Thursday, May 28, 2015

Squealers- revisit

We were excited to learn we would be getting a Squealers location near our house—they have opened up in Castleton in what was a Max and Erma’s forever, and then for a short time, a Mexican place that was just okay. The interior is pretty similar in layout to the places before, but with a rustic BBQ kind of feel.

We were with friends on the night we decided to try it, and so we got an order of fried pickles ($6) to start. They were pretty solid fried pickles and you could tell they were making them in house. They were not all uniform and the pickles inside were still juicy. The breading had a nice seasoning, and as it turns out, was the same that was on the fried tenderloin sandwich (more on that later). I was curious about the dipping sauce they gave us and it turns out it’s a mix of ranch dressing and bbq sauce. That’s a pretty good combo—giving you the coolness of ranch but a bit of spice and heat from the BBQ sauce. We all enjoyed them and I would get them again.

For my main dish, hubby and I split the pick 3 sampler plate ($22) with pulled pork, pulled chicken and baby back ribs. For sides, I had a salad and mac and cheese. Both the pulled pork and chicken are good, although not my favorite in town. They are not quite as tender as is my personal preference, but once you load them up with sauce (I got half sweet/half hot combo for my sauce), it really doesn’t matter. I didn’t eat the ribs, but hubby keeps them on the top of his list for baby back ribs in Indy.
My salad was ok—I liked all the stuff on it—boiled egg, mushrooms, cheese and onion (not a fan of giant croutons). Strangely though, there wasn’t much lettuce underneath it all. It was almost like a garnish to the other stuff. The blue cheese dressing was tasty though—pretty thick with some nice hunks of cheese in it. The mac and cheese is good. Again, nothing mind blowing, but a good match with the bbq. Let’s face it, to me mac and cheese and BBQ are perfect partners.

AND FRIED BISCUITS. I will always like Squealers for the fried biscuits, even if the rest of the food isn’t my absolute favorite. Take one of those delicious, hot, crusty and slightly sweet (we had an extra order of them to share for $4) and load it with some of the pulled meat and some sauce, and you are good. I love those little fried biscuit sandwiches. I think next time I would just get the pulled pork (it was more tender than the chicken) and biscuits and be a happy camper. They also give you apple butter to go with them, which is also good and I happily make a dessert of the biscuits with it.

The surprise of the evening for me was my friend’s pork tenderloin sandwich ($10). It was one of those huge ones that hangs off the bun in every direction, but it was really, really delicious. And I wouldn’t have thought of ordering this at a BBQ joint (we kind of teased her about this), but they do designate it as one of the house specialties on the menu, and for good reason. It is really thin, but still amazingly tender and is breaded with that same slightly grainy, well-seasoned mix that was on the pickles. Also, she ordered cheese on it, which I have never done, and I can’t lie—it was pretty darn good as well. The fries that came along with it, well, they’re big steak fries and not my thing.  
Hmmm….I wonder if it would be weird if I ordered a fried tenderloin sandwich with a side of fried biscuits…

5899 East 86th Street
Indy  46240

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Road Trip: Taxman Brewery--Bargersville, IN

We were on a road trip the other day and based on a friend’s recommendation, decided to hit Taxman Brewery on the way home for lunch. Well, it was brunch actually—that’s what they serve on Sundays, and I have to say, if there was a place like this in Indy, I think it would make a killing. Brewery plus brunch would be a popular idea (hint hint).

Anyhow, it’s a good-looking menu and was hard to choose what to get. There were 6 of us, so we started with their breakfast frites ($10) to share. It’s a large portion of frites that are thick cut but I am guessing they’re made in house. They are topped with two eggs (they were scrambled, I probably would ask for them runny), sausage, bacon and pimento cheese. Really, this is kind of a genius idea, putting breakfast on fries and then melting pimento cheese on them. Hubby really liked the sausage they used—it was in pretty big hunks. And even though I would have enjoyed the runny yolk mixed in too, it was nice to get a little bit of egg in just about every bite. It’s a good thing to share with several people though, because it would be a bit much to eat on your own.

For my main, I went with the biscuit BLT ($9)—they make their own chive biscuits, which are little, but tasty—they put two next to each other and then top them with 2 eggs (mine were over easy of course), bacon, big pieces of iceberg lettuce and tomato jam. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the iceberg at first, but it gave a nice crunch and presentation-wise, it made it look like a massive sandwich. I cut it down the middle to eat one biscuit at a time. I really enjoyed it. I liked that the egg and bacon was cooked just right and that the tomato jam wasn’t ridiculously sweet (always my worry when I see “jam” on a savory dish). I think it may have been my favorite thing of everything I tried at the table.

Hubby had the moules frites ($10). They do a daily preparation of their mussels—this was a buffalo style version. I don’t think I have ever had buffalo mussels before—they were good. The sauce was quite spicy and had a lot of hot sauce flavor. I like buffalo-flavored things, so I enjoyed these as well even though it was quite strong. I liked the chunks of blue cheese on top as well. There weren’t a lot of frites with them, but the frites, as mentioned above are good. Luckily, my daughter ordered a side of them so we pilfered a few of hers.
My in-laws shared the chicken in a biscuit ($10). This was good as well, although there was a lot of stuff going on here. There were more of the chive biscuits topped with pieces of chicken that was stuffed with spinach and bacon and then fried and topped with gravy. I liked the chicken-it had good flavor but I wasn’t a huge fan of just how much gravy was on it. 

Speaking of, my son had biscuits and gravy ($9). I think this may have been my least favorite. They were the same biscuits, which are good, but the gravy was just ok—just didn’t have a ton of richness to it. There was sausage in it, but not a lot of it. It also didn’t help that it wasn’t very hot. But then again, biscuits and gravy have to be really good to make them really stand out to me.

They have done a nice job with the interior (and exterior) of this place—it’s kind of one of those places you feel like is in the middle of nowhere, but even on a Sunday at around 2:00, they were doing a pretty big business—maybe too big as the service started to suffer after a large party came in from the Indy Brew Bus. They do have lots of beer to try, and hubby really enjoyed Taxman’s triple. I had a glass of wine, what can I say? They are using lots of local ingredients in the food as well. Again, it’s a nice place, with an interesting brunch menu, with a lot of beer choices (both their own and from other breweries). I think it’s a great idea for places like this to offer a special brunch menu and I wish more places in Indy would do it.

Taxman Brewery
13 South Baldwin Street
Bargersville, IN  46106
Taxman Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Movable Feast - Revisit

My friends at Movable Feast have relocated to a new location and I tried a new sandwich (I can’t quit that jerk pork on Wednesdays and now Saturdays too) so I figured it was as good a time as any to get a new post out there. 

Their new location is on 65th Street right next to Bier Brewery. It’s not your typical location for a restaurant, but worth seeking out—and if you want a beer, you can conveniently go next door. The new space is enormous compared to their old one—they still have some outdoor seating and it’s a bit nicer since it’s on a road that is less busy. The inside seating has increased dramatically and is very spacious—making it easier to have a conversation with someone without feeling like you’re right on top of your neighbor.

Getting to the new sandwich though—I tried the “monster melt” ($7 with choice of side) for the first time. The owners had mentioned they thought I would like it, and they were right. It is a hot sandwich made with grilled whole grain bread, mozzarella, bacon, fresh guacamole, tomato, field greens and chipotle mayo.  This is the special on certain days only, so follow their twitter feed to know when @INdyfeast. The bread has the right density and texture to stand up to all the stuff going on in the sandwich. It has just the right amount of that gooey, cheesy factor but with some balance from the bacon. The bacon gives it a firm base as well as some nice salt. I also like the Chipotle mayo. They do nice flavored mayos there, which is the thing that often makes a sandwich great for me. The only thing I took out was the tomato, because I am so picky about them. I appreciated the crunch of the greens as well. This is another very cravable sandwich for me and I can easily see it going into the rotation.

I also had one of their oatmeal chocolate chip peanut butter cookies ($1), which are clearly homemade, and so soft and just perfect. You get just a bit of the peanut butter flavor but with some extra texture from the oatmeal. It’s a great combination and something I should not have started getting because now I want one every time I go.

They are also offering many of their salads and to go type products in coolers near the front door. I am a fan of their dill chicken salad and you can get that there. They change out what they offer each day but I have seen various types of hummus, potato salad, and mac and cheese kicked up with beer from next door. I am happy to see this place expanding both their space and their business and wish them luck. I am also glad they’re still in my neighborhood.

Movable Feast
5143 East 65th Street
Indy 46220

Movable Feast on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 18, 2015

Perrotta's Kitchen Supper Club - Revisit

I had the opportunity to once again dine at Perrotta’s Supper Club recently. It’s a cool concept—Gustavo Perrotta is a talented chef, but does these dinner parties as more of a hobby and passion. He holds a couple of dinners a month, usually at Indy’s Kitchen and now also at a North side location. He does a set 4 course menu for 12 people ($50 a person)—you can either sign up to just go to one of his scheduled dinners and meet some new people, or you can organize your own dinner with your own schedule and invite friends. This is what we did this time.

The food at Perrotta’s is as lovely as it is tasty. Our first course--well, it was an amuse bouche, was a little tasting of salmon tartare with a spicy mayo and a garlic infused soy sauce on a crispy plantain chip. The other was salmon wrapped around a thin cucumber stick and topped with a bit of goat cheese, a teeny slice of tomato and salmon roe. Both were delicious. I could have easily eaten a plateful, but I guess that’s why its an amuse bouche, right? Both were seasoned just perfectly—enough to appreciate the seasonings, but not so much to lose the inherent flavor of the salmon.

The next course was an Argentinean style empanada filled with mushrooms, ricotta and gruyere cheese. There was a balsamic glaze underneath and some micro greens on top. Apparently Argentinean style is a slightly dryer style of pastry, not the flakier kind you see with other empanadas. The flavors went nicely together. I like that salty, slightly nutty kick of gruyere. I particularly liked it when you got a nice bite with everything including the greens and the balsamic. Several in our group picked this course as their favorite.

The main course was a squid ink risotto with various shellfish—there were rings of calamari and pieces of shrimp mixed into the risotto and there was a nice piece of lobster tail and a perfectly seared scallop on top. The plate was dotted with red pepper sauce and parsley puree. I was impressed by how well all the individual pieces of shellfish were cooked. They were all nice and tender. The squid ink gives a nice color contrast, although I have never felt like it adds a dramatic amount of flavor. The risotto was nicely cooked though—not too firm and not too squishy either.

The dessert course was really good, and one of the Chef’s grandmother’s recipe. It was a guava bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. This was baked in a bowl and I loved the way the edges that cooked against the dish got really crisp—you kind of had to dig it out with your spoon, but it was so good, even though I was getting really full. I appreciated that it wasn’t gigantic though.

Again, I am always impressed by just how lovely the food is at Perrotta’s and it also tastes really good. The format is really fun because you get to interact with the chef and watch the food prepared in front of you. It’s something different to do food-wise and is a fun way to interact with a group of your own friends or meet some new people.

Perrotta’s Kitchen
Supper Club
Indy’s Kitchen
2442 Central Ave
Indy 46205

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Long Thanh - Revisit

I have written about this place a couple of times before but I am kind of in the mood lately to re-post about some of my favorite places. This is another place that hubby and I eat regularly—probably half the time we grab a weekday lunch together, this is where we go.

Typically, our order consists of the Vietnamese pancake and the rare lemon salad (you can read about both in my last post). This time hubby was insistent that we mix it up a bit so we got one of our classics, the pancake ($7.25), and on the recommendation of our server (and pretty sure the “mom” of this mom and pop operation—he’s in the back cooking), we also tried #60 on the menu, the cubed beef rice dish ($8.25).

The pancake is delicious. It’s always good and just such a perfect dish. The pancake is made with rice flour and turmeric (giving it the color) and is very thin with nice crispy edges. The inside is stuffed with bean sprouts, onions, pork and shrimp. My favorite thing to do is to take some of the big lettuce leaves on the side, put some of the pancake into it, drizzle the seasoned fish sauce on top (which gives it a nice tangy flavor), add a little of the fresh cilantro, and roll it up and eat it. Seriously, it’s amazing. It’s big, and we always split it (the picture is just my half), but we always eat every bite.

The cubed beef dish was very good as well. It was described on the menu as “curried” beef with onions, lemongrass and crushed peanuts. I didn’t realize until after I ate it that the peanuts were missing. Regardless, the dish was very good. The beef was cut into slightly larger dices than what you see in a lot of Vietnamese dishes, and was sautéed very hot so that a caramelized edge formed on each piece. There were lots of super tender onions mixed in as well and when you added more of the seasoned fish sauce that came on the side here also, this dish was great. It needs the little extra tanginess from the sauce but once it has it, and you get the light flavor of the lemongrass and the fairly mild taste of the curry, it has a very good taste. The beef is certainly cooked through, but has a great taste due to the way it is prepared. The whole dish is served over nice, slightly sticky rice and again, isn’t bad wrapped up in the lettuce and with the fresh cilantro served with it. I’m not sure if I think it’s better than the rare lemon beef we normally order, but it’s definitely worth throwing into 
the rotation.

I have never had the Chinese side of their menu—I have been warned that it isn’t as good as the Vietnamese side—but I really like nearly everything I have had from there. If you like Vietnamese food, and don’t mind a bit of a dive, give this place a shot.

Long Thanh
5707 East 71st Street
Indy  46220

Monday, May 11, 2015

Yard House

Knowing that I like to try all the new places so that I can write about them, my friend @wibia suggested meeting for lunch at the newly opened billion beer option place, Yard House. This place is a chain that is all around the country. They’ve got 100 beers on tap (seriously, looks at the pictures of the beer menu) and they have close to that number of different menu items to eat as well. Honestly, while a lot of the things on the menu sounded good, it was a little overwhelming to know what to order.

We kind of went all over the place and got a couple different things to share. I started with a bowl of tortilla soup ($5.95)-it was pretty darn tasty actually. It was kind of a cheddar cheese soup base but had nice tender chunks of chicken in it and was topped with small dices of roasted peppers, pico de gallo, strips of crunchy tortillas and a slice of avocado. The peppers and the crisp bits of tortilla gave the soup the texture variation it needed as well as just a touch of heat. There was also a garnish of fresh cilantro for a nice touch of freshness. I enjoyed it.

They have a lot of versions of ahi on the menu, and you know how I feel about good rare (or raw) ahi tuna, so I was intrigued to try one of them. I ordered the appetizer “poke stack” ($12.65) which was marinated raw ahi tuna layered between crispy wontons, and drizzled with a wasabi soy sauce. There were nice ripple slices of avocado served alongside. Again, the dish was well done and presented. The ahi had nice flavors in the marinade (a little lemon would have been nice though) and I liked the bits of seaweed and what I think were very thin frizzled onions mixed in. There were some julienned carrots and daikon on the bottom of the plate that were also nice to mix in to give even more texture and crunch. The wontons stayed crisp throughout, which I appreciated and I liked adding a bit of avocado to each bite. It was a pretty generous portion and easily enough to share (we did). The only thing that would have made the dish perfect for me was, as I said, a touch more acid.

Wibia ordered the “truffle burger” ($12.25) with housemade truffle cheese and tomato bacon onion jam and served with fries. You can add flavor to your fries and he added garlic. Again, I was a touch surprised at how juicy this burger was—they cooked it to order (medium rare) and the meat was really tender and high quality. I didn’t get a ton of truffle flavor from the cheese, but there was some. I would happily eat a burger here again based off of this one, although I might try one of the other variations. The fries were thin (which I like) and were lightly battered. They were also pretty tasty and the hefty dose of crushed garlic gave them a nice bite. They were best right when served, as they sat, they lost some of their appeal.

The place, like the beer selection, and the menu, is huge. The service was good—clearly they are still training servers (we had two waiting on us together), but they did a good job. They were quick to refill our water and we were in and out in under an hour for a weekday lunch. Food-wise, I appreciate some of the little touches on the food, like the garnish on the soup, that make you feel like you are eating better food than what you might find at yet another giant beer place. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, we barely scratched the surface of the menu, but I would be happy to go back again and try some other things.

Yard House
15 West Maryland Street
Indy 46204

More beer
and even more beer

Yard House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mambo's Cheesesteak Grill (City Market)- Breakfast

The other day I met my book club at the City Market for brunch. It was Saturday and I was really hoping to partake in that really amazing sounding brunch menu I had seen from Circle City Soups. Sadly for me, they weren’t open this particular Saturday and apparently 3 days in Paris was very backlogged with a staffing problem. So as I stood next to Circle City Soups, thinking about that BLT on their most amazing croissant, I noticed the place next door (Mambo’s Cheese Steak Grill) was open and making breakfast, and they even had a croissant sandwich as well. So I went for it. Apparently this place is pretty brand new.

The people there were very nice and efficient and made my food just as I ordered it—I wanted my egg runny and they did it runny, it was topped with bacon and cheese and I got a side of the breakfast potatoes ($6.50). They were thinly sliced potatoes cooked on the flattop and seasoned with a seasoning salt. I asked them to cook them extra crisp—they did leave them on longer and they were crisper than one of my friend’s, but I wished for even more. But you know, overall it was a decent breakfast sandwich. The croissant was solid (no Circle City Sweets croissant, but really, how many are?), and the egg was perfect. The bacon was so so, but the overall sandwich hit the spot. I do wish they served their food in something other than styrofoam--I hate that stuff for so many reasons.

And as I waited for my food, I noticed some of their more interesting sounding takes on a cheese steak—they have several different Latin versions that I would like to try—for instance, one called the Chivito, which includes grilled steak, bacon, ham, fried egg, mozzarella cheese and is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and Aji (cilantro, jalapenos, garlic and olive oil sauce). And there’s a lomo sandwich with Peruvian flavors—grilled steak, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and fries and more of the Aji sauce. This is a take on a Peruvian dish that I have had several times at Peruvian places and really liked. I am really anxious to try it.

I know it’s new, but anyone else been and had one of their non-breakfast sandwiches?

Mambo’s Cheesesteak Grill
City Market
222 East Market
Indy 46204
Mambo's Cheesesteak Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mama Carolla's - Revisit

Being the eternal optimist, we returned to Mama Carolla’s after many years between visits. My in-laws were visiting and had fond memories of the place, so we thought it would be fun to take the kids again, since they were almost too young to remember the last time we were there. Everyone (well except me usually) is typically happy with an Italian menu, and I did remember some redeeming qualities in this place, even if I am still fairly jaded about Indy’s Italian food in general.

The place definitely isn’t lacking in charm—I love the setting of an old house in SoBro with all the small dining spaces made up of the various rooms in the house. This place just feels like an Italian restaurant and is fairly oozing with charm. Our server was also quite charming, and did a good job making sure we didn’t run out of anything we needed. The food was paced well and while you felt like you weren’t rushed through it, you didn’t feel impatient either.

My favorite thing at every visit has always been “Holly’s artichoke fritters,” ($7.99) and this time was no exception. They are little fried balls of artichoke and breadcrumbs and then they’re stuffed with goat cheese. When you bite into them, the inside is nice gooey, tangy goat cheese and you get even a little tangier flavor with the lemon aioli that is generously drizzled over the top. I don’t think I will ever go to Mama Carolla’s without getting these. If they took them off the menu, I would be very sad.

We also had an order of the cheesy garlic bread ($4.99). This is basically a big hunk of bread with a lot of cheese melted over it. I mean, you can’t really go wrong here, although once we got the regular loaf of bread that comes with every meal, I think I sort of preferred the simplicity of it with some seasoned olive oil even more. You could really taste the bread and enjoy the crusty edge.

Hubby and I split the rosemary chicken lasagna ($16.99) because it just sounded interesting and just different enough. It was a variation of classic lasagna that was made with chicken, rosemary, mushrooms, spinach, ricotta and mozzarella and then just on the plate underneath, there was a tomato butter sauce. It was good, I mean, it had a decent flavor and a lot of spinach and mushrooms, which I liked. I also liked that it wasn’t tomato sauce heavy, which I wasn’t in the mood for. It didn’t blow my mind, but I didn’t feel disappointed either. I was really glad we split it though, as it was the right amount of food for the two of us, especially considering it also comes with a salad. I had the garden salad with the creamy Italian dressing. The dressing was lightly sweet—so not my favorite, but it was an okay salad. My son’s Caesar was better.

My son had the chicken parmesan ($16.99). It was your classic parmesan with a breaded chicken cutlet covered in lots of cheese and topped with lots of marinara. There was also penne pasta underneath. I’m not sure what was up with this dish, but it was not good. There was something off about the chicken to me—it almost tasted freezer burned or something. Without discussing it at the time, he seemed to agree and while he happily ate the pasta, but the chicken went largely uneaten.

By far the best entrée on the table that night was my daughter’s dish. She had a special that consisted of homemade goat cheese-filled ravioli with spinach, tomatoes, large pieces of chicken and mushrooms on top of it. It was served in a vodka cream and tomato sauce. There was a lot going on here, but all the parts of the dish were prepared just right and they all went together well. The chicken was tender and fresh, and the goat cheese flavor cut through some of the richness of the dish. Having some freshness of the veg was good too. I think maybe going with specials is a good idea here, as there is more of a likelihood perhaps that they are fresher.

We had a good time, and a nice bottle of wine, and I really liked those fritters. The meal was fine, but again, nothing that made me change my mind about Italian food in Indy.

Mama Carolla’s
1031 East 54th Street
Indy 46220