Saturday, September 27, 2008

Acapulco Joe's

I apologize upfront, I know this place is an institution in Indianapolis, but it surely isn't for the food. Frankly, it was borderline terrible. We went there the other day for lunch with our kids. I was excited to go, because I remember my parents going when I was a kid and it was the only Mexican restaurant in town. And I think at one point it had another location on the Northeast side and maybe I ate there once or twice.

Anyway, you start with the weird salsa in a squeeze bottle. Is that their way of conserving salsa (because I assume you have to dump a lot of salsa out when served in bowls on the table). The chips were decent, but the salsa was weird. It was sweet--almost like it was made with ketchup. I wasn't a big fan of it just with chips, but thought maybe it would be better on the food, assuming it was spicy. Well, not only was the food not spicy, it was borderline flavorless. I had the Mexican Pizza which is basically like a crisp flour tortilla with olives, beans, meat, mushrooms and cheese. It was probably the best thing on our table, but not memorable at all. Hubby had some flautas which looked like they were stuffed with, well, Alpo. They were so un-appetizing, I didn't even try them. The kids had quesadillas which were not good either (and they like bland food). But the cheese wasn't even melted inside the quesadilla. The worst thing was the guacamole. It looked good, with some nice chunks of avocado. Somehow, they managed to make that even flavorless. It was like eating mayo that was dyed green with chunks of boiled potato.

The people working there were probably the bright part of the restaurant--they were quite friendly and accomodating to giving us a table where our young kids wouldn't disturb others, which always makes a meal more bearable for the parents.

The margaritas were drinkable, but not outstanding. I am telling you, if you want a good margarita, check out the Texas margaritas at La Hacienda. They are alone, a good reason to go there, in my opinion. The food at Hacienda isn't bad either, so if you want some good basic Mexican with a really good Margarita, I say skip Acapulco Joes's at hit La Hacienda (there are several locations throughout Indianapolis).

Acapulco Joe's
365 N. Illinois
Indy, 46204

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh Yumm! Bistro

One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants (not in my neighborhood unfortunately) is Oh Yumm! Bistro on 56th and Illinois. I have been there many times and am usually quite pleased with the food. They have a traditional menu with salads and entrees and then they have an entire page devoted to what can either be appetizers or tapas. I love tapas because I love to get to eat lots of things with different flavors and because you are pretty much guaranteed the portions will not be too big. They only time I have ever ordered an entree was when we had a larger group and just added one of the entrees to our tapas order to share.

Hubby and I went on a Friday night--one of the few times I have been there on one of their busier nights because usually we eat out midweek. As per usual, we ordered several tapas to share. We had the guacamole with chips (and a tomato relish), fried green tomatoes with a tomato/corn relish and arugula pesto, crispy fried calamari with spicy marinara, the mini pizza (based on a tortilla) with shrimp, pesto, cheese, bacon and caramelized onions, and the petite slider with gorgonzola (you can choose between gorgonzola, goat cheese or chedder) with pickled red onions.

Everything we had was really good. The guacamole is fresh and chunky, the way I like it, and the chips are clearly house made. Tasty, and a good thing to share. The fried green tomatoes were really tasty too. The fried items at Oh Yumm are always prepared with a light touch, so you don't feel like they are too greasy or over the top. The corn and tomato relish and arugula pesto was what really made it though--all the flavors combined really well. Those things really are the taste of summer in the midwest.

Speaking of fried items, we also had the calamari--I think this may be the best calamari I have had in this City (sorry if I have said that before!). The calamari was in no way chewy as it can get sometimes (ok, a lot of times) at other places when it is overcooked. And again, the batter is quite light and goes really well with the spicy marinara sauce. It is very simply prepared, with just a sprinkling of sea salt, but it doesn't need anything else.

We almost always get the pizza. The toppings vary from season to season and some are definitely better than others. And what they do to their tortilla crust is one of the things that makes the whole item so delish. I think they lightly pan fry it in butter--ok, that is maybe not the health option, but oh so tasty nonetheless. As for the toppings on this one, it was quite a list. Shrimp, pesto, cheese, caramelized onions and bacon crumbles. Now, don't get me wrong, I love ALL those things, but it was maybe just a few too many things on such a dainty pizza. Tasted good, if not a little rich for me. I think some of the simpler ones in the past may have been better. Not sure though. I guess it depends on what the toppings are.

Lastly, we had the petite slider with gorgonzola (if there is blue cheese involved, you know we like it). The thing I like best about this little burger (not being a big burger eater myself) is the pickled red onions. They are so good. They remind me of this little Peruvian place I used to eat at when I worked in Oakland, CA. The slider is almost always on the menu I think, and like I said there is some sort of tortilla pizza, but many of the other items change seasonally. Sometimes I will be sad to see certain items go, but they always come up with something new that is just as good.

I really like the bistro-ishness of this place too. It is in a store front right on Illinois (basically across the street from the Safeway) and it really has that neighborhood restaurant feel. It is small, although in the warm months they have decent outside seating in front of the restaurant (although I have something about being THAT close to the traffic, but obviously that is just me since the outside area was much fuller than the inside). The servers are generally friendly, and we have had the same guy the last several times we have been there who I really like.

I have to comment on the one negative from this particular evening however. As I said, it was a Friday, and they were busy (but not packed) and they seemed to be having some service issues. I am not sure exactly what the problem was, but the host seemed a bit overwhelmed and when I asked if we could have a 4 person table (even though we were only 2) because we always get the tapas and often need the extra space, he said no, they had reservations for them. This is fine, I completely understand. But from 7:30 when we got there, until nearly 9:00 when we left, three 4-top tables went unseated inside. Now, maybe they decided to sit outside after arriving, but it was a little annoying. And they were short of menus. How this happens, I do not know, but it took us a good 15 minutes after being seated to get our menus. And although our waiter knows what he is doing, everything on this night seemed off. The bread came after some of the food and it took a bit to get our wine. I don't want you to think though that this is usual, because it is the first time we have had this problem in the probably 8-10 times we have been there. But again, we don't usually go during peak times, so maybe it is more common than I know. But I am guessing not.

Regardless, this is a great, locally owned neighborhood restaurant that is definitely worth a trip. Also, although we haven't tried it yet, they also serve lunch during the week and brunch on the weekends and have a kids menu. When mine are a bit older, I hope to make this a regular family place to go as well.

Oh Yumm! Bistro
5615 North Illinois

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mitchell's Fish Market

Ok, I have been somewhat distracted this week with all the buzz around Bugg's Temple so I have neglected my duties. And it was crazy because we ate at the Tavern at Bugg's last Saturday night shortly before I found out all this stuff. What I have learned from the Feed Me/Drink Me blog is that certain people involved in the restaurant are leaving, that the Creation Cafe people (which is located on the middle level of the building) are taking over the Tavern and hope to have dinner service restored here at some point (with Chef Gates as chef). I hope so, because it is honestly one of the best restaurants in this City food-wise in my opinion (with significant service issues to be worked out), and I will truly miss Brad Gates' food if they don't reopen.

Now, onward to the actual review here. My parents had eaten at Mitchell's for lunch several weeks ago and really enjoyed it (I think they had soup and appetizers). They know my penchant for good food and new places to write about in my blog, so they wanted to take us there. In all, there were 6 of us, and we got 6 different things and overall I think the review was somewhat mixed (except for my Mom's entree which was devoured by the entire table--more on that later.)

I had actually been to Mitchell's about a year ago and had a pretty good, but not overly memorable meal. Basically, I feel the same way about it now. I started with roasted mussels with a white wine, garlic and tomato broth. The broth was outstanding--and I really like the way they put big croutons right on top that sort of filtered down into the broth as you ate and tasted delicious with the mussels. The mussels themselves were not the best (I guess, maybe not the freshest) I have ever tasted, but they were decent. I also tasted my Mom's crab cocktail which was served with a nice tangy crab Louie sauce (I still keep hoping for a really good crab/shrimp Louie salad in this town--is anybody listening??). Anyway, my Mom's crab was quite yummy. I would be tempted if I went back to get her crab to start and maybe my mussels as a main dish.

What I had for my main dish was walleye, which is something I order as often as possible. It is one of the few Great Lakes' fish that you see on menus somewhat infrequently and the taste of it is really good--delicate but with a unique flavor. And generally, I like to try and eat as locally as possible and living in a pretty well land-locked part of the country, that can be challenging with seafood! I ordered the fish broiled thinking that it would be a fairly simple preparation that would allow the natural flavor of the fish to come through (and was actually described on the menu as "simply broiled." Unfortunately, while the temperature of the fish was cooked very well, it lost a lot of its own flavor with quite a bit of seasoning put on top. Some fish requires extra seasoning, or works best as a conduit for sauces and spices, (like halibut or tilapia) but I personally do not feel that way about walleye. I guess I should have gotten it grilled, but I thought the broiling would affect the flavor even less. On that note, I would like to say the last time I was there, I had fish prepared in their Shang Hai style, which is steamed with lots of ginger and green onions and with a rice wine vinegar sauce over rice and spinach and I remember being pretty pleased with it--again, a better preparation for tilapia or halibut in my opinion though.

Apparently my Mom had the ordering mojo this night though, because to follow her yummy crab cocktail, she got the blue crab and shrimp penne pasta with an Alfredo-type sauce. My husband had several bites and kept talking about how great it was. I generally am not a big fan of Alfredo sauces, so at first I declined, but then decided to try it and was glad I did. Everyone at the table ate some and everyone liked it.

I do want to say that others at the table who got other dishes, were not as happy with their choices as we were with ours. But I didn't try them so I don't feel I should comment on them.

We did all share (yes 6 people and 1 dessert) the Sharkfin Pie which is an insanely decadent "pie" made with butter fudge ice cream, peanuts, peanut butter, chocolate fudge and an Oreo crust. And there was enough for us to all have a decent portion. It is really good if you like peanuts and peanut butter as that is the dominant flavor.

All in all, Mitchell's menu reminds me a lot of Oceanaire except it isn't quite as extensive with the fresh shellfish and the portions at Mitchell's are more normal sized (although still very generous). I do think Oceanaire has the edge on Mitchell's however as far as freshness and interesting preparations. And Oceanaire has more of a metropolitan feel. Alas, they are both chains, albeit small, but you do what you need to to get fresh seafood in this town.

Mitchell's Fish Market
Clay Terrace
14311 Clay Terrace Blvd., Suite 100
Carmel, IN 46032

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tavern at the Temple Update 2

Sadly, I have just learned that the Tavern at Bugg's Temple will no longer be serving dinner as of Thursday. That is a real loss to this restaurant community indeed.