Monday, January 31, 2011

Mesh: Revisit (Devour Downtown)

I love the idea of devour downtown, it is a great way to potentially get to try restaurants that you might otherwise think are too expensive.  Generally, the concept is for two weeks in the winter, and two in late summer, you get three courses at various restaurants for $30.  A lot of the downtown restaurants participate and I think it garners a fair amount of business based on the buzz I see online (and the crowds).
Hubby and I were torn about where to go to try a devour downtown menu, and while several looked good (and several not as much), we decided to go back to Mesh, give the devour menu a try and at the same time, see if the quality was as high as our first visit.
You can see the devour menu here, and I thought it looked interesting (although it was slightly different once you got into the restaurant).  Here’s the thing though, once you sit down and price out the individual items from the regular menu (salad $6, dessert, $7, and while the entrée I ordered isn’t on the regular menu, another chicken dish is for $17, and hubby’s was $16).  This equals $30 or less and you get to choose exactly what you want.  That isn’t really a special deal.  I realize that this is a good thing that Mesh’s prices are more reasonable than some, and I appreciate this, but for devour, it seems like maybe they could throw in something else to make it a deal.  A cup of soup, a glass of wine maybe? Something else.  Although, maybe if you ordered the swordfish option that was on the devour menu, you would bump the value up a bit, but I am not a huge fan of swordfish.  It seems like if you are really trying to get a good value during these weeks, you might be better off at some of the more expensive places like the steakhouses, Euphoria, or Oceanaire.  Anyway, that’s my 2 cents about devour downtown menus.
As for the food, it was on the whole very good.  I went ahead and ordered the devour menu because I wanted this to be a review about devour downtown and started with the 725 salad with mixed greens, gorgonzola, spiced pecans and red onion served with Blackberry vinaigrette.  It was a really tasty salad.  The pecans were small pieces, more like the cheese crumbles, which at first made me think they had forgotten them, but as I ate the salad, I realized I liked them this way because you got just a bit of the flavor and crunch with each bite. It was well tossed and dressed and the dressing, while you could taste the sweetness of the fruit, was not overly sweet and was balanced by the right amount of vinegar.
Hubby had the mushroom strudel with greens on the side ($9).  It was really nice—there were several types of mixed mushrooms and feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough and served with a nice salad with a tangy dressing that accented the earthy mushrooms.  And the crunchiness of phyllo is something I love—it is light, but gives that buttery flavor and crunchy texture to whatever it is wrapped around. (I love wrapping just about any kind of fish with phyllo and baking it for a super easy dinner). 
I had the chicken streusel (which was listed as chicken pot pie on the online devour menu) for my main and it was my biggest let down of the night (and also, the only non-regular menu item).  Honestly, even though you can easily make a 3 course meal off the Mesh menu for right around $30, I think they actually gave you less than your money’s worth on this one.  It was a fine portion for me, but smaller than most of their entrees.  It was basically a very similar looking strudel to hubby’s appetizer (in size and shape) but it was filled with chicken, mushrooms and mixed veggies. It was served with mashed potatoes and more veggies—carrots and a bit of asparagus and covered in a thick Sherry cream sauce.  I don’t know, it just didn’t have the depth of flavor that other things at Mesh have.  The sauce was a bit flat and the inside of the strudel needed more seasoning—even just salt or something. 
Hubby refused to get anything but the pork belly ($16) he had last time because he liked it so much then (he says he had to try it to make sure the consistency wasn’t off—uh huh, right).  Anyway, he was just as happy with it this time—the pork was well seasoned with just the right amount of fattiness to make it really taste decadent.  I really like the bacon braised endive and balsamic sauce to give just the right amount of zinginess.
Finally, we shared my devour dessert, the chocolate marjolaine.  It was pretty good—there was a firmer more cakelike layer at the bottom with a hard layer between it and a layer of mousse. Unfortunately, it was hard to break through the two layers with our silverware, so mainly we just ate the mousse off the top.  I really enjoyed the hard bits of toffee on top (think nut brittle pieces). The raspberry sorbet on the side was outstanding.  But here’s the other thing, this was more than enough dessert for both of us too—so what is the point of getting another one (and the only other option was a scoop of ice cream), when you can easily share one?  So in reality, hubby got exactly what he wanted off the menu and spent $25, which is less than devour prices.
I guess the lesson here is, don’t assume that devour downtown is always a good deal.  Check out the regular menu of the place you are considering and add it up.  I think these more mid-range restaurants need to come up with a little better deal if they are really trying to lure in people who are interested in saving money. Maybe 3 courses for $20? I’m just making suggestions, but what do you guys think about this?
As far as the restaurant goes, I did still really enjoy Mesh.  The interior is warm and inviting (although they could stand a few more two-tops upstairs that aren’t basically in the hallway—if you are going with a party of two, my recommendation is asked to be seated at a four-top in the actual dining rooms if you don’t want to feel like you are eating in the front hall) and the food is good and fairly reasonably priced for this type of menu.  The service is professional and seemingly fairly knowledgeable about the menu.  It is certainly one on my list of places I will recommend and still will be, I just wouldn’t recommend it specifically for the devour downtown menu.
725 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46204

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tavern on South

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
Indy 46225

Tavern on South on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Devour Downtown

Hey everyone-  The next two weeks are Devour Downtown and I have had a lot of feedback already about where people are headed...I really want to know where you are going and what you think.  Who has the best deals, who has the best menu items?  What menus look the most appealing if you haven't been yet?

Everyone is asking...and I can't eat at all these places in the next two weeks, so let's hear it! Where have you been? And how was it? And where do you want to go?

I am making my list.....

Monday, January 24, 2011


So the other day I was trying to go to this certain restaurant, but found it closed as I got there on Friday at lunchtime.  Luckily, as I was turning right to head toward this place, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the sign for the Steer-In.  What luck! Somewhere that was on my list that I didn’t even know was that close by (and one of the places to soon be featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives).
The Steer-In is an old style drive in (that like most such places no longer offers the actual to your car service) but the interior looks what I imagine it has probably always looked like since it opened.  There’s a bar in the middle and two dining areas on either side.  The staff was exceptionally friendly, and although I was tempted by the fried chicken (as I always am when I see it on a menu at a place like this), I went with my server’s suggestions which were either the “twin steer” burger or the breaded pork tenderloin.  She said those items are what they are known for.  I figured since the place was called Steer-in, I’d go down that path.  Although I went with the regular steer burger, which is the same as the “twin steer” but with only one beef patty.  The burger is served shredded lettuce, tomato and “Steer in sauce.”  She asked if I wanted fries, and I said, sure, why not?
So I am a bit torn on this burger.  On the one hand, the freshly ground beef tasted fresh and was pretty juicy (and pretty sure they are cooking them on a griddle the way I prefer), but the meat itself had a higher than normal fat content and I got a couple of bites that were actually kind of gristly.  I know fat adds flavor, but this was maybe a little past the point of beneficial.  The bun was awesome—just a regular sized tender bun that was perfectly toasted with butter.  It was wonderfully crisp, but without being even a smidgeon burnt.
The other toppings added an interesting flavor, although I ended up picking the slightly underripe tomatoes off.  I enjoyed the lettuce with the “Steer In sauce.”  When asked, my server told me it was similar to Thousand Island dressing, but it was pure white and seemed more similar to a thinner mayo or even Miracle Whip to me.  But it gave the burger a unique flavor mixed (sort of like a little dressed salad on the burger) and if it hadn’t been for the couple of hard bites, I would have quite enjoyed it.
The fries were your standard crinkle cut fries, nothing special there, but they were properly cooked and done well for what they were.  The prices are very reasonable, my burger was about $3.90 with cheese and an extra dollar for the fries.  There is obviously a core group of regular customers eating here, people who come in and don’t bother looking at the menu.  It is definitely a comforting, familiar atmosphere, even for someone who has never been there.  Anyone been for breakfast or pizza?  Quite a lot of that on the menu as well.

The people working in there were very friendly and efficient.  As I paid my bill at the register, I chatted a bit with the cashier about the picture of Guy Fieri on the wall.  She told me that they had just found out that their feature on Diners Drive-ins and Dives would be featured sometime of the week between March 7th and the 14th.  So if you want to see it, set your DVRs!
5130 East 10th Street
Indy  46219

Historic Steer in on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Giorgio's Pizza

Is it just me, or is it challenging to be in the heart of downtown (think Circle City Mall area) and find a lot of independent lunch places?  I find myself in that area about once a week these days and have been trying to venture out of a couple of usual haunts.  On this day, I walked down to the Circle and checked out Giorgio’s pizza.  This place has been on my list ever since several people told me they did decent New York style pizza.
I went in and asked for my usual favorite toppings—mushroom and red onion ($3.35 a slice with 2 toppings).  They were happy to accommodate my request and piled the toppings on a piece of cheese pizza.  I also got a breadstick on the side ($1.05) (I like that you can order them individually).  So when I got my pizza, I was thinking it wasn’t looking that appetizing because there was so much stuff piled on top and the mushrooms looked like they came out of a can.  You know what I mean right? They were darker brown and like they had been soaking in some sort of fluid for awhile.  My preference is for freshly cut mushrooms.
As I sat down, I thought, I will just scoot all those off and eat the pizza with a few of the nicely thinly sliced red onions.  But then I thought I should take a bite with the mushrooms first before I pass judgment.  You know, they actually were kind of good—they were seasoned, maybe with some garlic and while the texture wasn’t what I would have chosen, they really ended up tasting pretty good on the pizza.  And the onions were the perfect size, like I said.
The pizza slice under those toppings itself was quite enjoyable—not the super large slices you see at some of the other New York style places, but tasty.  The crust was quite crunchy, more so than some, but had a nice flavor with a sauce that was a bit sweet and with just a hint of underlying spiciness.  I liked it quite a bit. And it wasn’t overly sauced, or overly cheesy, which are two of my pet peeves. This is not the kind of pizza you can fold in half very easily, so some of you might say it isn’t traditional New York style, but the crunchiness was nice (and no one really seems to agree on this anyway).
The breadstick was basic, but had the nice tenderness inside that differentiates a breadstick from pizza crust (even though it is likely the same dough being used).  I enjoyed the chewiness of it in contrast to the pizza crust.  The cheese sauce was your standard nacho cheese, no better, no worse as far as I am concerned.
The guys working in there were super friendly and efficient, and the friendly words I received upon leaving were enough alone to make me want to come back. It is amazing what a little friendly customer service can do.
So, I was thinking as I sat there, do any of you remember another pizza place that was in approximately the same location I think, way back in the 80s?  Was it called Chicago’s or something?  As I sat there, I flashed back to hanging out on the Circle with some friends in high school and getting some pizza there.  And back then, there was NOTHING going on downtown at night.  It was almost like a ghost town.  It is amazing how much our city has changed since then!
Anyway, I digress, but I think Giorgio’s is a worthy downtown spot for a quick lunch and a decent New York slice.  Of course, as always, I welcome further feedback on this search! Also, if you have any suggestions for places to grab a bite in that area, please let me know.
Giorgio’s Pizza
9 East Market Street
Indy 46204
317/ 687-9869

Giorgio's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fleming's Steakhouse

Even though I was just saying on here that no one ever posts comments on steakhouse reviews, the other night we ended up at Fleming's.  So can I just start by saying, will you guys prove me wrong here?  There are so many steakhouses in Indy, and I have been to many of them, but I hadn’t really heard that much about Fleming’s.  Actually the only thing I had really heard repeatedly was that there are often sports stars in there.  Not sure why they like Fleming’s so much, but I told hubby to be sure and point them out if there were any while we were in there (since I wouldn’t probably recognize anyone with the exception of maybe Peyton Manning).
The interior of the place reminds me of a darker version of Eddie Merlot’s.  Similar big room with a lot of wood.  We got a nice booth on the edge of the room which was good because it was pretty noisy in there.  I liked the looks of the appetizer menu because it wasn’t just the usual steakhouse apps--shrimp cocktail and crab cakes and a wedge.  Don’t get me wrong, they have all those things, but they also had several other interesting things.
I decided to go with 2 appetizers and share hubby’s steak so we could try lots of different things.  I started with the beef Carpaccio, which is often one of my favorite things.  This one wasn’t bad, the meat was very fresh and I enjoyed the Creole mustard sauce that was drizzled across—I enjoy the bit of heat from the spicy mustard to go with the pure smooth richness of the raw meat and there were also small dices of red onion and whole capers which gave a nice texture variation as well.  There was also a small peppery salad covered with finely diced boiled egg.  There was nothing wrong with anything specifically, but this wasn’t one of my favorite Carpaccios ever—I think I prefer a more even scattering of the flavors, and maybe some olive oil drizzled across as well (the meat seemed a little dryer than some other versions I have had).  Anyway, everything was high quality, but it just didn’t jump out at me as one of my favorites.
My sister and her husband got lobster tempura as an appetizer and shared some of it with me.  This was outstanding.  The lobster was an entire tail that was fried tempura style and it was served with 2 sauces—a jalapeno pepper sauce and a soy ginger sauce.  They were both nice and I had a hard time deciding which I liked better.  The jalapeno sauce was a little sweet—almost like a sweet chile sauce.  The soy ginger was thick with a consistency like a salad dressing, but with a pleasantly mild flavor of both soy and ginger.
I ordered the “wicked Cajun barbeque shrimp” for my main dish.  I love New Orleans barbeque shrimp—it isn’t what you think of when you think of traditional barbeque shrimp (as in shrimp with barbeque sauce). It is more of a heavily spicy buttery broth with a lot of garlic and a bit of Worcestershire sauce.  I have eaten and made several versions of the dish and I really enjoy it.  I like the heavily spiced nature of it, but this one was just too hot and spicy for me.  In general, it had the right idea but just went too far down the road of pure heat, instead of using all the seasonings for pure flavor.  But this wasn’t the biggest downfall of the dish—the shrimp themselves held that honor.  They were very large (I think there were only 4 in the order) and they were tough (with the exception of one, which still looked a bit blue, so I skipped it altogether.  I am not sure who decided that bigger is better with shrimp, but in my opinion, it often just means it is more likely they will be tough.
Hubby’s bone in ribeye was excellent though—the meat is prime, and they did a good job cooking it medium rare.  It was a great ribeye, hitting the perfect mix of the slightly chewy nature of the more marbled cut of beef, but still very tender.  The steak was spot on.  I ate quite a bit of it since I wasn’t as thrilled with my shrimp.
Like most steakhouses, the sides are sold separately and are large enough to share (among 3-4 people at least).  We had the Fleming’s potatoes, which were their version of au gratin, but with cream, cheese and a little bit of jalapeno.  The peppers were mild, and just had a tiny hint of heat, which I thought was a nice variation on the usual au gratin potatoes.  We also had the chipotle cheddar mac and cheese.  It was decent mac and cheese, but I didn’t really get the chipotle flavor out of it.
So, remember what I told you about the sports star thing? Well it was pretty funny, because we walked in with several burly looking guys and I didn’t really think much about it. During our dinner though our server told us that pretty much all of the Jets Football team was there (this was the night before the playoff game against the Colts).  In fact the quarterback, Mark Sanchez, was sitting 2 tables away with some other players (ok, don't be mad, but that Mark Sanchez guy is pretty damn cute).  And apparently, most of the rest of them were scattered around the place too.  So that was kind of fun (even if I wouldn’t have known any of them if other people hadn’t pointed them out to me).  So I guess that rumor is true—at least in my experience!
We finished with a dessert—the walnut turtle cake.  It was good as well---thick and chewy with chocolate and caramel but chunky with a lot of walnuts.  They also served it with a great big bowl of Chantilly cream which was light and tasty and a nice accompaniment to all the decadence of the cake.
This place is expensive—as are most steakhouses I find.  The steaks range between $30-40 on the whole and come with no sides.  The appetizers are $10-20 (is it weird they don’t have any prices on the website?).  Is it a place I would be running back to? Probably not, but it was better than several of the local steakhouses.  But if given the opportunity, I would probably choose a local like Peterson’s or an old standard like Ruth’s Chris.  But that’s just me.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
8487 Union Chapel Road
Indy 46240

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Road Trip: Columbus, OH: Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill

Once again we found ourselves in Columbus for the holidays and we checked out something new for lunch.  My in-laws are pretty much all big time Ohio State fans, so that is another reason we ended up at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill.  I was dubious, as I often am of bar-foody kind of places because so often everything seems to come frozen and is then fried and served, but was assured this place was actually pretty good.  So naturally, I had to see for myself.
Another reason we ended up here is because it was the day after Christmas and because this place has just opened, it is not very crowded yet.  In fact, there were only a couple of other tables full when we got there at 12:15 or so.  But it is exceptionally clean (maybe even a tad bit cold feeling, but that may have been the fact that there was hardly anyone in there) and there are various mementoes of Ohio State around.  Even a Heisman Trophy.  Okay, that is about the extent of the knowledge I have about football, so I can’t really go into much more detail about what else was in there.
Anyhow, we started with the “Brutus Bites” ($7).  I have to say, they were a unique and maybe more sophisticated take on what is essentially a simplified potato skin.  They were little whole roasted potatoes that had a little cut across the top with some cheddar cheese inside and a slice of bacon sticking out of the top.  They were sitting on top of a chili lime sour cream.  I liked the flavor of the sour cream with them a lot, however because they had done a sort of artistic design on the plate, I felt like they didn’t really give you enough of it—I would order a little extra on the side next time.  I liked that they were fresh potatoes, pretty clearly not just something that came previously frozen from a bag.  For bar food, I was fairly impressed.
For my lunch, I had the club salad ($9), which was essentially a Cobb salad, not really sure what the difference would be—this was mixed lettuces topped with blue cheese, bacon, egg, sliced cherry tomatoes, avocado and your choice of either fried chicken pieces or rotisserie chicken.  Our server told me how good the rotisserie chicken was, so I went with it (roasted in house).  She was right—the chicken was really good. Both the dark and white meat was quite tender and flavorful—nicely seasoned and had a wood roasted flavor.  Te rest of the salad was just average, the avocado was pleasingly ripe, the leaves were actually tossed with the dressing (house made garlic buttermilk ranch).  The chicken is what made it special (and I liked the pretzel roll breadstick).  But the ingredients were fairly fresh (although I could have used more blue cheese and a little fresher, crisper bacon).
Hubby had the Carnitas sandwich ($10) which was slow braised pork with hickory sauce, cilantro, jack cheese, pickled onion, avocado and mayo.  This is a sandwich that has a couple of my favorite things (pickled onion and avocado) and I actually thought about ordering it myself.  It was really good as well.  It was an interesting mix of flavors, but they actually went together well.  The pork was tender but had some nice crispy edges and the textures of all the things—the softness of avocado and the tangy crunch of the onions.  A good choice as well.  You had your choice of sides; hubby went with the onion strings.  They were good and looked like they were actually made with freshly cut onions.  A tad greasy maybe, but tasty.  Anyway, for a sports bar kind of joint, the food was pretty creative and tasted pretty good.  So if you are looking for a sports bar in Columbus with decent food, give it a try.
And hey, as a side note, we also stopped in and had some Jeni’s ice cream which is made in Columbus.  They specialize in hand crafted ice creams in more exotic flavors (one I tried was goat cheese and Cognac fig sauce) and made with local milk and products.  We bought several pints, and I have to say, this stuff is not cheap (I should have known when hubby’s uncle told us to bring some gold bars with us).  It was around $10 a pint.  But it was really tasty.  We had the salty caramel, the Askinosie dark milk chocolate, and the Meyer lemon yogurt.  I got the yogurt to combine with the salty caramel based on a recommendation from a suggestion of Jeni’s on twitter. I have to say, it was a really interesting combo.  The chocolate was milk chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate flakes mixed in.  Think of a really good double chocolate chip ice cream.  They were all really good, but next time I think I would just go in for a scoop and not buy quite so much due to the cost.  And they will give you a free sample of any of them while you are in there.
Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill
900 Goodale Blvd
Columbus, OH 43212

Jeni’s Ice Cream
1281 Grandview Ave (and various locations in Columbus area)
Columbus, OH  43212

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Three Years and Counting...

I can’t believe it has been three years since I started this blog.  It has turned into something way more than I thought when I started it, at least for me (I started it as a personal catharsis actually).  I have learned a lot about Indy restaurants and different cuisines and am grateful to all of you for your ongoing recommendations, comments and just general support (and of course letting me know on those rare occasions when I am wrong about something).  Because of this blog, I have eaten at so many places I never would have tried otherwise.  It motivates me to not get trapped in a rut of only going to the same few restaurants over and over. 
Here are a few random observations I have made along the way:

1. It's always the posts that I think no one will care about that get the most response (of course sometimes it ends up having nothing to do with the actual restaurant being reviewed, but who cares?);
2. If I want to get yelled at, I post a review of an Asian restaurant;
3. My Dad and I have different taste in restaurants; :)
4.  Steakhouse reviews rarely get much feedback (which I find ironic since we have SO many of them in this town);
5. When you as for a server's recommendation and s/he gives you a list of the most "popular" items, ignore the suggestions and get something else; and
6. Always bring a sweater, whether it is winter or summer, because most restaurants in this town are cold.

Ok, those are for fun (although true), but really I have appreciated learning just how many people care about our Indy food scene.  There are a lot of people very passionate about it, and about their favorite places.  I love this.
Now, of course, as always, keep sending me your favorites for me to add to “the list,” but I would also love to hear your critiques of this blog—what would you change and how would you improve it? What annoys you about it?  C’mon, I can take it (I think).  And many of you have privately made suggestions about ideas to add posts that aren’t just reviews.  What do you guys think about this? Love it or hate it? Are there things you would like to see covered? Of course, you would all have to promise to participate… J  But c’mon, let’s hear it!
Cheers! And here’s to what is hopefully, a great food year!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bub's Burgers

I have realized hamburgers are such a matter of taste. They vary so much from place to place. They can be grilled on a flat top or a flame grill, fat or thin, and the buns--well, that’s a whole other story.  I have said before, I tend to like a thin burger cooked on a flat top, preferably with some crispy edges. I like a soft bun, and I like to be able to take a bite of the thing without unhinging my jaw.
So Bub’s has been on the list for awhile and it seemed like a good kid friendly place to hit at lunchtime the other day when I was in the mood for simple, but something new.  I ordered a special burger of the day, the “steak and egg.”  I got their smaller sized burger with choice of cheese, bacon and a fried egg.  I also had the potato salad on the side.
So the burger isn’t bad, but it isn’t really my kind of burger.  The smallest burger you can get is ¼ pound after cooking (usually those weights are given to the pre-cooking weight).  It is pretty big.  The beef is nicely seasoned though—whatever they are seasoning with, I like.  The beef is also fresh and “hand-pattied.” The bacon was also tasty and cooked well.  The egg was fried hard (I should have asked), so didn’t really add much to the burger in my opinion. If it had been runny, it would have gone a long ways toward making the burger a bit more tender.  My main complaint was that the burger was a bit too dry—I ordered it medium, which is what they recommended, but I think next time I would go medium rare.  I would say this medium was a little more done than that.
The bun was pretty dense too.  Their website says they are made fresh at a local bakery specially for their burgers, and size-wise they did match up to the burger, but they were a little too bready for me—I tend to prefer a softer bun.  The burgers themselves are big—I cut my small one in half and with all those toppings, could only eat half of it. I can’t imagine getting a bigger one (and they have the “big ugly” which is a full pound of meat! After cooking!)
I really enjoyed the potato salad. It was called “loaded potato salad” and had baked red skin potatoes, scallions and bacon mixed with a tangy mayo type dressing.  It was unique with the bacon and scallions (and since I am not a fan of celery in potato salad, I really liked the scallions).  I ate every bite and would certainly order it again if I were there.  My son had a corn dog and onion rings, and the rings were good.  They were the battered type that I like and the portion they gave my son with his dog was quite generous I thought.  Between the three of us, we ate every one, and my son declared he couldn’t understand why we hadn’t been there before.  They also give kids a drink and a bag with some goldfish and fruit gummies.  Not exactly healthy, but popular among the preschool set.
All in all, I can see how this would be a nice easy place to go with kids for some classic American food made with good quality ingredients. Is it my favorite burger? Not by a long shot, but it wasn’t bad.  The service is really friendly, and it feels like a real neighborhood spot.
Bub’s Burgers
210 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Smokehouse on Shelby

So the other night we were headed to Radio Radio to see a friend’s band and decided to give the Smokehouse on Shelby a try.  I had been once before, but couldn’t really remember the details of the menu.  We were intrigued by several of the old school appetizers offered and decided to go with an appetizer sampler.  I asked our server what things were made fresh and he assured me that everything on the menu was made fresh.  Well, hello potato skins! And fried mushrooms and chicken wings. (You can choose three of 4 choices on the sampler platter, with the other one being onion rings).  So we really enjoyed the skins and the mushrooms.  The mushrooms were actually coated in cracker crumbs and fried.  They weren’t too big and were served with cocktail sauce for dipping.  While the cocktail sauce itself was pleasantly spicy and had a very nice flavor, I didn’t think it suited the mushrooms that well and dipped mine in the blue cheese that was for the wings.
The potato skins were interesting—a slightly different take than your typical ones—they had smoky chili on them and then the cheese and the green onions.  Sour cream was served on the side.  They were good—they were freshly made and had a nice crisp skin and a fair amount of the soft potato still there.  The chili gave it a very hearty flavor. Much more so than the regular bacon that you might see with the beans.  This was a fairly thick layer of chili.
Our least favorite was the chicken wings.  They were smoked and had a nice smoky flavor, but they seemed a bit dried out.  The wings were served with hot sauce, which packed a fair amount of punch.  They were interesting though in that they were not deep fried—just smoked.  I normally would really appreciate that kind of variation for health reasons, but these were just a little too dry.  The blue cheese dressing served with these (and also on the little side salad that hubby had as one of his side dishes) was really tasty.  The dressings are all made in house and this one was really nice.  Didn’t have that fakey bottled taste at all. 
For my main dish, I had the half chicken which according to the menu was marinated and applewood smoked. Unfortunately, it was also a bit dry.  But the thing that saved it was the really tasty barbeque sauce (hubby and I both got the sweet).  Wow, this barbeque sauce was delicious.  Not super sticky sweet—just the right amount of tanginess and smokiness and a bit of heat (more than you might expect from something called “sweet.”)  I would probably buy this sauce if they sold it by the bottle. It was quite good.  And dipping the chicken in it made up for some of the dryness.
For my sides I had potato salad and mac and cheese.  The mac and cheese wasn’t bad. It was creamy but didn’t have a ton of flavor.  The potato salad was a miss—it was called “mustard potato salad” which intrigued me—I generally really like mustard.  But this had little or no flavor to it in my opinion, mustard or anything else.  And I like a tangy potato salad to balance out barbeque, but this one wasn’t cutting it.
Hubby had the ribs.  They were St. Louis style, meaning dry rubbed and smoked.  Hubby went with them because he loves ribs, although he tends to prefer the type that is cooked in sauce and more fall off the bone (Kansas City  style).  As it turns out, he probably should’ve followed his instinct because he didn’t really care for them, because they were so dry and a bit challenging to get off the bone.  He also loved the barbeque sauce too though.  He also had a side of curly fries, which I thought, no way are they making those in house, but sure enough, they looked like they were.  And they were pretty tasty, with a light battery breading on them.
So I love that this place is making everything in house. That is a real challenge to find in a casual restaurant like this.  The appetizers were quite good; unfortunately I wasn’t really into the smoked meats.  I would be interested to try the pulled pork sandwich though—bits of meat with a bunch of the sauce might be pretty tasty.  And all the sauces were outstanding—the cocktail sauce, the blue cheese dressing and the barbeque sauce.  Someone is doing a great job with these.
This place is obviously a pretty popular place though as it was pretty much full, including several families.  The interior is very old school diner feeling with some giant antique letters on the wall and some great old movie posters.  The service was efficient enough, although I can’t say it was overly friendly.   So I know a lot of you are fans of Fountain Square, have you eaten at this place? What’s good? And who has the best barbeque in town?  And while I am thinking about it, anyone know of a place in town that does the South Carolina style mustard based barbeque sauce? I love that stuff.
Smokehouse on Shelby
1105 Prospect Street
Indy, 46203

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