more and more the types of dining experiences he preferred, the idea became a prospect.
“I constantly had that conversation going in my head, that notion of, ‘If I had a restaurant, what would I do?’” Wilkins said.
After a successful stint of operating the Club House Bar and Grill, Wilkins decided to open his own venture. Seeing the potential for an upscale but relaxed cosmopolitan dining establishment in Michigan City, he purchased the space that formerly housed Rodini’s, an long-established restaurant that had a loyal band of regulars. When Patrick’s Grille opened its doors, Wilkins was prepared for the challenge of winning over Rodini’s regulars; in fact, the challenge further highlighted for him the type of experience he wanted to cultivate for new customers.
“I made the decision early on to prioritize standards over potential masses [of customers],” Wilkins said. “You have to cater to your audience, to your dining crowd. Obviously, you want to be profitable, to sustain your business, but this is about finding and serving that fine dining niche that I know so many enjoy.”
Wilkins was definitely on to something. Since opening its doors in 2015, Patrick’s Grille has been attracting diners from across Northwest Indiana.
Patrick’s Grille is popular among the business crowd; many a luncheon meeting has taken place in its comfortable, urban environment. And for those high-end anniversary parties and celebratory gatherings? Patrick’s Grille sees its fair share of those, too. In fact, a large portion of the Grille’s clientele stems from the nearby communities of Chesterton and Valparaiso, as well as other NWI towns.
“I think this is becoming a really special place for Michigan City. It definitely is one for the Region,” Wilkins said.
Patrick’s Grille has grown in ways that Wilkins never imagined, namely in the popularity of its carryout and catering services. The catering side of the business has so taken off that Wilkins recently purchased another building in downtown Michigan City to accommodate a full-time catering operation. The Oriental Pearl, or The Pearl, as Wilkins and his staff refer to it, will soon house Patrick’s Catering.
This catering business will be another facet of the growing presence Wilkins is cultivating in Michigan City. He has already spent the past year fine-tuning another operation: Sunset Grille, a more family-oriented and casual dining destination overlooking Lake Michigan.
“We are very excited about Sunset Grille!” Wilkins enthused. “We’re working closely with the city to make it an even better, more desirable venue in the near future.”
Sunset Grille, Patrick’s Catering, and Patrick’s Grille make up 75% of Wilkins overall plan for Michigan City. The final piece of the puzzle? An entire venue for events like weddings, reunions, fundraisers, and functions. A place as upscale and singular as Patrick’s Grille, ready to book.
Wilkins is sure of Michigan City’s rise. With projects like the South Shore Line double tracking, the potential expansion of the Michigan City airport, and NIPSCO retiring the power plant along the lake in the future, there can be no doubt that Michigan City will grow, and Wilkins’ businesses will grow right alongside the city.
“You just watch; Michigan City is going to boom again. I’m banking on it!” Wilkins said.
You can anticipate big things on the horizon from Patrick’s Grille and its counterparts. In the meantime, Wilkins encourages you to stop in to relax and be cared for.
“We don’t want to rush you,” Wilkins said. “Our goal is to get you to loosen your tie, relax, and slow down while we take care of the rest.”
Plan your destination at Patrick’s Grille today.