Monday, February 27, 2017

Pioneer--Revisit (New Chef)

After spending three weeks in Italy this summer, my kids have been itching for some good Italian food. Yeah, we all know how that goes in this town. Particularly after you have actually experienced Italy and the wonderful variety of food that is offered (I know, I’m a broken record but it’s not just red sauce and alfredo people).

We decided to give Pioneer another try because I have been told they have a new(ish) chef (Lane Milburn) and that he used to work in San Francisco at Delfina, one of our old favorite neighborhood Italian joints. The menu has a Northern Italian/Alsace bent.

It’s a big place and I usually prefer sitting in the bar area for a bit of coziness, but we had the kids with us, and well, this is Indiana so we sat in the main room. I am happy to report that by the time we left, it was pretty full out there. And again, it’s big.

To start with, they brought us some little happy hour freebies (nice to see them doing this outside the bar area) of fried chickpeas, olives and sausage with pickled mustard seeds. It was a nice little treat, everyone loved the chickpeas and you know olives and me. Hubby was particularly fond of the sausage.

As appetizers, we ordered the pretzel with beer cheese and honey mustard ($6) and the short rib Milanese arancini ($6). The pretzel was a huge hit with all of us. It was obviously homemade, and had just the right amount of texture to it as well as salt. I am going through a little beer cheese obsession right now, and this one was just how I like it. More of a spreadable consistency (not melted) and had a nice kick from the beer. The honey mustard was also a nice variation or addition to the beer cheese. Pretty sure there will be two orders of this in the future if we take the kids again. The arancini were also very well received, particularly by hubby. The rice was nice and tender and stuffed with some short rib. The outside was breaded and fried just right so that it gave it the crunchy edge without drying out or liquefying the inside. They were sitting on a bed of saffron aioli, giving them a nice dipping sauce with just the right amount of tanginess.

Both the kids wanted to order pasta for their main dishes, so hubby and I went a little lighter on our choices because we knew we could eat part of theirs. When we were on the Amalfi coast in Italy, my entire family became obsessed with the tiny clams that are everywhere there. They are like the size of your fingertip. I have never seen them anywhere in the U.S. But there was linguini and clams ($21) on the menu at Pioneer, and my daughter was determined to get it and hopefully relive the vacation experience. While they weren’t the teeny tiny clams that we had (like I said I have never seen them here), they were nice and small and the dish was excellent. Definitely one of the better pasta dishes around town. The linguine was cooked just right and well seasoned with pancetta, red chili flakes, and white wine. The clams were small and tender.  A really tasty dish.

My son went with the rigatoni with “Sunday supper sauce,” meatballs, ricotta, and pancetta bread crumbs ($19). You want a rich and hearty (and delicious) plate of pasta? This is for you. I loved the balance with the creamy, tangy ricotta and the texture offered by the breadcrumbs. It was a deep, rich red sauce with a lot of flavor, but was so much more interesting because of the other things going on in the dish. Really well done. Again, one of the better pasta dishes I have had around Indy.

Like I said, hubby and I got appetizers as mains (and some sides) because we shared the pasta. I ordered the beef Carpaccio ($13) with radicchio, caper berries and Parmesan and hubby ordered the warm chicory salad with a poached egg ($11). We also ordered a side of the spatzle ($5) and the German potato salad ($5). The Carpaccio was a little different than most I have had—the beef was sliced a little thicker, but it was very good. It was so tender it was not hard to eat, even though it was a bit thicker. Loved the caper berries that were sliced on the plate to give it the acid that Carpaccio absolutely needs. The Parmesan added some saltiness. My kids were begging me for more bites of this all through dinner. It was a crowd pleaser for sure. Personally, I may have slightly preferred the chicory salad though. Wow, that was a great salad. It was slightly warm, so the chicory wasn’t too tough and it was dressed with a garum vinaigrette, which is a dressing made with a spice blend that gave it a great flavor. Plus there was more shaved Parmesan, croutons, and that wonderful poached egg giving it a rich creamy decadence. A wonderful salad. I highly recommend.

The sides were the only things that didn’t really impress as much. The potato salad was the better of the two, and was seasoned with gorgonzola, bacon, and dressed with Banyuls vinaigrette. It sounded much more interesting on paper than it actually tasted. I was looking for more kick from the dressing and the blue cheese, but it was kind of bland. Not bad, just not as exciting as I had hoped. The spatzle was quite dry and didn’t seem to have any seasoning to me. It was supposed to have lemon and black pepper, but I wasn’t really getting much of it. We left most of this one.

All in all though, this was a really, really good meal and I look forward to returning soon. If you are looking for some interesting Italian dishes, go give this place a shot. I still feel like it flies under the radar a lot more than it deserves. Go give them some love. (Only downside here...what is up with the parking in Fountain Square? Oy. Although Pioneer does have it's own parking lot in back).

1110 Shelby Street
Indy 46203

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Joella's Hot Chicken

I met a friend at Joella’s the other day for lunch. Man, people in this town certainly like a new place! The line at lunchtime was literally out the door of the restaurant. My friend was running late though so I went ahead and got in line. The line moved pretty fast, but still took 15-20 minutes to get through. There was no problem at all getting a seat once you placed your order though s it seems to be pretty efficient as far as moving people through.

I had plenty of time to look over the menu. I settled on the “Pick a plate” with a quarter dark meat chicken ($8.50 with one side included). I added a side for an extra $1.25. You also choose your heat level and I went with “Ella’s favorite,” which is “just a touch of heat.” For my sides, I had the kale salad (because I saw them making it on a tv feature and was intrigued) and the Parmesan garlic fries (+.75). My friend also had the quarter dark, a touch hotter, and got mac and cheese and green beans.

I liked the chicken. It was very tender and had a nice slightly spicy flavor (I ordered it that way so I was pleased with it). I am still unsure whether I prefer my chicken to be spicy due to a sauce on the chicken, or because of seasoning in the breading, but that is clearly a personal preference. I was impressed that the skin remained pretty crunchy despite the sauce.  The pieces were a bit on the small side, although someone else’s plate of wings was huge. Maybe that would be the way to go, even though I generally prefer dark meat. Loved the pickles served with the chicken, and you can order extra for .35 (I did). I would be intrigued to try some of the sandwiches as well. They have some nice options (chicken and pimento cheese perhaps?)

I enjoyed the fries as well—they had a rosemary and Parmesan seasoning and I thought that was tasty. They were thin and quite crisp, which is how I like them. I didn’t care for the kale salad as much as I hoped, as it had more of a sweet taste because of the abundance of currants that were in it. I had seen them make it with a lemon juice dressing and was hoping for a bit more acid. Also, it ends up more like the texture of greens (kind of mushy) rather than a salad. I think my favorite were probably the fries and the mac and cheese. The mac was pretty straightforward but hit the spot with the chicken. The green beans were fine, but had that kind of mushy cafeteria texture. 

All in all, I would try it again with some adjustments. I’d maybe add a third piece of chicken or get a sandwich. I’d probably stick with fries or mac and cheese. Also, I will wait until the hype dies down a bit, because I’m not that patient about waiting in line. It’s solid, and a nice addition to that area of town that doesn’t have a ton of options, but I’m not sure it makes me want to wait that long in line.

Joella’s Hot Chicken
4715 East 96th Street
Indy  46240

Monday, February 13, 2017

Northside Social --Revisit

We snuck out the other night to grab dinner with friends while our boys were in a  55-hour long tennis tournament (ok, it was only 5 hours, but seemed like longer). We were undecided about where to go, and I remembered that Northside Social had a new chef, Dean Sample (check out his instagram for some of the new dishes).

To be honest though, I hadn’t been in quite awhile, so while I can’t really say exactly how much of the menu had changed, but I can tell you that just about everything we had was tasty.

To start with though, it was strange when we walked in—the restaurant was only about 1/3 full but they wouldn’t seat us without a reservation. We were on a time crunch so we walked into the bar, but when we started discussing it, we thought it was weird since the restaurant was so empty, so my friend’s husband went back up and then they sat us right away. And by the time we left there were still several empty tables. Anyhow, once we were sorted, we ordered some salads and dinner. I just had a green salad ($5) with blue cheese dressing and it was solid. It had chopped up tomatoes and red onions and was mixed greens. Hubby had a Caesar ($6) and was happy.

I ordered the potato-crusted basa ($21) and I have to say, it was delicious. Basa is a tender white fish made crispy on the outside with potatoes that are crusted and then pan-fried. The fish was great, and the lemon butter sauce on the fish makes it for me. It has such nice lemon flavor and herbs on top. I love my acid for sure and I didn’t even use the extra lemon wedge on the side. The sauce was just right. It was served with brocolini and mashed potatoes underneath. The potatoes were fine, but we all ordered a side of mac and cheese ($8) to share and it might be one of the better versions in town. I like that they mix the pasta with green chilies and make the top super crunchy with breadcrumbs. It is a very good mac and cheese.

One friend ordered the spicy Spanish triggerfish ($21) and it was very tasty as well. The fish is a bit thicker and denser than the basa, but remained tender and was a good match for the heartier, spicier flavors of the spicy Spanish shrimp sauce and the ratatouille. There were these really great roasted tomatoes in there that just sort of exploded with flavor. It was a good and interesting dish.

Hubby was excited to see a cassoulet ($21) on the menu, as that is one of his favorite things. They do a pork version here. It’s basically a bean and meat casserole. He liked the dish and the pork that was in there but thought the sausage wasn’t as tasty, but he said he would totally order it again, and liked that a restaurant is actually offering it.

The portions here are good-sized and I don’t think anyone of us finished our entrées. Our server was very friendly and helpful and kept up with our drinks.

Overall, it’s a nice place to grab a more grown up dinner in Broad Ripple. The new chef seems to be mixing up the menu a bit and producing good dishes. If you haven’t been in awhile, you might want to check it out again. And let me know what you think.

Northside Social
6525 North College Ave 
Indy 46220

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brozinni Pizza

You guys, if you’ve been following me for a bit, you know Brozinni is one of my places. Let’s face it, pizza in this town is not that good. Seriously, we can argue about this all day long, but you know I’m right. There’s lots of pizza, and there’s some good pizza, but there’s a lot of crappy pizza. Mostly crappy.

My all time favorite though is Brozinni. It’s New York Style and it just has the right chewy, foldable deliciousness. One slice is big enough for your lunch, well, with some garlic knots on the side, and you’ll be all set (be sure and dip that crust in the garlic sauce).

I introduced my hairdresser to them on my last visit, and she used to live in NYC. She has texted me since telling me she can’t stop thinking about it.

If you haven’t been there, you should probably go check it out. It’s what pizza should taste like.

Brozinni Pizza
8810 S. Emerson Ave
Greenwood IN 46237

Monday, February 6, 2017


Hubby and I decided to hit up Longbranch the other night for an early dinner. We went on the early side because of all the positive write-ups lately, we were worried that we wouldn’t get in. However, this place is a bar and the night we were there (which was a Friday), we didn’t have to wait at all. It didn’t really start to get busy til we left. It’s also a big place, so not as much competition for seats.

They are known for their cocktails, so I felt like I should try one, even though I am typically a wine person. I ordered the “Sayonara” ($9), which had rum, sake and a nice citrus and ginger flavor. Hubby had their version of an Old Fashioned. Both of us enjoyed the drinks—I really liked the pickled ginger garnish in mine. 

We started with the Rangoon ($7) and the egg rolls ($8). Both of the dishes were excellent. I liked that the Rangoon had shrimp inside them instead of the tiny little flakes of crab that you usually see. The chunks of shrimp were larger and actually recognizable. The wonton part was super crispy and freshly fried. They were served with their housemade sweet and sour sauce, which is something I don’t typically eat—you know that bright pink sauce that is more sweet than sour…but this one was really good, much more depth to it and much more acidic kick. It was a great match. 

The egg rolls were really good as well—they put a nice hunk of monkfish inside theirs, and I really enjoyed this to give them more weight and more complexity than your typical veggie egg roll. It gave a nice silky texture as well. They give you a sampler of three different homemade sauces with the egg rolls and these were tasty too. There was a ginger scallion dashi, a duck sauce, and hot mustard. I liked the ginger scallion sauce the most, although the duck sauce was tasty too. I don’t really go in for hot mustard sauce typically just because it is so overwhelming. They do a very nice job with the sauces here, much more interesting than what you typically see in a Chinese restaurant.

For our main dishes, we got a couple of things to share. I ordered the tofu entrée ($10) and we really enjoyed it as well. It was chunks of tofu that were lightly breaded and fried and mixed with sautéed eggplant and a miso sauce. There was a nice amount of microgreens on top as well as some sesame seeds. I find that tofu dishes often have more flavor and seasoning than some other dishes in general, and this one was no exception. I like the soft texture of the eggplant and tofu and the richer flavor of the sauce on this one. My only complaint was that after it sat for a bit, the stuff on the bottom sort of became a bit greasy.

Hubby ordered the short rib with avocado rice and an egg ($16). This is short rib done in the more Korean style, sliced long-ways and not slow cooked in the way you typically see short rib on menus. I liked the way they made the rice extra creamy by mixing it with the soft avocado, and how it added a richness to the rice. Of course you know I love an egg on top, and the yolk added a nice sauce. I guess my only complaint here would be the pure richness without something to sort of balance it out a bit. We found mixing a little of the tofu into the beef dish made a nice little combo though.

We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, which led to the decision to order dessert (this most often happens when we’re having a really good meal). There aren’t a lot of options, but we ordered a couple of the cookies offered—the peanut butter version with miso cream and the almond version with matcha cream. Man, that peanut butter one was so, so good. The cookie part was so flaky and buttery. And peanut buttery. The other one was good too, but seriously…that peanut butter version... I have thought about that cookie many many times since then.

All in all, Longbranch is a good addition to our food scene. I am not sure why Chinese food is so lacking downtown, particularly with drinks, but I am glad to see this place open. It’s an adult only place, so you may see that as a positive or negative, and it definitely has a bar vibe. I was impressed with the service and the knowledge of our server, and it was a nice relaxing and tasty meal. I would say give it a go, I am looking forward to tasting more of the dishes when we get a chance. There are a lot of good sounding things on there.

2205 N. Delaware Street
Indy  46205

UPDATE: Ok, so I ended up going back before I even posted this first post, and I have to say, the second visit didn't wow me quite as much. We had a couple of the same things, the spring rolls, the shrimp rangoon and the tofu dish as well as some new things. The rangoon is great. I highly recommend. The spring rolls had less fish this time and weren't as memorable. I still liked the tofu. We also had the General Tso's sweetbreads ($15), and although they are marked as spicy, I thought they weren't very spicy, unless you ate one of the chilis on top. They were a little sticky too--the breading didn't seem crispy enough. The hanger steak (for 2)($26) felt like a bunch of disconnected parts. The meat was good, but there were just little piles of other things on the platter and it didn't come together as a cohesive dish. We loved the spare rib appetizers ($12) though--they had a lot of flavor--like Chinese 5 spice flavor and the meat was cooked just right. So if you average out my two visits, there are definitely things worth having, but there is a bit of a one-dimensionality of some of the dishes. I can't say it will be a regular for me, but it is certainly a good choice for a change of pace, and I am glad to see someone focusing on a cuisine that we don't have a lot of in downtown.