Monday, December 28, 2015


I told you hubby and I are trying to catch up on the new places in town—so the other night before heading to a concert downtown, we decided to try Pioneer. This is the newest spot in Fountain Square located in the old Deano’s Vino. It’s right across from The End of the Line.

spiced walnuts
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the place on a chilly December night was it was warm in there! Hallelujah! A restaurant that is at a proper temperature that you don’t need a parka. Seriously, I always dress in layers in restaurants in this town. Seems like summer or winter, they’re always freezing. But this place was perfectly comfortable. Cozy even. The main dining room is actually pretty large though—and with a stage on one side is maybe less so—we were seated in the bar space, which I thought was done well. It feels more like the size of your average Fountain Square restaurant—it had nice tables and comfortable chairs and a rustic vibe with the bare brick walls. I liked it.

The menu is a little bit different—it has a lot more sharable small plates then it does regular-sized menu items. This is totally fine with me, because I like getting lots of things, but some people might feel differently. My only gripe about the set up was that it seemed like many of the small plates were cold items, which might be a bit strange if you’re making a full meal out of them, particularly in the winter.

We started with the spiced walnuts ($6), the chicken liver mousse ($12) and the butter lettuce salad ($12).  We really enjoyed the chicken liver mouse and the salad—the salad was particularly good and different from most. I honestly rarely order salads out because they kind of bore me a lot of times, but this one sounded good on the menu and it was good. It was large leaves of butter lettuce properly tossed and fully dressed (but not too much) in blood orange and basil citronette. It was topped with fresh ricotta, shallots and fried crispy chicken skin. Why are more people not topping salads with crispy chicken skin? It was very well done—just exactly the right mix of stuff on the salad to give you an interesting flavor profile, but not just piling so much stuff on top that you can’t tell it’s even a salad any more. 

The chicken liver mouse with schmaltz, pickled veggies and Amelia’s bread was also very tasty. I use that word tasty because it really did taste good—the look of the dish was not overly appetizing though. The mousse was kind of smeared on the plate in a heap. The bread was amazing –split and buttered and toasted and just exactly right. The mousse was rich a creamy without being gamey the way chicken liver things can sometimes be. It was very good, even if it wasn’t the prettiest thing.

The walnuts? Well, they were fine, but I wouldn’t be itching to get them again unless you have a really large group to share them with—they are extremely strongly seasoned with rosemary, salt, and pepper, and while I enjoyed a couple of them, I didn’t want to eat much more. Actually, all of these “small plates” would be better with at least four people sharing I think—they are pretty good-sized portions, and I would like to try a few more things than we were able to.
steak pretty

For the next course, we ordered the steak tartare ($15) and the cavatelli pasta dish ($13). You know it’s easy to lure me in with a tartare, even though I am particular about it. This one though? It was one of the better ones I have had in recent memory, and it was truly beautifully presented. I was suspicious that they are using ribeye in their version, but was pleasantly surprised by the luxuriousness that the extra fat gave to the beef. It was plated so well too—in a line with perfectly bite-sized house made croutons placed throughout. And the whole plate was then artfully dotted with aioli and mustard and topped with fried capers and chives. It was done in such a way, that it was so easy to get a perfect bite each time (ok, I secretly wanted like one more crouton, but that’s just me). I was truly impressed with this dish. I felt like it had so much finesse—and more so than say the chicken liver, even though it tasted good as well. I would highly recommend this dish.

The pasta was good, although not as good as the other things in my mind. Hubby really enjoyed it though. It was cavatelli pasta (kind of looks like little shells that are tightly wound) with rapini, leeks, chili flakes and a white wine and butter sauce. It had a little kick from the chili flakes—not too much though. I do like the way much of the food had a little heat in it somewhere—even in the salad—I think it was the way the chicken skin was seasoned. The pasta dish was a nice dish to have with other things, but I just don’t think I would want a whole plate of it as my main dish—it is definitely a better dish served to share. Hubby managed to finish it all up though. 

We were totally not going to get dessert, but I was lured in by the apple strudel—it was wrapped in phyllo after all. This makes something almost a guarantee I will get it. And I was very glad I did—it was really tasty. I liked it because it wasn’t overstuffed with apples, leaving the phyllo nice and crispy. It was topped with a caramel sauce and some cinnamon sugar topping and a buttermilk Chantilly cream. Really nicely done—not over the top on anything and cooked just right.

Overall we really enjoyed our experience at Pioneer. It was comfortable and our server was friendly. On the whole, the food was very good, even if some things were just okay. But I would be happy to go back and try some other things. And get that tartare again for sure. Let me know if you have been and if so, what you thought.

1110 Shelby Street
Indy 46203

Monday, December 21, 2015

Brugge Brasserie- Revisit (the crepe edition)

One of our good family friends recently moved away—one of those families you meet (we got to know them because our sons were friends starting in kindergarten) and the stars align because everyone likes everyone. Husbands, wives, kids etc. Plus they were neighbors. Anyway, we’ve all been a little sad because they recently moved to Texas—but before they did, I took my friend out for lunch—actually she took me out to lunch. But I asked her to choose a place she’ll miss when she leaves and she wanted Brugge. Naturally, I had no problem with that.

The thing she likes there and always orders (we have gone many times as families together) is one of the crepes. I almost always split mussels, but since I didn’t have anyone to split them with, I decided to go with a crepe as well. I don’t think I have ever had one that I can remember except for a dessert crepe (I LOVE the sugar and butter crepe). I ordered the scrambled egg crepe ($11). It is a large crepe folded over and stuffed with scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, beer-braised caramelized onions and Swiss cheese.

I really enjoyed it a lot. I love their scrambled eggs—I always steal bites from my son’s steak and eggs when we go there with the kids (he gets his eggs scrambled), They’re seasoned really well—and the tomatoes were just the right kick of acid, but were also soft and melty along with the cheese and onions. The crepe itself is very very thin and light and not totally overstuffed, which is how I like it. I thought it was interesting that my friend’s crepe came open in a bowl with all the stuff inside. Makes me wonder if every crepe is served differently. Mine came with a little bit of dressed greens on the side. If we didn’t get this next part, it would be a pretty healthy lunch I think.

But naturally we had to get some fries too, because well, it’s Brugge. And they have the best fries in Indy. For real. (Seriously, you need to tell me if you think there are better fries out there, because I need to know about them). The fries are just so damn good. A medium thick cut and fried til they’re just starting to get a teeny bit dark. And so many sauces (we had aioli and blue cheese).

Honestly, as much as I love the mussels at Brugge (and have you ever tried the fish and chips or the chicken fingers from the kids menu? Delish also), I think I might start craving this crepe as well (and maybe others on the menu, although I really liked this combo of flavors). It made for a very tasty lunch for sure. Even under the sad circumstances.

Brugge Brasserie
1011 A East Westfield Blvd.
Indy 46220

Monday, December 14, 2015

Big Lug Canteen

The other day my twitter lit up with people telling me about how much they were liking Big Lug Canteen, so I quickly added it to my list of places to try. I was having a subcommittee meeting with some other moms from school regarding a school fundraising night, so I made the suggestion that we try it. They were game.

This is the newest creation from Ed Sahm and Scott Ellis.  It’s a 21 and over place and they are making beer in there. I like the way the menu is set up, and you have to appreciate their humor about it—“We Make Some Decent Food For You.”
And they’re right. It’s not totally different from what you might get at Sahm’s, but everything is elevated just a bit. I had a “slider” under the “knots” section of the menu. I chose the chicken B.L.A.T. The knots refer to the buns which have a knot shape swirled into them. The buns are really good. A little bit denser than a typical burger bun, but still soft. The chicken breast was seasoned and grilled. It was topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, herb mayo and avocado. The chicken was good—not too tough. The name “slider” is a bit of a misnomer though—these are sandwiches and one is enough for a meal (especially since they come with a side), at least for me. I was kinda sad because I wanted to try more things, but I enjoyed my slider. For my side I had a salad with blue cheese dressing—the dressing was very good, I liked dipping my sandwich in it as well as my salad. On the salad itself, there were some big hunks of cucumber, which I would skip next time (I am not a fan of cucumber) and the greens were maybe a little heavy on the iceberg, but the dressing and the sandwich were very good.

I was intrigued to try the Nashville fried chicken (they have mild and hot) but after reading the warnings on the menu and hearing it again from the server, I was worried they would be too hot—I don’t like it when you can’t even taste food because it’s too spicy. One of my friends said she loved spicy things though and went for it. She got the  “Willie’s Special” salad with the Nashville fried chicken—she even went with the hot version. It also came with mixed greens, black bean corn salsa, mozzarella, avocado and Fritos salt ($10 for a full, $6 for a half). She was kind enough to let me try a bit of the chicken and it was really tasty—it was spicy, but honestly even I could handle it—it feels like most of the heat is coming from cayenne. I would totally order it (I would get the mild though). The chicken was nice and tender. I would really like to try the Nashville chicken slider—it comes with the same bun as my sandwich and also pickles, chopped romaine and green goddess dressing. It sounds like it would be excellent and based on my little bite, I think it would be. That is on my list for next time.

I didn’t try the beer, because you know me, I’m a wine girl (they do have a few wine selections). Remember this place is 21 and over though, which is sort of too bad, it would be a good place to take the kids and it is pretty darn close to my house. I look forward to going back though, and it’s a nice addition to Nora.

Big Lug Canteen
1435 East 86th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, December 7, 2015


Hubby and I are way behind on getting to all the new places—but we had a date night the other night and are trying to make some progress. We’ve been looking forward to Marrow—we’ve always been a fan of Chef John Adams’ food—at H20, Bluebeard and Plow and Anchor.

Marrow is quite different from Adams’ past places though—they bill it as “global soul food”—there is a lot of Asian fusion influence on the menu, but without any pretension—these are comfort food dishes redefined with various Asian twists.

We started with a cocktail (him) and a glass of wine (me). The drinks were both good although it took awhile to get them—we got seated right before a large party which was sharing the same server, which turned out a bit unfortunate for us service-wise. The drink was very good, and the wine list, while small, had some nice choices to pair with spicier foods. The service issue plagued us much of the night.

Food-wise though, we liked every single thing we had. We started with some deviled eggs ($2.50 each)—Marrow’s take on this comfort classic involves pimento cheese, crab and tobiko. They were creamy and fresh and I loved the salty kick of the fish roe. Having one of these as our first bite was a great way to start. I like that you can order them individually and I would be hard-pressed not to get one again next time.

At just about the same time, we were also served the pork neck and eel shumai ($11) with scallion-ssam butter and eel sauce. There were four nice-sized dumplings and they had great flavor—I loved the slightly spicy, and extremely rich butter on top of the dumplings and the soy/vinegar/oil sauce on the bottom of the bowl. The dumplings were stuffed with the porky meatballs—this was the only part of the dish that surprised me—the meat inside was pretty firm—it tasted yummy but I was expecting more of a minced-type filling.

Next they brought out the mac and paneer dish ($10). This was Marrow’s take on a mac and cheese—Indian style. The noodles were your classic elbow macaroni, but with a sauce that was infused with curry—there was also a bunch of veggies mixed in there--spinach, peas and carrots. And of course several big hunks of paneer. Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese—it’s different from your typical cheese in a mac and cheese because it’s not a melting cheese—it stays in little cubes (we actually cut them even smaller to make them go further). The cheese stays fairly firm and had a nice slightly crisp (sautéed) edge. A bite with the paneer and all the other bits was great. The more we ate this dish, the more the flavors melded together and it became increasingly addicting. I really enjoyed the unique, but comforting, flavors.

But, man oh man; the best for last for sure. The fried tandoori chicken ($17 for half—this is what we had-- and $33 for a full order) was just fabulous. I will cry a little tear if I don’t get this on the next visit. We have already decided we need to go with other people so we can try new things but still eat this again too. The chicken had classic tandoori seasoning—cumin, paprika, coriander, garlic, cardamom and all those nice things but fried up in a crispy fried chicken crust. They also served it with a few thinly sliced veggies and three wonderful sauces. I kept trying to decide which one I liked better—they were all variations of the classic sauces that sit on the table at an Indian restaurant—there was a tamarind-based chutney which was slightly sweet and sour, a yogurt sauce that tasted of cumin and then a mint-based green sauce. I think I settled on the yogurt sauce as my favorite but that tamarind was great too. 

I really appreciated the fact that many of the dishes came in half and full sizes—it allowed hubby and I to try more things than we otherwise might have. Honestly, there was nothing that I ate that I didn’t like. The dishes are little flavor bursts—nothing bland going on here—and exactly the kind of thing that Indy needs. It’s a nice (not fancy, but nice) restaurant where you feel like you can sit and have a nice meal but eat something different from the other restaurants in this general price point. I like it, and I’m going back for sure. I need to try it all. (Wondering how often they change menu….)

1106 Prospect Street
Indy 46203