Monday, January 29, 2018

Crispy Bird

You knew I was going to have to try Crispy Bird soon. I mean it’s fried chicken, which I love, and it’s Patachou, which I also like. I had been kind of waiting for the crowds to die down and we lucked into a table the other day for lunch on my birthday with the family. I like what they have done with the interior of the space, even if they did displace one of my favorite lunch places, Barking Dog, in order to make the space.

Anyhow, the staff was very friendly, and in the beginning, the service was very prompt and efficient. It’s a challenge for the servers in there too—it’s still a very small space with a lot of tables, so they have to do a bit of a dance to get to their tables. The menu is very appealing, and there were several things we wanted to try, but we settled on a few to share amongst the four of us.

To start with, we had an order of the biscuits ($6). You get two large biscuits in an order and they are served with whipped maple brown butter. Hmmm. I liked the way these biscuits looked, but they were really dense and kind of bland. I appreciated the soft butter (which was more like butter with some maple syrup alongside), but a little salt would balance this sweetness better. My daughter, who typically inhales just about any type of bread, didn’t finish her half. We left a fair amount.

Between the four of us, we had the thigh/leg combo ($12),  two orders of the breast ($14), and the fried chicken sandwich ($10). For sides we had the mac and cheese ($8) and the black-eyed peas ($8). Of the chicken dishes, I would say the sandwich was probably the best thing. It’s a boneless chicken thigh piece (which is one of my favorite pieces of fried chicken) on a bun topped with aioli, slaw and pickles. The chicken was good, and I loved the pickles. They had a great combo of mustard flavor and a teeny heat and a little sweet. They were great with the chicken. None of us were fans of the slaw, which was strangely soft and lacking much flavor. The leg on the leg thigh combo was my next favorite piece because the meat was tender and it was easy to get the crispy skin with each bite. The thigh was not as meaty, and heavier on the crust. Also, my kids both ordered the breasts, which were dusted with salt, which you could see on the chicken and plate. The thigh/leg combo had no such salt, and needed salt. When I asked for some they brought me a precious little dish with a couple of pinches of salt in it. I think it’s a little presumptuous to think no one will want salt or pepper on fried chicken, to the point that you don’t even offer shakers at all. I can see not putting them on the table, but…. Anyhow, the breasts were the weakest pieces, which isn’t overly surprising to me. Sadly, this chicken suffered the fate of many a fried chicken breast. They were huge, and pretty dry. The thing about this chicken is the crust is really tasty and crunchy (hence the name I guess), but the rest of the chicken is just ok. And maybe I just like my fried chicken salty, but much of it needed salt as well. The sandwich excelled because it had sauce and flavor right on it. The chicken was definitely best when eaten at the same time as one of those pickles.

As far as the sides, the black-eyed peas with the egg yolk confit, “potlikker emulsion” and fried greens was the star. It has nice flavor, as well as a hit of acid. And I liked the crunch of the fried kale on top. And the egg yolk certainly didn’t hurt. This was probably the best thing on the table the whole meal. We also had the mac and cheese after reading a lot about it. I love Gruyere, which is the cheese they use. But it is extremely rich. Extremely. Out of the two chunks served, we didn’t even finish one between three of us.  I liked a few bites of it with the chicken, but whoa. It’s not your traditional creamy take, it’s baked in a block and somewhat dry, but that didn’t bother me. Hubby didn’t care for it, but I enjoyed the flavor quite a bit. Just in small doses.

So the place was jammed, and the service overall was good. I waited quite awhile for a second glass of wine, which was not my server’s fault, as he explained he was just waiting for it to be poured. The bartender was making a ton of mixed drinks and it took quite awhile. Maybe a second bartender would help until business calms down a bit. Just a thought.

Overall, it was not bad. My general theme is that everything is very pretty there, but it’s a little skin deep. And is it a place I will wait in a line to eat? Ehh…probably not. But I will give it another try one of these days. So, tell me about your experiences.

Crispy Bird
115 East 49th Street
Indy   46205

Monday, January 22, 2018

Uptown Café

You know, I had noticed that the old Binford Café near my house had a new sign and that it was now called Uptown Café. And then on instagram, my online friend @frangsty told me that she went, and really liked it. Hubby and I tried it the very next day. It is so close to our house and we are always on the scout out for new breakfast places!

So it’s a small little place—not a lot of atmosphere to it, but the servers are really nice and were right there to fill up your coffee. My only real knock is that it is just a rectangular storefront, and in this really cold weather, whenever someone opened the front door, a gust of cold air shot through the place. They might want to invest in a curtain or some sort of entry area that is blocked a bit. Most of the year it is probably fine, but was a bit chilly when we were there.

I just went with my classic breakfast to see how it compared to other favorites. I had two eggs over easy, bacon, hash browns and homemade white toast ($9.29). They make a lot of stuff from scratch, and the bread is one of them. They also do fresh-squeezed OJ. If you’re a jam person, they also give you a little side of homemade strawberry jam with your toast. My breakfast was pretty much spot on. The eggs were cooked just right, the hash browns were brown and crispy on the outside, and the toast was light and delicious. The bacon looked a little suspect, but it actually had a good flavor and was pleasantly crunchy. I love a glass of fresh-squeezed OJ, and this one while not as sweet as you hope for, was a very generous amount for the price. You can’t really control the sweetness of an orange after all.

Hubby tried the corned beef hash bowl ($8.49) and was quite happy. It was an interesting take of the shredded (hash brown) potatoes, the corned beef and lots of onions (no peppers, which made him happy). They also added Swiss cheese to the mix, giving the whole thing a sort of reuben flavor. He really enjoyed it for sure. He loves corned beef hash and this was one of his favorites.

We also got a piece of quiche ($7.49) to go to take home to my son—this was the only real let down we had food-wise. It just tasted like it had been microwaved, which made the crust a bit soft and the eggs a bit chewy. I just don’t think eggs and microwaves really mix. It really needed to be heated in the oven.

Overall though, for a good solid basic breakfast option within just a few miles of our house (hooray!), this place is getting added to the rotation for sure. I think once the word gets out, it will do very well.

Uptown Café
6404 Rucker Road
Indy  46220


Monday, January 15, 2018

Txuleta Basque Cider House

When we were in Toronto this summer, we took the kids to this Spanish tapas place and the kids loved it, so when they heard that Brugge (one of their favorite Indy places) had opened a Spanish place right above Brugge, they were excited to try it. Txuleta serves pinxtos, not tapas, as well as “snacks,” some sharable tapas (they just list them as “for the table),” and then some full-sized dishes. So what’s the difference between pinxtos and tapas you ask? I didn’t really know myself, so I looked it up. Turns out pinxtos are items that are skewered on bread. So there you go.

Naturally we wanted to try lots of things, and it’s fairly easy to do here. For snacks, we had olives ($6), the brandada ($11) and the Serrano ham ($9). The olives and ham were the clear winners here. The olives had a great unique acidic kick—much sharper than many, and they went well with everything else. We are a family of olive lovers, and these will always be ordered. The Serrano ham was also quite delicious. We have had some bad luck with this at other places, but this is a good one. It’s supple and has lots of flavor. They served some nice bread slices with it as well as some almonds, various fruits and a bit of quince paste. Very tasty—and a really nice combo. Would love to see the cheese plate as well. Next time we may need a combo cheese/meat.  The brandada was the only let down of the snacks. It’s meant to be salt cod mixed with potatoes—which it was, but it was pretty heavy on the potatoes it seemed—couldn’t really taste the cod that much. And I would have liked something to eat with it—bread or something to dip in there. It was an awkward thing to share with just a small bowl. Some of the toast that came with the Serrano would be ideal. Unfortunately the brandada came first before we had the bread that came with the ham. 

The pinxtos were the star of the night though. We had several and they were all really good. I liked these the best because they were the most composed dishes and had great flavor combos. My favorite was probably the ribeye ($9). It had a chunk of ribeye on top of the bread, as well as a little ball of fried goat cheese, some fried chips, and an almond picada sauce. The sauce is made with almond and parsley—it looked like a chimichurri. It was very tasty.

My next favorite item was probably the polenta pinxtos ($5). This had a hunk of crispy polenta and another little ball of fried cheese. I really liked the marinated mushroom and tomato at the top of the stick as well. It was really tasty. I would easily get both again.

We also had the shrimp a la plancha pinxtos ($6) with creamed fennel and lemon confit. This one was good too, although I liked the other ones better. Hubby was a big fan though. The shrimp was cooked just right though and was nice and buttery and not rubbery. The creamed fennel was good and I like the idea of the lemon, although I could have used a bit more of the lemon flavor.

We also had the patatas bravas ($8) because my kids always want fried potatoes. These were the least exciting things of the evening I would say and most went uneaten. They were drizzled with a red salsa and aioli. They needed a little extra sauce, which they happily brought us. My son did order the kid’s hanger steak as well, and it was very good (and a great deal at $8). It was served with matchstick fries, which were better than the bravas, and which also come as a dish to share for $5. I would go in this direction if you want some fried potatoes with your meal.

Finally, we were intrigued to try the Basque burnt cheesecake ($8). It is a slice of cheesecake that quite literally seems to have the top and side charred. It was unique and pretty tasty. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet. Again, it’s a unique flavor, but a good one overall.

They are also making their own ciders, which I didn’t try because I am generally not a huge fan. But you can also get the usual Brugge beers and wines, so everyone can be happy. You can (obviously) also now take kids up there. This is something totally new for Indy, and I am happy to see it. On the whole, the food is very, very good. I am excited to go back and try some more things, particularly more of the pinxtos. Let me know if you have been and have favorites.

Txuleta Basque Cider House
1011 East Westfield Blvd
Indy 46220

Monday, January 8, 2018

Watami All You Can Eat Sushi

Ok, I am finally getting this written. It has been awhile since this visit, but I needed to get it out there, because it is unlikely we will return. Watami is one of those all you can eat sushi places. You pay about $22 and you can eat whatever sushi you want, as well as random other items on the menu. You can’t just crazy over-order though. They will charge for the pieces you don’t eat if you leave more than 7.  Not every menu item is on there, but there’s a pretty wide selection. We were torn about getting the all you can eat, because our normal order is about 3 rolls, and for 2 people, that would not really be a deal to spend $44. In the end, after ordering a few other things, it was close, but still not a better deal, because the salad I ordered was not a choice for all you can eat.

This place is also located in the old H2O sushi location, which may have me a bit jaded because that was my all time favorite sushi joint and will forever be missed. But I tried to keep an open mind. They have added a lot of booths to the interior, and changed the décor. When we were there, it was really hot outside (I told you it was awhile ago) and the air conditioner was not working. It was fairly stifling in there, which didn’t help our experience.

We tried our three rolls, the sexy girl ($12.95), the rock & roll ($12.99) and the watami roll ($12.95). We also had the tuna nigiri sushi ($4.25) and the avocado salad ($4.50). The sexy girl is spicy tuna and crunch inside with spicy crabmeat on top. So, they said it was crab on the menu, and I saw no little stars next to it and it wasn’t spelled with a “k.” I even directly asked, is this real crab? The server told me yes. Nope, it was that weird stringy stuff that is not good. It tasted fishy and detracted quite a bit. The rock and roll was a fried shrimp inside with avocado on top and crunchy tempura crab bits. It was fine, but not worth getting excited about. The watami roll was tempura crab (here comes that crab issue again), which was also “krab” and tasted fishy and not so good. I mean, I get that they aren’t going to be serving amazing fish at an all you can eat place (someone online said they will eat like 60 pieces when they go!), but if it isn’t real crab, I think you need to be up front about that, especially if you get asked directly. It was topped with seared tuna and avocado. The tuna at watami is somewhat weak as well. In fact that nigiri was pretty inedible because it was so fatty and stringy. And you know they are saving the best pieces for the nigiri. So you get the idea. The best part about the rolls for me was their size. They were very small pieces, which I like because they’re easy to eat. Assuming they probably do this for cost cutting. My avocado salad, which looked really pretty on the menu, was pretty boring. A few pieces of iceberg topped with sliced avocado. I mean, I love avocado, but some acidic gingery dressing would have been nice.

Hubby really hated this place. I don’t think he will ever step foot in there again. I could probably be persuaded to try it again just because I am always willing to give a place a couple of chances. But I certainly wouldn’t order anything with crab in the name. And the fish is certainly not up to the standards of many sushi places in town, but I guess you get what you pay for. And if you are eating 60 pieces of sushi for $22, well you can’t expect the highest quality. I know several people who really like this place, but if you ask me, there are much better places for sushi, and even better places for all you can eat (try Asaka during their happy hour). But for those of you who get really excited about the potential for large amounts of food for a little amount of money, I have included pictures of the all you can eat menus for your perusal.

Watami Sushi
1912 Broad Ripple Ave
Indy  46220

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bluebeard- Revisit - Lunch

I met my friend Suzanne for a slightly late birthday lunch at Bluebeard. It’s been awhile since I have eaten at Bluebeard for lunch, so it was nice to go back. The hard part is not ordering everything on the menu—so I let her choose and we split both items.

The first item was the Canadian bacon sandwich ($10), which had Canadian bacon, spinach cream cheese, garlic mayo, roasted red peppers, arugula and red onions served on Amelia’s Pullman toast. There was a lot going on in this sandwich, but it was extremely tasty. I really enjoyed the softness of the bread, even though it was also nicely toasted. The cream cheese and aioli added a kick of acidity. My only knock on it was the bacon was very fatty, which maybe some people like, but it gives it a bit too rubbery of a taste sometimes for me. I just pulled off some (not all) of the fat and really enjoyed it.

Bluebeard is sourcing their meats from the new Turchetti’s down the street (I overheard the waiter telling this to another table). It’s exciting to see a new local business featured in a restaurant like Bluebeard.

We also were feeling indulgent and got the loaded fries ($14), which were extremely good and extremely bad for the diet. But whatever. There was Mornay sauce, cheese, bacon and of course lots of crispy fries. Oh and a sunny egg on top. The Mornay sauce though—damn, it was so good. It wasn’t just pure flat and rich, it had an edge to it that made it completely addicting.

Bluebeard is a solid choice you guys, even for lunch. It feels like a nice grown up place, and isn’t so crowded that you have to wait to get it for lunch. And you know you want to eat those fries.

653 Virginia Avenue
Indy, 46203