Monday, September 3, 2012

Cannoli Queen

 Every time we drive by Cannoli Queen, we say we've gotta try it... Well, last week, we finally did!

Located in a strip mall off of County Line and Emerson, Cannoli Queen is a small, locally-owned Italian eat-in/carry-out order-at-the-counter situation. We were stoked to find they had a website and found it hard to narrow our choices.  With our hectic work schedule, Fred did the carry-out option on his way home.

We eagerly anticipated Fred's arrival.  Finally, he busted into the kitchen with a little Italian smorgasbord; lasagna with salad and bread, fried mozz and marinara, gabagool with Italian fries and marinara, spaghetti and meatballs & sausage with more salad and bread, and of  course, cannoli's all around for dessert!  Tums within reach, we dug in.

Where to begin?  We opened it all up and started greedily sampling from the array of carry out tins.  Stella dove into the Italian fries happily, while Libby took a big bite of gabagool.  Fred was surprised by his pleasant reaction to the lasagna and Ozzy went loco on his spaghetti and the yummy

The fried mozzarella looked like it may have just come out of a GFS bag.  Not the greatest first impression, but they were tasty enough. Fred couldn't stop talking about how much he enjoyed the lasagna.  Not a person to have ever ordered lasagna in the last 16 years she has known him, Libby was slightly disturbed by his enthusiasm.  What is it he liked so much? It was very cheesy, with a heavy amount of ricotta, good spicing, and it wasn't dry at all.  Nice and moist with a wonderful rich marinara! Libby, on the other hand, found the gabagool only "fine".  The meat was cut thicker than she would like and there wasn't enough complexity. There was just nothing special about it.  Still reeling from the Little Eataly experience, Libby was regretting she hadn't tried the Italian beef instead. 

Spaghetti with Marinara & Italian Sausage
Stella nibbled on this and that, not committing to one choice entirely, but more than willing to try most things a couple of times.  One outstanding feature of the kids spaghetti and meatballs was the sausage.  There were nice zesty chunks incorporated in the dish.  Very satisfying.  The sausage sandwich immediately went on the list for next time.  The Italian fries were too bland.  They were dusted in parmesan yet still needed more seasoning and there was not a great fry on them either.  They could use some tweaking, but they were still a great transport vessel for the marinara.  The side salads were exactly what you'd expect from a mom & pop italian place.  Your basic tossed with iceberg, house Italian & shredded mozzarella.  Good & classic, if uninspired. 

It was cannoli time and Fred slowly took the pastry box out of the paper bag.  What a beautiful sight!  Two chocolate and two originals that only seemed to differ in their shell.  This was a first for the whole FLOE family.  How to describe the cannoli?  The cream was thick, with chocolate chips incorporated, not too sweet, but decadent.  The shell was also thicker and denser than expected, but made sense with the subtle sweetness of the cream and tasted like a thick sugar cone without the sugar.  Ozzy loved the filling, but balked at the slight flower coating left on the shells.  They were definitly a nice dessert, but not sure if it would be chosen over any other sweet treat in the future.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, About what you'd expect for an Italin take-out place.
Atmosphere-**, Again, what you'd expect for take-out.  While they do offer a few tables, it seems like they're much more focused on the take-out side.
Service-***, Friendly & responsive.


Fred- B- -- I'm happy to have another take-out option in Greenwood, but other than the marinara, nothing was a straight up hit. We'll be back, but I wouldn't drive across town for it.  
Libby- B- --  No interest in trying the gabagool again.  It did nothing for me.  But I will definitely be getting the sausage sandwich and trying some of the fried ravi.  No fries, but definitely a side salad.
Ozzy- A- -- Kind of hard to go wrong with spaghetti & bread for the Oz.
Stella- A -- She grazed on a bit of everything with no complaints. 

Cannoli Queen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Indianapolis Food Truck Mini Reviews

It was Friday date night and we thought we'd go downtown to GenCon to do some people watching and check out the food truck meet up on Georgia Street.  Here are a few quick mini reviews of our evening grazing.

First stop was Der Pretzel Wagon.  After struggling over whether to get a plain pretzel or one of the sandwiches, we decided to get two sliders; the smoked turkey, chipotle gouda with ranch and the ham and horseradish cheddar.  As one can see, they were made with beautifully brown little pretzel buns and filled with a manageable amount of the goods.  Yummy.  Fred and Libby would have to concur that the smoked turkey won out, but both were tasty nontheless.  Our one regret of the night was not having room to come back for a plain pretzel.  The pretzel rolls had the homemade goodness you can't easily get in these parts--a perfect chew, glossy exterior, and just plain super tasty. Next!
Der Pretzel Wagen (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Byrne's Grilled Pizza was next up.  There were two pizza trucks on site, but this one seemed different and the toppings on the "rotating" pizza were too good to pass up.  This was a pesto, ricotta, asiago, and pepperoni.  The pizza was a pre-prepped one that was grilled to order.  It came out with a nice crunch, a decent char, and some very flavorful ingredients.  Was it the best pizza of our lives, no, but it was a decent truck pizza, no doubt. Are we going to trek across town to get it, no.  But if we see them across from a brewery's tasting room, we'll definitely grab a slice. :)
Byrne's Grilled Pizza (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

After a couple of savory dishes, it was time to enjoy some dessert!  Entre Scout's Treats!!! Okay, we had seen some of the goodies walk by, but had no idea what we were in for.  The attitude of the truck wench should have spoken volumes...we ordered the red velvet cupcake.  Instead of trying to sell us on another one since they were out, she simply said with a dazed monotone and a distant glare in her eyes, "Here. Take a chocolate chocolate chip with white frosting. It's good."  We didn't argue and bought the cupcake.  As we greedily dove our forks into the whipped white goodness, it became clear where her confident yet carb-coma like expression came from.  O-M-F-G.  It was good.  She was right. Huge, well packaged in a convenient plastic lidded cup, and yet, somehow not big enough to share happily.  ;)  Excellent cake that neither one of us could decide on the exact flavor and a lovely frosting that will make you never want to go to the grocery bakery again. And more than a couple of chocolate chips to boot.  Wonderful and only makes us want to try them all.
Scout's Treat Truck on Urbanspoon
After much walking and talking and a beer or two, it was time for one last stop.  We decided after seeing the menu that Little Eataly was the easy choice. What wasn't so easy was actually deciding on only one dish.  As a "compromise" we didnt.  It was going to be the Italian Beef--hot, and the Ravi Fritti. The Italian Beef was massive, dripping and delightfully spicy.  As our lips burned, no fewer than 4 (count 'em! 4!) couples came up and asked us what we were eating and where we got it.  It certainly made our top two IBs in the city, on par with Fat Dan's.  The Ravi Fritti (fried ravioli) were served with a vodka dipping sauce.  They were delightfully crunchy homemade pockets of ricotta that brought Fred back to a familiar happy place. 
Little Eataly (food truck) on Urbanspoon

Wrap Up:
The easiest way to sum up a food truck meetup review is to answer the question, "Will I hunt down this truck again"?

Der Pretzel WagonYes.  When you want a good pretzel, you know they're not going to disappoint.
Byrnes Grilled PizzaNo.  Not that it was bad pizza (really, is there such a thing?) but no special trips here.
Scout's TreatsOh Hells Yes.  This is a dangerous, dangerous vehicle.
Little Eataly: Absolutely.  Little Eataly is a perfect example of what the new crop of Indy food trucks is all about -- great ingredients, smart menu & high quality execution.  We might just drive across town for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BRU Burger Bar

Where can you get an amazing burger on the most fabulous side of town?! BRU burger bar, that's where!  Not to spoil the review, but we like.

BRU is part of the Mesh and Boulder Creek family, but felt more like a neighborhood place than a chain. We went on a Friday evening, kids in tow, ready to sink into some serious beef.  Our wait was short, only 20 minutes and luckily the establishment is next to a little patch of grass with that big brick head sculpture.  Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, not sure of the name, but it was the ideal place to let the kids cavort for a bit. 

We were seated in the glassed in addition. Beautiful, awesome people watching, and so much nicer than the usual -by the front door- seating we are used to receiving.  Another pleasant surprise--an actual kids menu!  Did not expect that.  And the beer selection?  Holy Moley!  If the burgers stood up to the beer, we knew we had a winner.

Our waitress was a doll.  Knew the menu, knew the taps, knew what to suggest(even as far as pairings)and spent just enough time flirting with the kids to make us feel welcome. 

The burgers seemed to answer to every palate you could imagine.  For tonight, Fred settled on the Bourbon Burger---lets the imagination go wild, doesn't it?  This one came with bacon, peppercorn-bourbon glaze and horseradish havarti. Hello!  Libby had to try the one egg burger on the menu--The End--horseradish havarti, fried egg, carmelized onion, lettuce, tomato and tuffle aioli.  Ozzy went with their mac and cheese with fries and Stella the fried shrimp and fries. 

While we waited, we enjoyed the incredible people watching and our luscious beers - Weihenstephaner Hefeweisen and a Two Brothers Domaine DuPage  .

Just look at those burgers!  Gorgeous, juicy, and topped with some fantastic ingredients.  Let's just say, we were one happy FLOE.  Fred's burger was cooked bloody and rare, just like he likes it! The bourbon glaze was quite tasty but made this burger a definite knife and fork experience only. Libby, on the other hand, indulged in the warm, gooey, sticky meat/cheese/sauce/egg mound eagerly with both hands.  Other than needing a stack of wet naps, she was in her happy place. Her side of onion rings were nicely seasoned, but were a bit heavy on the batter(a tasty Pabst Blue Ribbon batter)...not too shabby.  Ozzy was ooing and awing over his mac while Stella picked at her shrimp, but downed some fries and what appeared to be a homemade ketchup.  Stella was crazy.  Mommy and Daddy had to sample those shrimps and they were awesome!  Screaming to be put on a poeboy with some of that truffle aioli!
Although this is a pricey endeavor for burgers and beers, it's well worth it to dine with "our peeps" on Mass Ave...and of course, sneak over to Mass Ave Toys for play time!

Wrap Up
Price-$$$, Expensive for a burger, but damn, that's a burger that touches you in all the right places!
Atmosphere-****, Rediculously warm and inviting with dark woods, exposed brick, rich tones and a perfect amount of buzz in the air to off set the occasional screeches from the short people. A true family pub!
Service-****-Knowledgeable, fun, fast, and obviously enjoy their work.

Libby- A --mazing!  I will gladly go there anytime and spend too much for a burger, beer and awesome company..and what i wouldn't give to live upstairs! ;)
Fred- A -- Seriously could not have been happier with my meal.  I'm a sucker for homemade ketchup too, and this one did not disappoint. 
Ozzy- A+ -- Oz was oooing and ahhing over his homemade mac & cheese.
Stella- B+ -- While she didn't dig on the (perfectly wonderful!) shrimp, she loved the homemade ketchup, fries and undivided attention from the waitress.

BRU Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Wow.  Has it really been a year?  Oops.  Life happens then you neglect your blog!
Well, we're back and ready to hit the foodie scene once again!

We had been eyeing a place south of us for a while now.  A "grill and bar" called Louie's off of Stone's Crossing and 135.  Louie's is a small regional chain originating in Oklahoma.  The menu is your typical American bar & grill with family-centered dining as the main focus & a separate adult-only area.  At first blush it appeared to us that the 21+ area was much larger than your typical chain -- but then again, we'll never really know. ;)

We arrived and were seated near the front as seems to be typical when you have young children.  Our server arrived promptly to explain the drink & food specials.  The kids just wanted water, but Libby chose the margarita special of the day and Fred the Triton brewery seasonal, the Sin Bin.  Both were exactly what the doctor ordered.

The menu is your typical burgers, wraps, sandwiches and salads with the addition of personal pizzas.  Their signature appetizer seemed to be the fried green beans with wasabi ranch for dipping.  That sounded perfectly fine to us.  We knew Stella would dive in, and MAYBE we'd get something green into Ozzy.

For dinner, Ozzy could not be denied his mac & cheese and Stella followed suit.  Libby was in the mood for shrimp and chose fries with au gratin veggies for her sides.  Fred went with the steak with blue cheese and black bean salsa & chips for the side.

The atmosphere was very busy with lots of families so there was no worry about our kids causing a ruckus.   While we waited, we noticed a lot of flat screens.  After checking the website, there are a total of 14 but we were more impressed with the placement.  From any seating angle, you could easily see two to three -- nice for sporting events. 

Our entrees came out relatively quickly, but we had to question the status of our appetizer, which had obviously been forgotten. The oversight was very quickly remedied and we ended up with quite a spread before us.  The kids dug in quietly to their very creamy-looking mac & cheese while mom & dad did the same with their entrees.  Libby found the blackened grilled shrimp solid, but nothing amazing.  The fries were Steak & Shake style shoestrings.  A good fry, but also nothing to write home about.  The au gratin vegetables on the other hand, were horrid.  There was easily two to three times the amount of salt necessary, and we like our salt!  It was simply inedible. 

Almost on queue, Ozzy looked up from his mac & cheese to declare that it was "not good.  Like at Monon Food Company".  Man, that kid has a heck of a memory...  We tried a bite and had
to agree.  It needed the salt from the au gratin.  With kids now both abandoning the mac & cheese, Fred tried in vein to move them to the green beans.  No dice, which was too bad because they were possibly the best thing on the table.

Fred's steak was well cooked, but very tough and stringy.  The flavor was fine and yes, it was just a $10 steak.  Even so, meh.  The chips and black bean salsa side was fine, but a little heavy on the onion for his taste. 

The green beans were a very basic batter & sauce, but it just worked.  Nice & crispy with the evilness that only comes from deep frying.  They may still have been green, but there was nothing vegetal left.  Tasty.  Would Ozzy touch even one?  Heck no.

As everyone at the table seemd to be left wanting, we decided on a slice of carrot cake to share.  No clue if it came out of a box or was home made, but it was definitely delish and demolished.


Wrap Up
Price-$, Very inexpensive for a sit-down lunch/dinner. 
Atmosphere-***, Clean, comfortable & "buzzy" enough to hide any loud kid noises that may or may not emanate from your table.
Service-***, Attentive & professional.

Fred - C, I walked away feeling like I'd ordered all the wrong things.  The food at other tables certainly looked tasty.  Too bad ours really wasn't. 
Libby -C+, For us, living on the south side, I will definitely go again and give it another shot.  No problem.  But would I suggest that somebody drive from another side of town?  Hell to the no.  You can probably find adequate fair at any local neighborhood "bar & grill".  This may end up being my local Applebee's/Chili's alternative.   
Ozzy-C+, While he didn't dig on the mac & cheese, he told us "next time, I have to try the grilled cheese."  Maybe his desire to return had more to do with Louies' game room, but it's a good sign none the less.
Estelle-C+, She had a few bites of mac & cheese and then gave up to come sit on daddy's lap and chow on his chips (with ketchup?) instead.

Louie's at Stone's Crossing on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Clay Oven

Every time a new non-chain restaurant opens on the south side, you know we'll be excited! Clay Oven is located next to the big US 31 Wal-Mart strip mall but it is still small and could be easily missed if you weren't looking for it. Open for a couple of months now, we had nothing but high hopes for excellent cuisine and a new favorite Indian dining spot close to home!

We had the opportunity to try Clay Oven out twice before doing this review and on both occasions service has been polite, personable, and friendly. The patience and humor shown by staff were very appreciated when considering our very vocal children. ;)

On our first visit, we decided to start with the mixed tandoori appetizer. A sizzling tray of chicken & lamb over a bed of charred green peppers & red onions quickly emerged. The smell of the meat and veggies was intoxicating. As expected in an Indian place, the seasoning on both were excellent. Mom, Dad & Stella enjoyed every morsel of roasted lamb, but found the chicken dry. That and for the price, I think we'll pass next time, especially since it was one of the more pricey appetizers.

While Stella, Mom & Dad dove into the meat, Ozzy pecked a bit at the Papad. These are crispy, very thin wafers that came with the dish. No one could really nail down the spice. Maybe celery salt or onion salt? Not sure, but it wasn't a big hit with the Oz, so he waited for the main course.

Our second visit appy was the Paneer Pakora. This was oddly familiar and quite good. Small squares of house-made Indian cheese dipped in a garbanzo bean batter and deep fried....yummy. This batter had a nice spice to it and would be good on anything!

As we're both suckers for lamb, our first visit had to include it. Fred ordered the Lamb Hara Masala (lamb cooked in a mint curry sauce) while Libby chose the Krahi Ghosht . Since we knew the only thing headed to the table Ozzy would even consider touching was the rice, we added a basket of assorted naan. Now, FLOE is a sucker for naan. We consider it akin to pizza. As in even when it's bad, it's still pretty good! But never before have we gotten an assortment of different naans. Yowsa! Clay Oven offers 10 (count 'em!!! TEN!!) different naans. The assortment only came with 3 unfortunately: Garlic Naan, Rati (whole wheat), and regular. Maybe it was the curry going to our heads, but all three were some of the top naan we'd ever eaten. Ozzy dove in head first. Fred literally had to grab his hands to stop him from taking more than 1/2 of it for himself. This will most certainly be an every-visit order. Skip it at your own peril, people!

Fred's dish was certainly the star of the first evening. As someone who grew up putting mint jelly on his leg of lamb (Jelly on meat? Don't knock it 'til you try it!), this was right up his alley. Not sweet like his mom's, but incredibly savory with a heavy dose of mint. Fred quickly scooped up a handful of naan for his utensil and dove in. While they called it a curry on the menu, we didn't taste much in the way of masala. The sauce was more like a mint-based pesto. The hunks of lamb tasted like they'd been cooked in the sauce, but Fred wasn't sure. All we know is Clay Oven's chef hit this one out of the park. As with most Indian dishes, it may not look very appetizing, but one whiff of the enticing aroma and you're hooked!

Libby's Krahi Ghosht was more of a fried-rice type dish which she ordered knowing Stella would have no trouble eating. While the flavor was fine and Stella definitely approved, it simply couldn't stand up to the Hara Masala. It was heavy on the peppers and onions which left the impression of a southwest meets India vibe. Unfortunately it ended up a little dry. Without a sauce to fall back on, the rice just sucked up all the moisture in the dish. A shame really...

But alas, on our second visit, we went more old school. Fred chose the Vegetable Korma and Libby the Chicken Tikka Masala. Wow! We thought the first visit had been pretty darned good, but it only when up from there. The Vegetable Korma was in a thick, savory sauce that had tons of veggies and unbelievable amounts of flavor. This kind of food can turn anyone vegetarian! Fred ordered it Medium-Hot and it was just a bit on the "hot" side, but so aroma rich, it felt perfect! Dip a little naan in and Fred was one happy man.

The Chicken Tikka Masala was definitely the best either Fred or Libby had ever had. Not to discount the familiar dish, but most lunch buffet versions are far too bland. At Clay Oven, that was SO not the case here! More savory, creamy goodness teaming with more of those floral overtones that made you wonder why the place didn't have a line out the door?!

Both visits left mom & dad stuffed, but the owner decided the kids needed some free ice cream for good behavior. Clay Oven offers a couple of different homemade ice creams per day. We decided on the mango and were happily rewarded with squeals from both kids. Definitely a hit all around. Thank you, sir!

Wrap Up
Price- $$, Not buffet prices, but what you would expect for a sit-down establishment. Although they do have a buffet for lunch.
Atmosphere-**, Clean, comfortable. We would love to see more Indian influence in decor as there seems to be a standard look to all Indian establishments. Minimalism with a hint of culture...we say jazz it up!
Service-****, Not only were both the servers attentive but the owner actually came out to explain the difference between the Roti and regular naan. The owner was incredibly gracious and practically demanded to give the kids free ice cream! What's not to love?!

Fred- A, Lets see, local owners, check. Lamb, naan and a wonderful sauce, check. Basically this is Fred's definition of a great find. Too bad Indian beer isn't my cup of tea or this would really tick all the boxes!!
Libby-A, Both experiences were consistently welcoming and proved to be some of the best Indian cuisine I have tasted. No blandness here, just aromatic spice and did we talk about that naan???!
Ozzy- B, Ok, the boy had naan, white rice & ice cream for dinner. Not great on the parenting scale, but not so bad in his eyes.
Estelle- B, Stella grazed on everything, but especially loved the ice cream. Since this ended up being a leisurely three course meal, she got a little antsy towards the end...both times.

The Clay Oven Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon