The other day some friends went with hubby and me to The Vanguard for a dinner while our sons played tennis. I have been itching to try it ever since I heard the guys from Turf Catering designed the menu. I also received a very nice email from the owner telling me I was the one who introduced him to the Turf Catering guys through my blog, so how cool is that? It’s a small world indeed.
The Vanguard is in the old Usual Suspects space in Broad Ripple, which I had never been to. I am not sure how much redecorating/remodeling they did for the switch, but I really like the interior of the Vanguard. It’s modern and comfortable—and there is a family side with several booths where you can bring your kids (good to know, as we will likely do this soon). It’s a bigger spot than I would have guessed and feels a lot more grown up than much of Broad Ripple.
We started with several appetizers (I love friends who like to order lots of stuff). We had the pimento cheese ($10), the Cajun shrimp ($13) and the roasted vegetable gnocchi ($13). Every single one of these was a winner. Truly, I loved them all. The pimento cheese plate came with a nice portion of the cheese (if you have had it at Turf, you know how good it is—one of my favorite versions in town). It also came with some toasted bread slices, smoked ham, and half of a boiled egg topped with pickled mustard seed. You guys, I loved this dish. The cheese is so good, and the ham tender and smoky (I think they smoke all their own stuff at Turf). And the combo of the egg with the mustard seed was perfect. The only thing I would change is to ask for a few extra slices of the bread because we ran out before we ran out of the toppings. I could easily make a meal out of this plate by myself, but it's also a really nice thing to share and a great mix of different tastes.
Hubby’s favorite was probably the Cajun shrimp, which was really delicious. It was two large pieces of grilled crostini topped with the shrimp, which is cooked in a spicy, buttery, garlic sauce. And get this, the shrimp wasn’t tough and overcooked. It was just right. And there was plenty to share around the table. Such a nice rich flavor to the sauce without being too much.
The last appetizer that we shared was the roasted vegetable gnocchi. Wow, this one was great too. The gnocchi were lightly sautéed, so they were just a little brown and crisp on the edges, which is exactly how I like them. They were topped with peas, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and shallots. There was a great acidic kick from the tomatoes and the mushrooms were wonderful. I even liked the peas and I am sort of washy washy on peas sometimes. The dish was mixed in a brown butter sauce, which is something I wish you saw more of in Indy. Brown butter gives a nice earthy, nutty edge to a dish, while still maintaining richness from the butter, but without being over the top with cream or cheese. Brown butter is a great sauce to use when you really want the ingredients to shine.
I could have walked away at this point of the meal and been happy and fairly full, but we ordered three of the main dishes as well. Hubby and I ordered the fried chicken (of course I did) ($16) and our friends ordered the short rib ($20) and the Mediterranean chicken ($17). The winner here was definitely the fried chicken, although nothing was bad. The fried chicken had a slight smoky flavor as well as a hint of pickle—maybe it was pickle brined? It was really good and cooked just right. The meat was tender and the skin was crisp. The pieces (there was a breast, wing, leg and thigh) were served with mashed potatoes and chicken pan gravy. All of it was good—and that gravy was delicious. I am not even usually a gravy person when I eat fried chicken, but I found myself dipping the bites in it—it had a nice salty kick, which just enhanced the chicken.
I had a bite of our friends’ dishes and they were my least favorite of the evening, but not bad. The short rib was very smoky (maybe a bit much for me) and just a touch on the dry side. My friend who ordered the chicken doesn’t like chicken on the bone, and this was a seared boneless breast topped with tomatoes, garlic, olives and herbs and for me, this tasted more like something you might make yourself at home on a good night. They also have a butter-smoked chicken (on the bone) that sounds more interesting to me if you’re not in the mood for fried and don’t mind eating off the bone.
All in all, I can safely say that this is certainly one of the best new places to open in Broad Ripple in ages, and is likely one of the best places for food in Broad Ripple right now period. I could easily and happily make a meal of appetizers (there were several more I would like to try) and would love to try that butter-smoked chicken, if I can pull myself away from the fried chicken. We will certainly be taking the kids as well, as my son loves fried chicken the way I do, and my daughter is a gnocchi fanatic. If you haven’t been here yet, you should go. And why this place isn’t getting more press, well, that’s Indy for you.
6319 Guilford Ave