Bonge’s is sort of a legend around Indy, and hubby and I decided that after living here for 4 years together, it was time to get out there. Now, one of the things Bonge’s is known for is the tailgating that goes on in the parking lot as people wait for their turn at one of the maybe 12 or so tables. People bring their own refreshments and snacks and sit outside (often in their own camp chairs) and hang out. On the weekends during nice weather the wait can apparently be several hours pretty much from the moment they open their doors (at 4:30), so we thought we would try and get there a bit early during the week and hopefully avoid a long wait. It worked. It was a beautiful day, but we got there just after 5:00 and were seated immediately. Of course when we left some time after 6:00, there was already quite a wait and several groups in the parking lot. Oh, and this is a tavern, so you can’t go in to eat unless you are 21.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but we were greeted by a friendly server who asked if we had been before and then explained the menu. There are about 7 entrées listed on a chalkboard above the bar to choose from. Three are always there (the Perkinsville Pork, the Hargar duck, and the NY Strip) and the rest change regularly. Every meal comes with either soup or salad and they all came with the same potatoes and veggies on the side (the sides change periodically). The entrées range in price from approximately $24-30, so although it is a tavern, it isn’t cheap.
The atmosphere inside is totally casual and has a great feel with lots of wood paneled walls and booths. There is a very old looking bar on the wall across from the wall of booths and a few larger tables scattered in between. There are obviously a lot of local regulars coming in judging by the greetings received by the staff. Everyone just seems happy to be there.
As for the food, it is not complicated, but it is really quite good. I started with the “world famous tomato soup” while hubby had the blue cheese wedge (for a salad, you can get a wedge with blue cheese or raspberry vinaigrette). I really liked the soup—this is not your traditional canned tomato soup. This is a hearty, chunky soup filled with large pieces of actual tomato as well as other veggies like celery and onion. You could taste both the sweetness and tanginess of the tomato flavor and I really liked it.
Hubby’s wedge was also quite good—a traditional wedge of iceberg lettuce amply covered in a very rich and tasty blue cheese dressing and sprinkled with garlic breadcrumbs (tasted a lot like the croutons on my soup). Honestly, we had a hard time deciding which starter we enjoyed more (hubby would say the salad) and I would happily order either.
As for the main dish, I ordered the “Prime Cap with Shrimp.” This was thinly sliced prime rib that was slow cooked like traditional prime rib, but perfectly to medium rare temperature. The flavor of the meat was amazing. And there was a demi glace on the plate, but it was truly like an au jus, and just added more meat flavor. Seriously, this meat was perfectly seasoned and delicious. Across the top was a skewer of shrimp covered in an herby garlic butter sauce. The shrimp were also really good and I liked the contrast in flavor of the rich meat and the zesty shrimp. There were roasted potatoes and thumb sized asparagus on the side which were plain and forgettable, almost more of a garnish than anything, but I didn’t care because I enjoyed the meat and shrimp so much.
Hubby had the Perkinsville Pork which was pounded pork tenderloin (but not super thin) coated in flour, egg and parmesan cheese and pan fried. The pork was good—especially the thicker parts of the meat because they were the most tender. I liked that you could really taste the cheese which gave it a unique flavor from your usual pork tenderloin. There was also a light lemony sauce on top that was nice as well. However, while it was good, it was nowhere near as good as my beef. Again, same sides, same thoughts about them from hubby.
They also brought us a basket of cornbread with our entrees that was really delicious. There was a bit of jalapeno in them which gave them a bit of a kick, but the pieces were small and evenly distributed so you didn’t feel overwhelmed by biting into a big piece of pepper. The bread was so moist you almost needed to eat it with a fork because it just sort of fell apart in your hands. It was really really good.
Since we didn’t have a formal appetizer we also decided to try a dessert. There were several to choose from and we went with what was a chocolate cake base with a thin layer of sugar cream pie at the top and all covered in cherries and whipped cream. The chocolate base sort of reminded me of a brownie—it was quite dense and a little dry and there was not as much of the sugar cream part as I thought there would be. I wasn’t quite sure about it at first, but it became strangely addicting. I wasn’t overly impressed with the cherries; they sort of tasted like the topping you can buy in a can. The whipped cream was obviously homemade though and, while I don’t tend to be a huge whipped cream person, this was good.
The experience at Bonge’s was really great. It is the kind of place that while you are there, you are already planning your next trip and thinking of the people you would like to introduce to it. It is out in the middle of nowhere (about 35 minutes from Indy depending on where you live and the traffic) but it is certainly worth the drive.
9830 West 280 North
Perkinsville, IN 46011