Monday, April 30, 2012

U.S. Adventures: Cabbage Key- Cabbage Key, FL

So our family loves Captiva Island, Florida.  I never thought I would be a person who repeats places several times, but we all love Captiva and have been going there ever since we first moved back to Indy nearly 6 years ago now.  I have to say the one downside of the place is the food on the island isn’t that great, although we keep managing to find certain things and certain places we like.  It is frustrating how many restaurants in Florida are actually not using fresh seafood though.

Anyway, every trip I have said I wanted to go out to Cabbage Key to try the restaurant just because the idea of a somewhat remote island with just a couple of buildings on it, including the restaurant, just seemed intriguing.  Supposedly, this is the restaurant that inspired the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet.  Not that I am much of a Jimmy Buffet fan, but any restaurant that has a song written about it always interests me.  And they do have a picture on him on the wall, and a dollar bill that he signed (along with about 70,000 other bills people have signed) so I guess it is legit that he has actually been there anyway.

So the other thing that made me happy about this idea was the boat ride to get there. Nothing makes me happier (almost) than being on a boat.  It took about an hour to get out there and we saw probably a dozen dolphins along the way including this pod that escorted us for awhile on our way home. So the place looked really cute pulling in, but this is in no way a quiet kind of place.   The place has a ton of character and charm, but it is in no way a secret or anything remotely close to it.  They are ready for the big regularly scheduled boat loads of people to land and they are happy (and quite efficient) to take your order.  There are several rooms in the place, and they are all different (wood paneled bar room, white washed front porch and dark dining room in the back that is literally covered in taped up dollar bills).  They are all interesting, but I liked our seats on the front porch the best because you could see the water and it just felt beachy.  If I were there when it was dark, I think the back room might be kind of fun—but during the day, this famously known room’s view is mainly focused on the bills on the walls and ceiling more so than the outside scenery.

So as wrong as it normally would seem to me to order a cheeseburger in such a place, it seemed to be a requirement here right?  So we ordered our burger ($9.50) and a plate of stone crab claws and some drinks.  The cheeseburger was decent.  You know, they probably serve about 1000 of them a day (the table of 5 next to us ordered 5) and they certainly have their technique down pat.  They cook them medium which is more than I would request if asked, but the burger was still pretty juicy.  You have a choice of cole slaw or potato salad alongside and we go the potato salad.  It seemed homemade but was really bland—we pretty much ignored it even after I tried to doctor it up with everything on the table.
The stone crab claws were good—they are a Florida thing, and they were in season and a decent size.  My only pet peeve about them is because the shells are so hard, they are tough to crack.  But we managed with only a few minor injuries (hubby managed to cut his tongue on one of the shells).  They were served with drawn butter and a mustard sauce, but for me, the butter is the way to go with crab. Simple bite of sweet crab with a little butter.  They aren’t my favorite of the varieties of crab, but really, I haven’t met a crab I didn’t like (although Dungeness will always be my crab sweetheart—so easy to get at the meat!).

Ok, we were on vacation, and had a couple of drinks in us, so naturally we had to try the caramel turtle fudge ice cream cake as well ($5.95).  It was definitely huge that is for sure, and the coldness of it hit the spot on the very warm day.  It was tasty, even though it tasted a lot of the vanilla ice cream part. We only had a few minutes after we ate to wander around the island, and there isn’t a lot to do—we did climb the water tower and have a look around, and wandered on a few of the paths.  You can stay here as well, but it would be a little remote for me, even with the cute restaurant.

So this is a place where the food won’t blow you away, but the location, well, it is pretty darn cool for a meal.  It’s a place where you really feel like you are on vacation when you are eating there, and you can relax and enjoy the view.  Just be prepared for the crowds.

Cabbage Key
Intracoastal Water Maker 60
Pineland, FL 33945
Cabbage Key on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Ok, so I finally went to Shapiro’s. Well I had been as a child, and maybe even a teenager, but that was, *ahem*, awhile ago so really it was like a first visit.  And I am just going to preface this whole post by saying, honestly, this isn’t my favorite kind of food—I know a lot of people live for the whole New York style deli sandwiches, but I am not one of them (sorry).  But everyone said to get corned beef in some fashion, so I let hubby order that while I focused on some other things (based pretty exclusively on twitter recommendations).

So I had the meatloaf meal ($10.25) with macaroni and cheese and bread.  Several people had recommended the meatloaf and I can understand why even though it isn’t something I eat a lot.  The ground beef was about as juicy as meat in a loaf can be—very tender.  Of course it was drenched in a tomato sauce which probably helped keep it that way, but even when you cut into it, the middle was very tender.  I am not so sure about the tomato paste based sauce—I think I am a traditionalist with meatloaf and prefer a little sauce on the top of the loaf, and not so much that the slice of meatloaf floats in it.  But that is just a matter of preference I guess.  The mac and cheese was interesting—very creamy in a different kind of way.  I am guessing maybe they use a lot of sour cream in the mix—it was not as cheesy as most mac and cheese I have had.  My favorite part (as always) was the crunchy slightly burnt noodle parts on the top.  I think if I went back, I would ask for extra burnt parts.
Ideally, hubby wanted to get half a Reuben and a cup of soup (they do have these types of combos) but apparently they don’t do it with the Reuben.  So he ended up with just the Reuben ($12.05).  We knew when we went that we were going to get a giant overstuffed sandwich at Shapiro’s and we did.  I am not a big fan of sandwiches that don’t fit in my mouth, but as we discussed it, we realized one of the reasons that maybe they put so much meat on it is because the bread itself is not very big—so maybe in order to get the equivalent amount of meat that you would get in a larger sandwich bread-wise, they started adding more meat?  Just a theory.  But regardless, for both of us the proportions were off.  With all that meat, it was hard to taste the sauerkraut and the thousand island dressing, which is what makes a Reuben unique right? All of the ingredients were good—the corned beef very good.  But it is just not our style of sandwich.  The rye bread, incidentally, which I also got with my meatloaf, was also very good—nice rye flavor and a crispy crust.
I did get a piece of the marble cake with chocolate icing ($3.95) which was actually probably my least favorite thing.  The cake was a bit dry and the icing too sweet—I hardly tasted the chocolate flavor because of the pure powdered sugar flavor. 
And yes, the portions are huge, and that is what people expect at Shapiro’s.  I didn’t eat even half of what I ordered.  (Hubby did eat his whole sandwich though, minus some of the meat).  And yes, the prices are pretty high ($12 for a sandwich) for lunch.  My overall thoughts?  It’s obviously an Indy tradition, and people go there for sentimentality I think (and good corned beef).  We wondered how well it would do if it opened now for the first time.  The food is honest, basic food.  Nothing was bad, and for me, nothing was great.  Would it be a place I would go a lot?  Nope.  And most of the people in there were older than I am.  I think people go for comfort and sentimentality as much as they go for the food.  But who knows, maybe some people are really passionate about the food there.  Tell me what you think.
918 South Rangeline (and there is one downtown and one at the airport)
Carmel, IN 46032

Shapiro's Deli (Carmel) on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bru Burger Bar

So a lot of you seem to really like Bru burger and a friend of mine reminded me of it the other day when I was trying to find a quick place to eat lunch after a meeting downtown.  Honestly, I have heard some mixed things from other people though, so I was a little wary.  Having not been in the place at all yet, the first thing I noticed was how confusing it was to find the front door (is it just me?).  I first went in where the old Elements door was (which was never ideal either), then went to the patio area which is under the giant “Bru Burger” sign and would appear to be the front door—I went in there to find that in fact there is an even further door that is the appropriate door and I could tell by the servers sort of shaking their head at me that this annoys them when people come in the wrong way.  Oh well.  So I went in and surprised the hostesses by coming up behind them.  I got seated and looked over the menu while my teeth chattered in the intense cold.  I know I say this all the time, but why why why do restaurants in Indy keep the thermostats so low?  It makes me crazy.

So anyway I figured I ought to go with a burger in a burger joint right? So I ordered the Bru burger ($11) which sounded interesting—a beef burger with Taleggio cheese, bacon, tomato jam, braised onion and mayo (normally comes with lettuce but I asked for it without).  I also appreciated that they asked me how I wanted it cooked (medium rare).  I also got a side of onion rings ($3).  The burger looked pretty when it was served with a couple of pickles on top—but when I cut it in half to make it easier to eat I quickly saw that it wasn’t medium rare—it was sort of uniformly gray honestly.  And while my normal toppings on a burger are more minimal, I went with this because it seemed like it was sort of their specialty—and it was too much stuff for me.  As soon as it was served the very thin bottom bun was already soaked through with the juice from the tomatoes and onions.  The bacon was fairly plentiful but was completely soft as well and didn’t have a lot of flavor.  I am not sure really how to describe the whole thing other than to say it was just was a little mushy and didn’t have a lot of the distinctive flavor I was expecting from the ingredients.  I wanted crispy, salty bacon and stinky Taleggio and neither of them were particularly distinctive.  The flavor of the tomato jam and the onions wasn’t bad, but I have a feeling they may have been a leading contributor to the sogginess problem.
There was redemption with the onion rings though—they were really good.  They were large and tempura beer battered and nice and crisp and hot.  You could taste the beer in the batter and that is my favorite way to taste beer—in beer batter.  They were also served with house made ketchup that was good with them—a little thicker than your average ketchup and not so sugary tasting.  It went well with the rings.

So, after I ate here, I asked around on twitter about what people like at Bru (after several of you had recommended it again) and I found it interesting that more than half of the people were recommending the non-beef burgers (veggie, tuna, turkey).  So maybe their strength lies in other kinds of burgers, or maybe it was just an off day, but I don’t think I would be rushing back for another beef burger.  To be fair, they are thick burgers, which generally aren’t my favorite anyway, but I can appreciate a good one when I have one.  So tell me if you haven’t already, what do you think of this place and what do you like there? I always give a place another chance (well, almost always). And those onion rings were pretty tasty.  On the other hand, a bill for nearly $18 for a burger, rings and a soda is a little steep for lunch when the burger didn’t knock me out.  So let me know what you think.

Bru Burger Bar
410 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46202

BRU Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Road Trip- Tavernita- Chicago

Our final dinner on our recent trip to Chicago was at Tavernita.  I was excited because I love a new place—and it was also small plates (Spanish in style).  The place is really big, and the first thing I noticed was how loud it was, even when it wasn’t still that full.  It didn’t help that there was a group of St. Patrick’s Day partiers that had obviously been drinking for a long time sitting right next to us.  Also, I asked if we could be moved to a table on the end of our row (which was set for 3) and they said no, that they were fully booked.  I was totally fine with this, but then about halfway through our meal they sat a party of two there which I found rather annoying.

Anyway, the first course we got that evening turned out to be one of the best of the evening.  It was the pan con burrata with tomato marmalade on crostini ($9)  It was simple, but the bread was perfectly grilled—nice grill marks but still a little chewy in the center. The tomato spread also flavored the bread and the cheese (homemade mozzarella stuffed with cream) was really good—really light, creamy and even fluffy and drizzled with olive oil. The oil added the right amount of depth to the cheese—and the whole thing was properly seasoned with salt and pepper. A simple dish that was put together just right. 
The next dish that we got was the corn pudding ($12)—it came highly recommended by our server.  It was a fairly dense pudding of corn meal, with some sweet pieces of corn, roasted poblano peppers and some pieces of shrimp mixed in.  It was topped with what was called an herb salad, but which was just arugula as far as I can tell (I was sort of expecting a mix of things). The corn pudding was a little dryer than I thought it would be, as was the shrimp, but the flavors overall weren’t bad. The greens were lightly dressed with a vinaigrette which was a nice contrast to the sweet and rich corn and poblano flavors.  We didn’t even finish it though, which is not a good sign for hubby who will eat all of anything he really likes.

Next we got the patatas ($10) which were fried chunks of potatoes, with pieces of chorizo, a brava sauce underneath and a fried egg on top.  Even with the fried egg on top this dish wasn’t great.  The egg wasn’t really runny enough to make up for the dryness of the dish—and the brava sauce (which is like a slightly spicy tomato sauce) was lacking—hubby didn’t realize there was even any sauce there until I told him and pointed it out to him.  The chorizo was kind of dry, the potatoes were really dry and the egg was too hard cooked.  This one was a miss—there was just nothing there that made it interesting. 
One of the more slightly more successful dishes of the evening was a special—it was prawns a la plancha (cooked over a grill) with garlic and olive oil.  They were whole, shell-on prawns and had a nice smoky flavor—I sort of couldn’t help myself from comparing them to the ones we had not long ago at The Bristol.  While the flavor of these was good—nice and garlicky, the fact that they were whole and unpeeled detracted a bit because the shells were really hard to get off because they had been grilled.  At The Bristol, they used the same concept but sliced them in half length-wise before cooking them, making it much easier to just pull the meat out with a fork.  I know it sounds picky, but when something is difficult to eat, it just becomes annoying to me, even when the taste is pretty good.
So the next dish we got was described as housemade pappardelle with mushroom ragout and Manchego ($13).  So this one was not at all what we were expecting, and was disappointing for this reason. When I hear “mushroom ragout,” I am thinking it will be a sauce of mushrooms—not a tomato sauce that had a bit of mushroom in it.  Maybe I am wrong, but I wanted a mushroom sauce, not a tomato sauce.  The pasta itself wasn’t bad—I do love homemade pasta.  But again this dish wasn’t doing it for us and you really could barely taste there were mushrooms in there. They really should call it a chunky vegetable marinara or something.

We had been kind of disappointed with our last few dishes and hadn’t eaten a lot of them (and also because we wanted something with mushrooms), so we decided at the last minute to add one more—the coca de setas ($10).  It was flatbread (there are several on the menu) with caramelized onions, mushrooms, goat cheese and more of the herb (i.e. arugula) salad.  We were glad we got it as it at least gave us the mushroom fix we were craving, and the goat cheese and dressed leaves gave the dish some brightness we had been missing in the others.  But as usual, a flatbread is a flatbread—nearly impossible to make it amazing as far as I can tell.  The toppings weren’t bad, but the crust, well it fell a little “flat.”
Here’s the thing—I appreciate the fairly casual tavern type feel of the place, and it is obvious they are going for the fairly loud buzzy atmosphere of a busy hip restaurant (when the first word a restaurant uses on its website to describe itself is “sexy,” that’s a clue I guess). There was no way the two elderly ladies next to us (good for them for staying current right?) could be carrying on any kind of conversation with each other though (and they were quite annoyed when their martinis were not served “up” in a martini glass).  I am pretty sure Tavernita has achieved the atmosphere they want, but the food feels too mass produced and uniform to me—almost like it is coming from a decent chain restaurant.  And several of the items really bordered on mediocre.

And I know I rarely mention the drinks/alcohol portion of my meals, but I am pretty sure Tavernita is banking on this for a lot of their business.  They have this huge, “everything on tap” thing going including beers and their wines (and apparently lots of other things).  And well, the wine didn’t taste very good to me. We tried several different things and they all just seemed a little flat or something. 

So while I always like trying new places in Chicago, this one was a bit of a miss for me, which I guess is good, because it allows me to not feel like I need to go back on a future visit and leaves more space for something else.  I can barely keep up with everything going on in Chicago though, and as always, appreciate your suggestions for places to try when we are there.

151 West Erie
Chicago, IL 60654

Tavernita on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 16, 2012

La Escollera

I find myself on the eastside about once a week, and I am trying to take advantage of it to eat at a few new places.  La Escollera was a place I have wanted to try for awhile, and I finally got over there.  It is funny—it sort of reminds me of La Parada in a way.  It is an older looking building cheerfully painted and with two long thin rows of booths down the front.  There was a Mexican talk show blaring on two tvs, which completely set the mood.

My server was really nice and brought me a basket of warm chips and salsa right away.  I liked that the chips were clearly made in house—there were bubbles in the layers of tortillas and they were really nice a crunchy.  The salsa was also quite tasty—it didn’t taste very hot, but after you ate a few chips with it, it built up a bit—not so much that your tongue was on fire, but just enough that your mouth started to feel warm.
For my lunch, I wanted to order ceviche, because supposedly this place sort of specializes is seafood, and I was planning on ordering the fish ceviche, but when I ordered it my server asked if I wanted shrimp or fish and then I asked which was better and she was pretty adamant about the shrimp, so I thought I would go with her suggestion.  It was actually a ceviche tostada, on a crispy flat round tortilla.  It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t feel like there was a lot of lime flavor, which you sort of expect from a dish that is supposed to be cooked in lime.  There were lots of chopped tomato, onion and cilantro as well, but it just was good, not great.  The slices of avocado across the top were perfectly ripe though—I would have loved a couple more.  I also preferred eating the ceviche with the chips, which were tastier than the tostada shell which didn’t seem homemade.  The shrimp was not as plentiful as the similar version I had at La Parada, and they were a little tougher.
I also got a pastor taco ($1.75) and a lomo taco ($2).  I really enjoyed the pastor taco a lot—it was bits of the marinated pork in two soft corn tortillas and topped with onions and cilantro and a wedge of lime on the side.  The meat was well seasoned, but not hot and still was for the most part really tender (there were a couple of pieces that were a little hard on the edges that I didn’t eat).  I especially liked it with the lime and some of the salsa verde that she brought out to me to go with everything.  This was by far my favorite item.  The lomo taco, which is the same set up with seasoned grilled ribeye inside didn’t fare as well.  The meat was in pretty big pieces and was really overall tough and with some really hard edges—it made it pretty near impossible to eat.  After a couple of bite I sort of gave up.  The tortillas themselves were really tender and tasty though—sometimes if they are too dry, they detract from the meal.  These were warm and moist and perfect.
I would really like to go back though and try more of the seafood items—they have several that sound intriguing, but just a little much for me for lunch.  But the chips were really good (as were the salsas) and so was the pastor taco.  And while I didn’t note every price, my whole meal, including a soda, was under $10.  The service was really friendly and fast.  It is a place worth stopping into, and if you do (or if you have already) tell me what you have and what you like so I can plan my next visit. (Also, if you have other eastside recommendations, I welcome them too!)

La Escollera
5834 East Washington Street
Indy  46219

La Escollera on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Brad Gates Catering- City Market

The City Market just keeps getting better and better if you ask me.  I love what it is turning into, and I love that you can go even on a Saturday and have lots of great lunch options.  My daughter and I spend many Saturday lunches there and often when I have something going on downtown during the week, I just stop in myself and grab something.  The last couple of times I have been there, I had the opportunity to try one of the newer vendors—Brad Gates Catering.  I am very happy to have an outlet to get his food other than having him make it at my house (which is good too, but this way is much more economical).  He also has a great cheese selection if you are looking for stuff more interesting than what you can get at the grocery.

His menus change daily and some things are in the rotation frequently and others less so. (I regularly check his daily menus on facebook.)  The first time I went in, I was intrigued by the linguine with asparagus and Laughing Bird shrimp scampi ($12).  Pasta is a big lunch for me, but it sounded good and I knew hubby would eat the rest later (which he did).  It was really tasty—lots of slices of garlic and asparagus pieces that were just about the same size as the shrimp and it had plenty of fresh parmesan too.  It was fairly simple, but well done—the shrimp are smallish and sweet and were cooked just right.
The next trip, he had fried chicken ($10). So, well, duh, that was a no brainer for me.  I certainly wasn’t passing that up.  He gives quite a generous portion for lunch. There was a thigh, a leg and a breast/wing combo that I really liked because he had taken out most of the bone.  The chicken was buttermilk marinated giving it a nice tangy flavor under the crust and the breast meat was sort of shockingly juicy.  I love fried chicken breasts done well, but it is almost always dry, so I usually only eat the dark meat, but I think this breast was even better than the dark pieces.  The skin was nicely seasoned and crispy and I really liked the coarse grits served alongside—I am normally a person who nearly always gets mashed potatoes with fried chicken when given the option, but this was a nice variation because of their texture.  There were also collard greens under the chicken with some big hunks of pork—they were good too, although honestly, I was a little more fixated on the chicken. And that was a ton of food for me for lunch.
One of the things I love about the City Market these days is the variety of food you can get there, and Brad’s goes even further offering different options each day which opens up even more possibilities. I have seen many daily specials on the facebook page that I would like to try.  So have you guys been yet? What have you had?

Brad Gates Catering
Indianapolis City Market
222 East Market Street
Indy  46204

Monday, April 9, 2012

Road Trip--Slurping Turtle-Chicago

So on our recent trip to Chicago (did I mention it was St. Patrick’s weekend? Oy, what a weekend to be in Chicago. Beware of the puke), I dragged my poor, still under-the-weather hubby to Slurping Turtle for lunch.  He managed to revive himself a bit though after a pint of beer, and once he dug into the food.

I loved this place from the moment I looked at the menu—it reminded me a lot of the Raku restaurant I had recently eaten at in Vegas, and I was happy to get to share it with hubby.  The interior was very different (very white and modern and clean), but the menu similar.  Slurping Turtle specializes in their noodle dishes, but also has a nice sampling of small plates to go alongside.  They also do the grilled items on a bincho (or charcoal) grill. (Check out the chef/owner discussing the bincho and some of their other food here.)

There are a ton of good things to try on the bincho menu, but we wanted to get a little something off of all the parts of the menu, so we just had the beef ribeye ($5).  It was served on a skewer (as are most of the bincho items) and covered in a teriyaki type sauce.  It was outstanding.  Even though it looked like one big piece of meat on the skewer, as you pulled it off, it was cut into bite-sized pieces that were just pushed together so they didn’t overcook (well, that is my assumption).  So tender, but with the right amount of fat content to make it really rich and flavorful.  The sauce was light, and didn’t overpower the meat at all. It was just slightly sweet and salty and exactly the perfect accompaniment.  I would love to try some of the other grilled items if this one is any indication.

The next thing they brought us was the seared Big Eye tuna with avocado, cucumber and sweet onion dressing ($12).  This was certainly a more generous portion than the beef was, and an easy thing to share (the same cannot be said for the beef—I shared it, but it wasn’t easy for me).  There were 6 pieces of the very lightly seared tuna (which was seared with some sesame seeds as well) that were topped with slices of avocado, cucumber, onions and a few wonderful crispy garlic chips (we fought over those as well).  I really liked the sweet onion dressing—it was slightly sweet, but also had the robust onion flavor and just the right amount of tanginess.

At this point hubby was rallying, and decided he wanted to add an item to the menu—the crispy oysters ($9).  They were simply fried in a panko type bread crumb and were smokin’ hot, but honestly, I found them not very exciting especially with compared to the other items we ate—I wouldn’t get them again, but they weren’t bad—just kind of boring, even with the two sauces they served alongside (one was a mayo based ginger sauce and one a soy based slightly sweet sauce as I recall).  The oysters just weren’t really juicy when you bit into them.
The last thing we got (of course we had to get some noodles) was the tonkotu noodles ($13)—they were egg noodles with a rich pork broth, a slice of braised pork shoulder, lightly pickled mustard greens, shitake mushrooms and random other things—like a snow pea and some green onions.  Here’s what I really liked about it—the broth was tasty. I like the idea of a pork based broth—it was salty and had a nice rich flavor. I think pork just lends itself well to make this kind of broth richer than some other kinds of meats.  The noodles were also really good in the broth, just giving a substance to the soup.  I also really liked the way they cut the mushrooms into small slivers that were just the same thickness as the noodles. It made them really easy to eat with your chopsticks right with the noodles and added an additional earthy taste.  I also liked the flavor of the greens, but I didn’t like the fact that they were all still in basically in their original head making them really hard to eat with chopsticks—at least for me.  I had to sort of tug the leaves off and eat them.  Also, the piece of pork was really dry and to me, not really worth eating on its own (hubby didn’t eat it either).  But I am sure it added some more flavor, so I didn’t mind it, but I would have liked some more tender smaller pieces in there.  But overall, the noodles were so tasty, I didn’t really mind.
We also had a plate of macaroons for dessert (3 for $5)—also a hot trend apparently, because they are on every menu everywhere we went as well.  We had one sesame/chocolate, a soy/caramel and a yuzu (a Japanese citrus).  The sesame chocolate was probably my favorite—I liked the slight smokiness in the sesame flavor—and as far as macaroons go, they were good, chewy outer cookie parts—but honestly I don’t think I am the best judge as I have decided I have never had one that really blew me away.
All in all, I look forward to going back to the Slurping Turtle and trying some other things when hubby has more of an appetite.  It would be a great place to go with a small group.  I would like to try more of the grilled items and some of the dumpling type items as well.  And I would think you probably can’t go wrong with the noodles—although the rice bowls are intriguing too.

And here’s hoping these type of noodle dishes start getting more popular in Indy—anyone have any good suggestions of where to find good noodles in Indy? I know H2O does noodle dishes sometimes that are really tasty, but they aren’t on the menu all the time.

Slurping Turtle
116 West Hubbard Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Slurping Turtle on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ale Emporium

After hearing about it from several of you, I met my friend wibia (us bloggers have to stick together after all) for lunch at Ale Emporium so that I could finally try their pizza (apparently I am on a pizza quest now). They have some nice lunch specials with a slice of pizza and a salad, but I really wanted to try the deep dish pizza (that’s what you guys keep telling me anyway) so we ordered a pizza to share (you can’t get the deep dish with the lunch special).
Ale Emporium is an interesting place—much bigger inside than I thought looking at it and extremely casual—it is essentially a bar (don’t bring the kids) with lots of high bar tables. Thankfully they have made one large side of the room non-smoking.
I can’t talk about too much because really, all we had was the pizza (well, and a couple of beers, I mean it is called Ale Emporium right?)—it takes awhile to make a whole deep dish pizza, but I was expecting that—and actually it didn’t take as long as what I would have thought.  Also, our server was attentive and helpful even though it was her first day.

So on to the pizza, I got spinach and mushroom on my half (which for some reason I have decided is the classic deep dish toppings for me--probably because of Zachary’s pizza in Berkeley).  Anyway, it is certainly generous, we shared a small ($16.50) (of course, he had to have sausage on his half, claiming my choices were too girly) and it was a lot of food (at least for me).  There were 6 pieces total.  So overall, I liked it o.k.  It was a little more gooey and sloppy than I thought it would be—but the crust was strong enough to hold up to the toppings.  I guess the deep dish pies I have had in the past were more self contained when you put a piece on your plate.  This one kind of oozed all over. The crust has a sort of almost thick pastry-like texture and I liked the slight flakiness.  I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more spinach and mushrooms in there—clearly the spinach was just some leaves thrown in, not a substantial amount.  I couldn’t really taste either of my chosen toppings that much.  What you tasted was the pretty thick crust and the significant amount of cheese and to a lesser extent, the sauce, but it was a good sauce with decent seasoning.  And at least the crust was hearty enough to stand up to it.  Wibia did say that he thought the deep dish pizza was better when it was bigger—that the proportions were better, and I can see that as a possibility.  Although, I would need a small army to eat an even bigger one.
I am intrigued by the thin crust too though—because the sauce and crust flavors were generally good. I am curious to know what the thin crust is like.  Who has had it?  And which do you like better? 

Ale Emporium
8617 Allisonville
Indy  46202

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Donut Shop

In my family Sunday morning is donut day (a hubby/kid tradition) and since Taylor’s is closed on Sundays, they became frequent visitors to the Donut Shop.  I had never gone with them to buy donuts and always forgot that it was actually a restaurant too.  Always looking for another good low brow breakfast spot, one recent Sunday we decided to give it a shot, and have some donuts for dessert.
First off, it was pretty busy.  We got the last table in the place and a slightly frenzied server took our order—I had my standard—2 eggs over easy with bacon and hash browns and toast (4.75).  Hubby had a variation that included pancakes instead of toast ($6.99).  My daughter had her classic French toast (half order $1.65) and my son, scrambled eggs and bacon.
Honestly, it basically served its purpose as a low brow diner type of breakfast.  The service was fast, and the eggs were cooked exactly right.  The bacon was really thin and crispy—no high falutin’ bacon here at all.  The flavor of it was actually better than I thought from looking at it, but there was no deep porky goodness like you are going to get from something Applewood smoked or anything.  The hash browns on my plate were actually pretty good because they were really extra crispy on the top and bottom and around the edges.  Other hash browns on the table didn’t fare so well.  They lacked crispy edges and were just soft shredded potatoes.
My daughter ate all her French toast and enjoyed it, but it was on pretty small slices of bread (there were 2 halves) and it looked a little wimpy to me, although I didn’t try it.  This place is bare bones, and pretty inexpensive (the orange juice comes in little plastic cups with sealed foil lids, a la school cafeteria).  It does a good business and would suit for a hangover breakfast, but honestly, I think I would prefer the Keystone Deli down the street for the same purpose.

Everyone was happy with their donuts, which we had for lunch, and I think while it will remain a go to spot for some of our favorite local (really cheap) donuts, it will unlikely become a regular breakfast spot (although to be fair, it appeared to be for a lot of people).  So let’s hear it people…what’s your go to hangover breakfast spot?

Donut Shop
5527 N. Keystone Avenue
Indy  46220

Donut Shop on Urbanspoon