Thursday, December 8, 2011


Yats.  A place that is clearly an institution in Indy, and one which people have extremely strong feelings about.  And a place I had never been until this visit. Not sure why, possibly because I just get nervous about places like this—it seems like there are expectations to live up to and sometimes in this town I find with places like this (see, Mug n Bun),sometimes people’s sentimentality dominates their taste buds. (Actually, I could name a list of places that this applies to now that I think about it—Hollyhock Hill is the first one that springs to mind, not to mention a LOT of Italian places in this town).
But, it was cold, really cold, one day and I wanted something warm and comforting and thought it was as good a time as any to check it out (and I had an appointment on Mass Ave, so it worked out).  I felt as though it was a requirement to get the chili cheese étouffée with crawfish, as untraditional as it may be, just because it is the thing I always hear people talking about.  But I wanted to try more than one thing, so I also got the drunken chicken (a two plate combo is $6.75). 
You know, I liked the chili cheese étouffée ok.  As in, it was a cold day, and it hit the spot. I can see how you could develop a taste for it.  The texture is quite smooth (thinking processed cheese here) but the chili part of it added some depth. I enjoyed the bits of crawfish I got, but I have to say, they were few and far between (maybe like 3-4 pieces of crawfish, no whole tail pieces).  They were tender though when I stumbled upon one.   Couldn’t really describe it as Cajun in my opinion, but I am no expert there.  It certainly was not overly spicy.  The rice was kind of minute ricey, very un-sticky if you know what I mean and honestly, I can’t believe I am saying this, there wasn’t really enough rice to absorb the sauce and make the right proportion. I know most people would probably like more of the higher priced part of the food, but it needed more rice for balance.  I basically felt like I was eating stew off of a plate.
I wasn’t a fan of the drunken chicken.  It was a beer and tomato based sauce with other seasonings, but didn’t really have a whole lot of flavor to me.  Also, even with the chicken, I had a hard time picking out much meat.  I don’t know, I just didn’t get a lot of flavor from this dish, and I didn’t really care for it. I was glad I had gotten the étouffée because I much preferred it.  The dishes are served with a side of garlic bread which was pretty darn tasty—very garlicky in that bright yellow kind of way, but in the way that you just can’t stop eating it.  I can see why they offer extra sides of it for 50 cents.
So I wouldn’t put it in the same classification as the restaurants above. I think at least they are doing something unique (although I couldn’t really say it was truly authentic Cajun food) and you get something that they have actually made themselves for a very reasonable price.  It hit the spot for me that day, and I can see how it might pop to mind when you’re cold and you are running low on cash.  But not sure it lived up to my expectations of what I was hoping for….or I don’t know, maybe it did.  Maybe it just didn’t live up to the hype.
Yats (various locations around town)
659 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy  46204

Yats (Massachusetts Ave.) on Urbanspoon


  1. You need to check out the Yat's in Broad Ripple... I've been to the one downtown as well, and I would agree that it is really mediocre food.

    The one in the Broad Ripple is by far better... Its funny you said that you didn't like the drunken chicken as that is my favorite thing they make. Every time I've had it at the BR location, its been really spicy and had lots of chicken in it.

  2. The BnB, spinach mushroom etouffee, and the white chicken chili--all great choices. And Dave's right, there is something about the Broadripple location...

    I usually love your blog, and you've made some great recommendations in the past, but lately I'm not sure much of anything can live up to your expectations.

  3. I agree with this. I think Yats is overrated and people are so emotionally tied to it that they cannot have an unbiased review of their food. Gumbo A-Go-Go off 86th and Ditch is far superior although the environment is sterile and you'll find no hipsters there. The chicken vodoo is something that makes my nose run and that's saying something because i like spicy food.

  4. Dave, thanks for the tip on locations. Next time I will go to Broad Ripple. I wonder why they have such inconsistency.

    Tori, thanks for the suggestions. I was tempted by spinach mushroom etouffee... And as for nothing living up to my expectations, I will agree they are high, but did you read my review of H20 and Muldoon's? Two recent posts of places I really enjoyed. Also, I believe in being honest, and if I don't like it, I won't hide it.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. And maybe it's because I've only been to the downtown location, but I am one of those people who is unimpressed with Yats. I think I've also been to the Bloomington location, and same feeling. Some people love Yats and feel quite strongly for it, and I just am not sure about all the hype.

  6. I went this week to Broadripple and had a Chipotle Chicken that I liked a lot. I think that the Broadripple location is a must. It is not that the others are bad, but they just seem to be missing something. There are some hits and misses there, but I am a big fan based on the taste/value/independent factor.

  7. I've never been a fan of Yats. Just average, mediocre food.

  8. Here's the thing about Yats for me - I love it because I feel like it's one of the few convenient, inexpensive, non-franchise places I enjoy. It's not the best food I've ever eaten, but for $7? I'm more than okay with that. If it were at, say, a Cafe Patachou price point? I probably wouldn't eat there much.

    In regards to Tori's comment, I feel like I have high expectations, too. Our budget is too tight to waste $30 or $40 on mediocre food. I'd rather eat at home. My expectations are directly proportional to the cost of the meal, which is why I'm a fan of Yats but wouldn't fork over the cash to eat at Shapiro's.

  9. Yats on 96th St is close to home and to work... I enjoy getting lunch there, as I can easily get back to work in less than an hour (and it is a good place for my wife and I to visit, as she's a vegetarian and there's always something for her on the menu).

    Yats isn't earth-shattering, but I think it is a mighty fine value (my wife and I can eat for under $15) - and there's a comfort element to their dishes. My go-to is the white chili with the unposted addition of sour cream, onions and cheese (and sriracha from the hot sauce selections).

    You could do much worse.

  10. I usually hit the 96th street it. Kind of like GT South's in that it is just basic food and priced very well. I tend to really spice up my etouffee with hot sauce.

  11. I think the inconsistency may be related to the fact that Joe (the owner) seems to spend most of his time at the Ripple location. I've had a few interactions with him and I get the vibe that he may not be much a recipe guy. Meaning, he goes
    in and cooks the food from memory and heart. He may have had to provide recipes to the other store that took some guesswork. And at the price, paying for good food at and independent spot with the vibe is worth it. Forget your cash? No worries, they still feed you anyways. How many places in the city would do that? Dining is more to me at least than just black and white taste of the food. Atmosphere and yes even sentimentality can really change the experience. And that's what I at least am often looking for, not just a meal but an experience. And I think the broadripple location is the only one to truly provide the whole show.

    In comparison, I have also been to Mudbugs, Gumbo a Go Go, Papa Roux and the new Ragin Cajun. Yats is still my go to...although Roux is a super close second :)

  12. Yats is not my favorite place but is does pass the price point test. At worst it's a good value when dining out.

  13. The Yats in Broad Ripple is our go-to place for an inexpensive, last-minute weeknight meal. No, it's not going to be the best meal you've ever had in your life, but for that price point, it sure beats any other option in the area.

    I agree that the BR location has a great vibe. We also appreciate Joe Vuskovich (the owner) providing many free meals for the Merdian Kessler Neighborhood Association meetings which my husband & I often attend, and where I was introduced to my now favorite crawfish etouffee for the first time!

  14. Just don't go to the Cajun place where boogie burger was. Never had so much bland in my life, and maybe the first time I tossed food I paid for in the trash rather than eating. Yats broad Ripple

  15. Some insight:

    Joe originally started Yats, or more specifically its predecessor, in the downtown City Market. At some point, he either moved it or shut it down and opened up Yats in the southern Broad Ripple area.

    The Broad Ripple store is where ALL the food is actually MADE. If you get there right on the dot at 10:30am or whenever they open, sometimes they're still getting it all together! All the other stores (currently all in the central Indiana area, though there used to be Yats locations in Bloomington, West Lafayette, and even Chicago) get their food shipped to them and they basically just keep it hot. I don't actually know if that's done daily, every other day, or whatever. But what that does mean is at Mass Ave or Greenwood or Carmel or whatever, once a menu item is goen, it's gone for the day. At the Broad Ripple, they may (often do) make more.

    The Chili Cheese typically seems to be the most popular due to how mild it is, but most of the dishes are mild. I know the Broad Ripple yats has several spices you can add to it yourself to make it better.

    As others have said, the food is not mind blowing. But for $7, you get a big plate of stuff on rice and two chunks of bread and a drink. I know many regulars of the Broad Ripple location often get a few bucks knocked off just because they come in all the time.

    (I also think the Broad Ripple portions are a bit bigger, but that's just me).

  16. If you want good creole/cajun food go to Papa Roux at 10th and Post on the East side. The food is great and the staff are friendly. If it's your first time, let them know and they will walk you through the descriptions and how to order. My favorites are the pulled pork poboy, mushroom etouffee, red beans and rice, and bread pudding. Poboys and stews are $8 and you get unlimited free iced tea and sides.