The other night I met my favorite sharing friend Jen at Livery before the Yelp Totally Bazaar (which by the way, until they move it to somewhere else, I am never doing that again—way too cramped and crowded) for an early dinner. This is the newest place from the Cunningham Group (Vida, Mesh, etc.) and it’s located in a really cool old brick building on College just off Mass Ave. One I have been eyeing for years. So glad to see someone took this place on.
It’s a very nice interior—highlights the brick and lots of dark wood. I didn’t really get a real Latin flair from the décor, but the menu most certainly is. Our server was very nice, if not bit harried, disappearing for significant periods of time. We ordered the two margaritas on the menu—the Livery margarita ($9) and the Carriage House margarita ($12). Both were very, very good, even though margaritas on a freezing snowy night are a little weird. The carriage house is more of a top shelf type margarita and uses orange brandy. The Livery was more your classic margarita, but was spot on. I love the little freebies they serve as you get your drinks. They called them something like chicharone wagon wheels, but they are not actually a pork product. I think they are actually called duros. Anyhow, they’re more like flour-based chip—I have had them before at other places, but I love the seasoning they put on these. Spicy chile with a huge dose of lime. They were addictive. We had a couple bowls of these (partly because our service was a little off).
We ordered several items off various parts of the menu, but I will discuss them in the order we ate/were served the items (we told them to bring them how they thought was best). The first thing we were brought was the manchego crisp ($8) off of the ensalata portion of the menu. It sounded so intriguing when the server described it. It is basically a taco shell made of fried manchego cheese, and it stuffed with herb salad, orange, avocado, red onion, olives, fresno pepper and marcona almonds. Sounds interesting yes? But ehh, it was our least favorite thing of the evening. It’s hard to believe something that was such an acid bomb with olives and orange could be so one-dimensional. It was very heavy on mashed avocado. And as much as I love manchego, it doesn’t make a crisp in the same way that Parmesan can. Just doesn’t have as much flavor. I expected a bit more of the greens, since it was labeled a salad, but it was a bit of a mish mosh of ingredients that didn’t really coalesce.
Next we had empanadas. We ordered the barbacoa version ($9) based on a couple of recommendations, including from our server. It comes with a little salad of kale and peppers and chipotle salsa. We realized after a couple of bites that we did not in fact get those, but actually got chicken ones. The bite I had was pretty good, but probably would have been better with the right sides—green salsa and crema. Based on my limited bite, I’d like to try them though. The barbacoa version was tasty as well. A nice flakey crust and meaty, yet juicy, interior. The salsa and the greens on the side make the dish though. Without it, the empanadas wouldn’t have stood out in the way they did. The salad was dressed with some heavy citrus, but it was just what the empanadas needed to brighten it up. I also like the smoky depth of flavor from the chipotle salsa.
Next we were served the jamon Serrano ($10) from the primero portion of the menu and the pork pastor ($11) from the Segundo portion. The jamon Serrano was probably our favorite item of the evening. It was a terrine made from potato and poblano peppers with mushrooms, romesco sauce, crema and salsa verde. Oh, and of course, that Spanish ham, which is layered across the top. This was decadent, and had a lot going on, but tasted really good. It reminded me of a classic Spanish tortilla, which is more like a potato omelet than what you might normal think of when you think of a tortilla that you wrap a taco in. The sauces and mushrooms were great, and if you haven’t tried Serrano ham, it’s a bit like prosciutto but richer in flavor. It’s a bit drier in texture as well perhaps.
The pork pastor tasted very good as well. It was little shavings of the pork mixed with a zesty (as is acidic) slaw, onions, cilantro, and pineapple and served on top of corn cakes. The cakes were a little sweet for me, but I enjoyed the flavors of everything else. I think I would have preferred it served with another vehicle to eat it, even just warm tortillas, but I was happy enough just eating it on its own. I like that so much of the food here is thoughtfully created to be balanced with enough acid, as well as with unique takes on traditional Latin cuisine.
I really want to try some other things—I can’t wait to try the ceviche, it was just too cold on this night. I love ceviche and I bet this one has good flavor. Time will tell if I am right. And pretty much everything on the menu sounds interesting. So to the rest of you who have been there, what have you had? What did you think?
P.S. They don’t take reservations. On a Thursday early, we just walked right in, but I have heard there can be significant waits on the weekends. But you know how Indy folks love a new restaurant…
720 N. College