Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adobo Grill

Ok, I went to Adobo shortly after moving to Indy when it was still on 82nd street and wasn’t overly impressed. But since it has moved, and because several readers have recently recommended it, I decided to give it another chance and write it up this time. Plus, hubby had never been.

This is what I want to know from everyone who likes this place (seriously, please write a comment and let me know)—what is it that you are ordering? Because everything I had except the guacamole and margaritas (and more on those later) was not very good.

Hubby and I wanted to try as much as possible, so we went the tapas route and ordered 4 appetizers to share, as well as the guac. Now the guac maker came out and mixed up a great bowl of the dip and the margaritas are tasty. But here is my pet peeve about the margaritas at this place. They serve them “up” in a martini glass which I guess is a way to make a margarita seem more sophisticated. They taste good, but when I eat Mexican, I want to drink margaritas with the entire meal. You can finish these in a few drinks and then, if you kept ordering more throughout the whole meal, you’d be wasted by the end of it. So I had one, enjoyed it, and then switched to wine. Do they serve them just low brow style with ice and all? I didn’t ask, but they weren’t on the menu (although they have LOTS of different kinds of tequila).

Ok, so we ordered the Taquitos Yucatecos, the Empanadas Nortenas, the Torta Ahogoda “Sliders” and the Shrimp Ceviche. The Taquitos came out first, and were very underwhelming. They were described as Achiote marinated chicken with black beans, tomato salsa, pickled onions, and sour cream. I don’t know what to say other than there wasn’t much of any distinct flavor there. The inside was quite dry and the only thing I liked was the pickled onions. They were the only thing on the plate that had any real flavor.

Next came the shrimp ceviche—it wasn’t bad, and the further down into the marinade you got (it was served in an ice cream sundae type dish), they better and more flavorful it became. There were some hunks of avocado and tomato mixed in. It was probably the best thing we had next to the guacamole. I am pretty sure the shrimp was actually cooked before being “cooked” in the marinade (which is what the menu seemed to say) but the waitress said it was just cooked in the marinade. Seemed a little more cooked than that though.

The last two things were brought out at the same time our friends’ (who were visiting from out of town) entrees were served. Well sort of. We got our last two plates and one of our friends got his entrée. Our other friend didn’t get her entrée for several more minutes which was a little annoying. Speaking of service, while our service was generally pretty friendly, you should have seen the death look/eye roll I got from the hostess when I asked to be sat at a table that wasn’t right on top of another party in a restaurant that was still not even half full.

But back to the food, the empanadas were described as “corn masa turnovers stuffed with beef picadillo, corn and Chihuahua cheese in a creamy tomatilla salsa.” Ok, the crust was tasty but even though the ingredients were totally different from the taquitos, why did they seem so similar? I guess the blandness seemed to meld together..and “creamy” tomatillo salsa? It was tomatillo salsa…not sure what the creamy part was. The salsa was pretty good though—hubby enjoyed it particularly.

Finally, and probably my least favorite were the torta ahogoda “sliders.” They were described as “mini pork carnitas sandwiches with refried beans and avocado drowned in chile de arbol salsa.” What they tasted like was a mini barbequed pork sandwich with way too much sauce. There were a couple little slivers of avocado on each on that you couldn’t even taste for the sweet sauce. I don’t know, I really really disliked these.

We did have the chocolate masa cake for dessert with vanilla ice cream. It was pretty tasty—very chocolatey.

All in all though, I have heard people say the only thing good at Adobo is the guacamole and margaritas (actually, I said that after the first time I went) and I think it might be true. But hey, maybe I am just really ordering wrong. People? Give me some help on this one.

Adobo Grill
110 East Washington Street
Indy, 46204


  1. I must say that I am really pulling for this establishment to succeed, but the execution here is spotty.
    I agree about the margaritas--delish. The guac is great. I lived in AZ for a few years and this is the closest to "real" guac I have found in Indy.
    I had the fish tacos here and I thought they were really good--although others in our party were having a little entree envy over my choice.
    I will say that I love the build out and the ambiance, but the front of the house team seems a little less than enthusiastic about working there so it creates kind of a downer vibe.
    My other beef was that we visite Adobo while it was on 82nd street and had no trouble bringing our little dude, but they do not allow kids in the downtown location.
    I'll put it bluntly--it isn't good enough to warrant the expense of a babysitter.

  2. I'm so glad you posted this today. We were going to go there tonight. We never cared for the one on 82nd Street but thought we'd give it a try at the new location. Mediocre food and staff with attitude? I think we'll wind up at Elements tonight.

  3. Actually, they made the decision to go non smoking a couple of months ago. So it is kid friendly now. I found so so. Had to send a ceviche dish back because it was very apparent from the smell that it was a wee bit past it's prime.

  4. We were there within a month of the opening of the downtown location, and had also been to the 82nd St location a few times, had been to the Chicago location on Wells Street countless times, and had been to the Chicago Bucktown location once.

    The menu is identical at all locations, as are the prices (OT, but I was surprised when I moved here that they were charging the identical prices in Indy as Chicago. You'd think lower overhead here would translate into lower prices).

    So obviously you have one executive chef (Freddy Sanchez IIRC) overseeing all the operations, and it all comes down to execution. Wells St was the mothership, and always executed well. Bucktown Chicago, noticeable dropoff. 82nd St in Indy was also not up to par. On our visit to the downtown Indy location, the food was as well prepared as it ever was on Wells St - we had 6 different appetizers, and they were all excellent.

    Based on your experience and the other comment, it sounds like they've quickly drifted off into mediocrity. That didn't take long, which is pretty sad. At these prices they'd better be putting out "wow" food every time or you're going to disappoint.

    As mentioned, the menu is identical at all locations and I'm assuming the ingredients are all identically sourced, so it all comes down to execution of the kitchen staff. Only conjecture on my part, but maybe Freddy Sanchez came down to oversee the opening. Once he's gone...

  5. i was there last week and enjoyed everything.
    i brought my kids 5&7 and they enjoyed the kids quesadilla.
    the started taking kids last november the manager said.
    they the tilapia or the pork ;both are great.

  6. The maragartia with Mezcal is awesome. Friday night I had a duck with mole sauce, tuna tar tar with a serrano chile sauce, and a chocolate tamal (these were on the Devour Downtown tasting menu). All three things were amazingly innovative and tasty.

    I've been to Adobo in Indy and Chicago several times. Because the menu seems to change frequently, I always ask the server what they suggest and each time I've had fantastic meals.

  7. I've visited the downtown location twice for dinner and once for lunch. As previously noted, the guac and margaritas are the highlights. They are possibly the best available in the city (and you can get the margaritas served traditionally upon request).

    The food has also been quite good (not fantastic) in my experience. Of note was a butternut squash soup last year, exceptionally well done. I have noticed a few of my fellow diners had some trouble with Adobo's version of "medium-well" on my most recent visit. However, I have yet to find a better authentic Mexican restaurant in Indianapolis.

    I'll second the recomendation on the fish tacos and add that I highly suggest their happy hour ($1 fish and al pastor tacos!).

  8. As an employee of Adobo Grill, I'm often confused by comments about some of the food. I admit to perhaps having a bias, but I've had some of the tastiest food I've ever eaten while working there. For example:

    Callos de Hacha: Chipotle marinated sea scallops wrapped in bacon and pan seared with a creamy arbol salsa that lends a delicious smoky flavor to the dish. This is by far the best thing on the menu, and no reviewer ever mentions it.

    Pechuga de huitlacoche: Chicken breast stuffed with cheese and mushrooms with a poblano salsa on top. Second best thing on the menu and no reviewer ever mentions it.

    Everybody always gravitates towards the enchiladas and tacos, and complains they're not that good and overpriced. Guess what? The enchiladas and tacos are by far the weakest things on our menu. I always try to steer people away from them.

    If you come in, ask your server what they eat. Don't go for the safe, boring stuff. You can get that crap at Cancun or Taco Bell.

    As for the service...I'll admit some of the staff can be underwhelming at times. It's like that at several resteraunts though. If your server sucks, tell the manager while you're in the place. If they rock (like I humbly believe I do), let the manager know. The good servers will get more shifts and better sections and the bad servers will be weeded out.

    Costs...I've worked as a cook before, and our food costs are in line with any other place in Indianapolis. What most people don't realize is that almost everything is fresh, which translates into higher costs. All the sauces/salsas are made in house, as is the lime juice for the 'ritas. The seafood is never frozen, and all the meat is marinated in-house. Several of our ingrediants come straight from Mexico, including the avocados and huitlacoche. It may mean slightly higher prices, but it equals some outstanding food.

    Come in and ask for Daniel. You'll have an outstanding experience, and I'll steer you true when it comes to the food.

  9. Not 100% sure if I'm understanding you Daniel, please correct me if I'm wrong. So there's a lot of overpriced gringo-food mediocrities on the menu that are there to appease the Hoosier masses right? And the only way to assure myself of a fine meal at Adobo is to get you as the server so you can guide me through an expensive minefield. Okaaaaay, I'll be right over.

  10. i am now a frequent guest at adobo. i was raised in a hispanic family and consider myself pretty hard to please when it comes to mexian food. i think their fish tacos are some of the best that i have ever had. a few of their dishes are hit and miss but a good part of them reminds me of my grandma's sunday morning cooking.
    sit at the bar and let kate educate you in the fine art of tequila tasting. she really knows her stuff and is always quick to recommend.
    overall, i think this place is pretty right on and my very picky father agrees.