Monday, November 30, 2015


The space that was previously occupied by Taverna, an ill-fated restaurant near Boogie Burger on Broad Ripple Avenue (but nearer to Keystone) has turned into Luciana’s Mexican Cantina. I was intrigued. The place appeared busy from the parking lot. People were telling me it was good. A friend told me it was very comparable to La Hacienda. I was ready to check it out.

I met a group of friends there for a weeknight meal. The parking lot was nearly full and the restaurant was busy—not totally full, but doing a good business for just a few weeks open. I was looking through the menu thinking it does look similar to La Ha, but then I was thinking—don’t a lot of Mexican menus look very similar?

They brought out the usual chips and salsa. I would say this salsa had just a touch more heat than most standard salsas set on the table at Mexican restaurants and I liked it. It was maybe a little watery, but it tasted good. The chips were large and thin and just fine.

Anyhow, it was cold, and I was still trying to be remotely healthy, plus it’s one of my favorite things to get at La Ha, so I ordered the chicken soup ($7.25). Oh, and a Texas margarita (starting to sound more and more like La Ha huh?). The soup was very good, and very similar to what I get there. It’s a chicken broth base with a few tortilla chips in it, some rice, and hunks of chicken. It’s topped with some avocado, some pico de gallo and cheese. I really love this soup, especially when it starts getting cold. The broth is very rich and just a little spicy and I love the sort of creaminess you get a bit from the rice, and even more from the avocado and cheese. This is a comfort soup with a kick—a little heat from jalapeno and pico de gallo.

I had a little bite of a friend’s chicken fajitas and another friend’s “steak a la Mexicana.” Both were decent, even though they’re not typically the kinds of things I order. I feel like the meat tends to be a bit on the dry side with dishes like these. The steak was tasty—it had a real kick to it and I really enjoyed the sautéed onions. There were a fair amount of jalapenos in there too.

The margarita was very good—I love the Texas version here as well as at La Hacienda. It has triple sec added to it I think.  They are tasty. And large.

Our server was very nice and offered her suggestions. The food was good. Again, I don’t know that I have ever had spectacular Mexican food in Indy, but this place is really really solid. And since it’s about equidistant from our house as La Ha, we’ll probably be frequenting both. And so far, this place doesn’t have quite the wait that La Ha does. I know I don’t usually do such a comparison between two restaurants, but this place has so many similarities, it’s hard not to. I even saw some employees that I am pretty sure I’ve seen at La Ha, so I am thinking some people have left there to open Luciana’s.

So, if you like La Hacienda, you’re gonna like this place. Prices are comparable, it’s a little more spacious seating and currently, the crowds aren’t as bad. Who all has been there?

Luciana’s Mexican Cantina
1850 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mississippi Belle - Revisit

My son’s BFF has moved out of state (very sad) and my son wanted to have a going away sleepover for him and his closest friends. It was very sweet. Anyway, he also wanted to serve his friend’s favorite foods, which as it turns out wasn’t chicken nuggets as we thought, but actually Mississippi Belle fried chicken. Score. So the kid has some good taste. (Also chocolate cake with chocolate icing and orange Fanta to drink—I made the cake and bought the soda).

Anyway, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up a golden opportunity to eat Mississippi Belle for dinner, healthy eating or no. I knew we needed A LOT of chicken legs for these boys, as that is the favorite piece for all of them. So I went in around lunchtime and asked if they could put together a special order to pick up at dinner for us that could include all those legs. They were very accommodating and let me pick exactly the pieces I wanted. Hubby and I tend to like thighs the best, and my in-laws (who were in town) like white meat. So we got just enough for everyone. We knew we also wanted mac and cheese and mashed potatoes, as well as some of the fried cornbread, so I asked if they have large versions of their sides (usually they just give individual sized portions). They told me just to tell them how many people we had and they would give us enough of each. I told them six even though we had eight, because four of the people were kids and I figured they’d be generous.

Holy moly, I couldn’t believe how much of each they gave us—basically they were 9 x 13” aluminum foil pans filled with each. It was enough to feed 15-20 I think. Anyhow, I love all of these things at Mississippi Belle—the chicken is so well seasoned and even after traveling, still tasted fresh and crisp. It’s exceedingly juicy, and my mother-in-law said even the breasts stayed that way (always a potential problem with fried chicken breasts).  It’s certainly some of the best fried chicken in Indy. I have said it many times, and having it again just confirmed it.

I also really like the mac and cheese. I can’t say what it is—it isn’t fancy or anything, and it still feels like some sort of (lighter in color) processed cheese being used, but it just hits the spot. There’s some pepper in there too. The mashed potatoes are straightforward too, but again, just taste really good. 

I also ordered some of the fried cabbage, which is sautéed in something yummy and seasoned well. And hey, it’s a vegetable right? So it must be healthy.

Anyhow, I just wanted to do a little revisit here because this place is just so good. They give you a ton of food for a reasonable price (cash only FYI) and if I’m getting fried chicken to go, this is the place. (Ok, with an occasional stop at Popeye’s, because that’s a weakness also). 

Mississippi Belle
2170 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

12 Chefs of Christmas Ticket Giveaway!

It's that time of year again! 12 Indy Chefs have been paired with 12 local Flat 12 seasonal beers to make a dish that will make you happy and give you a drink. This year's event will be on December 12th at the City Market.
Here's the pairings of Chefs with beer:

VIP Chef: Ty Wald from Spice Box/ Wassail Cycle
Ian Phillips from Three Carrots/Can't Catch Me Stout
George Turkette from Smoking Goose/Brandy Walk
Percy Romo from Mambo's Cheesesteak Grill/Koko B Ware
Paul Haveck from the Libertine/Snickerdoodle Blonde
Eli Laidlaw from Recess/Milk & Cookies
Ricky Hatfield from Peterson's/Juniper Spruce IPA
Craig Mariutto from Shoefly Pub/Grandpa's Glazed Ham
Alan Sternberg from Cerulean/Fireside Amber
Roger Hawkins from Circle City Soups/Chocolate Orange Porter
Cindy Hawkins from Circle City Sweets/Bourbon Ball Ride
Braedon Kellner from Tinker Street/Fruitcake

You can currently buy early bird tickets and save $25 (until November 21st). Tickets are currently $50 for designated drivers, $75 for regular admission and $100 for VIP. Tickets are available at You can also go there to learn more about the event and the chefs involved.

BUT I HAVE A PAIR OF TICKETS TO GIVE AWAY! If you want to be entered to win, leave a comment here telling me your favorite holiday food tradition/dish. I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow, Thursday the 20th around 3:00 ish. You will need to contact me within 2 hours to claim them or I will choose another winner (ideally you should leave your email address in your comment so I can reach you easily). If you don't win, you'll still have a few hours to get the discounted ticket prices online.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 16, 2015


Hubby and I are trying to get around to trying all the new places in town—there seems to be so many! So recently we had a night with nothing going on and decided to try Repeal.

Repeal is in Fountain Square in an old bank building—I love the interior of the place—it seems like so many places are going for that really sparse feel these days—it’s nice to go to a place with lots of character—a lot of warm wood everywhere, old tin ceiling tiles, and repurposed railings.  The people working there are friendly and generally knowledgeable about the menu. The restaurant backs up to a distillery where they are making spirits to be used in their cocktails.
The menu doesn’t seem to have a particular theme—I think they were going with a 1920s Prohibition theme (the era of the building) at first, but it seems to have morphed into just a regular kind of menu with some items that have a little bit of a throwback feel to them. We started with the beer cheese and fries ($8). This was not exactly what I was expecting. I think I was thinking of some sort of bowl of cheese to dip fries into, and this was actually a plate of fries drizzled with very hot beer cheese. It wasn’t bad really, the fries were decent battered fries and once the beer cheese wasn’t so dang hot, and you could actually taste it, it tasted good. But because it was spread over the fries, it cooled quickly and then was almost too cool. I would prefer something else to dip in there—I know homemade pretzels are everywhere, but man, they are tasty with beer cheese. And these fries, while they were good battered fries, I would guess they aren’t making them in house.

For our main dishes, we split the smoked pork plate ($16), the pimento cheese sandwich ($9 +$2 for bacon) and the Brussels sprouts side dish ($6). My favorite of them all was probably the pimento cheese sandwich. It was nicely toasted bread and was topped with some arugula and tomato as well as jowl bacon that we added.  I liked the arugula and tomato with it to give that hit of acid and to freshen it a bit. The pimento cheese spread was tasty—had a decent amount of kick to it, but not too much. Honestly though, while I would order the sandwich again for sure (I’m thinking it would make a great lunch), I think I would skip the jowl bacon on it. While it tastes good (there was more of it on the pork platter), I would prefer a crispier piece of bacon that isn’t as fatty on a sandwich. When you would bite into it, it often was hard to tear apart.

I did enjoy cutting bits of this same bacon on the pork platter and eating it with the other items that were there—the sausage and the pork belly. My favorite of the meats offered here (apparently they change up the cuts offered depending on the day) was the pork belly. It had the nice rich fattiness to it, but also a decent amount of the meatiness as well. All the meats had a nice smoky flavor as well. My absolute favorite thing about this otherwise fairly simple dish was the Carolina mustard sauce served with it. First of all, I love mustard BBQ sauce. Love it. But this one was really outstanding—it tasted extremely fresh and not at all thick and syrupy the way they can sometimes be—just a bright, well-seasoned mustardy kick with a nice touch of acid. I also liked the homemade pickles served on the side—it’s like they know me. Whenever I eat mustard sauce, I eat it with pickles. I just love that combination of flavors. I could pass on the sausage overall though, it was only ok, but the variety was nice.

The seasoning on the Brussels sprouts was really tasty—it had duck fat and white soy vinaigrette listed on the menu. The vinaigrette was really interesting and tasty and was a flavor that inspired me to try and duplicate it at home. The menu listed the sprouts as seared though, which wasn’t exactly true, they weren’t really very crunchy—there was a bit of sear on them, but not a lot. But the biggest problem here was that the sprouts weren’t really cooked enough. I really enjoyed the flavor of them, the smoky fat and the interesting vinaigrette, but I just wished the sprouts were a little more tender. Maybe steam them a bit first or something.

Our server was very helpful, and overall we really enjoyed the experience. I probably enjoyed the pimento cheese sandwich the best (although I loved that mustard sauce). I feel like there is some good potential here and I would like to return. The atmosphere is good and the restaurant was busy, but not so crazy that you couldn’t hear the person across the table from you. Who else has been and what have you had to eat?

630 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Thursday, November 12, 2015

U.S. Adventures: Arizona- Flagstaff, The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Recently we had an amazing family trip to Arizona. If you follow me on instagram or twitter, you probably saw me posting lots of pictures from it. I was truly blown away by the sheer beauty of everything we saw—from driving from Phoenix through the Saguaro cacti to Flagstaff and then on to the Grand Canyon and finally Sedona. I can’t believe I waited this long to see all these wonderful places.

And while I could go on and on about the scenery, I’m supposed to be writing about the food here, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna do it all in one post, so I’m going to (try to) keep it short and sweet.
Pasta at Brix


We only spent one night in Flagstaff, but we may have had one of my favorite meals of the trip here (and learned the extent that jet lag and time change can make your kids giggly). We had dinner at Brix—it’s an old coach house turned into a restaurant. It’s pretty refined dining, but in a more casual atmosphere. Highlight for my kids—a beautiful cheese plate ($15) with Brandy soaked dates that my daughter loved; and make your own lemonade (they got pitchers of simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and sparkling water to mix as they wanted). Hubby’s duck ($31) was outstanding, and has now become one of my daughter’s favorite dishes. The only downsides were the air temp—we were sitting next to an open door on a cool night-- and we had a very loud grouchy waiter. But the food made up for it. This is a place I would go if it were in my town.
Chilaquiles at Martanne's

For breakfast, we ate at a restaurant on Route 66 called Martanne’s Burrito Palace. It is a cute little Mexican place that was jam-packed for breakfast. The servers were super friendly and it had a great vibe. I would say the chilaquiles I had weren’t bad, but my son’s burrito was probably the best thing. Portions were huge and they knew how to cook an egg perfectly.

Grand Canyon:
Fish at El Tovar
We were lucky enough to stay at El Tovar while we were in the Grand Canyon (for most rooms, you have to book a year in advance). We ended up eating most of our meals at the El Tovar dining room, which is by far the best thing going there. We did have one good, straightforward breakfast at the Bright Angel Lodge, but after walking into the Arizona Room to try it for lunch, we all agreed to ditch out of there after a super creepy vibe overtook all of us (the people working in there looked like the life had been sucked out of them). The kids loved El Tovar because they have one or two rogue ring-tailed cats that have snuck into the building and run around in the rafters looking for sugar packets. They look like a cross between a cat and a raccoon and my first sighting of one the first night peeking out behind a curtain right over my son’s head scared the living crap out of me.
Ring-tailed cat

Anyhow, my favorite meal was probably a lunch we had—just a really good steak sandwich and side salad (great blue cheese dressing). For dinner, the best things going were the fish entrées for some reason, maybe because they did a good job with the sauces. The appetizers were huge, and on the whole pretty disappointing, so we only had them the first night. The breakfast there was a bit fancier than the Bright Angel, and honestly I think I liked the more straightforward one at Bright Angel better—they had classic hash browns there and that makes me happy. But overall the atmosphere at El Tovar is very cool and the food, while old-school, was good. And you can’t go wrong dining with a wild animal right? If you ever watched Twin Peaks, this place reminded me of it. The hostess even wore an eye patch.

Elote at Elote

First of all, Sedona might be one of the most beautiful places in the US. I mean the Grand Canyon is shockingly beautiful and amazing, but in Sedona you can get right up in those rocks and hike all over. Our favorite hike was to the top of Doe Mountain. This is a place that we know we will return to.

Food-wise, it’s a mixed bag. The two best southwestern-style meals we had were at Elote Café and Mariposa. Elote is the old school classic Southwest restaurant Sedona is known for—they open at 5:00 for dinner every night and a line forms out the door. They don’t take reservations, so you just get there early, have a drink and be patient. My favorite thing we ate there was the namesake dish—the Elote dip. You may have had Elote before—corn on the cob that is grilled and coated with spicy mayo. Here, they make a dip out of many of the same ingredients and you dip chips into it. It was great. Really, really great. Luckily, my sister gave me their cookbook as a gift last Christmas, so I will be recreating this dish. Everything here was good—the pork dishes were also favorites, but the dip was the thing we felt a growing addiction to.
View at Mariposa

At Mariposa (which, by the way, is owned by a chef who graduated from North Central here in Indy), which is a more modern take on Southwestern food, the view is absolutely stupendous. We sat on the patio and just gazed at the lovely scenery. That alone would have made for a lovely meal, but the food was great as well. It all had just the perfect little touches to take it over the top. Strangely, my son’s steak sandwich with chimichurri, chipotle aioli and onion strings on ciabatta ($20) was shockingly good. The meat had wonderful spiced flavor and the chimichuri was addicting. The potato salad that came alongside was also really good, and I’m super picky about potato salad. My ahi “parfait” ($18) was also very good—their version of a tuna tartare. I really enjoyed the Citron-Dijon vinaigrette they served drizzled over it. Everything had a nice southwest kick, but with a modern touch to it, and it was all good.
Ahi Parfait

Gruyere beignets
We also had a great lunch at a place called Rene, a French-inspired bistro right in the downtown shopping district. It was nice to get some food that was different than the southwestern-style cuisine we had been eating everywhere else. The kids tried escargot for the first time (son=yes, daughter =no!). We had these little Gruyere beignets that were delicious and I had a mushroom pastry that I really enjoyed as well.  We actually intended to go back here for lunch because we liked it so much, but ended up at Mariposa instead, which turned out to be one of our favorites anyway.
tacos at Tii Gavo

s'mores dessert at Che Ah Che
At our resort, The Enchantment, the food was on the whole good as well. And again, the views were breathtaking. Our favorite place to eat there ended up being the more casual restaurant, Tii Gavo. The fresh-made guac was really good as were the tacos (we had the sampler with chicken, fish, beef and pork. I think the spicy chicken one ended up being my favorite). The fancier place (Che Ah Che) was pretty inside, but was a bit of a letdown on food. We did love the s’mores in a jar that they offered for dessert. The service was a little spotty all over the restaurants at the resort, but we were in no rush ever, so it was fine.

We had a very mediocre meal at a pizza place one night when we couldn’t get in anywhere else—it was called Picasso’s Organic Italian Kitchen. Nothing about this place stood out, other than every chair outside had a blanket thrown over it to cover up with if you got chilly (I did). I thought that was a nice touch. The salad was underdressed and the pizza just meh. That was the most disappointing meal.

Overall, it was one of our favorite family trips ever. The kids were even torn whether they liked it better or Hawaii. It wasn’t a food-based trip per se, but we really did enjoy pretty much everything. It’s hard not to when you’re constantly staring at so much physical beauty. I heart you, Arizona.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pho Tasty

The BFF and I have both been watching what we eat lately, but we also like to have lunch together, so when we saw that Pho Tasty had taken over the space that was previously also a Vietnamese place we had tried together before, we thought, hey, we can eat pho and be fairly healthy right? And since neither of us had been particularly wowed by the previous incarnation as “V Café Ok”, we were hoping for an improvement.

They’ve remodeled the inside a bit—I recall it having a bit of a weird vibe before—there was even a little stage in the corner. Now it feels more like a casual/quick serve restaurant. It’s pretty basic, but clean, and the staff is pretty friendly. Ordering and getting the food was pretty quick, although it took awhile to get the check.

Anyhow, even though I really wanted to try the Vietnamese pancake ($9.50)—one of my favorite things in the world when they’re done well, I was good and just got the pho (don’t worry, I will get it one of these days and report back. Also, if you’ve had it here, let me know!). I had the rare beef version ($9) and she had the veggie version ($9) with tofu. If you’re not familiar, pho is a Vietnamese soup filled with rice noodles and then with some sort of meat or protein added. Different places include varying levels of veggies as well, and then you are served a plate with fresh herbs (usually basil and/or cilantro), fresh bean sprouts, lime wedges and jalapenos. You add them to taste, as well as any of the many, many sauces and spice mixed that are lined up on the table.

Overall, it was a good version of a pho. I have come to realize two things about pho. One, the broth is the thing, and two; you can’t judge it until you spice it up with all the things. For me this means, several pieces of the jalapeno in the broth, a bunch of the basil and lots of the limes squeezed in (I asked for extra). Also a bit of the chili garlic sauce and sometimes even a little soy sauce. And once you let it sit a bit, it just gets better and better. And spicier and spicier. There were also nice thinly sliced onions and chopped green onions and the beef was very thin. It never stays rare in that hot broth, but it was nice and tender. My BFF liked her veggie bowl as well, and it did have a lot more veggies in there that looked appealing—particularly the cabbage. I love cabbage in soup.

Anyhow, it was a nice bowl of pho for sure. I can’t say it was the best I’ve ever had, but it was solid. The broth was good and it hit the spot on a blustery fall day. I’ll go back (it’s a decent non-chain quick place in Castleton for goodness sakes!). It’s definitely better than the last place. And next time I’m trying the pancake.

Pho Tasty
6044 East 82nd Street
Indianapolis 46250

Monday, November 2, 2015

Santorini Greek Kitchen - Revisit

I met a friend for lunch the other day and we decided Greek food sounded good. I suggested Santorini because it’s been ages. I don’t think I have been in there since they had a fire a few years back.

They don’t really have a lunch menu specifically--well they do, but I can’t see a lot of differences in the two-- but they have some smaller things and I didn’t want to overeat—so I went with an appetizer order of spanakopita ($8) and a cup of Avgolemeno soup ($4.25). Both were good. I enjoyed the combination of the two—the crunch and the cheesy richness of the spanakopita and the tanginess of the soup. The soup is a traditional Greek soup that appeals to me because it has lemon in it—and this one had a real lemony kick to it. My dining companion didn’t care for it—I think it was too tart for him, but I enjoyed it—especially when you ate it with the orzo. It had a creamy feel to it, even though it’s a broth-based soup. There are eggs in, which really helps thicken it. The spanakopita is are little individually wrapped triangles, which is my favorite way to wrap them, because you get lots of phyllo, and therefore, lots of crunch. They serve it with some tzaziki to dip in. (It’s a yogurt sauce with cucumber and Santorini’s is a fine version. Nothing stands out about it particularly, but I do like having something to dip into).

My friend had a gyro sandwich ($10). The sandwich version came with one side (he had salad) –the platter version comes with the full traditional Greek sides—rice, green beans and potatoes. It was pretty solid—a fair amount of the gyro meat (it’s made of lamb and beef) and it’s topped with tomatoes, onion and tzaziki. There was also some cheese sprinkled on top and it's all served on a pita. Honestly, gyros are not my favorite thing, but this one seemed on par with most I have had.

Overall, I feel like Santorini is a good option for Greek in Indy—I also feel like I have never had a meal at a Greek restaurant in town that has really stood out among the rest. I don’t feel like any are bad, and some are slightly better than others, but I have never had one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. What about you?

Santorini Greek Kitchen
1417 Prospect Street
Indy 46203