Thursday, February 27, 2014

317 Burger

We had been meaning to try the new 317 Burger for a while but kept forgetting about it. It is in Broad Ripple in the old Ambrosia space. It’s nice and kid friendly too so a good place for a family dinner. The décor is a lot of wood and cowhide—there are booths and tables. The booths are wood bottoms though so a little hard on the butt after awhile. Our service was spot on and friendly. She did a great job explaining anything that needed explaining.

317 Burger specializes in various kinds of burgers made from various kinds of meat—there’s beef of course, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork and even shrimp and tuna. Honestly, I was a little hesitant after reading and hearing some things from people about this place.  One recurring complaint I heard was about the buns not holding up.  The whole family ordered beef burgers (I figured I would start with the basics first). I had the “317” ($11) figuring it should always be a good choice to go with the restaurant’s namesake right? One thing I would say, after chatting with a friend about the concept, he thought adding a few more signature beef burgers might be a good idea—make it easier to get a good bunch of flavors together (and hubby agreed).

I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the burger was quite tasty. I ordered it medium (she said that would be a warm pink center) and it was nice and pink. Actually, all of our burgers were cooked nice and pink, and I appreciated that they didn’t overcook the kids’ burgers just because they were for kids. The 317 comes with pepper bacon, 4 cheeses, and garlic aioli. It had a lot of flavor, particularly from the pepper bacon. The meat was nice and tender, not overworked at all and there was a lot of cheese there. I didn’t taste a lot of the aioli, but I have a feeling it added to the moisture and the overall flavor.  I liked the fresh red onions served alongside as an option to add some crunch and a little more peppery flavor as well. I think you need the extra toppings though—a bite of my son’s plain burger with just cheese left me wanting for some additional kick. The meat on its own was a tad bland. As for the bun? Yes, the bottom of the bun was skimpy for what was a pretty fat and juicy burger. The top was fine though—too bad they can’t cut them a little differently to beef up the bottom part. As it was, we ended up flipping them over and eating them upside down so that the juices were dripping down into the top bun instead. This helped quite a bit. The bun had a nice consistency and flavor, it just wasn’t big enough.

Hubby did a build your own that was similar—with white cheddar, apple wood smoked bacon and chipotle mayo on the side. (Note: would love to see a fried egg as a topping option). His was also very good. That peppery bacon on mine really added seasoning though-I’d be hard pressed not to order the exact same burger again, even though I would like to try some of the other options. Anyone had the spicy tuna?

We had a bunch of the sides to try—the fries, the tots, the onion rings and the mac n cheese (note all sides are a la carte, except with the kids meals—adult sides are $4 each. A kid’s burger and fries (or tots) is $5 total). The tots were standard good tots. They weren’t as extra crispy as some I have had lately (which I like), but they were good. The fries were probably the standout. They were hand-cut and kept the nice amount of light fluffy interior with a good crisp exterior. A bit of skin left on added a little chewiness and texture. I would definitely recommend getting these. The mac n cheese wasn’t bad either—it was kind of an alfredo sauce with spiral noodles with some Parmesan on top. A simpler taste for sure. Pepper would have helped. My daughter really liked it though. For me, the onion rings were the weakest side item. I wouldn’t get these again—they were really thick cut and breaded. I like em thin and battered best. These seemed like they were just food servicey.

We had an order of the funnel cake fries ($6) for dessert. The kids were all about these. They were little fried sweet donut-type fries, covered in powdered sugar and served with a marshmallow cream and a peanut butter cream. My daughter wanted to me to mention that she thinks a chocolate dipping sauce would be a really good idea (can’t say I disagree, especially a dark chocolate sauce)(and my peanut-allergic son certainly agrees). I preferred the peanut butter to the marshmallow sweetness (because it gave it a little savory kick as well). I am pretty sure these will be on our order again. The kids were big fans (my daughter wanted a second order).
The inside of my upside-down burger. Nice and pink.

As a family, we universally enjoyed 317 Burger, and that is a rare occasion in our household. I am glad to have another fairly close option for a locally owned family meal. I will have a hard time varying from the 317 burger, but I am intrigued by the build your own BLT, particularly since the bacon was so tasty, and because you get to choose the kind of bread you want. The fried spinach also intrigues me. We’ll have to try it next time.

317 Burger
915 East Westfield Blvd
Indy 46220

317 Burger on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014

Crepe Guys

Hubby and I had a quick lunch in Castleton again and decided to hit up Crepe Guys. This place is pretty new and originally was going to open over near 86th and Ditch, but then ended up appearing over in Castleton. Again, I was excited because a new independent place is always welcome (and unusual) on our side of town.

It’s a little bit of a strange interior—there’s a weird mix of modern and kind of an “unfinished barn” décor going on in here. You order at the register and then pick a table. They bring the crepes out to you when they’re done (and you can watch them making them if you want). Would love to see a little better silverware (it's just plastic on paper plates) but maybe they don't have a place to wash it, I don't know.

I ordered “the breakfast” crepe ($6.99) because, duh, eggs,  (you can get it anytime). It was the crepe filled with bacon, ham, scrambled eggs, jack cheese and your choice of mayo, ranch or honey mustard (I chose ranch). I had them hold the ham because I am not always a fan of ham unless it’s really good quality. I was sort of hoping they would add more bacon instead, but I don’t think they did based on the somewhat small amount that was in there.  The crepes are somewhat dense in their consistency, which was okay with a decent amount of savory fillings. I thought the breakfast crepe was decent—the eggs weren’t overcooked and it was fairly cheesy. There wasn’t a lot of the bacon and it wasn’t crisp at all, nor very good. Adding some decent bacon quality could do a lot to make this thing go from being good to being much better.

Hubby had the smoked salmon crepe ($8.99). This one was pretty good as well—having a decent amount of the salmon stood up to the thickness of the crepe and it had nice flavor from sour cream, spinach, and capers. One of the problems was the way the crepes were made and folded into fairly small triangles, they ended up with a lot of the crepe folded on top of the ingredients and itself, and it was already kind of thick (in general I prefer my crepes a little thinner and crisper). So you ended up with a lot of crepe to filling ratio.

This became even more apparent with the dessert crepe we shared—the banana nutella ($6.99). According to the menu, this crepe includes bananas, nutella, chocolate cream, powdered sugar and whipped cream. All I really got was a lot of banana and a lot of crepe. This was where the thickness of the crepe really became a weakness—the sweet crepe fillings, since they were more of a light spread of the nutella (I didn’t really get chocolate cream here), didn’t hold up to the thickness of the crepe. You couldn’t really taste them much..

If you kind of look at it like a sandwich shop (the crepes are dense enough I think to make the comparison), I can see stopping in for a savory one now and then if you work on that side of town. They weren’t bad. They would be even better if they stepped up the quality of some of the ingredients a bit. I would guess that a lot of the meats are of the lunch meat quality, although I can't be sure. I would take a pass on the sweet ones though.

The Crepe Guys
5955 E 82nd Street
Indy 46250
CrepeGuys on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 21, 2014

Visitor (and Local) Guide to Indianapolis Restaurants

Recently, I was asked to update my Super Bowl list of favorite restaurants for some large conventions and events coming to town...since we have some great new places, I figured it was a good time to do it. If you're local, you'll notice a lot of it is the same as my Super Bowl post--I just changed/added a few things. If you're visiting, I hope this is a helpful list! Also, if you want to see some of my favorite specific items to eat around Indy, check out my recent "Favorite Things" post.
Downtown Restaurants 
Chiliquiles at Bluebeard
Bluebeard: This is one of my favorite places in town. The menu changes all the time and they do a great job mixing up all kinds of cuisines in a friendly, casual environment. You might find foie gras with blood orange marmalade and chiliquiles with a crispy chicken leg on the same menu the same night. They don't take reservations so your best bet is to get there early if you don't want to wait. Find my reviews here.

Cerulean: This is modern fine dining. It's a great space in the Alexander hotel serving refined and creative food--small shared plates, medium plates and large, main course-sized entrees. You might find buffalo chicken skins and fried bread with housemade spreads. They are one of the few restaurants in town offering housemade pastas with many of the entrees. They also have a wonderful pastry chef who creates desserts that are not only delicious, but look like works of art. Here are my posts about my meals there.

Quail at R Bistro
R Bistro: This is fine, local dining at its best. Local chef, local ingredients, ever changing menu, cool spot on Massachusetts Avenue.  You want a nice place for dinner, this is your place (not overly formal though). One of my reviews is here. (There are more if you look).
Goose the Market: Where to begin? Goose is an amazing place to grab a sandwich for lunch or groceries or have a drink and a snack in the evening downstairs in the enoteca.  Their “Batali” was mentioned by Bon Appetit in an article featuring the best sandwich shops in the country.  And trust me, you will be a happy camper with that sandwich (or any of their other daily specials). Check out my latest review here.

Avocado bun at Rook
Rook: This is an inventive, casual Asian restaurant featuring Banh Mi sandwiches for lunch and a more expansive changing menu for dinner. They often offer noodle dishes like pho and ramen, dumplings, buns, and dishes like "pork face hash" that just beg to be tried. Beer only. Here's a recent post I wrote about dinner at Rook.
St. Elmo: Want a steak?  This is our local Indy legend. And according to locals, you have to try the shrimp cocktail (although, I have to say honestly I am not a huge fan of the insanity-horseradish thing, but that’s just me, apparently.) And here’s my review. If you can’t get in, give Harry & Izzy’s a try—it’s St. Elmo’s more modern little sister (or brother) and you can check them out here.
Ceviche- Black Market
B's Po Boy: My favorite casual restaurant in Fountain Square to grab a great authentic New Orleans style po boy. I recommend the fried shrimp and/or oyster po boys and the onion rings. The beignets are great as well. They are open for lunch and dinner. Here's my last review.
Black Market:  Indy’s gastropub.  Also located in the Mass Ave area, Black Market is one of Indy’s newer restaurants and serves hearty comfort food but with a gourmet twist. Also a bar though, so don’t bring the kids.
Downtown Lunch
Several of the above restaurants are open for lunch so you can check them out as an option. But if you are looking for a more causal place for lunch (and in some cases dinner as well), here are some of my favorite downtown lunch spots.
City Market: Indy’s City Market has undergone a great transformation over the last few years and now features mainly local foodservice vendors.  This is an amazing place to grab lunch, conveniently located right downtown.  You can get local pizza, Greek food, homemade soups and pastries, Mexican food, French crepes, soft pretzels, ice cream, Indian food, and food from one of my favorite local chefs, Brad Gates.  I have done a few reviews of a couple of the places and you can check them out here.
Hoaglin to Go: Back on Mass Ave, if you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch, check out Hoaglin to Go.  It’s a little place with amazing fresh made items like quiche, pancakes, egg dishes and my personal favorite, their egg salad.  I also hear they have a killer grilled cheese. Here’s my review.
Tacos at La Parada
La Parada: In the mood for some cheap Mexican food that is really, really good?  This is a gem of a place where you can get a ton of food for just a few bucks. Try the ceviche too. Warning, it’s a bit of a dive, but a charming dive. See what I ordered in my recent post. (Since they don’t have a website, their address is 1638 East New York Street, Indianapolis 46210 and their phone is 317/917-0095).
Workingman’s Friend: A great dive in which to grab a burger.  It is an old bar, but on any given day you will see every type of person from blue collar workers to businesspeople in here (oh, and get the onion rings, skip the fries).  Here’s my review. (Again, no website, but they are located at 234 N. Belmont Avenue in Indy and their phone number is 317/636-2067).

City Café: This place is a little gem hidden away downtown.  Everything is homemade and the ingredients are top notch. Best steak sandwich I have ever had. Here’s my review.

Downtown Cocktails

Indy has some great options to grab a cocktail and a snack as well. Check these places out before or after dinner--all have great ambiance.

Platt 99: The upstairs bar at the Alexander Hotel--a great, open modern space to grab small plates and a drink. You can make a meal here or just have a drink before heading downstairs to Cerulean.
Bone Marrow at Libertine

The Libertine:  The Libertine is a swank cocktail joint with some nice tidbits of food as well.

Ball & Biscuit: B&B is another really cool place that while it is mainly a bar, but with little snacks as well. 

Thunderbird: It's new and you get your cocktails fast with a side of southern small plates.
Outside of Downtown
If you are willing to venture a little outside of downtown, we have some amazing restaurants in various locations.
Broad Ripple
Just north of downtown is the Broad Ripple area (probably a 10-15minute drive from downtown).  Hit any of these places and you will have a happy belly.
H2O Sushi

H2O Sushi:  This is one of my all around favorite restaurants. And don’t let the name fool you. While they do serve spectacular sushi, my favorite things are the daily specials listed down the middle of their menu. Wonderful noodle dishes and great tacos.  The chef likes to mix it up here, with various Asian influences as well as fun twists on food from other cultures too.  I love this place (read more here).  
Goat Cheese Quesadilla-Room 4
Recess/Room 4: One of Indy’s most prized restaurants is run by local chef Greg Hardesty.  With a new daily menu that is set, you may try some things you wouldn’t normally try, and you will enjoy them all. The focus is on fresh, local ingredients.  If you want to dine at Recess, you need a reservation for sure.  But if you just want to stop in, give Room 4 a try.  Room 4 is the sister restaurant of Recess which is located in the same space, but is more casual, fun, and very approachable a la carte menu. Check out posts on both here
Taste Café & Marketplace: My favorite lunch spot in the City.  Great for breakfast too (and a tip, they serve dinner a couple of nights a week too).  Favorite item here by far: the BALT sandwich (bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato).  They add dressing to the lettuce and an herby aioli to the bread. Best sandwich ever.  And don’t forget a side of their fabulous frites with basil aioli dip.  A perfect lunch. Read more about it here.
Mussels & Frites- Brugge
Brugge:  A local favorite for mussels and frites and house brewed beer.  Their fries may just be the best in town and with a choice of about a dozen dipping sauces, it’s hard to decide (I like blue cheese, regular garlic aioli and the Sherry vinegar and salt). Check out my review. Open for lunch too!

Barking Dog Cafe: One of my family's favorite lunch spots. They have my favorite thin-style burgers with nice crispy edges and the city's best clam chowder. Great fried oyster and clam rolls. Check out my last post.
Fat Dan's
Fat Dan's: Like a fatter burger? One of my favorites can be found at Fat Dan's. But they do a lot more than burgers--and just about everything is good. There's barbecue, Italian beef, Chicago dogs and great house made fries. Read more here.

Thr3e Wise Men: Currently, Thr3e Wisemen is making one of my favorite pizzas in the City—fresh dough, crispy crust and a great savory tomato sauce.  It’s a straightforward menu with pizzas, sandwiches and salads and they brew their own beer.  Lots of TVs to watch all the coverage. Here's what I said about it on my last visit. (Open for lunch and dinner.

Patachou/Napolese:  This is a local group of restaurants where you can enjoy a great breakfast or lunch.  Basic food, but extremeley fresh and high quality ingredients. Good egg dishes, really nice salads. Napolese is their own Neopolitan pizza restaurant that is quite charming as well.  Petite Chou is their French bistro version. I have done reviews of nearly all their concepts in my blog as well if you want further information. And they do have downtown locations as well.
Pizzology: Up in Carmel (about 30 minutes from downtown), there’s a great local pizza place owned by the same people who own The Libertine downtown (with a location soon to open on Mass Ave as well).  It is Neopolitan-style pizza cooked in a wood fired oven.  Great salads and pastas too. They don’t take reservations so if you don’t mind a potential wait, you should be able to get a table here. Here’s my latest post.
Creole gnocchi at Oakley's
Squealers: my current top choice for barbeque in Indy (although the quest is ongoing).  Great ribs and those fried biscuits…well, they are things dreams are made of…Here’s my post on them.

Oakley’s Bistro:  About 25 minutes drive from downtown, Oakley’s is a great slightly higher end dining option using seasonal ingredients and a seasonally changing menu.  There’s a little something for everyone here. Here's my latest review. 


Papa Roux: A little bit of New Orleans in Indy.  I personally love the shrimp po boy, but Indy people may tell you to get the pork po boy. And here's my review.
Brozinni’s: Ok, really this is my favorite pizza, but sadly, I don’t live close enough to have gotten to go more than a few times.  Huge, delicious New York style slices and amazing garlic knuckles.  If you are on the Southside, this is a must. Check out my post here.

Indiana Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Ok, you may or may not be aware that the sort of "unofficial sandwich of Indiana" is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.  We’re talking a piece of pork tenderloin that is pounded, sometimes very thin and sometimes not, breaded or battered and deep fried.  You will see them everywhere, seriously, but clearly some are better than others.  Here’s a few I can recommend:

Muldoon's Tenderloin

Muldoon’s:  In an Irish themed bar in Carmel (about 35 minutes north of downtown).
 111 West Main Street, Suite 100
Carmel, IN 46032

Pawn Shop Tenderloin
Pawn Shop: in a somewhat smoky bar about 15-20 minutes from downtown.
2222 East 54th Street
Indianapolis, IN  46262

Chatham Tap: good version I picked mainly because they have a downtown location (no kids downtown though). Also a location in Fishers, about 35 minutes northeast of downtown.
719 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

8211 East 116th Street
Fishers, IN  46038

Steer-In: This place was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and I have been told has a great tenderloin.
5130 East 10th Street
Indianapolis, IN

Sahm’s:  Sahm’s has a great tenderloin, and other great fried tidbits (mushrooms are great as well) and they have several locations including one downtown.
433 North Capitol (check out their website for all their locations around Indy)
Indianapolis, IN


Finally, Indy has quite a thriving craft beer loving population and there are some great places to drink quality beer (much of it brewed locally) downtown and in Broad Ripple (as well as other places).  This is not my area of expertise for sure, but I know a lot of people love their beer, so I wanted to give you a good place to look to find out the best places to drink.  Check out the Hoosier Beer Geek blog, particularly this page which gives you the run down on different areas and places to check out.  Cheers!

I would love to hear feedback from out-of-towners about places they visit and their overall Indy experience! And don’t hesitate to email me personally for any other specific recommendations at or reach out to me on twitter @indyrestscene.  

And hey locals, don't forget to tell me what I have forgotten!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Libertine - Revisit

We recently met some friends at the Libertine for dinner. Hubby and I hadn’t been in many months and felt like it was time to get back in there and see what was cooking.

To start with, our service was pretty spotty. The first round of cocktails came fairly fast, but after that, flagging her down for another round was very challenging (and the place was never full while we were there). We ordered a bottle of wine and then were told after 10 minutes or so that they didn’t have it (same thing happened last time we were there). Then we ordered another one and waited about 15-20 minutes for them to “find it.” It would be nice with Libertine’s fairly small wine list (which incidentally I think is a very nice wine list), if they at least penciled things out when they run out.

Anyway, we were with our “order like a drunken sailor” friends, and we did just that. I was glad to get to try a large portion of the menu to get a good overview of what’s offered there right now.  My favorite first course was the bone marrow. They were large bones cut length-wise and super easy to scoop out the marrow. They were salted nicely and had the perfect accompanying micro greens and celery leaf salad. It was really acidic which was perfect with the buttery bone marrow. The sliced toasted pieces of bread were the perfect thickness and had the right amount of crunch and softness as well. My only complaint was I could have used a bit more of the salad. Mainly because I liked it so much.

We also liked the fried potato wedges—they were lightly battered and stuck in a glass with a “local cheese fondue” and harissa (hot pepper paste). They were cooked just right and were hot. The bottoms that were stuck into the dip were a little soggy though. I probably would prefer them served separately, but I can appreciate the ease of this serving technique.

We also had the chickpea fritters with pureed eggplant and fried capers. I loved the eggplant puree that was spread under the fritters. It carried the acidic flavor here and was necessary with the fritters, which were kind of dry and basic without it.  They had a decent nutty flavor, but I was scooping up every last bit of the eggplant that I could to go with them to add moisture and balance.

We had the bacon flight, which is always good. You can’t really go wrong with the lovely bacon from Smoking Goose. They have changed the presentation into a little pot with all the bacon on top—it’s not quite as crisp but whether that is a bad or good thing depends on your taste in bacon. I enjoyed it and the sauces served alongside, even though you barely need them with that tasty bacon.

The least successful starter by far (yes, I’m only on starters) was the octopus in vinaigrette. They were whole baby octopuses that tasted like they were grilled, but other than that had very little flavor. They were too chewy, I am guessing just cooked too much, and while I enjoyed the vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl, it didn’t stick on the octopus. This one was a big miss for all of us.

We continued on with our wanton ordering of food, moving on to the more “main dish” things (mostly just differentiated by price). The best thing here was the meatloaf sandwich. Funny, our friends ordered this and I was really glad—and it would not have been something I ever would have ordered on my own. It was a thick slab of meatloaf with melty cheese on top—the bread was toasted and had a thick coating of a spicy version of 1000 Island dressing. The meatloaf was moist, and I liked the gooey cheese and zesty sauce. It was really tasty.

The fresh chorizo with polenta was kind of mixed. The silky smooth polenta (think like almost liquidy grits) were wonderful. Buttery, and just the perfect consistency. The chorizo was bland and had none of the kick you expect. It was also maybe cooked a little too much, drying it out a bit. Would have loved to see this dish with another protein. Maybe some seafood.

The goat cheese tart was pretty straightforward-- a tart shell with some creamy goat cheese inside. There were maybe 5-6 slivers of apple on top, and some onion jam on the side, but there was nothing else texturally going on inside. Would have loved to have something else to give it some kind of texture, other than from the crust. The charred onion jam was a nice slightly sweet/slightly smoky flavor and the Brandy sauce drizzled on top some sweetness, but it just called out for something to give it that texture and to make it a truly savory dish. It almost seemed like more of a dessert.

The roasted cauliflower with mint, lemon, red pepper flakes and onions were good. It was roasted just to the point in which the vegetable was cooked al dente, but had a nice charred flavor on the outside. The combination of spicy and acidic flavors with it was nice as well. I particularly liked it with a squeeze of lemon that they served alongside. Would I want to order this alone as my main dish? No. Did I enjoy it as a kind of side dish? Yes.

We also ordered the country-fried sweetbreads—the menu lists the sweetbreads with smoked ham hock, beans and cornbread. What it didn’t mention was the thick strong mustard sauce that was all over the dish. The sweetbreads, while fried crunchy, were mushy with all the sauce—and there was no way to really taste much else because it was just so mustardy. The little cornbread croutons were spared though and were sweet. I would love to see this dish with a drizzle of the mustard somewhere (not on the fried pieces of sweetbread). As it was, it was one of our least favorites.

I feel like there’s been a shift at the Libertine away from being a “gastropub”-type restaurant to a just flat out cocktail bar that serves food. It was a destination for me for the food (not being a huge cocktail drinker myself) and a good one at that. The last couple meals I have had over the last year though have made me slightly less enthusiastic. The service has been a little off (the wine issues, and we constantly had to flag our server down to ask for things) and I’m sad they have changed the tables around—they used to be at an angle so if you had 4 people, you each sat on one side of the square—but now they are straight down the wall so when you are side by side with someone, it feels too close and if there’s just two of you and you sit across from each other, it feels almost too far. I am sure they have done it to conserve space, but it just seems a little awkward.  And I think the food is not as exciting as it once was. So all in all, I think a cocktail and a couple of snacks (get the bone marrow) might be the key to enjoying the Libertine in the best way.  

The Libertine
38 East Washington Street
Indy  46204

Monday, February 17, 2014

Don Gusto PJ

A couple of you guys had recommended this place to me and I was intrigued so I convinced my friend @wibia to go check it out with me. I can almost always convince him to try a place that serves a burrito.
It is fairly far down on South Meridian—not sure I have ever eaten at a place around there.  We walked in and were greeted warmly—it was a little unclear whether you order at the counter, which we started to do, but then the chef (and I’m guessing owner) gave us menus and told us to sit down and he would wait on us. He was very friendly and helpful and helped me choose what I wanted on my torta.

While they have other Mexican items, they seem to specialize in tortas, so I figured I would try one. I had the “Especial” ($8.50). On this sandwich you chose 3 types of meat and then it came with cheese, eggs, mayo, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, avocado and refried beans.  I went with the breaded chicken cutlet (at the chef’s suggestion), pork and shredded beef. There’s a lot of stuff going on here. It was hard to differentiate the different flavors of the meat, but I did enjoy the sandwich. And I did like the chicken cutlet a lot more than I thought I would. It was super thin and very lightly breaded and gave a little texture variation from everything else going on. I also like that there’s eggs on nearly every sandwich—because I love eggs (I am sure they would hold them though if you wanted). It was fried pretty hard, but still gave a nice eggy flavor. I liked the bun—it was soft but held up to what ended up being A LOT of stuff on the torta. They also brought out two bottles of salsa to use and both were good. There was a green jalapeno sauce and a red chipotle sauce and I used a fair amount of both on the sandwich to just liven up the flavor. Neither were overly hot. I liked the sandwich and you definitely got a lot of food for your buck.

Wibia had a burrito (of course) ($4.99) and a taco ($1.50). I thought the taco was decent—he had the pastor and it had a decent amount of fairly tender meat and flavor, but didn’t jump out at me for anything. I thought the burrito was a little disappointing, mainly because there just wasn’t a lot of meat in it (he had steak). You can pretty much see what I mean from the picture. A lot of rice, a lot of lettuce and very little meat. It is kind of surprising actually considering how generous they are with the tortas. I mean, they are more expensive, but not that much. Everything seemed nice and fresh in there, but I would certainly steer anyone who was going to try this place to definitely go with a torta (and there are lots of different options).

The place is not fancy, but very clean. You can see the entire kitchen from the dining area, so it is good to see how well-kept everything is. I would love to know if you guys have been here.

Don Gusto PJ
3960 South Meridian
Indy  46217

Don Gusto P.J. Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 13, 2014

V Cafe Ok Vietnamese Noodlehouse


High off of a good pho lunch at Pho 54 the other day, I was motivated to try a new place right near my house. That’s right, a new independent place in Castleton! I was interested in seeing what theirs was like soon after having one that I felt was really good for comparison.

So I met up with my BFF for lunch. We were the only ones there for a while but the owner was very friendly—we started with pork and shrimp spring rolls (2 for $4). I liked these—I didn’t get a lot of shrimp in them, but they were super fresh and crisp and not just filled with a bunch of cabbage. They were the thinner rice paper wrappers, rather than the thicker wonton wrappers. They were crunchy and tasty when dipped into the seasoned fish sauce.
I liked that the pho came in two sizes (this seems to be more common than I remember), although having always ordered the smaller version, and never being able to finish it, I can’t imagine being able to finish a large. Anyway, I had the small beef pho ($8) which had fairly large pieces of thin beef (I am guessing what is usually the “rare” beef when its thrown in, some hunks of slow cooked beef, a meatball or two and some tendon-ish pieces.  They were fairly generous with the meat in the soup, but this was one where the broth just didn’t have that long-cooked deep flavor. The meatballs were kind of tough and not my favorite—although in general I prefer a bowl of just the rare beef in my pho rather than the other more chewy bits. They also gave a much smaller plate of the fresh herbs to throw in; particularly considering the plate you see there is to season two bowls (the BFF had the same).  There were lots of fresh onions in the soup that lent to the crunch, which I liked. Overall though, the pho here met the need, but just didn’t satisfy the craving the same way.

I liked that the menu is very small—only 6-8 items on the menu. They are clearly focusing on particular things for a reas
on. I am intrigued by the beef cubes with rice. It sounds like a dish I enjoyed at Vietnamese places in San Francisco. I will have to go back to try it one of these days. I also liked the friendliness and enthusiasm of the owner. The restaurant is bigger than you’d guess from the outside (these strip mall places always surprise me) and very clean. And it is a welcome change from the Castleton chains, even if it isn’t the best Vietnamese in town. I’d be curious to hear if any of you guys have been there.

(Random: Anyone notice how their sign looks remarkably similar to the check-cashing place next door?)

V Café OK
8328 Center Run Drive
Indy 46250

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ale Emporium - Revisit

I had a rare weekday lunch opportunity with hubby the other day, but he needed to stay close to home because he had limited time, and we were a little stumped as usual. As we started to drive somewhere else, we passed Ale Emporium and hubby was excited because he had never been. I wanted to try the wings since so many people recommended them after my last visit. I also didn’t realize that the big room that we sat in last time was not the only room and that there’s a smaller, slightly cozier bar area at the far south end of the building. I liked the vibe in this part of the restaurant a lot better.

Like I said, I wanted wings, but was totally overwhelmed by the amount of choices of types and flavors of them. (I am going to need your help here people). I asked our server about a couple of them but she was pretty vague in describing them so I just went with classic buffalo style. I had the small order, which is 2 pounds ($11.99). I had them with blue cheese dressing (you can choose this or ranch). The wings were outstanding for sure. I was so pleased to discover that something everyone had told me was so good really lived up to the hype. The wings are not breaded or anything—they are just deep fried and have wonderful crisp skin. They are then dipped in the sauce—but not overwhelmed by it, and the wings are nice and meaty and not dried out at all. I’d say they are definitely some of the best in town. I look forward to trying some of the other flavors—so you guys please tell me which ones are the best.

Hubby had the lunch combo of salad and a (large) slice of pizza ($8). First of all, when they say large, they are serious. The large slice of pizza is really like 2 regular slices. He had mushroom and sausage. The pizza is good here—I like the flavor of the marinara and the crust. It’s a pretty bready crust (still need to try the thin crust) though, and very filling. The salad was good—I appreciated that it wasn’t all crappy iceberg lettuce—there was a bit of shredded cheese and some toasty croutons as well. It was the same blue cheese dressing we had with the wings—a little tangier than most and with some big hunks of blue cheese mixed in. All in all, not bad for a pub pizza. 

The service was pretty efficient—we had to get there and back home within an hour and we did --just barely. They certainly do a good lunch business in there. I look forward to going back to try some of the other wing flavors.

Ale Emporium
8617 Allisonville Rd
Indy 46250

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jacquie's Cafe

Jacquie’s is a place I have driven by several times and wondered about, so when my friend Suzanne mentioned it, I was game. The menu looked like it had some nice lunch options—and they also serve breakfast and apparently do catering.

I had a hard time choosing what to get so I ended up going with a combo—a cup of soup and a half sandwich ($9.25). I had the broccoli cheese soup (sounded so good on a really frigid day). The soup had a decent flavor—lots of hunks of broccoli, and didn’t taste like it was just full of processed cheese like sometimes this kind of soup can, but sadly, it wasn’t warm enough. When you order soup on a cold day, you want it piping hot. This was just a bit more than lukewarm. I liked the herby focaccia slice they served alongside it-it was soft and tasted like it had maybe thyme and a bit of rosemary in it. It could have benefited from being warmed as well, but was ok at room temp.

My ½ tuna salad sandwich came out awhile later and was interesting. I ordered it because I liked the sound of the flavors in it—lime and capers and fresh dill. It did have a nice tangy flavor to it—and there were even little bits of egg mixed in which I thought were interesting and varied the texture slightly—not a ton of dill though. I was bummed that it only came with chips instead of the side salad option that the menu suggested, because I liked the Champagne vinaigrette and mixed greens that Suzanne got with her meal (she gave me some bites).

Speaking of, her lunch was a special—chicken pot pie ($10.50). Again, sounded great on a cold day. Again, not hot enough. Just a little above lukewarm as well. I liked the puff pastry top (I’m a sucker for puff pastry). The inside was mostly a sort of creamed chicken mix—not a lot of veggies in there—a bit of carrots and corn perhaps? I only had a little.

We also had an order of the fries ($3.75), which came with basil aioli and red pepper aioli (well, you’re supposed to get one, but we asked for both. The fries were just ok—your standard thin foodservice fries without any real seasoning on them. They were hot though. The aiolis were good and made the fries. I preferred the basil one, but they were both good—Both had a lemony flavor as well as the basil/red pepper.

The food was a little hit or miss and needed some tweaks (mainly heat), but the biggest problem of the lunch was the service. It was very scattered and disorganized. We asked for the extra aioli with the fries that came out first (we actually asked when we ordered) and didn’t get it until late in the meal after we asked several more times. Same with my hot tea that came when we were nearly done. Other things came out of the kitchen somewhat haphazardly. 

It’s a cute place though doing a fairly brisk business (mostly women I noticed). Have any of you guys been there? Also, I was recently asked on twitter about other good places in this area. Got any suggestions?

Jacquie’s Cafe 
9840 N. Michigan Road
Carmel  46032

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