This place is pretty brand spanking new—opened like a month ago right near Lucas Oil. Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we went in—the menu looked kind of sophisticated but the name was “tavern” after all. So it is pretty much that, a more upscale version of a sports bar (lots of TVs) and food that is elevated a bit beyond the typical bar fare.
Let me start by saying, I like that this place seems to be really trying to be a cut above—they are sourcing a lot of ingredients locally and coming up with some unique takes on classic dishes. Hubby and I started with the pork tenderloin sliders (I know, I keep saying I will not order sliders, and then I go and do it—but a friend had recommended them). It is actually an entrée under the sandwich section of the menu, but since there were two, and since they were about the same price as most of the appetizers (they were $9.50), we thought it would be a good split.
So here’s what I liked about them—the panko breading was a nice change of pace and super crispy. I liked the flavor of the mustard aioli with the super thinly sliced red onions and the long cut pickles and lettuce. All of those things together made for a great flavor combo with the pork. What I didn’t like—the pretzel roll it was served on (which is also an interesting change of pace) was too big and bready. It detracted from the other flavors (hubby says, “Screw pretzel bread”). We both ended up eating ours open faced with just half of the bun. It might be nice if the bread were toasted too. The pork itself was quite thin and there just wasn’t a right proportion of meat and toppings to bread. The fries served along with it were nice—they seemed freshly cut and were seasoned nicely with lots of cracked black pepper. Some sort of sauce with them might be good though.
Hubby and I split the tavern side salad ($6) (which they did not split onto two plates (pet peeve), but did bring us an extra plate). It was just okay to me. It was mixed lettuce with dried cherries, Indiana goat cheese, sweet and spicy walnuts and candied asparagus. The dressing was described as a Granny Smith apple vinaigrette. The biggest problem I had was I thought the dressing was a little too sweet. But, in general, I liked all the ingredients, and thought they were a unique combination as well. And it was well tossed and dressed, which I always like. I just didn’t care for the flavor of the dressing. The Tuscan salad that my in-laws shared was better, lots of olives, and a nice tangy vinaigrette.
For my main, I ordered the crab ravioli appetizer ($9) which I was quite excited to see on the menu—everything from the description led me to believe that I had found one of the few people doing a pasta dish without marinara or alfredo sauce. Housemade pasta, fresh pico de gallo, and lemon aioli (and crab of course). You know, it was pretty tasty, and I liked all the flavors together and combined with the slight crunch of the pico de gallo (tomatoes and red onion were the flavors I picked out the most). The ravioli were freshly made, but my one complaint is that they really had very little crab in them. The filling was just pretty much all crab, without filler, which I appreciated, but I would have liked a bit more of it.
Hubby decided to get the “tavern smoked” prime rib and see how it was ($24). It was served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and horseradish mousse. It was quite a generous cut of meat, and was cooked properly the way he ordered it. It did have a bit of smoky flavor, which he was a little torn about whether it added to the dish and I tended to agree—there actually seemed to be an almost sweetness to it. It was also served with a traditional au jus to dip in. My favorite part of this dish was the horseradish mousse though—it was very light and with a nice taste of horseradish without being too hot. It was a creative way to serve horseradish with the prime rib.
I had a bite of my mother-in-law’s sea bass, which was served with Bloody Mary corn and crab stew and basmati rice with cucumber. The fish was nicely seasoned, but a little dry (overcooked), but the stew underneath it had a very nice flavor. This is kind of the m.o. of this place, there is always a very creative and tasty aspect to each dish, it just isn’t usually the main protein involved. This is a chef who is coming up with something different, but some of the things are just losing a bit in the execution. But for what is basically a high end sports bar, I was impressed by the creativity.
The same went for the dessert we tried, which was their take on a chocolate molten cake, but with a peanut butter filling. Again, a creative take, but was more like a chocolate cake stuffed with peanut butter- and even though it was made to order, it wasn’t that warm. But you can’t really go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate right?
I was also impressed by the crowd in the place given the short amount of time it has been open. When we first got there, it was pretty empty, but by the time we left, it was pretty full. The service was also excellent, with our enthusiastic server clearly knowledgeable about the menu and the restaurant as a whole. He was extremely professional and made good recommendations when asked.
|I liked the industrial view from our table|
Overall, I am interested to see where this place ends up—there is effort going in, that with a few tweaks I think could make this place a great addition to downtown Indy.
Tavern on South
423 West South Street