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The Ball State Daily

Midnight Café & Grill serves up comfort food in the Village

<p>Midnight Café &amp; Grill opened in The Village to serve up comfort foods. Photo by Taylor Staples.</p>

Midnight Café & Grill opened in The Village to serve up comfort foods. Photo by Taylor Staples.

Ernesto Polito grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, with dreams of starting a restaurant. On Friday, Jan. 19, he opened the doors to that dream — welcoming patrons to the Midnight Café & Grill, located on the western edge of the Village, a business district along University Avenue in Muncie. 

However, about 3 a.m. that night, a driver crashed into the restaurant’s front window. The dramatic start didn’t shake Polito’s enthusiastic spirit or stifle the diner’s popularity. “I was just glad nobody was hurt. That was my priority,” Polito added. 

After about two weeks of repairs, Midnight Café reopened — again — with a robust menu Polito hopes will appeal to a range of tastes while celebrating the eclectic flavors of his homeland. 

Midnight Café offers a range of classic meals, including burgers and steaks, as well as a page’s worth of classic Mexican dishes, including carne asada, spicy carnitas and tostadas. Appetizers like cauliflower wings and onion rings complement hearty main meals. 

A family affair 

The crew at Midnight’s is “small but mighty,” Polito said, with about four servers managing the café every night except Monday, when it is closed so Polito can spend time with his partner, Isabel, and 1-year-old son, Henry. 

“Having a business is a 24/7 thing. If I’m not here, my mind is in this place, but I’m trying to separate this from family,” said Polito, who has lived in Muncie for 21 years.  

Even though Midnight’s takes much of his focus, Polito carves out time for his family or brings them to work. Parenthood and owning a restaurant are both “beautiful learning experiences,” he said. 

Server Kenzie Gamlin said Polito’s focus on family extends to Midnight’s employees. Polito creates a workplace built on close bonds and collaboration, she added.  

“He is understanding, persistent and comforting,” said Gamlin, a freshman at Ball State University. “Sometimes things come up, and he’s always been very kind and understanding.” 

Gamlin, who has worked at Midnight’s since its opening, said she is eager to watch the establishment continue to thrive. “It provides convenient option for students and people who live near campus,” said Gamlin, who manages the diner’s social media accounts.  

Polito said he is excited to grow the business in an area where the city and Ball State University have pledged to invest. In June 2023, the Ball State Board of Trustees approved a Village Revitalization Plan to construct a hotel, performing arts center and housing for students and families in the Village.  

Polito admits he is a bit nervous about how his business will sustain operations through the disruptions of construction, but he is hopeful for what the $200-million proposal will bring to the area. Ball State stated that construction should be complete by 2026. 

A brewing dream 

Polito’s journey to opening Midnight’s began during his tenure as a cook and assistant manager at Salsa’s Mexican Grill in Muncie. He said the grill’s owners gave him business advice and alerted him to the open space, which he purchased for the Midnight Café.  

Polito said he hopes the eatery is a place for people to feel safe and comfortable. He plans to invite Ball State music students to perform once a week, and he hopes to showcase the work of Ball State art students on Midnight’s walls.  

He said the reception has been great so far, as he connects with customers and builds a social media following on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. “It’s been a chaotic few month (with the crash),” he added, “but I’m excited about the opportunity to collaborate with students and keep expanding. 

“I look forward to serving Muncie some delicious food, good music and even better company.” 

Midnight’s is open during the following days/times:  

  • Closed Mondays 
  • 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday 
  • 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday 
  • 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday 
  • 8-3 a.m. Saturdays 
  • 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays 

All Inform Muncie articles are written by students in the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication in a classroom environment with a faculty advisor.
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