I think everyone has been very excited about Tinker Street opening, including me. I broke my own rule and went like 6 days after they opened the first time and thought it was probably best to wait a bit to write about it, especially since it’s my own rule. I will say though I was really impressed with how professional the service was right from the start. It makes sense though, knowing that Peter George and Tom Main run the place --they are experienced restaurateurs in Indy.
Food-wise, I think it’s a good solid place. I love the energy—it’s small and a little noisy when it’s full (I’m pretty sure it’s always full) but has a very well-trained and friendly staff. The whole place is focused around a bar area, so just be warned, it’s 21 and up (much to my kids’ chagrin, but probably not to most people).
On our most recent visit, hubby and I ordered the hummus plate ($7) based on some recommendations. We both enjoyed it—I liked the line of salty dried olive along the edge of the plate to dredge your hummus through to give it that little pop of flavor. I love to eat olives with my hummus, and appreciated it. The triangles of pita were fresh and soft (and slightly warm) and the hummus was thick with a nice garlic edge. The lemon oil in the bowl also gave it a little acidic flavor, which you know I liked as well. I mean, ultimately, it’s hummus, and there’s only so far you can go with it, but it was well done. On our first visit, we enjoyed the cheese plate ($13), which seemed to be a favorite in the dining room. We all really enjoyed the honey butter particularly. Again, it’s a cheese plate. It’s straightforward simple flavors, but you can’t really go wrong.
Hubby and I had enjoyed the housemade papardelle with tomato ragu and house made ricotta ($14) on our first visit, so we were interested in trying the housemade pea ravioli with peas and Parmesan and brown butter that had replaced it on the current menu. I really, really appreciate restaurants that make their own pasta, especially since so few do around town, although to be honest, I wasn’t totally blown away by the flavors of either. The papardelle was a little brighter with the tomato and ricotta—the ravioli just seemed dense and could have used a squeeze of lemon or something to freshen it up. But I will certainly always be willing to try any new concoctions.
Unusually, I found the stars on both visits to be the entrées. I say unusually because I tend to think appetizers are often more interesting and more seasoned. To me, they just tend to stand out more. Not at Tinker Street. The one item hubby insisted on getting on both visits was the pork belly ($14) and I will agree it was delicious. I loved the meatier slab of the pork, with not as much of the gelatinous fat. The flavors of the kimchi, sorghum seed and the seasoned sunny side up egg on top were unusual, and really delicious. There was distinct spiciness and Asian flavor to the sauce that was on the bottom of the plate. There was nice acid from the kimchi and sorghum seed was new to me, but gave a nice texture and almost pasta-like accompaniment. It tasted like you took all the good stuff out of a bowl of really good ramen or something.
We also had the tuna entrée ($15) on this second visit, and it was also very good. I appreciated that they asked how I wanted it cooked and cooked it to my specification. It was served on top of a kale and celeriac salad. The salad was a very good accompaniment because it had some heartiness from the kale, but not too much and some almost fruity feel from the celeriac. I really, really liked the molasses pomegranate vinaigrette. I am always happiest with something with some acid in it, and this was a good one—and unique in its combination of sweet and tart. My only complaint was that I would have liked a little more on the plate between the fish and the salad. I was trying to soak up every little drop, and there just wasn’t quite enough. It was fairly delicate (especially in contrast to the sauce on the pork belly), and really delicious. I just needed more.
This tendency to be a little light handed with some of the seasonings was something I noticed more on my first visit with dishes like the ruby grapefruit and avocado salad with feta and black rice. All the ingredients were great, but it needed something more to tie it together. Same was true of the rice noodles in the red curry broth. The broth just seemed a little under-seasoned.
After several recommendations, we went with the s’more pot de crème ($6) and were very happy. It was a nice rich chocolate pot de crème topped with roasted marshmallow fluff and a little line of ash on the plate that we just dabbed each bite in. The combination of everything really gave you the sense of eating something cooked in a campfire. We also enjoyed the housemade “twinkie” from our last visit ($7) with coffee cream, pecan and toffee, although I only had a little bite. For a fruity, lighter dessert, I enjoyed the poached Asian pear ($6) with hibiscus granita (I love granita) and a kind of granola around it. Less successful was the “Mere’s crepes” ($8), which was actually a cake made of stacked up crepes and topped with dark chocolate. Not at all what I was expecting, and it was just okay.
Like I said, I am really impressed with the professionalism of this place, particularly right after opening. This is something a lot of restaurants around town could learn from. They have clearly trained their staff well. I love the little welcome glass of sparkling wine they bring you upon being seated, and the decently priced, interesting wine list. Speaking of prices, I think this place does a good job of not breaking the bank, even with a lot of local ingredients on the menu. The portions are moderately sized—I think perfect, but some might say they’re small.
This is a great addition to Indy—it has a great vibe—and feels so friendly. The downside is no reservations (sigh) so go prepared to wait unless you show up at 5:00. The menu is very approachable but still has enough creativity to make it interesting. And I tell you what, I can’t wait to try the burger and shoestring fries. We eyed the one the table next to us had and it looked really good. And I enjoy the interesting wine list as well (yay! Not another list where they’ve only paid attention to the beer). Anyway, please share your thoughts and favorite dishes.
402 East 16th Street