Back up in Carmel to meet my friend Suzanne for lunch again—she is becoming one of my best “try a new restaurant” dates. Sometimes it is hard to find people as enthusiastic as I am about trying new places. Anyhow, we decided to go to Hubbard & Cravens after we both had looked at the menu online.
There were a couple of pleasant surprises for me when I checked out the website. First, I really thought this was a large chain, but in fact it is locally owned—there are several locations, but all in the central Indianapolis area. Next, I was kind of excited to see all the local products being used—lots of Smoking Goose meats, Trader’s Point cheese, and many other local farmers (as well as several local beers). The one weird thing about the website is that they list a breakfast menu and a dinner menu, but no lunch menu—just an FYI, the lunch menu is the same as the dinner menu online (also, the prices aren’t totally up to date). We went to the Carmel City Center location which is located in the back of the complex.
The first thing we had was the breadsticks ($8). They were thin but soft breadsticks that were brushed with what they call “fire sauce”—we found out it is a combination of hot sauce and garlic oil. It did give a nice little heat to them, and they were really good dipped into the broiled goat cheese. You had the tangy cheese with the spicy breadsticks—we agreed this was a dish worthy of a recreation at home.
We decided to share a flatbread and a sandwich as well. We had the “ramp and ham” flatbread ($12) because it sounded good even though we were both a little unsure about how they were getting “Indiana-grown ramps” this time of year. We just assumed they were just using regular leeks and that seemed to be the case. The flatbread also had Smoking Goose city ham, thyme, mozzarella and goat cheese. It sounded like a really good combo, and I am not sure exactly what the problem was, but it just didn’t do it for either one of us. One of the most obvious problems was that the bottom of the flatbread was burned black—luckily, you could kind of peel off the bottom layer and eat it without the black part. Unfortunately, when you did that, it was no longer crispy at all, just kind of soft. But the biggest problem was that somehow, even with all those ingredients that I inherently like, the whole thing just seemed kind of bland. Not exactly what an improvement would be off the top of my head—maybe a sprinkle of finishing salt or
something would help.
The rustic chicken sandwich ($11) was better, but had its own problems. The main one for me was that the bread was way too big—which made it hard to really taste much else. There was herbed sliced chicken, Smoking Goose bacon, arugula, pesto aioli and roasted tomatoes. We had it with a side of greens. My half only had a small little piece of the bacon on it, which made me sad because I generally love Smoking Goose bacon. The pesto seemed more like straight pesto and not so much aioli—and while I was tempted to eat it without half the bun, since the pesto was on the bread, much of the flavor would have been lost. I liked the roasted tomatoes a lot—they were in the salad and the sandwich. When you got a bite of one of those, it added a nice sweetness and slight acid kick—and they were very soft and not chewy at all. I don’t know what it was, but again, even though I liked the sandwich better, it still didn’t really do it for me. It was a little dry and just too bready for me.
It is a nice interior for a lunch place and they were doing a good business—interestingly (to me at least), it was a largely male clientele which I found surprising based on the menu. I think I would try it again just because of all the things that made it attractive to me in the first place, but overall, I found it kind of disappointing. I would love to hear what you guys liked if you have been there.
Hubbard & Cravens
703 Veteran’s Way (in the City Center complex)
Carmel, IN 46032