Monday, September 26, 2016

Bent Rail Brewery- Revisit: Brunch

I had heard some people talk about brunch at Bent Rail—and I am always on a quest to find a good brunch place. We also enjoyed a lot of what we had the first time we went, so I rounded up my family, including my parents and my sister and her husband, and we met over there one Saturday.

Ok, first a little complaint right out of the gate. I had checked their brunch menu out online, which was quite extensive and listed its availability as Saturday and Sunday. When we got to the restaurant, there were much fewer options for brunch (probably less than ½ what’s shown online) and it says it’s only available on Sundays. They did tell us we could feel free to order from it though (and it was Saturday). I was a little disappointed—I think maybe they should update the website—it’s a bit misleading.

The kids were insisting on pretzels to start, because that was their favorite thing last time we came. They have changed them from the first time to pretzel bites, but I have absolutely no problem with that as it makes them easier to share. We had two orders and they disappeared quickly between the eight of us. I like the beer cheese and grainy mustard they serve with them—I’ll admit, I’m eating a lot more of the beer cheese than I am the mustard, but a little of both is kind of nice. The pretzel bites are good. Soft and salty. The kids were happy.

Anyway, I did order from the brunch menu. I had “Andy’s breakfast sandwich” ($10.50)(and somehow I managed to take a picture of everything but my own sandwich). It sounded like an interesting combination. It was an English muffin topped with a patty of duck sausage, pimento cheese, a fried egg and buffalo sauce. Sounds kind of unique yes? And it was, but there were some big flaws for me. First of all the egg wasn’t really runny. Now, maybe I should have specifically asked, because in my mind the only way to eat an egg is runny, but maybe not everyone agrees. Next, while the sausage had a nice flavor and went well in that way with the egg and pimento cheese, the patty was at most, a third of the size of the muffin. It was almost more like a meatball. I ended up taking it off and chopping it into little bits to scatter across the sandwich so I could get some with each bite (what? I have a proportion problem). I liked the pimento cheese and the buffalo sauce though, it made for a little of a spicy kick, which is a nice change of pace. Not sure I would order this one again though.

Probably my favorite of the brunch dishes was my son’s biscuits and gravy ($8). You get biscuits, you get gravy with Eli Creek pork breakfast sausage mixed into it, and you get two scrambled eggs (they came about 5 minutes after the biscuits and gravy came for some reason). The biscuits were very different from most, cut into squares and very dense, but they had a great flavor—really flaky too. The eggs were also scrambled really well—not overdone or anything. A bite of everything together was great.

Hubby refused to venture out of the thing he liked the first time he went, so he got the Cuban again ($10). This is a pretty classic Cuban—roasted pork, ham, garlic dill pickles, yellow mustard and Swiss cheese. It’s all pressed flat on a torta style bun. It’s got just the right amount of everything, including the mustard and pickles, which are key in a Cuban. A very good sandwich.

Korean BBQ
My  daughter didn’t want a sandwich and just ordered the baked goat cheese appetizer for her lunch ($10.50). I liked the way they change this up—usually baked goat cheese apps come in a big pool of marinara, which is fine, but kind of boring because it is so common. This one comes with roasted garlic olive oil and thyme. I liked the way there were big cloves of roasted garlic as well. It was a tasty bite with some of the cheese and a smear of the roasted garlic. It comes with slices of toasted bread to spread it on. It was good, but can’t say I would order it for my meal.

There were several other sandwiches floating around the table, but the only other one I tried was the Korean roasted BBQ sandwich ($12). It is barbequed pork, kimchi and a fried egg. Quite intriguing sounding, but for me, the execution was a bit lacking. The only moisture came from the egg, and again, it was not very runny and therefore, the whole sandwich was a bit dry. I also expected it to be a bit spicier. I would pass on this one in the future.

So overall, there were some ups and downs food-wise and I can’t say there was anything that really blew my mind, even though there were some tasty items. I hope they fix the brunch menu issue though. Also, the atmosphere at this place is a little stark, particularly since when I have been there, it has been pretty empty. Finally, I thought it somewhat surprising that they are still not brewing their own beer. I wonder if they have just decided not to do it.

Bent Rail Brewery
5301 Winthrop Ave
Indy  46220

Monday, September 19, 2016

Road Trip: Heirloom Restaurant, Lafayette, IN

We were on our way up to Chicago but weren’t going to make it in time for lunch so we decided to stop in Lafayette. We decided it was time to try something other than Triple XXX (even though it is delicious) so I hit up twitter for some advice. Apparently next time we need to try South Street Smokehouse, but this time we took we tried Heirloom (thanks @thatdickscott and @demhos). We knew we were in for a decadent weekend of eating and this looked slightly lighter than some of the other choices.

It’s a cute restaurant right on the square in old downtown Lafayette. The interior is full of wood and is quite charming. It’s very large and on this particular day, not very crowded. We were given a nice table in the window. It’s not a particularly big menu for lunch but it’s quite appealing. There are a couple apps, a couple salads and several sandwiches.

I had the “chickawich” ($10) with a side of a soup of the day, which was a corn chowder. I thought my sandwich was delicious. It was a fried chicken breast on a brioche bun topped with provolone cheese, pink aioli and house made pickles. The chicken was super tender and the breading was super crisp and crunchy. It had a great texture. While provolone doesn’t inherently add a ton of flavor on its own, I liked the gooey factor that the cheese added. And the chicken was crisp enough it help up to this as well as the pink aioli. I really liked the pink aioli—so much so that I asked for a little extra on the side to dip hubby’s fries into (and we both added a little extra to our sandwiches as well). The housemade pickles were really good on it too. Added that little bit of acid that you know I love. And they were thick cut and tasty. I could have eaten several more of them for sure.

My soup didn’t fare as well—there was lots of corn in there but the soup was very thin and surprisingly bland. I had a couple of bites and gave up. Hubby’s Cuban was just ok. The bread was good and the choice you want to see on a Cuban, but the dominating flavor of the sandwich was the pulled pork—it really tasted more like it was meant to be a pulled pork sandwich, which isn’t inherently bad, but a let down when you’re looking for that mustardy pickle-y kick. It was supposed to have soppressata on it, but we didn’t really get much of that. There was also some provolone cheese on there, but not enough to make a real impact as far as texture or flavor. Here’s the thing about this sandwich—I think they should just embrace it as a pulled pork sandwich, rather than trying to make it an alternative Cuban sandwich that makes you miss what makes Cuban sandwich a Cuban sandwich. Or change it up a bit.

We both enjoyed the thin crispy fries though that came with hubby’s sandwich. They seemed housemade and were heavily seasoned. They were particularly tasty dipped in the pink aioli.

All in all, I enjoyed this place. I would happily eat my sandwich, with a side of those fries, again. I would be intrigued to try their pork tenderloin as well. Hubby may be slightly less enthusiastic, but it’s a nice alternative to Triple XXX for something a little different. Hey people, what else do you like in Lafayette?

102 North Third Street
Lafayette, IN 47901

Monday, September 12, 2016

Canal Bistro- Revisit

After traveling to Europe this summer and really enjoying our time (and food) in Greece, we were kind of itching to go back to Canal Bistro, which is one of our favorite summer haunts anyway, to see how their Mediterranean food matched up.

First off, we laughed because we always thought it was funny how they had French fries on the menu and how everyone always talked about them as a highlight. And then we went to Greece, and in fact every single Greek restaurant (just about) featured “freshly fried potatoes.” They do in fact like their fries over there. So we felt totally justified getting some. And adding garlic. And feta.

Anyhow, we started with our classic order of hummus ($7). I really like their hummus—it has a nice consistency and the addition of olive oil on top as well as the chopped up tomatoes adds even more flavor and moisture. They serve it with toasted pita bread (strangely, pita is something you rarely see in Greece, and when you do, it’s a small round piece that is much denser than what you get here. Anyway, their pita is nice and soft and warm and they have some of my favorite hummus too. We also got a side of olives because I like an olive bite with just about all my bites of hummus and now that the kids are giant olive nuts too, we need a lot to go around.

My absolute favorite thing there is the spinach pie (i.e. spanakopita)($8). It’s an appetizer, but I always get it for my main dish (and am forced to share one with hubby). They’re little triangles of phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and spinach and wrapped tightly and then I am pretty sure deep-fried. They are so crisp and crunchy they practically shatter when you bite into them. I love that they serve the pies on top of a mix of pickled onions, regular pickles, chopped herbs and a hunk of feta cheese. I like eating a little of all of this with each bite of the spinach pies and it is so good. Hubby informed me next time he is getting his own order.

The rest of the family had gyros of some sort—my son and hubby split the gyro platter ($15), which is a big plate of meat with the accompaniments on the side—as well as a little pyramid of rice. You also get tomatoes, cucumber and tzaziki sauce (a yogurt cucumber sauce)(by the way, the picture you see is a half order-they split it in the kitchen). Now, our experience with gyros in Greece was a bit different. In Greece, you don’t see them as often and the times we got them (always my son ordering them), they were usually made of thinly sliced pork. The ones at Canal Bistro (and most US restaurants I have seen) are made with lamb and beef I believe. They are a much denser consistency. Different, but both good in their own ways. Because this is a full meal, you also get a salad with it. Hubby got the Greek salad, which has a nice topping of crumbled feta and a couple more olives and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

My daughter had the gyro sandwich ($9), which comes in wrap form. She likes the tzaziki sauce on the sandwich, but everything else she gets on the side, which is fine with me because more pickled onions for me! This is where we got the side of fries with garlic and feta (slight upcharge) and they were hot and delicious.

All in all, we loved the food in Greece and we really enjoy Canal Bistro as well. There are certainly similarities as well and difference, but it’s all good. Also, they have a weekend brunch menu now and I am intrigued to try it. And it’s one of the best patios in the summer—lots of shade, but not crazy traffic like some outdoor patios in Broad Ripple.

Canal Bistro
6349 Guilford Ave
Indy 46220

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Road Trip: The Restaurant at Walhill Farm, Batesville, IN

We have good friends who live in Cincinnati and because between the four of us, our kids, and our schedules, it is difficult to get together, we try to meet halfway between for dinner a few times a year. We have toured many of the Oldenburg area restaurants so far, and this time ventured into Batesville and visited The Restaurant at Walhill Farm.

It’s pretty cool how many little independent restaurants exist in this area that have clearly been around for a long time. While you see chains here, not nearly as much as you might see in other places. Anyhow, it was also cool to see how busy this place was on a random Wednesday night—we all sort of expected it to be fairly empty—and it was nearly full. We were glad we had made a reservation.

A lot of the things on the menu are produced locally and they happily note a long list of them on the menu. Hubby and I wanted to start with the roasted artichokes, but were informed they were out of them. So we ordered the blue cheese fondue instead ($8). It was a tasty dish even if the amount of cheese to other things was a little slim. The cheese was nice and melty in the middle and was served with toasted and seasoned bread, candied walnuts, grapes and strawberries. I do love to eat a bit of fruit, and even better candied nuts, with my blue cheese, so this dish was very appealing to me. I just wished there was more cheese for all those accompaniments.

Our friends got the shrimp appetizer ($12), which was supposed to be a scampi type dish. It was served with rice on the bottom, a few grilled shrimp and then a ton of this wonderful tomato topping. These little cherry tomatoes were so good—they were marinated and mixed with fresh basil and seriously, you didn’t even care about the shrimp or rice. You just wanted to gobble up the tomatoes. However, if I were to improve this dish, I would put the whole thing on warm polenta—that would be amazing. 

I ordered the Walhill burger ($11), which is made with a blend of beef and pork and a bit of bacon. It’s topped with cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. I asked for a fried egg for it as well (an extra $1). It’s served on sliced toasted bread, which was a little surprising. I was bummed they forgot my egg though. And then it took awhile to get it—but I was glad I did because it really improved the sandwich. They did a nice job cooking the hamburger patty medium rare and the egg was beautiful once I got it. The bread tasted good with it, but there was a lot going on in the sandwich and it was kind of messy because the bread had a hard time holding up.. I enjoyed it though. I also ordered the O’Brien potatoes as a side (upcharge from the usual chips). I wasn’t a big fan of these big potato wedges mixed with green and red bell peppers. They weren’t very crisp and needed salt. And I am not a big green pepper fan. I sort of wished I had stuck with the chips, which they apparently make in house.

Hubby had the salmon, trying to be healthy ($29). It was not overly healthy though considering it was covered in a creamy lemony sauce with Andouille sausage. The fish was cooked a bit further than we tend to prefer, but it wasn’t completely dried out, and all that creamy sauce helped. There were also a few more of those shrimp on top. The grits served with it were pretty dense, would have been nice if they had been a bit creamier. 

Our friends had a steak and a chicken dish, and while I didn’t taste them, they seemed content with them. We ended up getting three desserts, which was certainly more than enough. I really enjoyed the chocolate cheesecake ($6) the most. It was much softer and creamier than most cheesecakes. Very tasty. The bread pudding ($5) was also good—very tender as well. They certainly seemed homemade, which can be a problem with desserts sometimes—they come frozen and shipped in. We also had the crème brulee ($6), which I thought was the weakest of the desserts simply because the cream part was still pretty cold underneath the crisp brulee part. I did like the addition of cinnamon to the top though.

It’s a cute place—sort of off the beaten path with a real lodge-type feel. The food is solid, even though it’s nothing spectacular. And it’s a great in between stop. I’m always looking for more suggestions for the Oldenburg/Batesville area, so let me know your ideas. We’re supposed to meet our friends again in October.

The Restaurant at Walhill Farm
857 Six Pine Ranch Road
Batesville, IN 47006