Monday, July 25, 2016

Zeke's Hot Chicken

You know me and fried chicken, so when a friend asked me to try Zeke’s, I was all for it. They advertise as serving “Nashville hot” chicken. This place used to be a hot dog place—and interestingly, it must be owned by the same people because the Zacky’s signage is still up inside and you can still get hot dogs as well as some other sandwiches like a pork tenderloin and Italian beef. I do think that being a fried chicken place is more appealing than a hot dog place, but you knew I would think that.

We were there to try the chicken though so that’s what we did. A two-piece meal with two sides ran about $9-10. I got the dark meat combo. Because I don’t love my chicken sauced in the Nashville hot chicken way (because it gets kind of soggy) I ordered the southern style, which she told me still have a fair amount of seasoning. She was right—although it wasn’t hot, there was a nice peppery edge to the coating. They were making it fresh as well, which I appreciated and it came out smoking hot. The inside was tender and juicy as well. Overall, I would say it was pretty decent chicken. Interestingly, my friend ordered the hot version, and it was actually a dry rub of seasoning on the chicken instead of a hot sauce type of thing. Honestly, it was sort of like they just sprinkled the spice mix on top after it came out of the fryer. Now, this obviously solves the problem of getting the skin soggy, but I am not sure if I liked this better regardless (I had a bite). You kind of inhaled all that seasoning as you ate it, which is kind of weird and it made it taste a bit dry. 

The sides were ok, the mac and cheese was the best one.  Nice and cheesy, although needed some salt and pepper. Greens weren’t bad, but didn’t really stand out. Potato salad was pretty bland. I’m not really sure why I keep ordering potato salad everywhere—I guess I am an eternal optimist because I just keep hoping, but rarely am I excited. But they are making a good effort to do something fresh and unique in Carmel, in an area totally full of chains and I appreciate that.

The best thing about the place actually is the staff. They are super friendly and extremely enthusiastic about the food. They are happy to answer all your questions and make suggestions. It’s nice to see.

So would I run in here before running into any of the fast food joints around it if I were in the neighborhood? Absolutely. It is worth a stop for a quick lunch. Would I go out of my way to go to Carmel to get it? Probably not.

I have not really heard anyone talking about this one though—surely some of you guys have been here. Tell me what you thought.

Zeke’s Hot Chicken
1315 South Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nicole Taylor's Back Room Eatery

I stopped by Nicole Taylor’s the other day to pick up some fresh pasta and remembered that they are now doing lunch in their back room—I didn’t really know what to expect but it is actually a super cute room back there—they have a couple of communal tables and then a couple of tables for four. You can also see the little room where they make the pasta. You order at the front counter and they deliver your food to you in the back.

On the day I was there, there were three sandwiches, three pastas, a couple of soups and a salad. We split the fried mortadella sandwich ($9.50) with melty robiola cheese and onion jam on the thin sliced bread. It’s a proper grilled Panini and it was very good. They are quite large—so the soup and half sandwich is a very good option. We just wanted to each have our own half as well as trying other things. But you can’t really go wrong with a fancy fried bologna sandwich.

We also had a cup of the soup of the day—the onion soup ($4.50). It was a broth-based soup—it was French onion in flavor, although without the bread and cheese. I really enjoyed it though—it was lighter than I was expecting and had lots of soft caramelized onions. It was a nice break from the rich and cheesy taste of the other items. I would eat the soup again as a counterbalance to the richness.

We also shared one of the pasta dishes. It was penne with peas and prosciutto in a heavy cream/garlic/parmesan sauce. There were some toasty breadcrumbs on top. I enjoyed the crunch and texture variation from the breadcrumbs, but I can’t say I loved this pasta. It was just so kind of one-dimensional. There was a lot of cream, and I can’t say there was much more to it. I would have loved some acid somehow. Maybe some lemon zest in the crumbs or something. Looking back, we probably should have gone with the dish that had lobster and capers—at least I know it would have a bit of a briny kick. The pasta itself at Nicole Taylor’s is lovely and they certainly know how to cook it just right so it doesn’t get mushy or anything.

Also, after looking at the sample menu on the website, I would kill for the egg and asparagus sandwich with lemon oil (yay! acid!) or the pasta with a poached egg on top. It’s a place I definitely need to go back to.

Have you guys been yet? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Nicole Taylor’s Back Room Eatery
1134 East 54th Street
Indy  46220

Friday, July 15, 2016

BBi Café

My son was at camp and my daughter ran across my very long list of restaurants I want to try and has been making me cross some of them off my list. Bbi Café and Sandwich Shop was one that has been on there forever and it looked good to her, so we drove over to check it out.

It’s a cute little place actually—actually really a pretty big place. They also have a large menu ranging from gyros to soups to salads to sandwiches and even some Mexican items. They also serve breakfast.

A little tip—the menu is all written on a big chalkboard behind the register (where you place your order) and there aren’t many details about each item up there. It might be best to peruse the menu online beforehand and get an idea (they spell out all the details online). They are happy to tell you what’s on everything, but seriously, there are A LOT of things on this menu. (I wish they had a printed detailed menu that you could look at to figure out what to get).

I got the Chicken Dagwood sandwich ($6.99). The sandwich has grilled seasoned chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, lettuce, tomato, avocado, provolone and mayo on toasted sourdough. I upgraded for like a buck to seasoned fries. They were seriously seasoned—my daughter thought they were too spicy but I thought they were pretty good. The fries themselves were just regular foodservice fries, but I liked that they jazzed them up a bit. My sandwich was quite good. They got the whole thing about pounding the chicken so it was thin and not too big and chewy. And it was appropriately sauced so it wasn’t dry at all. Nice amount of avocado and a nice amount of mayo. The only thing I would have changed is to make the mayo some sort of flavored one—I did get a side of the chipotle sauce for my fries and it was serious with it’s smoky heat. Almost a little over the top. But I would love some basil mayo or something like that on this sandwich.

My daughter had a half sandwich and soup ($5.99). She went with the gourmet grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup. It was a good bowl of soup—seemed homemade with its chunks of carrot and celery and it hit the spot after being caught in a downpour outside. The grilled cheese had four cheeses—Colby, Swiss, provolone and American cheese all melted together on French bread. It was a good grilled cheese. It was exactly as you would expect.

It’s in an area on Georgetown road that has little else besides chains so I am guessing the locals appreciate it for that reason. They are doing a good job elevating basic stuff up a bit. I would totally check this place out for breakfast—one of my favorite meals, and I think a place like this would pull it off nicely. Have any of you guys ever eaten here?

BBi Café
4825 Oakbrook Drive
Indy  46254

Monday, July 11, 2016

Tinker Street - Revisit

Hubby and I met up with our favorite sharing dining friends (I love people who share all the food) at Tinker Street the other day. We hadn’t been in quite awhile and the items on the spring menu intrigued me. It was also a beautiful night so we sat out on the patio. We got there on the early side because when it first opened, it was hard to get in—but while they were doing a steady business and were pretty much full the entire time we were there, we didn’t really have to wait to be seated (except that they won’t seat you until your whole party is there).

We started with the hoecakes ($8) and the crab cakes ($21 for a double order). Both of these dishes were very good—I probably liked the hoecakes a little more. We were worried they would come across too sweet, but they did not. There were two fluffy cakes with a nice corn flavor topped with preserved peaches, ramp butter and hickory syrup. There was enough acid coming through from the peaches to make it well balanced. The crab cakes were served with apple slaw and preserved yellow tomato. I liked all the ingredients together, although I expected the lump crab to be a little “lumpier.”

Our next course, from the “botanical” section of the menu, was the Indiana asparagus ($12) and the fresh bucatini ($16+ $10 for morels added). The asparagus was delish—it was blistered and served with quinoa, preserved lemon and crispy garlic chips. It had a great lemony flavor, and I liked the fact that the quinoa made it a touch more filling and I loved those crispy garlic chips for crunch and more flavor. They were cooked just right—sometimes they get a bitter taste if they are cooked too much. This was a nice riff on grilled asparagus. Sadly, the bucatini was probably the biggest disappointment of the evening, even with the morels added in. It sounded great—ramp pesto, pine nuts, peas, asparagus and parmesan, but it was really flat. We all agreed it needed salt and acid. We did add some salt, which helped, but compared to everything else we had all night, this was the least favorite.

For our main courses, we ordered two of the special of the night, lobster, the pork belly ($17), the tuna ($20), and we ordered a side of fries (they’re actually an appetizer) ($7) because we saw them at other tables and they just looked so, so good. That lobster dish? It was spectacular. It was an entire lobster taken out of the shell and served with tarragon gnocchi, peas, asparagus, local tomatoes and it was served on a creamy onion sauce. It was also drizzled with curry oil. Everything about it was good—the lobster was tender and cooked just right, and the gnocchi were nice and tender too. It was an artfully constructed and tasting dish.  The pork belly at Tinker Street is always good, and was one of the favorites of the table (not necessarily my favorite, but it was very good). They give you a nice hunk of pork belly that’s been seared crispy and serve it with a perfect sunny side up egg. It was served with kimchi, forbidden rice and sorghum glaze. It had a lightly sweet taste, but was balanced with the saltiness from the pork belly. Across the board, they do a great job with pork belly, and it is nearly always on the menu as far as I could tell.

I enjoyed the tuna a fair amount, although it was less popular with the table as a whole. I liked having something at the opposite end of the spectrum from the other dishes—it was much lighter, but with a kick from wasabi peas and ginger. The tuna was tender and cooked medium rare. The noodles were served cold, but again, added an nice juxtaposition to the rest of the dishes.  The fries? The fries are so, so good. I will never be able to go to Tinker Street again without ordering them. They are super skinny shoestring potatoes that are fried very crisp and were served with a ketchup dip (I didn’t eat this one) and some sort of pesto vinaigrette or something. That vinaigrette was just delicious with the super hot, super crisp fries. The late addition of them to our order was the right decision.

We also shared a couple of desserts. The stand out dessert was the banana pie. It was a creamy, very banana-y dessert. Loved the bruleed banana slices on top. The strawberry rhubarb Napoleon was just a little too sparse with basically the fruit and slices of crisp phyla. There was little else holding it together—it needed some sort of a creamy filling to pull it into a cohesive dish. There was also a little strawberry sorbet served alongside that tasted nice and fresh. I would stick with the banana dessert here, or else the s’more dessert, which is also delicious from past experience.

Overall, this was my best experience at Tinker Street to date. And honestly, one of the better meals I have had in Indy period in quite awhile. The service was very good and consistent, the food was excellent, and our wine was also exceptional. It also didn’t hurt that it was a lovely and warm spring night (those have been so few and far between this year). I look forward to going back.

Tinker Street
402 East 16th Street
Indy  46202