Monday, April 30, 2018

Love Handle - Revisit

I met up with my friend Suzanne and went to Love Handle recently—she had really good things to say, and my last meal at the old location was good. They have really expanded into a pretty large storefront on the east end of Mass Ave. It’s a casual, cute space with bright green and yellow vinyl upholstery and kitschy décor. A big chalkboard announces the menu, and they have kept up their love of all things hearty and including many parts of animals that aren’t always highlighted on local menus—tongue, gizzards, sweetbreads, etc. Lots of pork belly on there as well (and more approachable items too). They have a breakfast and lunch menu (and you can order from either at lunchtime) and they have added some dinner selections as well. I am particularly intrigued by fish fry Friday. Going to have to go check it out.

Anyhow, we decided to get a couple of things and share, as we usually do. When I saw chicken schnitzel and waffle ($12), I knew I would have to try it, and man is it delicious. It is one of those dishes that as soon as you start eating it, you know it’s going to be something you crave. It’s a thinner waffle than many, but I like the size of it---it compliments the chicken rather than overpowering it. And even though I don’t typically like sweet things for my meal, this was the perfect flavor combination. The chicken was very heavily seasoned and just so savory that the sweet butter and waffle was a perfect match. The chicken was really thin, but so darn good. Seriously, this is an item I keep thinking about. I hope it’s on the menu next time I go.

I was intrigued by the “Jen” sandwich ($14 I think?) because it had pork belly with jam, but also blue cheese and pickled daikon. Normally, again, I don’t go for something sweet on a sandwich, but seems to be common here, and I do like blue cheese with jam. However, this sandwich just didn’t wow me as much. The thing about pork belly is some pieces are really good and some are just too fatty for me. And I really wanted more blue cheese to balance everything out.  Also, it seems like back at the other location they gave you some popcorn with your sandwich, but now it’s a side you have to pay extra for, which is sort of a bummer. But they are certainly doing interesting things here. I think maybe I like the breakfast items the best, but that’s not really surprising given how much I like eggs. And breakfast.

You should go check this place out though and see what you think. And let me know what your favorite items are.

Love Handle
877 Massachusetts Ave
Indy 46204

Monday, April 23, 2018

Muldoon's - Revisit

Took the picture after it was finished... ;)

Holy moly, I can’t believe I haven’t written about Muldoon’s since 2011. The other night we met up with one of hubby’s oldest friends who was in town for his daughter’s soccer tournament. It was a kind of last minute thing on a Saturday night in prime dinner hours in Carmel/Westfield area, so it was challenging to decide where to go. I mean, let’s face it, Carmel is a bit of a food desert. I mean there are some places I really enjoy, but hard to find a quality place that takes reservations and still had one available.

We started with Pizzology, but they only take reservations very early or very late and we didn’t want to get stuck waiting for an hour with not much around. We decided on just meeting on Main Street in Carmel, thinking we might do the Pint Room because hubby’s friend really likes craft beer. However, when we walked in, even though there were probably 6-8 open tables, they were on a 40-minute wait because they said their kitchen was really behind. So I appreciate that they didn’t just seat us and make us wait forever for bad service, but it seemed like a bad situation for a restaurant on a Saturday night. We saw many, many people turned away.

We ended up just going across the street and getting a table at Muldoon’s. I haven’t been there in ages. We got there before hubby’s friend, so we went ahead and ordered an appetizer. We had the buffalo chicken dip ($9.75), which is a family favorite. I make it a fair amount for buffalo chicken-type occasions, and it is one of my son’s favorite things. This one tasted a lot like mine—buffalo hot sauce, cream cheese, cheese and chicken. Mine also has ranch. It’s an easy recipe to make, but I appreciated that this one was nice and tasty. It really hit the spot. The chips were good (not great) but were tasty with the hot, creamy dip. There were also carrot and celery sticks, but seriously, who really wants veggies with their dip? Only a couple got eaten. I do think for nearly $10 the portion of dip was a tad on the pricey side, particularly when you consider the size of the tenderloin, which is similarly priced.

Speaking of, for our main dish, hubby and I split the tenderloin sandwich ($10.95). This is one of those giant tenderloins that Indiana is so famous for. This is one of the thicker versions and they know what they are doing. It’s got good flavor, pretty good moisture and good crispiness. You sort of need a bit more mayo than they give you because the tenderloin is so big. Love topping it with some red onions, and they have nice crunchy pickles as well. I was a little sad when I saw my daughter’s mini tenderloin version ($8.95) because it was on a little brioche looking bun. Much more attractive looking than our bun. If I were ordering there on my own, I would definitely go with the mini. Hubby and I barely finished our regular sized one that we shared. As for sides, I think my daughter won that one as well. She got the loaded baked potato—you can’t really go wrong there right? We just stuck with chips because I remembered not loving the fries. The chips are just your standard ruffled chips from a bag. I did order a house salad to start—which was a large salad for the price. I liked the really big chunks of blue cheese in the dressing too.

Hubby’s friend had the shepherd’s pie ($12.95), which is a bowl filled with the ground beef, veggies and topped with mashed potatoes. I didn’t get a bite, but he seemed happy and ate it all. My son had a burger that was just pretty standard from my taste. Nothing overly unique about it.
I have a hard time not ordering the tenderloin when I go, considering I seem to only get there every 6-7 years, but I would be interested to know what else is good as there are several items on the menu that are intriguing. So if you have any suggestions for me, let me know. 

111 West Main Street, Suite 100
Carmel, IN 46032

Monday, April 16, 2018

A2Z Cafe - Revist

It has been awhile since we went to A2Z and my daughter always nags me about going because she really likes it. Also, hubby had never been, and it is very convenient to my parent’s house, where we were dropping off my dog for some dog sitting, so it worked perfectly. 

We started with an order of the fried biscuits ($7 for 10 or $4 for 5). These are good little morsels—they are sugared on the outside, so they really come across more like doughnuts. They do serve them with apple butter for sweetening them up even more. They are tasty little nuggets for sure if you like to start your breakfast off with a little sweet appetizer.

I wanted to get something different, so I tried the eggs and feta ($7), which was listed as a house specialty. It is scrambled eggs, spinach, mushrooms and feta and served with a side of toast. They do a nice job with the scrambled eggs—not drying them out too much. And I liked the salty edge from them feta. The spinach was a little chewy--like the pieces were too big. They were kind of hard to cut or chew through. Their toast is quite delicious. The bread itself is really good and they toast is just the right amount. I also ordered a side of bacon. Yeah, I could’ve kept it vegetarian, but nah. The bacon was really tasty. And I liked that they asked me how crispy I wanted it (duh, always super crispy!).

Hubby loved his dish. He went with the tater tot scramble ($8.50). So they take tater tots, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, and shredded cheese and they scramble it all together and top the whole thing with sausage gravy. Seriously, this dish made him so happy. And even though sometimes I worry that mixing so many things up in a dish can just taste like a mess, this didn’t. The bites I had were quite tasty. And he cleaned his plate. It also comes with a side of toast, again, very tasty toast.

My son had the steak and eggs ($12), which includes 2 eggs your way (he ordered them scrambled) and a skewer of beef tenderloin. And there were potatoes and toast. So they give you really nice pieces of steak. My son, a huge steak lover, was thrilled to add some steak into his breakfast, which is a meal that often can go steakless. He kind of ignored the eggs. But he was down with the steak, potatoes and toast. He basically had a steak dinner for breakfast. He was happy. Oh yeah, he also had a short stack of pancakes on the side ($4) because that is the stage of life he is in (he has grown 4 inches in the last year). He also enjoyed them. They were light and fluffy. Tasty pancakes if you are a pancake person.
My daughter had a special, the crab cake benedict, which has been one of her favorite things since she ate one in Washington D.C. and fell deeply in love. They did theirs with a crab cake and an English muffin, which she thought was a little starch heavy and she wished it just had the crab cake. Or at least more of the crab cake. The eggs were done perfectly though and she is a lover of potato, so she was happy with these as well.

Overall, a really nice mom and pop breakfast (and lunch as well) joint with solid, tasty food. If you are looking for something warm and comforting made from good ingredients and with friendly service, check this place out.
A2Z Café
4705 E 96th Street
Indy 46240

Monday, April 9, 2018

Road Trip: Cincinnati--Taste of Belgium

Hubby and I were in Cincinnati for a quick trip for one of his oldest friend’s milestone birthdays. We ate food that was provided at the party for dinner, but I was excited that there was a Taste of Belgium right down from our hotel and that they opened early so we could grab breakfast on our way out of town the next day. 

The reason I was so excited was buckwheat crepes!! There was a French place in Oakland years ago that I used to eat lunch at with my legal colleagues that had the absolute best crepes.  I have forever been on a quest for one as good. 

I ordered the “the OG” ($11), which is a buckwheat crepe with a runny egg, Gruyere, ham and mixed greens. In theory, this is exactly what I like. In execution, it was fine, but not amazing. It came across a little dry, even with that runny egg. The crepe was a little thicker than I prefer. And I think I prefer my mixed greens more on the side to eat alongside it, as I want to. Also, the egg wasn’t really seasoned, and it took forever to get salt and pepper, which was not on the table. I believe an egg should be seasoned (at least salt!) and if the kitchen isn’t going to do it, then it should be left to the patron to decide with shakers on the table. So it was a little disappointing.

Hubby had the chicken, biscuit and gravy ($12), which was better than mine I thought. It was a biscuit with a fried boneless chicken breast, pepper gravy and a sunny egg on top. There was a lot going on there for sure, but I really liked the super light and crispy panko-type breading on the chicken. And they kept it tender, even though it was white meat. Again, I am a believer that an egg should always be seasoned and this one wasn’t. It wasn’t as noticeable because the chicken and gravy had seasoning in them, but still. Am I the only one who thinks this? Anyway, he also ordered a side of goetta, because well, we were in Cincinnati. Seemed like the thing to do. If you haven’t had it before, it’s a combo of oats and sausage (sort of like poor man’s sausage), with lots of seasoning and is pan-fried crisp. It was tasty, although I think I like it as part of something else (see goetta eggs benedict at Nada) best.

All in all, I was a little let down with this meal but maybe my expectations were just too high. Lots of good looking items on their menu though, and I can’t say I wouldn’t try it again.

Taste of Belgium (several locations)
3825 Edwards Road
Cincinnati, OH 45209

Monday, April 2, 2018


I was excited to try Neal Brown’s new restaurant venture, Ukiyo. I have been a couple of times, but am mainly focusing this post on the most recent visit, as the first one was very soon after they opened and I like to wait a bit longer than that before I write about a place. We were with another couple, which was nice so we could order more items.

First of all, I really like what they have done with the space. They took the old Recess which was always sort of industrial in its feel and warmed it up with some texture and color variations. The sushi bar area is light and bright and the main part of the restaurant is dark and more dramatic. I was happy to sit in the sushi bar area this time because it was still light, and it made my pictures prettier. It’s pretty dark in the main room. But it gives it a nice ambiance,
We started with the salmon tartare ($12), the octopus “dumplings” ($10) and the fried chicken kaaragge ($12). That fried chicken is great. I have had it both times and once for lunch (review to come) and it’s always been delicious. It is pieces of fried thigh meat, which is very crisply fried and it is lightly tossed in a honey sauce and sprinkled with matcha powder. It is an interesting combination of flavors. I always think I won’t love that much sweetness in a savory course, but this is balanced nicely and the chicken is just so well done. Definitely a must order. As far as the others, the salmon tartare is beautiful and bright, but is not seasoned a lot. The melt in your mouth fish was just crying out for some acid. But then again, you know me, that’s how I am. I just would have liked to see a little more to it that what it was. The toasted bread underneath was very good—light and soft but toasty too. As for the the octopus dumplings, I think they are misnamed. When I am in an Asian restaurant and I read the word “dumplings” on a menu, I am expected soft wonton-wrapped bundles filled with something. These are actually more like fried balls of dough that are dotted with bits of octopus inside. They are more like a bread ball and less like a dumpling. It’s a matter of preference I guess, but they weren’t my favorite thing, but maybe if I had expected something different, I would have enjoyed them more. I did enjoy the bonito flakes waving in the air on top. I think that’s always a very cool effect.

From there we went on to order sushi. We got the ”Hachiman,” ($15) which is farm raised blue fin tuna roll, which was avocado on the inside and chunks of the tuna on top. We also had the “Izanami” ($12), which was spicy shrimp kaarage and Japanese mayo. Finally, we had the “Uke mocha” ($19), which was crab and avocado inside and salmon on top. I think the sushi is certainly the star here based on what I have had. Both times the rolls were my favorite part for sure. Even the “designer rolls” are pretty simple though, and the fish is certainly the focus. They aren’t hiding the quality with showy things like lighting it on fire, and they aren’t dousing it with sauce. I’m not saying I don’t like a good gooey roll when I am in the right mood, but these were nice in their simpliciy. I am trying to think which was my favorite of the rolls we have had and I might say the shrimp kaarage because I liked the texture variation. But they were all good. Again, they are on the simple side (there was certainly a part of me that was thinking a little thin slice of lemon or a touch of jalapeno would have jazzed it up a little), but hey, I’m not the chef. Fish-wise, it is some of the best and freshest in town. 

As we ordered the sushi, we also decided to add one more hot dish to our order. We ordered the barbecued catfish on our server’s recommendation. Honestly, as it turned out, I was so glad we ordered this one—it may have been my favorite all around item of the evening. It was catfish sort of done in the style of barbecued eel (which they don’t serve because it is endangered, which I respect). This dish was great. Nice sticky rice, lots of scallions and several nice pieces of very tender catfish in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy sauce. I would happily eat this whole bowl myself. There’s always a next time right?

Overall, I feel like Ukiyo is still finding its exact groove, but it is off to a nice start, and it’s a place we need in Indy. I hope they keep tweaking things and I am hoping maybe one day there will also be some full-on dumplings on the menu because they’re one of my favorite things and now that they’ve said the word I really want them. But in the meantime, get the sushi and the catfish and the fried chicken. You’ll be happy. I will say I was a little surprised they weren’t busier on a Friday night, but it’s certainly a place worth checking out. And they take reservations! So that’s always a plus.

4907 49th Street
Indy  46205