Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Aristocrat

So I wrote the first part of this post last spring after going to the Aristocrat and for some reason never got around to posting it.  I think I decided that I would wait until I went again and tried one of their signature items before posting the review.  Well, the other night, hubby and I ended up here after being caught in a traffic jam in Broad Ripple that caused us to make a series of left turns to get out of it.  So I am finally getting both visits posted. 
So the first visit was a lunch visit from last spring when the BFF and I were at a loss trying to figure out a place to take the kids. And it was gorgeous and they have a nice patio, so it seemed ideal. I used to eat at this place very frequently in my college days when I came home from Bloomington because the BFF actually used to work here.  Heck, I had drinks here on my 21st birthday.  But I haven’t really been back since we moved back to Indy, and now seemed like as good a time as any.
I had the BLT, California style (natch), which added avocado spread and pesto mayo ($9.49).  This was an enormous sandwich, mainly because there were three pieces of bread in there. Which I thought was sort of weird because is it not a club sandwich which notoriously has three slices of bread, and not a BLT? And there was a club on the menu too.  Now normally I would just pull out the extra slice, but all the gooey goodness of the avocado and pesto mayo were on the sides of the bread. So I went with it and ended up just eating half the sandwich because it was so big.   It wasn’t bad. The bacon was crispy and had some nice flavor.   The tomatoes were naturally not that good (sigh) and the lettuce was the proper amount.  The gooey spread made the sandwich interesting, but it was possibly just a little too gooey for me. And it didn’t have that pizzazz of something slightly tangy or sharp to really get it over the top.   BFF commented that the gooeyness of her wrap was way over the top, and she did not really enjoy it too much.
Having several choices of sides, I paid a little extra and got the pub salad which was baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, croutons and provolone cheese. It was described as spinach and romaine, but it was just spinach.  Which was fine with me.  I got the blue cheese dressing with it.  It was a pretty good little salad, but it was pretty much just as described.  BFF said this was one of the most popular items when she worked there, that people really liked this salad.  It was good, but not so good that I would be craving it.
The kids liked the place because they have a fairly extensive kids menu and they got to sit outside.  I had a couple of the kids’ fries and they were pretty good. The sort of seasoned ones you get at several places.  Nowhere near as good or Taste or Brugge, but considering it takes a lot for me to really be interested in fries, I did eat several. 
On our return for dinner, we started with the spinach artichoke dip ($7.99).  We needed something fast because hubby’s blood sugar was dropping.  We figured chips and dip would be fast and we were right.  It was pretty good for a spinach artichoke dip. The spinach appeared to be of the frozen variety, but there were lots of chunky bits of artichoke which I like (I love artichokes).  It was really chunky and veg heavy, and less cheesy than some, which I enjoyed, but it probably depends on your taste. They also served some salsa on the side.
For dinner, I went with the fish and chips ($10.99).  Several people said they were good here, and they were designated as one of the house specialties.  Hubby ordered the prime rib special.  They asked how he wanted it cooked and he said medium rare (which in general is how you see prime rib).  So here’s where things went wrong.  They brought out a piece of meat that was completely grey in color (wish I had thought to get a picture before we sent it back).  He cut into it and immediately told the server that there was no way this was medium rare.  Prime rib is generally not cooked like a steak.  When you cook prime rib, it is a roast—the outside has been caramelized by a heat source, but the surfaces of the meat that have been cut from the roast should be pink.  But apparently they must cook one roast rare and then warm it up to what people order.  Here’s the thing though, after she took it back, she came out and informed us the kitchen staff told her to go back out and tell hubby that he really wanted it rare, because they said it was cooked perfectly medium rare.  I don’t know, but that really rubbed us the wrong way.  A kitchen staff sending a server out to tell hubby he was wrong about how he wanted his meat cooked? I thought it was pretty unprofessional (not to mention they were wrong).  And even if hubby was wrong, I don’t think that was the way to handle to situation—if a customer tells you the steak is overcooked, cook it less. Don’t come out and accuse them of not knowing what they want.  Anyway, hubby just said nevermind and shared my fish and chips (there was more than enough). 
The fish was tender (cod) and had a fairly fresh taste, but the crust was more like a breading and not as much of a batter, which I how I prefer my fish and chips—of course this is again a matter of personal taste.  (I am thinking it is the same breading they use on their pork tenderloin sandwiches which hubby has had several times and really enjoyed).  To me, it fits pork tenderloin better than fish and chips.  When I think of fish and chips, I think of beer batter.  The chips were not the same fries as the ones I had had at lunch several months back and they were bland and not worth eating. Maybe they were trying to go with more of the traditional large chips you might see in an English pub. But I don't think these were the same ones we had at lunch a few months previously. I remember liking them better.
Regardless of the food though, after that service experience, I don’t think the Aristocrat will rank high on our list of places to which to make a return visit.  Whatever happened to treating a customer with respect? 
Aristocrat Pub
5212 N. College Ave
Indy, 46220


  1. I also think the Aristocrat is kind of dirty inside, like a greasy film on everything. It could use a good scrub and some freshening up.

  2. Dirty? No, no, no, that's just a patina from a 50+year old blend of cigarette smoke and atomized oil.

    Sounds like you didn't try the breaded pork tenderloin, it's the best I've had. Whoever's in that kitchen knows their way around a deep fryer.

  3. Hi Erin! I've been a long-time blog lurker and I figured it was time to finally comment. :) My husband I recently went to the Aristocrat for the first time last Friday and both left feeling disappointed. Service was S-L-O-W. Granted it was pretty crowded with other folks trying to get to the Butler game. I agree with you on it being dirty. Our food (club sandwich and pepper chicken panini)was ok, but I wasn't wowed. The whole experience left much to be desired. Thank you for your excellent and honest reviews!

  4. ChicagoPete, yes, hubby agrees the pork tenderloin is very good, although he thinks the one at the Pawn Shop is better. I have only had the Pawn Shop one and it was very good.

    Lora, Welcome! I love it when a lurker comes out of hiding! :) And thanks for the kind words! I hope to see you around more..

  5. oh, and to The Me, I agree it could use a little spiffing up as I think it has been pretty much the same for at least the last 20 years or so.

  6. Hi Erin! Just like Lora, I'm also a LONG-time lurker! But since you enjoy when a lurker comes out of hiding, here I am. I read your blog often and consult it when I'm about to try a new restaurant. I find it refreshingly honest, and often provides a good kick in the rear to try a new restaurant. Or *not* try one!! Keep the reviews coming; I love them!

  7. Yay Jill! Thanks for coming out of hiding! And for the support, I appreciate it and am glad to be of service! :) Hope to see you around more too!

  8. >Whoever is in that kitchen knows their way around a deep fat fryer.

    This is not something anyone should look for in a quality restuarant. Not only does an ability to deep fat fry *anything* not equate to culinary skill (like, say, cooking a prime rib), but it usually means they're sending out a lot of frozen, premade stuff.

    Think about it, chips from a bag, spinach dip from a "crock" (you can buy them that way -- I would love someone to tell me they've watched staff make that stuff every day from fresh ingredients.) Salsa from a jar. Fish breaded in the same breading as the tenderloin. (Too much work to make two different batches of batter/breading.) Everything on the sandwich right down to the gooey avocado spread I'd wager is pre-made. One would hope they fry their own bacon, but you can certainly buy high quality heat-and-eat bacon off the truck.

    I'm surprised someone from the restaurant hasn't been by to offer an explanation or excuse re: the chef/kitchen.

    Harsh from me? Maybe, but this sort of thing is really inexcusable. Diners need to stop taking it, or excusing it.

  9. Harsh from me? Maybe, but this sort of thing is really inexcusable. Diners need to stop taking it, or excusing it.
    Have you actually eaten at the Aristocrat, and specifically their BPT? If not, then yes - it is harsh.

    Can't speak to the guacomole they serve at the Aristocrat, but their BPT is definitely not a frozen food service product. Per my palate it's a fresh product, and it's fried in fresh oil heated to the proper temperature. It's cooked at the right temperature, and it comes out crisp and non-greasy. A BPT is one of the few indigenous foods around these parts, and they serve a fine version here.

    You scoff at the craftsmanship of the deep fryer? I made the mistake of ordering a BPT at Pat Flynn's based on some glowing recommendation somewhere. They also serve a fresh, non-Sysco product so kudos to them. But they were fried in old oil and too cold, and what came out was an inedible. You can't just throw any random pimply-faced kid behind that deep fryer.

    Just going by memory, but I'm pretty sure the fries are also fresh cut at Aristocrat. It's not the greatest restaurant in the world, but at least when I've eaten there I get the impression that an honest effort is made to put out a quality product - at least when it comes to the BPT. Cant' speak to the prime rib or guac, but that's not the food I would order in this kind of place.

  10. Erin,
    I would disagree with you and about The Aristocrat. I feel your review is overly picky. For the money The Aristocrat is the best bang for the buck. I take my family there once a month for brunch and have never been disappointed.

    If I am in the area I swing by and have the lunch special that is always extra tasty.

    The tenderloin is the best in the State.

    As for the wraps I have always been satisfied. The portions are huge and filled with fresh ingredients.

    To post that the place is dirty is irresponsible. There is no way I would take my children to place that was dirty!

    For the last 9 years I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere at The Aristocrat. It very cool to be able to take my children to experience the same thing.


  11. See what I mean about the posts you least expect? :)

    Max, For the record, I did not say the restaurant was dirty, it was one commenter's opinion. I simply agreed that after at least 20 years with the same interior, in my opinion, it could use a little sprucing up. That's just me. Somep people may enjoy the "patina" as ChicagoPete put it. Actually, I don't feel that strongly one way or the other about the interior.

    Anyway, I am glad you enjoy it, but regardless of how good that tenderloin is, and hubby would agree it is damn good, I don't think he would step foot back in the place after that service experience. If you think that is "picky," well then, our standards are different. Maybe service doesn't mean that much to everyone, but I think it is an integral part of the meal.

    If you think I am too picky about the food, I would argue that in my opinion, people in Indy could stand to be a little pickier and stop settling for so much mediocre food AND service.

    ChicagoPete and braingirl--I am going to let you 2 battle this one out... :)

  12. Pete, yes, I have eaten at Aristocrat, in recent times even. I had a salad that was unmemorable in every way. I have also had the pork tenderloin -- but an OK pork tenderloin does not a good restaurant make. Nor does the ability to fry food well, which was my original point.

  13. Erin,

    I've been receiving your blog via Google Reader for several months now and always enjoy finding out about a new place to check out after your review. I was excited to see you had posted a review of 'The Aristocrat', but then surprised by the review.

    I often hang at the 'Crat specifically because of the great people that work there and the good food. I have never had bad service and I hope that your experience was a fluke! 'The customer is always right'

    Your review was honest and apparently well deserved due to the poor service. My experiences have been just the opposite.

    Here ends my 2 cents!

  14. I have worked at the Aristocrat for almost 11yrs and am now the current General Manager. Bad reviews are so personal and painful to us. With the good sometimes comes the bad and we can only hope to learn from both.
    To answer some of the questions about our menu. Our Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips are both homemade. The California BLT is served with a pesto mayo (homemade) and fresh avocado. We receive deliveries of fresh produce and bread six days a week. Our Fish & Chips and Tenderloin are both hand breaded. There are very few items on our menu that are premade.
    The staff at the Aristocrat are some of the most dedicated and hardworking people I've had the pleasure to work with. One of the kitchen employees has worked in that current building since 1975. Most of these people love and care about this restaurant as much as they do their own homes. We of course at times get a few bad apples.
    Erin, regarding the horrible Prime Rib incident. I am sorry and embarrassed. We strive for excellent customer service and this is inexcusable. I would like to know the date of your visit in hopes that this problem has already been eliminated.
    I hope that you give us another try to show you the restaurant I fell in love with years ago.
    Please, feel free to contact me.
    Melissa Uhte

  15. Melissa-

    thanks for respoding. I always appreciate it when someone from the restaurant stops by to answer questions asked here. I also appreciate the obvious dedication you have to your job.

    I know the date we were there because it was the night of the Festival of Lights Parade in Broad Ripple (Dec. 11th)--that was why we kept having to make left turns to get away from Broad Ripple traffic! :)

    thanks again,

  16. Thanks, too, for letting us know the situation with freshly made dishes/ingredients. Very good to know.

  17. So glad someone from the Aristocrat restaurant came forward to speak...our family goes there every Sunday for brunch...l like what Melissa expressed have only wonderful things to say..isnt it beautiful to see a General Manager take the time to express what really is going on behind the sceens and to talk so highly of her staff and the restaurant itself. She takes pride in all and from our years of experiencing the Aristocrat..she surely should. Thank you Melissa for your caring and not only to your staff and the Aristocrat but in all the ways you and your staff show it to us...your loyal and appreciative customers. We thank you!!!

  18. I had brunch here with a friend a couple of weeks ago. Very ordinary food, in my opinion, and service was iffy.

  19. By the way, can I just say that I get ridiculously excited when I see that you've reviewed a restaurant where I've eaten? LOL