Monday, January 30, 2017

Punch Bowl Social

My in–laws were in town for a couple of days over the holidays and we were looking for something to do to get out of the house for a bit with the kids and maybe try something new. I was kind of randomly scanning through new places that had opened and saw Punch Bowl Social. Seemed like a good idea…. I have to say though I wasn’t sure if kids were even allowed or if this is just an adult place, but as it turns out, kids are welcome until 10:00 p.m. They also take reservations, which it didn’t look like we needed for lunch on this particular day, but I am imagining this is more of a late night place.

They serve food obviously, but also have a plethora of various games offered from old arcade games, to bowling, to cornhole, to foosball, to ping pong and darts. Lots of stuff going on here. So yeah, a fun choice with kids actually. We sat down and looked over the menu—I would describe it as pubby food with a southern flair. It’s a concept from celebrity chef Hugh Acheson.

They serve all kinds of cocktails (punch particularly) but it was lunch so we just went with some beer and wine. Weirdest thing though? They card everyone who orders alcohol. I mean EVERYONE. My father-in-law just turned 80. EIGHTY. They wouldn’t serve him a beer because he didn’t have his i.d. on him. That seems crazy to me. Anyhow, make sure you bring your i.d. if you want a drink, and I don’t care how old you are. Also, Punch Bowl Social, if you’re reading this, that’s kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, we got our drinks (the kids enjoyed milkshakes, my FIL had a diet coke) and ordered some poutine to start ($10). On the menu here, it’s called “The Canadian.” It’s fries, brown gravy and white cheddar cheese curds. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but my family was really digging it. Both hubby and my son wanted to order more of it. I liked the way the cheese curds were just getting melty as it sat a bit. You have to realize that the fries are not going to be crisp with gravy on them, but the flavor was good (although I thought they needed a little salt). A nice thing to share between the six of us (even though I’m sort of itching to try the pimento cheese and the chips with charred onion crème fraiche).

Hubby and I were torn about what to get, and based on the recommendation of our server, we decided to try the tacos from the starter men ($10 for 4) and the Alabama chicken sandwich ($10) and split them. I have to say, both were really well done. The tacos were small but packed full with cocoa dusted pork carnitas, salsa adobo, radish, thin sliced yellow onion and cilantro. There was supposed to be cheese and crema on there too, although I didn’t get a ton of that in the ones I ate. But the flavor of the tacos was very good. The pork was very, very tender and I loved the onions and the squeeze of lime, Honestly, I think these were better than the tacos I have had around the corner.

The chicken sandwich was a hunk of chicken breast meat that was deep-fried with white BBQ sauce, bread and butter pickles, tomato, and shredded lettuce. This was
also very tasty. The breading on the sandwich was nice and crispy, and there was a nice depth of flavor coming from the white BBQ sauce and the pickles (can we all agree pickles and fried chicken just go together?). The bun was not overwhelming and didn’t take over the flavor with breadiness. They serve it in an iron skillet (for looks I guess because it wasn’t hot at all) and with a side of fries. Their fries are good—very crisp, but next time I would ask for a side of something more interesting than ketchup to dip them in.

My daughter wanted breakfast and was pleased to see that you can order it here until 3:00 and so she did. She was happy enough and thought the breakfast potatoes they serve were good-they were little rounds of crispy fried potatoes. The bacon was only so-so though, it didn’t have a lot of flavor. They seem to be trying to incorporate local ingredients, so someone should tell them about Goose the Market bacon. My son had a burger and said it was fine (he got it pretty plain, so I didn’t even try it—I love some sort of fancy burger sauce on my burgers, which their adult version includes.)

All in all, it seems like a fun place (as long as you have your id) with pretty solid pub food. I know hubby is anxious to go back….and I would like to go with a group to take advantage of some of the games and to try some of the other starters (you need a pretty big group to try much because the portions are pretty generous).

Tell me about your experiences here. What did you think?

Punch Bowl Social
120 South Meridian Street
Indy   46204

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nada - Brunch

While we were in Cincinnati recently, we decided to eat brunch at Nada before heading out of town. Mostly because it was right across the street from the hotel. I have only eaten at the Nada in Indy once and had a kind of mixed experience, but was intrigued to try their brunch menu. And you can get reservations. (And the menu for brunch in Indy appears to be the same).

We started with the queso gringo ($7), which was very good. I assume this is on the regular dinner menu too, and I would get it again in a heartbeat. It had a layer of refried black beans on the bottom of the bowl ad the cheese (smoked gouda) is mixed with habanero peppers and pico di gallo. All of these things together made for a tasty, chunky, delicious take on queso dip. Much more interesting than many I have had. I also really like their freshly fried chips which are light, but flaky if you know what I mean—they sort of peel apart in layers. Really good. 

I was torn by what to order for my main dish, but was intrigued by the eggs goettadicto ($12). I thought this dish might only be available in Cincy, where goetta is from, but as it turns out, looks like it’s in Indy too. Which is good news for you guys because it was delicious. It was English muffins topped with crispy fried goetta, perfectly poached eggs, lots of avocado, and an extremely lemony Sriracha hollandaise. So goetta, if you don’t know, is a product from the Cincinnati region made up of sausage, oats, and spices and its all mixed together, sliced and cooked like a sausage patty. I really like it because while it has the flavor of sausage, it has the crunchy texture that you can imagine from the oatmeal. I absolutely loved how much acid was in the hollandaise though. A great lemon flavor to go with the eggs and goetta. And a little pico di gallo to pull it all together. A great dish. One I would (and will) happily eat again.

Hubby and one friend both got the huevos rancheros ($9) and they also did a very nice job with this dish as well. At first I was torn about which I liked better, but in the end, the goetta and that hollandaise convinced me mine was best. The huevos rancheros had a flavorful bean mix on the bottom, some crisped tortillas and two fried eggs. There was a nice diablo sauce as well. I liked the way the tortillas were crispy, making it slightly different from many versions, which use soft tortillas. By crisping them up, it made them taste a bit like chilaquiles, which are one of my favorite things.

All in all, I really enjoyed this brunch and was pleased to find such a tasty option that we also have in Indy. We also had a breakfast cocktail, and my blood orange mimosa was quite good, so if you like a cocktail with your brunch, this might be a place you should try.

11 West Maryland
Indy 46204

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cajun Table/SOTSOT

So I have been itching to try the Cajun Table or SOTSOT (“Some of this, some of that”), depending on whom you ask. This place is the brick and mortar version of the SOTSOT food truck. The sign outside the restaurant says Cajun Table, but much of the other items (menus, social media etc.) are branded with the SOTSOT name.

Anyway, I was on a tight schedule one day downtown and last minute ended up meeting a friend who was also downtown. They open at 11:00 (and I even called to be sure) but when we got there at 11:00, the doors were still locked. Shortly someone came and let us in (which was good because it was snowy and cold outside). The bad part was that they had clearly just gotten there themselves, and do not run the heat when they aren’t there. It was freezing in the restaurant throughout our entire meal, even after they did turn the heat on. A little tip to them, someone may want to show up an hour or so before the restaurant opens to get the heat going. We had to wear our coats the whole time. And it was still cold. The staff of two was exceptionally friendly though and apologized to us the whole time we were there.

We agreed to share several items from the menu, the shrimp po boy ($10 + $2 for fries), a pick two sampler with shrimp and crawfish etouffee and bourbon chicken ($11.50) and a cup of chicken and sausage gumbo ($5).  The po boy was huge! So big I found it nearly impossible to eat as a sandwich and just sort of ate it open-faced or ate the shrimp on their own. The shrimp were fine—seemed like they are premade frozen type of shrimp battered and fried, but there were a lot of them and they were very crunchy and had nice seasoning. The bread was nice too—had a great crispy edge to it. The star of this dish though? The sauce that was drizzled on it—especially combined with the lettuce and tomatoes on the bun. That sauce was great—super acidic, it was exactly what this sandwich needed. Because of it, I quite enjoyed the sandwich, even though the shrimp themselves were ok. The fries were standard seasoned fries and were just fine.

The other thing on the table that was really tasty was the gumbo. I am really glad we added it (you can’t get the gumbo as part of the combos). It had the most Cajun seasoned flavor to it. A real depth of various spices. Just the broth alone was really good. A couple chunks of chicken and veggies in a bite with some rice and that broth were great. The sausage was just ok—nothing super fancy going on here and the slices were quite big, but they were fine. The overall flavor though was very good.

The etouffee was okay, maybe a little bland. And the sauce sort of overwhelmed the pieces of shrimp and crawfish that were in there. The bourbon chicken was also fine; we agreed it tasted almost more like an Asian flavor profile—maybe some soy in there. Not bad, but not exactly what you are expecting when you are thinking of Cajun food.

The biggest downer for me though was the temperature of the place. I hate sitting through a meal with my coat on and still feeling cold. I think they need to rethink the cost savings on this one, or they may drive customers away. It’s a cute place inside though, with several booths and lots of brick and wood (the ceiling could use some sort of treatment though). And I am glad to see at least some of the food trucks doing well enough that they can move into a brick and mortar location, and that someone cared enough to rehab this very cool building. If you go, definitely get the gumbo. If they have the seafood version I see listed online, I would especially be intrigued to try that one.

Cajun Table/SOTSOT
2405 North College Ave
Indy  46205

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy anniversary! Let me know you're still out there!

Hey you guys! It's been 9 years! Nine!! Hard to believe. Anyhow, just to make sure you're all still out there...will you leave me a comment and tell me about a place you tried after reading a post here? Or something along those lines? Your comments make me very happy, as does your feedback on twitter and facebook! I hope you've enjoyed the ride through our growing food scene and I appreciate each and every one of you!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Melting Pot - Revisit

Leave it to my kids to request the Melting Pot again for a birthday. This time it was my son, and after a couple of years, I felt like I was up for going back. The time before I was kind of put off with the whole, “nothing was that great and I had to cook everyone’s food even though we were at a restaurant” thing.

I was pleased to see they had changed up the combos on the menu a bit—at least in the cheese and chocolate areas (which as it t urns out are really the only reasons to be coming here). We ordered the Quattro formaggio cheese fondue, which well, obviously had four kinds of cheese (Butterkase, Fontina, mozzarella, and parmesan), as well as roasted garlic, white wine and basil and sun dried tomato pesto. It was really quite good. They give you bread to dip it in (my kids fought over the bits of pretzel bread) as well as raw veggies (not so much fighting here). This cheese had a lot of good flavor to it, much better than the sort of bland with a touch of nutmeg thing we had last time. I could easily just make a meal out of this.

When you get the whole meal deal, you get a salad course as well. Mine was the California, which had mixed greens, tomatoes, candied pecans and Gorgonzola cheese with a raspberry vinaigrette. Again, not bad. Much better than the house salad I think I had last time. My son’s a Caesar eater and seemed happy with it as well.

I’m not even going to get into the main course portion very much, other than my suggestion is to skip it. They bring you raw meat and seafood to cook at the table in hot broth. Much of the seafood tasted fishy to me and the sauces they give you with everything (a lot of sauces) all tend toward the sweet side.  It’s really expensive ($40-50 per person for the four courses depending on what you get) to eat here I think considering you’re doing the cooking yourself. My advice: go and get the cheese and dessert and call it a day. They mix that part for you and all you have to do is dip your stuff into it. And it tastes good. The meat part, not so much.

Speaking of the dessert part, we had the chocolate s’mores with dark chocolate. It has marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs and is lit on fire at the table. You can’t really go wrong with chocolate fondue right? And then they give you cookie crumb coated marshmallows, pound cake, brownies, blondies, fruit, and rice crispy treats to dip in there. Yeah, it’s melted chocolate and it’s good. Like I said, go and get the cheese and the chocolate and you will have a lovely, tasty dinner for about $18 per person instead of $40-50. 

The Melting Pot
5650 East 86th Street
Indy 46250

Monday, January 2, 2017

Road Trip: Cincinnati: Boca-Revisit

For hubby’s birthday, he wanted to go to Cincinnati to see a good friend and to eat at Boca, which is one of his favorite places. It’s a beautiful restaurant, it’s GREAT Italian food (hello Indy, I’m talking to you) and the service is wonderful. 

There were 6 of us, so we got a lovely round booth and promptly ordered a couple of orders of pommes soufflé “1942” ($15). These are a hold over from the restaurant that was in the same spot for years and years before Boca took over. The old restaurant was the Maisonette and hubby and I dined there once when we were very young. Anyway, these things are delicious (and you can sometimes get a version of them at Vida here in Indy). They are basically like a three dimensional potato chip. I am not really sure how they make them, but I don’t care. They’re a super tasty treat. They serve them with Bernaise sauce for dipping. Also delicious. We also got the bread plate ($2/person), which is a mild sourdough local  bread served with Vermont creamery butter. It’s good bread, but nothing spectacular.

We all decided to get three courses, so I started with the Hamachi crudo ($21). You guys, this might have been my favorite item of the evening, it was so so good. And everyone who I shared a bite with agreed. It was a pretty generous portion of the raw fish sitting on top of compressed avocado, which just tasted extra buttery somehow….not sure how you compress avocado either, but after tasting this, I recommend it. There was a ponzu sauce as well, which was perfect. It had some soy in it and wasn’t overly sweet. The tart wedges of grapefruit were perfect with it to bring a sharp acidic hint (sorry I forgot a picture). If you go here, you should order this.

My second course was a scallop and Brussels sprouts dish ($24). These Brussels sprouts were apparently slow-cooked in butter for like six hours of something. They were so rich—they were dark and took on an entirely different texture—almost like a mushroom. There was a perfectly cooked scallop sitting on top as well. The whole thing was dressed with brown butter vinaigrette, giving just the hint of acid you need to cut through this insanely rich dish.

Several at the table moved on to a pasta course for their second course, and one in particular that I got to try was the gnocchi con fonduta ($16). Again, super, super rich, but so, so delicious. They were little crispy potato gnocchi topped with a rich taleggio fondue and shavings of black truffle. That cheese sauce was the thing that made it so rich, but I loved the slightly stinky edge it gave the dish. And I loved the texture from the slightly crisp edges of the dumplings themselves—even under the sauce, you still could get the texture. And the little bits of truffle on top were perfect. I love real truffle.

For my main dish I actually got chicken ($29), which is very unusual for me. But last time we were there I remembered trying the chicken that was on the menu then and really liking it. Plus, this one was served on top of mushroom and truffle risotto, so that sold me. I love risotto when it is done right, which is rare in a restaurant. But I had faith in Boca. And they did not disappoint. The risotto was creamy and full of beautiful mushrooms and the chicken was seasoned wonderfully and was so tender, it seemed almost impossible.  Great crispy skin too. Everyone who had a bite was shocked at how good it was. I mean, it’s chicken right?

For dessert I had the “buckeye candy bar” ($10). Not that I really needed dessert, but I was intrigued by this. It was like a rich creamy chocolate brownie with peanut butter nougat and gelato and a little sprinkling of salt on top. A great way to end the evening.

They also let us bring a couple of bottles of wine into the restaurant for a corkage fee, which was nice because we got to split a couple of nice bottles of red that would have been way too expensive to order from the menu.

This place knows how to do a meal just right from top to bottom (and Italian food no less!). The atmosphere, the service, the spectacular food, etc. I would kill to have it in Indy.

114 East Sixth Street
Cincinnati, OH  45202