Thursday, March 31, 2016

Milktooth - Quickie Revisit

Hubby and I have had a couple of visits back to Milktooth over the last few weeks when appointments brought us downtown together. We got to try several different items and enjoy one of Indy’s most inventive and consistently good places to eat. I love that they’re a breakfast and brunch only place because as hubby said, “You know they’re bringing their A game.” This is their thing and they’re rocking it.

Both trips we had the Korean BBQ wings ($12) and these things are just spectacular. Extra crispy even though they are coated in that slightly sweet, just barely spicy sticky sauce. Add a squeeze of the lime that comes with and you’re in heaven (even if you’ll need the wet napkin they brought afterwards to wipe up).

Another amazing dish that I could happily eat any day was the rye bialy with big eye tuna salad ($12). It was served on the delicious and soft bialy (smallish bagel type bread without a hole) and under the tuna salad was whipped cream cheese and red onions. On top were little shoots and lots of capers. This dish had so much good acid, and so much good fresh crunch, it just made me so happy.

We also shared the milktooth double burger ($12) with two lamb and beef patties, American cheese, steamed onions, “fancy sauce,” and shredded romaine. Kind of Milktooth’s version of a Big Mac I guess, but so much better. A nice solid burger.

On each trip we ordered a side and while I enjoyed the celeriac and potato latke ($5), hubby was not as big a fan—I think because of the onion marmalade, which had a bit of sweetness. I agree I prefer the more savory latkes I have had at Milktooth, but I scraped off the onions and enjoyed it. They get their latkes so, so crispy. The twice-fried tostones with chili ketchup ($6) didn’t really wow either of us though. They were just kind of soft and just fell a little flat. We only ate a couple of them.

Overall though, this place continues to be one of Indy’s stars. I don’t care if it’s hipsterish, they can do whatever they want as long as they keep putting out this level of creativity and deliciousness.

540 Virginia Ave
Indy  46203

Monday, March 28, 2016

Road Trip-Louisville, KY: Rye

The family headed down to Louisville recently for my friend and hairdresser’s grand opening of her new space there. My daughter really wanted to go to this all ages party and I of course, jumped at the opportunity to eat somewhere new. We needed somewhere the kids would be welcome and ideally close to the party. We settled on Rye.

It was a great choice that everyone ended up being very pleased with. Hubby had a killer Old Fashioned to start and I had a glass of wine. The kids loved their blood orange agua frescas (they were seriously delicious).

To start, we had a cheese board ($15) because if my kids see a fancy cheese board, they are going to be ordering it. It was a very good one. There was a nice variety on it, including some hard cheeses, a soft cheese, a blue, and a nice array of accompaniments as well. Olive tapenade, honey, pickled veggies and jam. Also, perfectly toasted slices of Blue Dog Bakery baguette, which is awesome. 

They also bring you a basket of their own housemade rolls with your meal—they’re called “Sally Lunn” rolls and after eating the soft warm roll with salted butter, my daughter promptly ordered another (they’re $1 each after the free basket). Quite delicious.

We also shared the arancini (or risotto balls) ($14) to go along with the cheese. These were a second choice after they told us they were out of the shrimp dumplings, but I’m glad we ended up with them because they were so good. The fried rice balls were sitting on top of a pesto made from mustard greens and were topped with Parmesan, fresno chilies and pepitas. That pesto was delicious and I can’t say that I have ever had mustard green pesto, but it is something I am interested in making now. Sometimes these types of dishes tend to be one dimensional, but this one was not at all.

We all shared several entrees as well, and the star of the night was probably the whole-wheat mezzaluna pasta that my daughter chose. It was handmade pasta filled with ricotta and Gruyere and topped with toasted farro. It had a hint of nutmeg as well. It was just such a simple dish in a way, but with such depth from the nuttiness of the cheese and farro. It had a light butter sauce and was just delicious. We probably should have gotten two of these.

The duck confit ($30) was also really tasty, although a little on the smaller side then we expected. It was just one smallish leg/thigh piece but the flavor was great, even if it wasn’t super meaty. Loved the sunny egg on top as well as the cherry gastrique giving it a touch of sweetness as well as acid. Duck pairs so nicely with a bit of fruit.

The last thing (and ok, I am the one who chose it) was the mushroom toast ($14) and it was my least favorite dish. It was a hearty piece of bread topped with ricotta, thyme, mushrooms, and shaved lardo (which is just thin pork fat). I don’t know, but while I like all these things, it just didn’t come together for me, the mushrooms were almost too big and hard to eat and the lardo was a little overwhelming.

We also had a side of triple cooked fries ($6). They were served with a a chili-lime aioli. This stuff had some kick for sure. The fries were nice and crisp, but I tend to like mine a little thinner.

All in all a great little place with a hip attitude to enjoy an easy dinner in Louisville. I would happily go again and try the seasonally changing menu. I would love to see the offerings for spring and summer. And I appreciate that they treated my kids with respect and made them fancy drinks.

900 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Napolese- Quick Revisit

Hubby and I had a quick dinner at Napolese with friends over Valentine’s weekend. We hadn’t made plans and since it was Saturday and it was nearly Valentine’s Day, we needed a place that didn’t take reservations. As far as having to wait (we did for about 45 minutes), the location at the Fashion Mall is good because you can wander around and shop while you wait for them to call you and let you know your table is ready.

Anyhow, we planned accordingly and sat down right about when our friends arrived. I love the olives they give out at Napolese, even though I had to ask for them this time (maybe they were wasting too many on people who don’t like them?). We also shared the Brussels sprouts salad ($12) and the crostini with apple bacon jam, spinach and gorgonzola ($9). That crostini dish was delicious. The sweetness of the apple bacon jam with the freshness from the just wilted spinach and the salty ripeness of the gorgonzola were great. And it was unique—it wasn’t just a creamy spinach dip or a creamy blue cheese dip. I would happily eat this again. The Brussels Sprouts salad left me a little underwhelmed though. They sprouts were roasted, but still a bit too firm for me and the whole thing came across a bit too sweet with pieces of sweet potato and bourbon gastique. There was also kale, radish, and pancetta.

We went with one of our classic choices for pizza—the Napolese broken yolk ($15). This is a margherita pizza (sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil) with three quail eggs on top—they are meant to be nice and runny (you know that’s how I like them), but sadly, these were not quite as runny as they usually are. I think it must have been because they were so busy, but just a plain fried egg on a  cheese pizza isn’t quite as exciting. The crust was still very good—it has that nice chewiness to it. Our friends’ BLT, which is another common order for me and hubby, looked spot on though.

All in all, it’s great to have some independent places right in the mall—that seems so uncommon and overall,  while this wasn’t my best meal there, I enjoy Napolese. They have a decent Italian wine list and friendly staff. It’s a good local option to have nearby.

8702  Keystone Crossing
Indy  46240

Monday, March 21, 2016

Kona Jack's -- Revisit

The family and I decided to hit Kona Jack’s for dinner the other night. We were squabbling about what we wanted and my son wanted a steak, while the rest of us wanted (fresh) seafood. Perfect solution.

It obviously has a loyal following because even after all these years, it was hopping for dinner on a Friday. We ended up in the sushi bar area (they mumbled something about kids, so I wonder if they don’t seat kids in the main dining room), which was fine except the tables in there are pretty darn small if you’re putting four people at them.

My son got his steak dinner ($32), complete with baked potato and was happy. The quality of the beef was good, and it was cooked properly medium rare. His meal came with soup or salad and he chose a Caesar salad. I didn’t try it—he said it was fine, but slightly underdressed. Oh yeah, and they bring you this tasty loaf of warm herby bread with seasoned soft butter. That bread is delicious. My daughter wanted me to ask if we could get some extra to take home. She loved it.

My daughter got the special, which was fish and chips made with fresh lake perch. It also came with soup or salad and she got the clam chowder and gave it to hubby and me. I always forget that the clam chowder at Kona Jack’s is one of the better ones in town. Next to Barking Dog, which is now closed sadly, it’s my favorite. It is seasoned slightly differently and is a bit chunkier, but is very good. Her fish and chips were also good—perch is quite thin, so it’s not super tender, but it was fried well and tasted very fresh. I can’t stand those big steak fries they serve here, and am never tempted to eat even one. Those are straight up boring foodservice if you ask me.

Hubby had the blackened grouper sandwich ($15.50). The quality of the grouper was very good—Kona’s does a great job of having impeccably fresh fish, which is one of the reasons it is one of my favorite places to buy fish to cook at home as well. They also gave it a heavy-handed dose of blackening seasoning, which gave it a nice kick. Honestly though, there was a lot of bread to fish ratio and nothing particularly special about the bun, so hubby just ate the fish. Next time he says he’ll order it without a bun and see if they give him a little extra fish.

For me, I had the tuna tartar ($15) and the tempura fried veggies ($10). Well really, hubby and I shared them since his meal was a little light without the bread. Mine certainly was not. They give you a nice portion of tuna here for $15. It’s cubed and seasoned well with garlic, ginger, cilantro and a sesame dressing. It comes with crispy fried wonton chips and a little seaweed salad. It’s my go to place for tuna tartar now that H2O has closed unless I make it myself. It’s a little larger dice—almost like a poke, but very good.

The tempura fried veggies were also tasty—and a very generous portion. Also, it almost seemed perfectly tailored to me. The veggies on the plate were broccoli, asparagus, zucchini and avocado (ok, fruit). Pretty much my favorite things to tempura are these exact things. Actually, I think this was the first time I had fried avocado and I was wondering how it would hold up. It was delicious. I pretty much can’t think of a way I don’t like avocado unless it’s not ripe.

All in all, we all agreed that we need to remember Kona Jack’s more often when we’re all undecided about where to go. It’s a pretty wide menu and great quality seafood. Love the bread and clam chowder too.

Kona Jack’s
9419 North Meridian Street
Indy   46260

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Black Market - Revisit--Lunch

Hubby and I had a rough day the other week and decided we needed a good lunch. With wine. So we decided to go to Black Market because we hadn’t been there in awhile and the last meal we had there was pretty tasty.

Even at the fairly late hour, there were some other late lunchers like us. Our server was really friendly and helpful even though she was running the front of the house by herself I think (probably not expecting so many people there that late). Right away we ordered our wine and some French fries. The French fries at Black Market are delicious and they serve them with some sort of flavored mayo each time. I love flavored mayo with my fries, especially with fries as yummy as these. They definitely hit the spot.

I was intrigued by one of the specials on the board—the Miller Farm chicken and mushroom etouffee with baby kale, a fried egg, and toast ($10). And I was right to be intrigued. It was delicious. It had a definite rich decadence to it, even though because it was mushroom based, it had a unique, slightly lighter taste to it. I loved the really tender pieces of chicken and the nice and runny eggs. Put a bit of that with some of that gravy on toast, and you’re all set. It was pretty big though luckily because we ended up fighting over it because we both liked it so much. I would have killed for one more piece of toast though.

Hubby ordered the other special and it just wasn’t our cup of tea. They were the Ale steamed mussels with Smoking Goose bacon, roasted tomato and a mozzarella stick ($10). Let’s be totally honest, hubby really wanted the mozzarella stick that came with it (he had toyed with getting them as an app) and this sold him. He did love the mozzarella stick—they are larger than your average fried cheese stick and hand breaded. Neither of us really cared for the flavor of the mussels though. That hunk of bacon was tasty though.

We thought we were done, but then we heard someone else order the brickle and we knew that we deserved one too. We both love this dish of caramelized saltines with caramel and chocolate sauce and a dollop of cream cheese ice cream ($7). This might be one of the most perfect desserts ever because of the saltiness of the saltines. And after a stressful day, it helped! 

Black Market is a solid place. I don’t usually like everything I have on any given meal, but I usually like most of it, and I appreciate that they change up the menu a fair amount. It also just has an calm, adult feel to it. Perfect for that particular day.

Black Market
922 Massachusetts Avenue
Indy 46202

Monday, March 14, 2016


Hubby and I have been excited about all the new places opening right now—seems like these things happen in waves. A friend of mine was posting pictures and comments about his meal at Vida on Facebook and instagram and after seeing them, I booked a reservation for us.

The first thing you notice about this new Cunningham Group restaurant is how nice it is. It feels like you could be walking into a nice restaurant anywhere in the country—from San Francisco to New York. Love the open kitchen and the lovely wall of herbs and greens. I hope they are better at keeping that up than I am at my house because that adds an incredible touch. I was also impressed with the staff—they  had clearly been trained properly and it showed. They even had a sommelier who came around to help with wine choices if desired (and a decent wine list to boot). 

The restaurant is broken down into a slightly more casual (and more lively) bar side and a more formal (but still very warm feeling) dining room. We were seated on the dining room side. I loved the enthusiasm of our server as he explained the menu and some of his favorite items. We started with a drink and shortly after were brought a bread basket. This was one of the best bread baskets I have had in Indy in ages. There was a tiny loaf of brioche, a nice piece of focaccia and then a pumpernickel biscuit. That brioche and focaccia were simply fantastic. And a nice crock of whipped and softened butter. Makes all the difference. They also brought a little amuse of a sweet potato puree that was made nicely savory with some flakes of salt.

For our first course we had the tuna crudo ($16), which was very good. Our server explained that they have a way of slightly aging the tuna, which gave it a deeper flavor. There was a lot of creativity in the things alongside (and underneath) it as well. There were slightly chewy, slightly crunch little rice cakes, Tandoori flavored ‘nduja, pieces of shrimp that had a slightly curried flavor and a couple of pieces of blood orange that added a wonderful hit of acid. I wished for a couple more slivers of this though, just to have a piece with each piece of the tuna. It was all lightly dressed with soy. A wonderful combination of flavors as well as textures.

For our salad, we split the “winter density” lettuce salad ($12). Our server explained it as a kind of deconstructed Caesar, but I would just describe it as delicious. There was some slightly dense lettuce leaves next to a piece of toasted Brioche bread that had a perfectly runny egg cooked into it. There were large, super thin slices of cheese underneath it adding a great saltiness, and the dressing, called “bolzanese,” was creamy and rich with a nice flavor from the chives. It had enough acid in it as well to not fall flat. I loved this salad. We ate every little crumb.

We shared two main dishes, the shrimp dumplings ($26) and the roasted mushroom pappardelle ($24). This was the only course with a letdown. We were both excited that they were making their pasta in house, and we both love all the things that come along with the pasta—mushrooms, truffle, a little egg omelet and garlic. How could you go wrong? Well, the pasta was fresh, but tasted quite overcooked and therefore turned into a bit of a doughy mess. Loved the light tender omelet alongside, but the pasta and the heavy purely rich sauce just didn’t do it for us. Luckily the shrimp dumplings were stars and had a great sour pork broth-type sauce that was not only really tasty, but was a nice counterbalance after a couple of bites of the heavy pasta. The dumplings themselves were plentiful and slightly pan-fried, lending a nice sense of texture to this dish as well. The crispy fried onion straws were great in this regard as well. The dumplings were served atop slices of smoked scallops, which were silky smooth and added an even further texture element. The flavors of the smokiness and the slight sour flavor from the sauce with the seafood were perfect. We both really loved this one as well.

Overall, we both thought this was one of the standout openings of restaurants in Indy in a long, long time. They have worked hard to not only put out creative and for the most part, delicious food, but they have clearly worked hard to make the service and atmosphere stand out as well. Chef Layton Roberts is at the helm, and is a gifted chef. My only concern is that when Cunningham moves him on to their next thing (they move him around to open whatever the newest place is), food quality might suffer a bit. I have seen this happen with some of their other ventures in the past. So my advice is get in there soon! I can’t wait to return and try many other things.

601 East New York Street
Indy 46202

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sangrita - Quick revisit

A girlfriend and I were taking our tequila-loving trainer out as a Christmas gift, so we decided to go to Sangrita. I knew they had an extensive tequila menu and I liked their food on my first couple of visits.

They have expanded their menu to include more than it used to, which was just tacos and sides, but it was Taco Tuesday ($2.50 tacos and $5 house margaritas) so we went mainly with tacos.

Actually, we started with the salsa tasting, which came with three salsas, including a tomatillo based one and a habanero salsa, as well as some cowboy caviar. To be completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed with the platter. The salsas were a bit lackluster and I wished for more acid with the cowboy caviar (which is a dip made with beans, avocado, corn and red pepper) and the chips themselves are pretty standard. I wished we had ordered the queso that hubby and I had the first time because it is much more interesting.

The tacos though were just as good as I remember and I thoroughly enjoyed mine. I had two of the chicken ones—which are made with chicken thighs marinated in tequila and topped with house crema, onion and cilantro. They are fairly simple, but mighty delicious. They have just the right amount of crema to give you a tender taco. And I was glad to learn about taco Tuesday, when the tacos are $2.50 rather than $4. And the house margaritas, which are quite tasty as well, are reduced from $7 to $5.

I would certainly return for drinks and tacos and I would like to try some of the other appetizers and possibly some of the newer main dishes as well, even though I really enjoy the tacos.

Sangrita Saloon
834 East 64th Street
Indy 46220

Monday, March 7, 2016

Taste of Havana

I mentioned in a recent post that hubby and I wanted to try Taste of Havana recently and couldn’t get in the door because it was so busy. So the other day when we needed to have an early lunch, we decided it was the perfect opportunity and yes! we walked right in and got a table too (there’s a limited amount of seating in there).

Knowing we would of course need to try the Cuban sandwich, we chatted with the owner about what our second choice should be. He said he loves everything, but his personal favorite is the pan con lechon sandwich ($9.50). We ordered the “mini” sized Cuban ($7.50) and then also decided last minute to throw in a Picadillo pastelito ($2.99).
They brought the pastelito first—they are premade and just sitting in a case next to the register waiting to tempt you. It’s basically a little flaky pastry dough filled with, in this case, ground beef and pork simmered in a sofrito sauce. The sauce is a seasoned sauce with garlic and various spices. There were some raisins in there too. It was nice and hot and it tasted delicious. They offer a special on certain days of this meat over rice and I bet it’s a tasty option. There is also a chicken pastelito (I want to try for sure) and several sweet options as well. Who has tried these?

The Cuban sandwich was solid—and according to the owner, the most popular item on the menu. It’s the classic thin bread (crisp on the outside, but not thick) sandwiching ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. I love the pickles and mustard part of a Cuban—because it gives it that zip and vinegary acid that I love on a sandwich. The meat was fine, but I wished for a few more pickles to balance it out. But I love pickles. The mini is more than big enough and I even saw construction workers order it and not finish it. 

The pan con lechon though? The owner is right, that sandwich is just plain great. It’s the same bread (this one only comes in one size though and it’s bigger than the mini) topped with chunks of marinated and roasted pork, caramelized onions and some mayo. And the best thing ever--a little container of the pan drippings to dip your sandwich in. It tastes of the marinade and the pork and is just wonderful. I recommend asking for another one and dipping whatever you get into it. The Cuban was also good dipped in there. Anything would be good dipped in there. If I could make a hybrid and add the pickles and mustard on this sandwich, it would be crazy, but so delicious. Anyhow, if I were going to pick just one sandwich to recommend, it would be this one. The Cuban is good too though.

There are actually a lot of different kinds of sandwiches on the menu—which ones have you tried? Oh, and if you are a coffee drinker, the Cuban coffee is delicious. The owner explained, it’s the way they roast it that makes it a super mellow and smooth easy drinking coffee. He gave us a little shot of it to try. I am not often a coffee drinker, but this was tasty.

Taste of Havana
815 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Love Handle - Quick Revisit

Quick trip back to Love Handle. Met my friend Suzanne and had a little smorgasbord of treats.

We got two of the pork belly sliders ($3 each), which were the housemade biscuits with smoked pork belly, American cheese and pickled fresno chiles. This was a nice little snack and a nice combo of flavors. Parts of the pork belly were a touch fatty for me, but I am finding that is kind of a universal problem with pork belly these days. Maybe it’s just me. Loved the bit of cheese melted on top as well as the pickled chiles, lending heat and acid.

My favorite thing was the straight up (vegetarian) biscuits and gravy. Last time I had this with meat and an egg added, and I have to say, I loved the pure flavor of the mushroom-based gravy on its own. It was delicious. And pickled onions on top. Very nice. I would eat this again and again.

The last thing we had was by far the prettiest, and the most unusual—it was “buck rarebit” ($6) which was a nice piece of bread topped with melted fontina cheese, shiitake pate, raspberry preserves, and a pickled egg yolk. Look how pretty. We were more split on this one….while I loved the runny yolk, I thought the sweetness of the preserves dominated the dish. Suzanne loved the sweetness with the cheese and egg. I guess it just depends on how much you go in for jam.
A very cool place (and I mean that figuratively and literally—the place is darn cold on a cold day) with super nice people doing super interesting dishes. The prices are very reasonable as well. I love that there are eggs all over the menu too. Check it out.

Love Handle
2829 East 10th Street
Indy 46201