Monday, November 12, 2018

Nesso


Nesso is the newest Cunningham Restaurant group project in the old Cerulean spot at the Alexander Hotel. It’s pretty new, and I usually try and wait a bit, but the perfect opportunity arose to check it out, so we did. Plus, since we are always on a quest for interesting Italian food, it was quite appealing.

First of all, I was impressed by the effort put into remodeling the interior. I always thought the old Cerulean interior was interesting and modern, but they have certainly improved it in my mind. There’s darker wood, and a much warmer feeling. It still feels very modern though. Our server was attentive, and it was one of the circumstances where it felt like the company had put some effort into staff training. Our server was also knowledgeable about the menu and offered suggestions.

We started with the bread plate ($5) and the bruschetta ($10) for appetizers. They have a nice bread plate with several fresh bread options, including focaccia and sliced Italian bread. They serve the bread with roasted garlic olive oil with a touch of balsamic, as well as butter. The bread plate was well done. We all really liked the bruschetta as well, which included several toppings such as white beans with cheese, wild mushrooms, mustard greens and tomato. It was all on the same plate, but sort of separated by flavors, and every one was good. I enjoyed mixing some of the richer flavors with some of the more acidic flavors from the tomatoes. It was a crowd favorite at the table. We also ordered the grilled artichokes, because they are also a family favorite. They are very good as well and have nice crispy grilled edges. They were heavily seasoned with garlic and herbs and were served alongside a salad of citrus, fennel and red onions with hazelnuts. I enjoyed the freshness of the salad, but I am not sure I loved it with the artichokes. The artichokes were nicely cooked though so that they were tender inside with the charred exterior.

I love love that they have true first course sized pastas. So you can truly make it a first course, or you can have a very light dinner. I love pasta that is interesting, but so often Indy restaurants give you so much of it that it looks unappealing the minute it is set down in front of me because it is just way, way too huge. Our server warned us that they were two-ounce portions, and they are also priced appropriately in my opinion for the quality you get. Hubby and my son had the bigoli ($12), which was outstanding. It is a large spaghetti-like pasta, but thicker and was in a black pepper, egg, parmesan and guanciale sauce. A small amount went a long way, but it was rich and delicious. And a small amount was all you needed. My daughter had the gnocchi ($16) which was also very good. She questioned it a bit because it included pears in the toppings but ended up really liking the combo that also included fried sage, hazelnuts, grana Padano cheese, goat cheese fondue and chicken-focaccia meatballs. The gnocchi were small and somewhat dense but had a nice crisp exterior from being pan-fried. An interesting combos of flavors for sure. For my main dish, I ordered the risotto with a rich broth, lots of parmesan, butter and some foie gras, which was all topped with sliced truffles ($15). Again, I loved the fact that I could order something this rich and decadent, and not regret it because of a massive portion. It was small and just the right amount. Ok, I might have seared the foie a bit and maybe put in a little more, but it was a really tasty combination.

The main dishes at the table were the branzino ($34) (picture shows a half portion that my kids split) and the veal ($28). Both were excellent, and completely different from each other. The fish was light, and the skin was very crisp and a bit salty, which both kids devoured. The sauce was an herb basil aioli and had potatoes, fennel, and lemon. There was also a touch of chili, giving it a hint of spiciness. All the flavors combined together for an extremely well-balanced dish. The veal was on the opposite extreme, extremely rich and extremely hearty. The veal was pan fried and topped with walnuts and gorgonzola cheese, as well as capers and parsley salad. I appreciated the briny kick from these, but hubby thought there was almost a little too much going on for him, and he didn’t think the dish needed all the cheese AND the capers. I thought it was pretty darn tasty though.

We didn’t get any dessert, but I look forward to trying these one of these days, particularly knowing Hattie McDaniels is running the pastry kitchen. All in all, it was one of the better dinner experiences we have had in Indy lately and I hope they continue to grow and succeed. So far, so good as far as I am concerned. 

Nesso
339 South Delaware
Indy  46204
317/643-7400

Monday, November 5, 2018

Auberge


My son was playing in a tennis tournament in Zionsville, and naturally the first thing I thought was, where could we eat after? I don’t make the trek out to Zionsville that often, so I wanted to make the most of it. We settled on Auberge, which was a place I have been wanting to go for a while. It’s French, with a really classic (but modern) French menu. It was easy to sell my son on it with two words: “steak frites.”

It’s a cute little place set on Main Street in an old house. They have a patio that probably doubles the size of the restaurant, but we sat inside because my son was sort of overheated from all that tennis. It is a cute interior with a lot of wood. Our server was very friendly, but sadly got a little overwhelmed as the meal progressed. 
First, they bring you these little baby bread loaves baked into a little flower pot. The bread was really soft, and it was warm, and they gave you nice soft butter with it. These were very good. Hubby was thrilled they had escargot a la Bourguignonne ($12) as well. If he seems escargot, he nearly always as to order it. They little snails were in a rich herby garlic butter and topped with little balls of puff pastry. They were very French, and very good. Done just right. We also ordered the tuna tartare ($16), which was very good quality hunks of raw tuna. It was mildly seasoned with lemon and olive oil and served over a little salad of diced veggies and topped with a quail egg and saffron aioli. I sort of wished for a bit more of the aioli, or the lemon or something, but it was still very good as the fish itself was great, and it was at least properly salted. 

Hubby loved his duck breast ($28), which was served medium rare, and alongside Dauphinoise potatoes and braised endive with a cherry reduction alongside. A slightly sweet, slightly tangy accompaniment is always good with duck. The potatoes were rich and creamy, and he was very, very happy. My son had the steak frites ($25), his go to at a French place, and was happy as well. The steak was cooked as he wanted it and the lightly truffle flavored fries were nice and crisp. I loved the garlic and tarragon aioli they served with the fries. They do a very nice job with the seasonings.

I was really torn about what to order, and I knew I would get some of the boys’ food, so I decided to try the quiche ($12). It had gruyere and broccoli and a nice rich crust (you get a whole baby quiche, not just a slice). I really enjoyed the well-dressed greens served alongside as well. I like a little tangy bite to go with a rich cheesy thing like quiche, and this one was great. The quiche itself was probably not something I would order again, but I did enjoy it. I have my eye on the croque Madame ($13), which is always one of my favorite things, but I didn’t try this time. 

Overall, I am excited to see a cute place with a classic truly French menu. I think the kitchen is doing a good job making great flavor combos and using high quality ingredients. The downside of this place was definitely the service. We actually wanted to try dessert (profiteroles!), but it was taking so long to get our server’s attention throughout the night, we just gave up. I don’t know if it was because the patio was so busy or what, but the service wasn’t good. I would certainly try again one of these days, because the food was worth it. Hopefully, it was just an off night. Who else has been there? Tell me what you think? I am surprised I don’t hear about this place more…





Auberge
175 S. Main Street
Zionsville, IN 46077
317/733-8755

Monday, October 29, 2018

Tinker Street - Revisit


Hubby and finally got back to Tinker Street after the big coup a few months ago—the ownership has changed, and the menu style has been mixed up a bit too. The chef is the same, but he is now part owner, and seems to be varying a bit from the way the menu was organized in the past.

It was a nice night to sit on the patio—which is one of the best parts about Tinker in my mind. We started with an order of the tots with cheese sauce and caviar ($19). They were large homemade tater tots sitting in cheese fondue and topped with caviar. I liked this dish and was happy just with the tots and the cheese sauce. Hubby thought the amount of caviar was a little weak considering the price of the dish. Overall, I thought it was enjoyable and I appreciate a restaurant making its own tots! 

We also had the heirloom tomato salad ($15) with Moon Rabbit cheddar, fried pickles and shaved fennel. It was served on a creamy ranch type sauce. I enjoyed this dish but would change it up a little. It was hard to get the sauce on the tomatoes because they are so slippery, you can’t really get the dressing on them. To remedy this, I would drizzle the dressing on top for taste, even if it wouldn’t look as pretty. I would love a couple more of the fried pickles too—they were truly delicious. Overall it was a well-seasoned and tasty dish with nice ripe tomatoes, I just wish it had been easier to get the dressing on my bites.

We had decided to make our entire dinner out of appetizers, so for our next course, we had the foie gras special and the mushroom steamed buns ($12). The foie gras was the best thing on the table all night. It had been a long time since hubby and I had had any (goose liver is not exactly the health choice), but it was worth the splurge. There was a nice rich, buttery piece of foie with plums, and slices of brioche French toast. Wow, was this good. If they have it as a special, I highly recommend.

We also had the mushroom buns and while I liked the flavor of the ginger and bulgogi sauce, these were really big and really filling. The bun part was bigger than many I have had. The insides were tasty, but I could really only eat one of these. It would be a good thing to split between four people to get the taste, but not get overfull. The pickled kohlrabi gave a nice tanginess and crunch to the dish.

We decided to try a dessert too, since we were eating smaller plates for dinner. We had the goat cheese cake with chevre, graham cracker and apricot. This one was pretty disappointing. Our server described a tangy cheesecake type of dish, but this was more like a graham cracker crust filled with apricot jam and served with a topping of a sponge cake that apparently was made with goat cheese, but you didn’t really get the tangy flavor from it…it was kind of bland in my opinion. I have never been disappointed with the s’mores pot de crème here and next time I think I would go back to that. It was a pretty dish, but lacking in flavor. And I love apricot. They do have a lovely dessert wine list by the glass, which I am happy to see popping up more and more around town.

All in all, we had an enjoyable meal with some ups and downs, but I would say Tinker is still a nice place to remember on date night (no kids allowed) when you want something pretty and chef-crafted. Service was good, and so was the wine selection.

Tinker Street
402 East 16th Street
Indy  46202
317/925-5000



Monday, October 22, 2018

Burger Study


The other day I found myself downtown with some friends at lunch time and we decided to try Burger Study. It’s the burger place from the St Elmo people. There was a group of us, so we got to try several things, which always makes me happy.

We started with an order of the beer cheese tots ($9). This was tater tots topped with beer cheese, chives, bacon and bits of pretzels. The beer cheese was a somewhat mild flavor, but I really enjoyed these. I have a weakness for tots, and then the salty bacon and bits of pretzel added texture and were really tasty. They seemed to be liked by everyone at the table. We also got a Brussels sprouts salad ($12). This was also a solid favorite. It was shaved Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, onion jam, cilantro vinaigrette and a big hunk of burrata cheese. This was really good. The sprouts were really well dressed (nice and tangy dressing) and were good even without the cheese. But the cheese of course, was great as well. I would order both of these again.

I ordered the “double major” burger ($13), which is described as a burger with two thin patties topped with American cheese, “Study sauce,” dill pickles and shredded lettuce. I changed it to a single burger patty because I was hoping to find a good thin smash burger. The other burgers on the menu are thicker patties. The burger was decent but wasn’t truly the super thin burger I was hoping for. And I think you really needed the extra patty to stand up to the bun. The study sauce was sort of like a thousand island dressing. Everything on the burger was good, but like I said, the proportions were a bit off, but that was really kind of my fault. 

A couple of people at the table ordered the “Semester at Sea” burger ($18). This was a tuna patty topped with ponzu mayo, Napa slaw, wonton crisps, and tomato. The tuna was really high quality and the burger was better than my beef burger. I liked the flavor of the ponzu mayo and the crunch from the wonton crisps. Several people ordered shakes as well and really enjoyed them, even though they take a while to get.

We tried several sides as well from the mac and cheese, to fries, to zucchini straws. I can’t say any really impressed me, but they were fine. I did like the black pepper mayo that came with the zucchini and I ordered a side of it to go with my fries.
The service was pretty off—things were forgotten, and several things took a long time (including the bill) but it’s a decent lunch option when you have a large group with varying tastes. I would go with a different burger next time—a friend had the southern classic ($14) with pimento cheese and bacon, and it looked tasty. Or maybe the double major with both patties. Based on the tuna burger though, I bet the tuna poke is tasty too.

All in all, the appetizers we ordered were my favorite part, and according to everyone else, so were the milkshakes. I would like to try it again though. It’s a nice space in the middle of an area of downtown with a lot of chains, which makes it a nice alternative. What have you guys tried there?

Burger Study
28 W. Georgia Street
Indy. 46225
317/777-7770


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
312/736-1778

Roister
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
317/974-0745

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
317/846-6405

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?

Rize
2721 East 86th Street
Indy 46240
317/843-6101



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
317/818-0765

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?





Festiva
1217 East 16th Street
Indy  46202
317/635-4444

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
317/636-2067