Monday, October 15, 2018

Road Trip--Chicago: Roister & Pacific Standard Time

So hubby and I celebrated our anniversary in Chicago the other weekend (a little early because I am starting a new job). When we go to Chicago, we sort of just plan our meals and then fill in the time around them. Mainly we just wandered around and shopped. Anyhow, we tried two new places for dinner. 

The first night we tried Pacific Standard Time, which a pretty new place in the old Tavernita space. They lightened the space up and the chef describes the food as home cooking he might have made with his Chinese mom---all with a California bent. It’s an interesting menu—there isn’t a real theme to it, except for the fact that there is a wood-fired oven, so they do make several items in there.

We started with the shima aji crudo ($19) and the wood-fired pita with eggplant ($14). I enjoyed the crudo—it is a mild white fish and was topped with gooseberries, tiny cubes of kohlrabi, lime and poppy seed. I enjoyed the acid from the lime and the gooseberries with the fish. The kohlrabi and poppy seeds added a nice little crunch, but there was maybe just a little too much of the kohlrabi, so I took some off. A nice light starter though. Our server highly recommended the eggplant with the pita (they also have a tuna and a beef tartare version). We went with it, but this was maybe the most disappointing dish for us. The fresh poofy pita was tasty (especially the piece that was more heavily salted), but the eggplant was just ok. There was a lot of skin mixed in with the dip, which made the whole thing a little too chewy and just a touch bitter. It may be also that I am jaded after eating that eggplant dish at Beholder. I wanted it to be that, and it clearly was not. This version did have a creamy robiola cheese underneath it, which helped with the bitterness, but still, not my favorite.

The two dishes we had as our shared main dishes were much better. We both loved the shrimp and pork dumplings ($16). There were six little dumplings and they were in this delicate scallop broth. There was shredded cabbage across the top. These are the kind of things I could have a serious craving for….and the kinds of thing I also wonder why we don’t see on Indy menus. They were light but full of flavor. An excellent dish. We then had the soft-shell crab ($22), which was their take on a BLT. There was tempura fried crab sitting in a leaf of Bibb lettuce. They were topped with pieces of bacon. little tomatoes, pickled onions a creamy ranch-like sauce. This was also really good. The crab was fried just right, and overall the flavors blended really well. The bacon could be a little overwhelming sometimes if you got a big piece of it in a bite, and I wished for a couple more of these—we each only got a half a crab. But knowing we were going to be on an eating binge all weekend, we thought it prudent to take it a little easy. We also wanted to order dessert as I had read that the pastry chef was from the now-defunct Grace. And we weren’t disappointed with our chocolate tart. It was beautiful and really good—it had roasted peanuts crushed on top and this pretty swoop of creamy chocolate on top. 

But the next dinner you guys…. seriously. It was so good. We went to Roister, which is the latest Alinea Group spot—a totally casual place with an open kitchen and a Michelin star. Hubby and I got seats at the kitchen bar and watched all the action. There’s a big wood-fired pit with various meats hanging from it, and then various other stations. I loved watching all the food coming out and the fact that our server always seemed nearby to give us the run down on what everything was. Speaking of which. Our server was awesome. Super laid back and right there when you needed him, but not annoying at all. He was obviously passionate about food as well.

Based on his recommendations, we started with the cheddar rillettes with their house fry bread ($14). This dish is amazing. So much so that I felt sorry for every table that didn’t order it. Hubby and even debated a second order for dessert. So they use this truffle cheddar cheese, mascarpone and mix that up and top it with these tiny pieces of cauliflower that is in a truffle vinaigrette. Oh, and they give you this amazing crisp, salty fry bread to smear it on. SO GOOD. If you ever go, and this is on the menu, this is a MUST ORDER. Wow. I am going to try and recreate it at home. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

We also ordered the smoked oysters ($19), which were tasty, and were quite the production—they serve them in the cast iron skillet they smoke them in (wood chips right there in the pan) They are just barely cooked and topped with chipotle butter and epazote vinegar. They are extremely smoky in flavor as well. There were only four of them, so it’s a small portion, but it is loaded with smoky flavor if that’s your thing. They were fine, but my least favorite item of the evening.

For our main dish, I convinced hubby to get the chicken ($67) because it was a shared dish, and while he balked a bit, he gave in and we were both very, very happy he did because man, was this good. They do just the right thing to give you the perfect chicken. They take thighs (they give you four of them) and soak them in buttermilk and then fry them perfectly. They’re lightly dusted in salt and were so freaking good. So tender and shockingly crispy. Perfect fried chicken. Some of the best I have ever had. But for the breast meat, they marinate it in chamomile tea and then sous vide it for an hour and then sear the skin at the very end. Oh my goodness, this was definitely one of the most tender and delicious chicken breasts I have ever had. And now I want a sous vide machine for my house (so feel free and give me recommendations if you have one, because it’s going on my Christmas list). They also give you this house made hot sauce made with habanero chilis and melon. It was hot, but not taste bud numbing. It was good with the chicken, as was the sawmill gravy that they also gave you for dipping. Not that you needed wither, but they were good. The only part of the dish that I thought was not particularly mind-blowing was the part they made with the legs and wings. They did these confit style and then made a chicken salad out of it with sunchokes and sunflower seeds. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t worth the calories when the other parts were in front of us. And it’s a lot of food. Probably better shared with three or four people. I am already planning a return trip with more people to get this and try something else. Seriously, you should see the duck. It was also enormous though. Based on what was leaving the kitchen, I’d say the duck and chicken are the most popular. So, so good.

We had to try a dessert after all this amazing food. They just had a few choices and when went with the cookies and milk ($11), which was milk ice cream. It was really light, almost like sorbet made with milk. And then it was topped with chunks of cookie dough and pieces of sugar cookies. It was the kind of thing I would make at home, as a person who has an obsession with chocolate chip cookie dough. It wasn’t fancy, but it was delicious.

Roister was the clear winner of this trip and a place I will certainly return to when in Chicago. And that says something because there are so many places to try, I rarely repeat. I need those rillettes again though. I just hope they stay on the menu. Pretty sure I would have a hard time not getting the chicken again too. I just need to bring more people with me so I can try other things as well.

Pacific Standard Time
141 W. Erie Street
Chicago, IL

952 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mass Ave Pub

Here’s a quick fun post. A few weeks back, some friends and I went to dinner and then headed to Mass Ave Pub for trivia night (it was “research” for an upcoming trivia fundraiser that one friend was planning). Anyhow, we had already eaten dinner, but after a drink or two, we all decided we needed some snacks to munch on. We ended up ordering potato skins ($6.50) and “tot-chos” ($5.50). First of all, potato skins that are really good are sort of a rarity these days. When I was young, they were one of my favorite things, but then so many chain restaurants started serving them, and I think restaurant suppliers started pre-making them and restaurants were just heating them up. Then they started to be bad. But every so often, you find a bar, or some little place still making them well, and you get excited. This was such an occasion. The skins at Mass Ave Pub tasted really fresh and had lots of cheese and bacon on top and then were served with sour cream on the side. Just as they should be. These are good potato skins.

I think I have mentioned before that I have a weakness for buffalo chicken items. And when I saw that one of their versions of “tot-chos” was done with a buffalo chicken theme, I knew this was the one we needed (executive decision made). So they take tater tots (another personal weakness), toss them in buffalo sauce, and then top them with crumbled blue cheese and served them with a side of ranch. Perfection.

So if you are in the mood for some old school bar food, Mass Ave Pub has you covered. This is certainly not fancy food, but it is trashy snack food done well. They do a fun trivia night on Wednesdays too, although the week we went was mainly about Indy 500 trivia, which was less fun for our group, since none of us really knew much about 500 trivia. It’s a fun environment though.

Mass Ave Pub
745 Massachusetts Ave
Indy  46204

Noise rating: 3 bells (out of 5)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Mandarin House

I met a friend for lunch the other day at Mandarin House in Carmel. It’s so weird because I have never actually even noticed this place before. And I have been in and out of the City BBQ a couple doors down several times. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere of the place and the welcoming greeting I got.

It’s a pretty standard Chinese restaurant menu, and you can get a decent deal for lunch (most are around $7 and come with soup and two crab Rangoon). I got my usual first dish at any Chinese restaurant, garlic chicken ($6.95). It was curious that there was a garlic pork on the menu listed as hot and spicy, but garlic chicken was not. Anyway, I was impressed with the depth of flavor in this dish. It was a welcome surprise. The sauce was rich and salty and had a ton of garlic in it. The veggie mix had mostly water chestnuts and then a few mushrooms, which were my favorite part. They serve it with lightly seasoned rice and the crab Rangoon. I didn’t love the crab Rangoon, they were a little soft and doughy. I also chose the hot and sour soup. It was a decent version—certainly not the best or worst I had had. Good flavor and some nice pieces of tofu, my favorite part. They also give you those crunchy fried wontons with your soup, and let’s face it, those make any soup better.

My friend had the house beef ($7.25), which was listed as hot and spicy, but wasn’t particularly spicy in my mind. I don’t love beef in Chinese restaurants typically because the beef is always cut small, gets cooked well done, and I usually find it a little chewy. This one was no exception. It couldn’t compare to my chicken in my opinion. Seriously, I was pretty impressed with that garlic chicken sauce. I would certainly order it again.

Their dinner menu is much more extensive, I would be curious to hear what items people think are good. And while it was all pretty straightforward, I would be interested to try some of these other dishes. Let me know if you have favorites.

Mandarin House
1370 S. Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rize -- Revisit

I have been to Rize a couple of times, but I always seem to forget about it---and hubby had not yet been, so one day when we had some time for lunch together, I actually remembered it and off we went. It was a really nice day (and yet, it was freezing in the restaurant), so we chose to eat outside. They have a nice little patio that’s not on such a busy road (it faces the parking lot).

Anyway, I find this menu very appealing, and so did hubby. It was closer to lunch time than breakfast, but we decided to get a little of both types of dishes and share. We ordered the egg tart ($11), the ham sandwich ($13), and the crispy potatoes ($5). I have had the tart before and it is pretty tasty. The custard comes in a tart shell, and then is topped with all kinds of veggies—there’s broccoli rabe, mushrooms, squash and spinach I believe. And pickled onions on top as well as some micro greens. There’s this hibiscus mustard on the plate that makes the dish. With all those veggies, I would have loved a little more. To be honest, the egg part actually kind of gets lost in all those veggies. I think if I ordered it again and it came so veggie heavy, I might just remove half of them right away to make the proportions a little more balanced. I feel like there were more of them than the first time I went. 

The ham sandwich sounds simple., but they use a croissant, scrambled eggs, prosciutto, high quality cheddar and then hollandaise. We asked for the hollandaise sauce on the side (on the recommendation of our server), which I think was a good plan. This sandwich was so good—and so was the hollandaise. But it was nice to use as much as you want and not have your croissant go all soft and gooey. They do the eggs really well, they are light and fluffy. The ham was very tasty and in just the right amount. There was also a nice little side salad that was maybe slightly underdressed, but still good. 

Finally we had the crispy potato side dish. Hubby was in love with this dish, and they were very good. Imagine like a giant tater tot—it was round and made of shredded potatoes and was very nice and crispy. It sat on top of a creamy mornay sauce (cheesy cream sauce), but I will say, I had a few yummy bites dipped in the hollandaise. These are completely worth ordering and I know they will always be ordered when I am with hubby.

After trying this sandwich, it makes me want to try the other sandwiches as well. They have some nice combinations and it seems they try hard to come up with something more interesting than the standards. Even the grilled cheese seems interesting. I hope this place stays around, as I find it so much more interesting than the other breakfast place at Ironworks. Now, if we can just fill the B Spot space with something good, we’ll be all set. What do you guys think should go in there?

2721 East 86th Street
Indy 46240

Monday, September 17, 2018

Public Greens - Fashion Mall

The other day my daughter and I decided we needed to do a little shopping and ended up in the Fashion Mall food court at around 11:30. Since we were there, we decided to grab a bite to eat and headed into Public Greens. Although I’ve been to the one in Broad Ripple before I decided trying a new location could offer a different experience.

After looking at the menu for a bit… and learning that they had just gotten local, amazing, strawberries in from a friendly waitress we went up to order. I ordered the Fried Chicken, Basil Pesto Fritters, and Strawberry Shortcake ($16). The way pricing works there is you either pick one ($6), two ($10), or three ($14) items from the salads, snacks, or proteins sections and add an extra $2 for each protein. My daughter decided to go with the Santa Fe Pork Bowl ($16), which is another option if you want more of a put together meal. She also grabbed one of their specialty juices, with a combination of grapefruit, apple, and lemon juice.

We sat down at a table and only had to wait maybe 10 minutes before our food came out. First, we tasted the basil pesto fritters, which from what I understand have pesto blended into the dough and are topped with a balsamic glaze. The idea was intriguing as they were presented almost as if they were a dessert but were clearly savory. The glaze had a nice flavor as did the fritters, although the texture of the fritters was interestingly denser than you might think, with and the flavors hinted at maybe a partially chickpea-based flour? They were decent but needed some extra oomph. A little more texture would have been nice.

I have had the fried chicken at the other Public Greens and thought it was good. This similar version was good as well, but not as good as in the past. They weren’t that hot and a little dry. Almost like they are reheating them. They were still fairly crisp, but I did feel like they could have used a sauce, maybe something spicy or fresh. My daughter enjoyed sneaking bites of my chicken which is rare for her, not being so much of a fried chicken addict herself. Her pork dish was decent if a little bland. It consisted of a quinoa, pinto beans, and Santa Fe style pork base, and supposedly was topped with cilantro, scallions, feta, and ranch. The only true topping I noticed in any quantity was the ranch sauce on top, which did help to moisten the quinoa (which unfortunately, like most quinoa, was rather dry) but didn’t add a ton of flavor. The pork and beans were well cooked, although the pork could have used a little more spice. Overall, the dish was ok and she seemed satisfied although I felt it could have used more of a flavorful topping. 

To conclude our meal we tried the Strawberry Shortcake, treating it as our dessert, even though it's listed as a snack, based on the server’s recommendation. This was honestly the biggest disappointment of the meal after all the hype we had heard about the strawberries. It’s not that the strawberries tasted bad (they were quite sweet and delicious), it was that we were only given 2.5 strawberries for an entire slab of pound cake. We only ended up eating about a quarter of the cake simply because we ran out of strawberries to eat it with. Despite this, the bites we did have were excellent and the cake itself was lovely and moist. 

Ultimately, I feel Public Greens is a wonderful idea (with all their proceeds going to charity) with a somewhat iffy execution. Their food needs more flavor and really needs a bit more of an interesting spin to really impress me. You feel like you are eating a healthier option, but not necessarily a particularly flavorful one.  Does anyone have any recommendations as to what to order there that has a bit more flavor?

Public Greens
8702 Keystone Crossing
Indianapolis, IN 46240

Noise Rating: 2 bells (out of five)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Festiva -- New Ownership

In case you haven’t heard, there are new owners at Festiva—it is the previous owner of La Chinita Poblano in Broad Ripple. We were excited to give the new place a try and see how and what had been changed. The first thing I appreciated is that you can now eat there even if you are under 21, so on one of the visits discussed here, we took the kids. The other visit was with friends.

There are certainly some highs and lows at Festiva food-wise. On one visit we had the guacamole ($9) and on one visit the queso ($7). The guacamole is described as the best in town, and it is definitely up there. Seasoned well—lots of salt and lots of acid. Extremely good. The queso on the other hand, which is described on the menu as tres chiles queso is not very good. Not a lot of flavor and very thin in consistency. I feel like queso is something that shouldn’t be too hard to get it tasty and I think this recipe needs to be shaken up. The chips are solid. Other really good things—the margaritas. Both times we had a pitcher of the house margaritas ($30 for 4-5 margaritas). I like that you don’t have to go fancy here to get a quality margarita. Also, I like the little crunchy spicy bits you get when you sit down as well. I don’t love the hot sauce drizzled on them, as it quickly makes them go soggy, but the ones without or the ones eaten quickly are very tasty.

So one of the visits they had a special that was SOFT SHELL CRAB tostadas. Well you know I was ordering these (it was the masa antojito of the day). These were outstanding. Half a crab on each (would have preferred a whole, but you know), a spicy crema type sauce underneath and lots of delicious pickled veggies on top. This dish was a star and I almost ordered a second round and I wished I had instead of what I did order. It was a special, but if they ever have them when you are there, get them. The other thing that I ordered the same visit as a main dish, even though it’s actually listed as an appetizer is the shrimp cocktail ($11). Now I have had Mexican shrimp cocktails in California before and they were amazing—they are almost more like a cross between a ceviche and a bloody Mary. Sadly, this one didn’t have much flavor to it and was lacking the avocado that was described on the menu, which made me sad. There was none. There was a lot of cucumber, which is not my favorite. This was a pass.

A big winner on both visits was the carne asada ($20). This is a good size piece of marinated skirt steak—it’s marinated in a cilantro-based sauce. It comes with sautéed onions and peppers and choice of sides. We’ve tried several, but the most commonly ordered seem to be the potatoes (rajas con papas) and the beans (frijoles charres). This steak has so much flavor from the marinade as well as the salsa-type sauce that comes with it. This was a table favorite on both visits with both groups. On one visit we also had the costillas ($18 for half rack), which are honey/guajilli braised pork ribs. The menu says it comes with a crema, but I didn’t see any. The ribs were quite good though—extremely tender and with a nice smoky flavor.

On one visit we ordered the pollo in achiote ($16) as well. This is a half-roasted chicken in an achiote rub (it has a red color and an earthy flavor). You know, I think our chicken was a bit burnt, although it had a decent flavor. Part of the color is certainly from the spice rub, but we saw several others come out that were not so dark. The chicken was a bit dry once you got into the white meat as well. I think if this was executed just right, it would be very tasty. The least successful dish for me on one of the visits was the shrimp tacos ($16). They are described as salt and pepper crispy shrimp (I love a good salt and pepper preparation), with caramelized onion, chipotle salsa, cilantro and onion. For whatever reason, these came across as really flat to me. The shrimp were good quality, but the flavors just didn’t have the acidic balance I crave with this kind of food. 

On both occasions we had the churros ($5) and on one visit the dark chocolate flan ($7). The churros are good---one the second trip, I think they were cooked just a little beyond ideal, but in general you can’t go wrong with stick-shaped doughnuts covered in sugar, drizzled with caramel, and served with dark chocolate dipping sauce. The dark chocolate flan was interesting. I am not usually a fan of flan because it is often kind of boring and one dimensional, but the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate took it to a more interesting place.

Overall, I think Festiva is a fun place to go, and I like the setting, the service, and the drinks for sure. I have found several really good food items as well, even if I hope they keep tweaking some of the menu items as they grow. It’s certainly a place we will return (my kids are already asking), and since we can bring them now, this makes it more of a doable option. Those of you who have been since the ownership change, what do you think?

1217 East 16th Street
Indy  46202

Noise Rating: 3 bells (out of five)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Workingman's Friend -- Revisit

Hubby and I have been lamenting about the lack of quality thin burgers in town since the Barking Dog closed, and decided it was time to go back to Workingman’s Friend and check their version out again.This was especially true after the "smash burger" incident at Open Society. It’s a bit of a hike for us, but we were starting to get desperate. Last time I had been, I was a little disappointed, but these thoughts have been replaced with happiness after this visit—maybe last time was just an off day.

This place has the charming atmosphere of a very old, slightly divey bar in an older Indy neighborhood—the near west side. I do wonder when this part of town will be targeted for redevelopment like the near east side has been. Anyhow, there were people there, but it wasn’t super busy. We quickly ordered our cheeseburgers (me a single ($5), hubby a double ($6.50)) and our onion rings ($3.50). I foolishly noticed fried zucchini ($4.50) advertised on a sign and ordered it as well. That was my only mistake. These are clearly coming out of a foodservice bag and are not tasty—they are breaded and then fried. We each tried one and that was it.

Our burgers on the other hand, they were delicious. I got the perfect accompaniments on mine—cheese, lettuce, mayo, onions and pickles (they put the pickles on the side). Then I added some ketchup and mustard. So the burgers here are super thin. They have lacy edges but are still somewhat tender in the middle. They shred their lettuce (the only way it should be on a burger) and they put it on the bottom bun with the mayo. Exactly where it should be. Hubby enjoyed his double as well—he liked that there is a thin piece of bread in between the patties because it keeps the sandwich together, so it doesn’t just fall apart. These burgers really fill a void in Indy. (Please tell me where else to get good thin burgers in town if you know of any).

The onion rings are also solid. They are battered and are so much better than the zucchini. A burger and onion rings are the perfect combo. Oh and an ice-cold schooner of beer (literally, their glasses are coated in ice). It may become more frequent in our rotation. And we saw one of our U.S. Senators there, Joe Donnelly, which was pretty cool. He came and said hello and took a picture with hubby. (He had a single if you’re curious).

Sadly, we can’t take the kids because it is 21 and over only, and remember, they only take cash.

Workingman’s Friend
234 N. Belmont Ave.
Indy 46222

Monday, August 27, 2018

LIvery- Revisit

We met up with some friends for dinner at Livery the other night. I was happy to see that there wasn’t a really long wait to get a table, as there was the last few times I went, but then again that was a long time ago. I still wish they took reservations though. I feel like once these kinds of places get past the initial excitement upon opening, they would only do themselves a favor by taking them, rather than making people worry they won’t get it, and just not go at all. Just my thoughts.

Anyway, I love those little spicy wagon wheel dealies you get for free when you sit down—I just wish they gave you a few more. There were six of us and we had to ask for more than one little cup of them. They’re made of puffed wheat that is fried, and then seasoned with a Latin seasoning salt. We then ordered a bunch of starters—the sweet corn ($5 or $6 off the cob); the ceviche ($11), the Brussels sprouts ($7) and corn and chorizo empanadas ($9 for three empanadas). That corn was amazing. So much so that we ended up getting three plates of it. And while I am sure it is delicious on the cob, it was a nice way to share with a group when you could just scoop some off. Love the hunk of jalapeno butter and chipotle mayo on there. This corn was rich and decadent and had so much flavor. I would surely get this dish each and every time if it is on the menu. The Brussels sprouts were also quite tasty—roasted and topped with some cheese and served alongside a green salsa. I have had several of the various empanada choices, and these were good. I preferred the corn version to the chorizo ones. The chorizo empanadas came with a peach salsa, which wasn’t my favorite. The corn empanadas came with a cilantro crema and had cheddar cheese inside as well. They just had more flavor and even with the sweetness of the corn, came across as more savory. In the past, I have enjoyed the chicken version as well.

I really enjoyed the variation of the acidity of the ceviche. It was a nice contrast to everything else. It seemed like it was mainly made with shrimp and scallops. It was flavored with jalapeno, cilantro, tomatillo and lime. They serve it with super thin plantain chips, which were nice to eat with some of the seafood on it. There’s also some seasoned popcorn on top. I could take or leave the popcorn, just because when it gets a little wet, I find popcorn to get too seedy.

I was quite happy with all of the appetizers and could happily just make a meal out of them in the future, but we also ordered mains. I ordered the pork belly tacos, because I was having a hard time making up my mind. They fry up some flour shells and put a big slice of pork belly, along with black bean puree, chipotle BBQ sauce, lettuce, poblano crema, and pickled carrot. They were served with a lime wedge each. These were tasty, even though one of them had a fair amount of fat in the pork belly that made it a little chewy, therefore making it a little tough to eat. The other taco (which was of course the one I shared) was much better. The squeeze of lime was key.

Hubby had the skirt steak ($18) with chimichurri refried beans, broccolini, and jalapeno butter. He really enjoyed it—the steak was cooked just right, nicely medium rare and tender. I just got a couple of bites but liked the ones I had. The only other dinner that I tried was one friend who had an appetizer for her dinner—the sweet plantains ($8) with black bean puree, poblano crema, habanero guajillo sauce, pineapple salsa and cotija cheese. I wouldn’t have probably ordered this, thinking it would be too sweet, but it was super tasty. The plantains with the heat and acid from the pineapple and habanero sauce, as well as the richness of the beans, cream, and cheese. It was really good. I would definitely be tempted to order this one again.

I think this is the best meal I have had at Livery. I feel like they definitely have their groove going now and have adjusted menu items to keep making them better. I still haven’t been brave enough to try a salad here again, based on past experiences, but maybe one of these days. Anyone had a salad here that they really like? Or what have your overall experiences been? Feel free to update me!

720 N. College
Indy 46202

Monday, August 20, 2018

Open Society -- Revist

I met some friends at Open Society for lunch the other day. I heard they have a new chef and I looked at the menu online and was intrigued. It has been changed a bit since the last time I was there, which was quite a while ago.

smash burger?
So I was torn between breakfast type items and lunch, but when I saw they had something called the society burger, which is further described as a “smash burger,” I got even more interested. Could it be a nice thin burger? I mean what else could “smash burger” mean right? Well, I don’t know why they use that term, because this was actually more like a meatball than any type of patty. I was kind of sad about this. Also, it was a very well-done meatball, which was also a bummer (they didn’t ask how I wanted it). It came topped with cheese, arugula, pickles and a special sauce. I enjoyed the flavors of the toppings, but sadly, the meat was disappointing. And the bun was also quite round in shape. The whole thing ended up being like the opposite of a thin burger. The fries here are quite delicious though. I particularly like the crunchy end bits. I like a nice crunchy fry, and these hit the spot. They serve them with ketchup though, which is kind of boring.

I also had a couple of bites of my friend’s avocado toast ($12), which visually looked amazing. How can you go wrong with avocado, egg, and cheese right? Well, the whole plate, salad and asparagus included, was strangely under seasoned. I guess because avocado and eggs both cry out for salt, but we kept salting it (which we had to ask for) and still were not getting it right. Same thing with the dressing on the greens. It was kind of sad for something so beautiful to be lacking such depth. Especially since the description described Aleppo oil (Aleppo is a type of pepper) as an ingredient, which we thought would liven it up, but we struggled to find the flavor of it. 

The final thing I had just a bite of was ‘nduja sandwich ($15). It came topped with local ‘nduja, avocado, roasted red pepper and Havarti on Amelia’s bread. It also had chips on the side. This sandwich had a distinct spicy flavor to it, unlike the others. It must have been the ‘nduja, but it had a kick to it for sure. It was not like ‘nduja I had had before—not as soft and spreadable, but still the sandwich was pretty good. I liked the thin cut bread. This is the type of bread I really enjoy on a sandwich. I can’t say it’s a sandwich I would repeatedly order, but I enjoyed the bites I had.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with the food I had, particularly my “smash” burger. Hopefully one day I will find out what it has this name.

Open Society
4850 North College Ave
Indy 46205

Noise rating (at lunch): 1 bell out of 5.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ali'i Poke

I really enjoy poke (it’s pronounced “poh-kay”) and am excited to see new options springing up around Indy. So poke is sort of like a deconstructed sushi roll in many ways—the star of the dish is meant to be the fish, and it is usually served raw and marinated. You choose your base (rice, greens or nacho chips) and then you choose your proteins, your toppings, and your sauces. Or at Ali’I poke, you can go with one of their signature bowls, in which they have created a bowl of ingredients that they think go well together. We built our own.

At Ali’I, you get a small or large bowl ($9.50 or $12.50). In a small bowl, you get two scoops of protein and in a large, you get four. I was really torn because I like to get a scoop of tofu in my bowl, but only one scoop of fish seemed inadequate. And in the interest of blogging, I also wanted to try the salmon. So, in order to write the most thorough post possible (it’s your fault I got such a huge portion), I got the large. However, for future reference, you really don’t need the large unless you’re really hungry—the portion they give is quite generous. I had two scoops of the marinated tuna, one of the marinated salmon, and one tofu. The kids both got the small and both got all tuna. First of all, I think the fish quality is slightly better than the other poke place I have tried in town. The pieces are cut a bit bigger, and they give you more in a scoop. I think the bigger pieces make it harder to hide fatty bits. Both the tuna and the salmon were very good, and I only came across one piece that was a touch fatty. The tofu was nice big chunks too, and because they don’t mix the proteins up in the sauce (which has its good and bad points), it stays that way. As for the base of my bowl, I got half sushi rice and half greens, and I think at this place, I would just stick with the rice in the future. I really like greens in poke, but these were bigger, harder pieces of lettuce (mainly romaine), and weren’t as good as softer mixed baby greens. Just harder to eat I guess.

As far as toppings, I went with edamame, sesame seeds, crispy onions, avocado, and scallions. I also like that they don’t charge you extra for anything (even the avocado), so you know just what you are paying from the start. There are a ton of sauces and I had a hard time choosing. I ended up getting some of the creamy miso and some of the spicy mayo, and both were good (they will let you taste any that you want as well). My daughter did the creamy miso and the sesame shoyu and I think it might have been a little better. I would also like to try the sesame vinaigrette. There is also classic unagi sauce and honey wasabi. (I told you there are a lot of choices!).

All in all, we quite liked this place, and to be honest, it is not much further than driving to Carmel, which is our other regular poke haunt. We were torn amongst the group as to which we liked more, but I think because the fish and the portions were a bit better here, I would choose this one, although I will still frequent both. This place was doing a bustling business on a week day, and I think may be a favorite of the staff at the IUPUI campus.

I know there are some other places offering poke bowls as well—have you had any of them, and what did you think?

Ali’I Poke
910 West 10th Street
Indy 46202

Monday, August 6, 2018

Taste of Havana- Revisit

It has been a minute since hubby and I have been back to Taste of Havana for lunch. We both really enjoyed it when we went, so the other day, we took advantage of a free lunch time together and headed to Broad Ripple. They have expanded since the last time we were there (I told you, it has been awhile), and it’s nice to have more seating. It’s casual seating and there’s a fair amount of it. The only downside is it was freezing in there, which made us eat very quickly and get out. Who knows, maybe that’s what they want.

Anyhow, we went with the traditional Cuban sandwich (I got the mini version for $7.50, and it is really not that small). It is your traditional pressed Cuban sandwich with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. It hits the Cuban sandwich spot for sure and I like that it is pressed and not so fat it’s hard to eat. When I was waiting for mine, I heard someone else ask for extra pickles and I think that is definitely the way to go. There were only a few pickles on there, and they are some of my favorite parts. I just went and asked for some on the side and doctored it up myself. The pickles and the mustard are where its at for sure. It’s a solid, traditional sandwich. If you want something on the side, you have to get it separately. I just went with a bag of chips.

The sandwich that hubby ordered, that we have had before, that is probably the star though, is the pan con lechon ($10.49). This one is served on the same type of bread as the Cuban, but is topped with pulled, marinated, roasted pork, caramelized onions, and mayo. They also give you a little container (you’ll want two) of au jus to dip in and it is fabulous. I like the way it makes the sandwich nice and moist as well as adding some saltiness. I love the pickle and bite of the mustard on the Cuban, but this is probably even better.
All in all, it’s a cute place and the owner is exceptionally friendly. I am glad to see they are doing well and have expanded. And it’s a place I need to think of more often.

Taste of Havana
815 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Noise rating: 0 bells (out of five)

Monday, July 30, 2018


Hubby and I finally got out to Beholder the other night. I have been hearing a lot of things about it from several friends and we were anxious to go. I didn’t really have it in my head exactly where it was, but it’s on the near eastside, not far from Irvington. It’s an old garage I think, that has been renovated. It still has a sort of industrial feel, but it’s very modern inside. Plain grey walls with only some flower arrangements as décor. It would be a great space to highlight some local artists. Just my two cents.

Ok, so we had heard the portions were small, so we went full in with our order. Between the two of us, we started with three smaller plates and ordered two of the larger plates. I loved the way they sort of just paced them all out one at a time to make for a leisurely meal that didn’t feel like they were just trying to turn over the table. The first course we had was a special that evening—the heirloom tomato salad ($13). It was delicious. Local tomatoes, feta cheese, pistachios, some mixed greens and a wonderful vinaigrette with oregano oil. Seriously, everything together here was so good. Just the right balance between the slightly salty, creaminess of the cheese and the acid of the tomatoes. I appreciated the greens that were more of an accent than a major part of the dish. The next dish that came out was the eggplant tartare ($11). I had been told by several people how good this dish was, and they weren’t lying. It is more of a dip than a tartare—a creamy eggplant dip with Middle Eastern seasonings. They serve it with this delicious fry bread that you could happily eat on its own, it has so much flavor itself. It’s rich and buttery tasting with a little kick of salt. Not crunchy, but not super soft either. You could really taste the cumin throughout this dish. Really good. I could see this being one of their classic dishes. I hope it is. Our final small plate was the Kampachi sashimi ($19). This was the one I was most excited about to order, and to be honest, was my least favorite. Although it was still very good. Just the intensity of the flavors of the other dishes were better. The dish had a little mound of sticky rice on the bottom, which was soaked in brown butter. How could you really go wrong with brown butter? It gave the dish not only richness, but a nuttiness as well. The fish was thinly sliced and then topped with local tart cherry garnish. A really interesting flavor combination as well.

The next two dishes they brought together (it was a nice touch that the chef seemed to be delivering most of the entrées personally). We had the skate wing (which is the wing of a ray), which was served with potato skin aioli and a green curry sauce ($23). I love skate. Many restaurants offered in in San Francisco, and then when we moved to England, it was everywhere—it was like catfish is here—available in every local seafood counter. It’s light and flavorful, and you don’t have to worry about bones. So Beholder’s version was awesome. Very light dusted and floured and perfectly browned. I loved both sauces together with the fish. And I think I can safely say it was the first time I have had potato skin aioli. A cool flavor with a hint of potatoes. They actually gave a fair amount of the skate here—two filets, but if you’re a person who wants a starch with every meal, then you might think it wasn’t filling enough. I thought it was perfect.

We also had the Iberico pork secreto ($43), which was a splurge, but extremely delicious. If you’re familiar with Iberico pork, you know it’s usually served sliced and cured like prosciutto. This was more like a steak that had been cooked and shaved. It had a bit of chewiness from the high fat content, but was so good. Hubby can’t stop talking about it. The meat was so well seasoned, and the dish was served with pickled spring onions, walnuts and some lightly grilled greens. Loved the combination of crunchy textures in this dish, the slight chewiness of the pork and the crunch of the walnuts. It was only five ounces of meat but was rich and tasty. You’re not going to feel overly full maybe just from this dish, but I think you will feel satisfied.

Desserts are a whole other experience here, as they have Pete Schmutte as the pastry chef, formerly from Cerulean. In my opinion, he is maybe one of Indy’s top 2-3 pastry chefs. His desserts are as lovely as they are tasty. Hubby and I shared the gjetost cheese custard with oats and plum ($10). I will tell you, hubby was doubtful when he saw it, but man, was this good. Underneath the crisp cookie-like piece and the super thin sliced fruit, was this mixture of cheesy bits and crunchy oat bits that were kind of like the top of a fruit crumble. Seriously, I know it sounds weird, but it was altogether super delicious. And look how pretty too. Also, Beholder has one of the best dessert wine lists by the glass in Indy. Oh, and they bring you a nice little end of meal plate of sweets that rival many of our best candy makers as well. We had a little disc of dark chocolate and mint, and a berry flavored pate de fruits. Both were outstanding.
Overall, this is the best new thing happening in Indy right now. Some may scoff and say the portions are small, but I say, who cares when the food is this good. You can get a lot of different flavors all in one meal, and I personally can’t wait to go back. And it may be expensive for Indy, but after having just returned from NYC and the prices there, we should appreciate the artistry of this food, its sophistication, and the price point compared to other cities. It might not be an everyday place, but it is worth a splurge. I just hope it can last.

1844 East 10th Street
Indy  46201