Thursday, September 25, 2008

La Hacienda

Having noticed a distinct lack of ethnic foods on these pages, the FLO decided to treat ourselves to the one type of ethnic food that is plentiful on the south side... Mexican. Here in the land of chains, we are blessed with a plethora of Mom & Pops specializing in south-of-the-border cuisine.

Having listened to Fred rave about the lunches at the Binford Blvd location, Libby and Ozzy were excited to try La Hacienda. A local chain, with several locations circling Indy proper, La Hacienda specializes in authentic Mexican grub without pretense.

While you can get all the basics -- tacos, burritos, enchiladas and the like -- these guys offer a whole host of entrees you're not going to find at your local Taco Bell. Fred's water mark for any Mexican place is the Chile Colorado and these guys deliver. A healthy portion of heavily seasoned red meat in a delectable sauce served with beans and their heavenly spanish rice. He also recommends the roasted poblano peppers stuffed with meat, cheese & beans. Yum!

Having been there, done that, Fred chose a burrito combo, one chicken and one beef. Libby weighed in with the chicken enchiladas verde. At Fred's insistence, we added on a bowl of their chicken soup. Sure it was going to be way too much food, but that's what doggie bags are for!

Fred was very happy with his burritos... very flavorful and perfectly balanced spices. The chicken was all white meat and talk about a healthy portion! Libby's enchiladas were bordering on spectacular. Neither of us could believe the rice. Usually a bland afterthought on the plate, this stuff was front and center. We couldn't put our fingers on the spicing, but it offset the verde sauce beautifully.

Finally, we moved on to the soup -- Fred's staple lunch. Obviously chicken soup is the first thing you think of when you envision Mexican food.... or if this is any indication, it should be. It has a creaminess to it that we can not put our fingers on; very much like the coconut milk in a thai red curry. But instead of curry, this is a heavy tortilla, rice & chicken affair with some avocado thrown in for good measure. So satisfying.

FYI, there are 8 locations around town(that we know of) and they have been in business for over 10 years. And we shouldn't leave out one very important note, they were voted "Best Mexican Food in Indy," which most locations boast on their signs.

Wrap Up
Price-$, A more authentic Mexican restaurant with more than reasonable prices.
Atmosphere-**, Dated yet cozy with low key booths and tables, nice flat panel televisions, and pleasing wall art of Mexican scenery.
Service-***, very attentive and fast service
Fred - A- While the salsa wasn't quite up to snuff, the strength of the food throughout the menu gives this one the A
Libby -A, Really impressive. Everything was above average, and some things, namely my enchiladas and the chicken soup, outstanding! Cheap, delicious, convenient and fast?! What more do you want?
Ozzy - B, Um , yeah, he really shouldn't comment as he only ate the chips...but, they were very acceptable as he was so protective of the basket.

La Hacienda on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Broad Ripple Brewpub

So where ELSE in this town has killer beer? Oh yeah! Maybe Broad Ripple Brewpub? Yup. Page 6. Why they don't put them front & center is anyone's guess... I mean, food? Who needs it before they get one of those delicious English pints (no 16 ounces here!)!

After ordering our pints -- Wheat for the lady, a hearty Alt-bier for the lad. (no, not Ozzy. He wanted water? Go figure!) -- Libby decided we needed to try the cheese dip special...Chorizo, ancho chiles & cheese. While the dip was very very tasty, it was served with stale chips. ugh. This appetizer is a perfect microcosm of the meal. Parts bordering on the inspired, others not meeting McDonalds' quality control.

Having had a huge lunch, Libby considered simply having the appetizer, but decided on a light dinner as well. She ordered Lori's Favorite -- a pita filled with basil hummus, lettuce, tomato & swiss cheese. While we are both huge hummus fans, this was a flop. A stale pita (is this a trend?) and entirely too much hummus. It was a case where less would be more. The flavor was intense, yet the product itself dry and unsatisfying. But even after removing 1/3 of the hummus, it was just not working for us.

Fred ordered Barry's Favorite -- honey smoked turkey, apple smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce & brie on sourdough. While Libby found the sandwich to be only mediocre, Fred was very happy with the bite from the brie. It was that little difference that put it above your average club.

Ozzy's meal continued the hit & miss performance. He requested the grilled cheese with pub chips. As with so many other establishments, somehow the grilled cheese is never grilled enough. What is so hard about putting cheese between two pieces of bread and then melting it? Oh well, we're beginning to expect no better. Ozzy, a big fan of Dad's grilled cheese at home, didn't even touch it. BUT. . . the pub chips!! Niiiice! Double-fried and perfect. No fancy spices, just discs of brown crispiness that dipped well in both ketchup and leftover queso. Certainly worth the subsitution over the standard Mike Sells.

One brief note on the beer. Although Libby's Wheat had not a hint of head or carbonation it still demanded a second pint with no complaints. The flavor was there, even at the end of the keg. Fred's Alt-bier left him wanting to sit and stay for 2-6 more.

Wrap Up

Price-$$ - $$$, A well balanced menu not filled with just the typical burgers & pizzas
Atmosphere-***, Indoor crowded English pub or outdoor peoplewatching. The sum of all broadripple's eccentricities.
Service-**, Nothing special good or bad.
Fred - B, I'll give it a one time pass on stale chips. But our pen will FLY if we encounter it again.
Libby - B-, Overall this would be a higher mark, if not for the culinary execution issues. For such a well-established Broadripple icon, it felt like quality was being sacrificed in the name of inherited superiority. Even with it's flatness, the beer (and excellent cheese dip) has saved this rating.
Ozzy - B, Ozzy digs outdoor seating. To his detriment, he had just awoken from his nap and was a little on the cranky side. But they provided a decent selection and it's refreshing to see a child-friendly brewpub. The Monon being across the street certainly didn't hurt.
Broad Ripple Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 14, 2008


So, instead of a month or two later, it was more like 5 months later, but Fireside is definitely doing all the right moves. From kitchen expansion plans to their 5th menu, it appears the owners have the backing to really make this place work. As we were watching Kitchen Nightmares last week, Chef Gordon Ramsey helped a Long Island train wreck get back in shape and he introduced the concept of the "gastropub." This is exactly how we would describe Fireside Brewhouse...the southside's only real gastropub...high-end eats with a relaxed yet classy dining/bar atmosphere.

And speaking of high-end eats, the head Chef, Tommy Thompson, is concocting some seriously tasty dishes! Even from the first week of opening, it was obvious a real chef was behind the menu and we are happy to say things have only gotten better.

For our return visit, it was a late Saturday lunch. After deciding on a draft Bell's Oberon, Libby was feeling like a sandwich and the Brood Witch was speaking her language...peppered turkey, cheese, cherry smoked bacon, over sourdough with hollandaise...oh, yeah! It was served with a caesar side salad(homemade croutons and shaved parmesan, anyone?) and was delicious. The hollandaise was very mild(we usually douse ours with lemon juice to tang it up) yet this culmination was smooth and very filling.

Fred started with the Bell's and followed with Avita Turbodog(a meal!). Then, Fred went with the "wet pig" or grilled tenderloin dipped in a chipotle/garlic sauce served on a kaiser bun. It was a solid(if somewhat uninspired) sandwich. It was served alongside the house fries, very tasty shoestrings, that dipped well in the leftover "wet pig" sauce!

Now, to Ozzy. We knew we were going out on a limb here, but we went with the kids cheese pizza. Crazy, we know. Ozzy doesn't do pizza. He's a breadstick kid. Sauce only goes on pasta, duh! Even though he had issues with the sauce, he gave it a go and ended up leaving most of it. So, Fred and Libby gave it a taste and wow(!), this is a damn good cheese pizza! The sauce had this wonderful sweet garlic essence, with loads of mozzarella and a great woodfire crust. It was so good in fact, Fred and Libby ended up finishing the majority of Ozzy's entree while leaving some of their own behind. Excellent pairing with a good brew.

And speaking of brews, they still have a monster beer menu. The organization is better, but we still think there should be more taps...16 is good, yes, but more is better!

It seems that Fireside has really made it a point to stand out as a hang out. Their lunch menu advertised their weekly karaoke, DJ's, live bands and sporting event activities and specials. They are certainly broadening their customer base with a family-friendly atmosphere that turns adult only after 10pm-good idea!

One suggestion...please get that website up and's been "under construction" since opening.

Wrap Up
Price-$$-$$$, Not cheap, but very worth the price tag
Atmosphere-***, More relaxed than before, yet kept the high-end feel
Service-***, excellent waitress, Thank you, Jessica!
Fred - B+, Next time need to try an "adult" style pizza.
Libby - A-,Better menu, better ambiance, great sandwich, excellent beer and pizza!
Ozzy - B-, No matter how hard we try, he's still not a pizza boy yet.*sigh*
Fireside Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Boogie Burger

On the rare occasion that Fred and Libby get a "date night," we knew exactly where we wanted to go...Boogie Burger! Fred had read about it in The Dish from Indianapolis Monthly and we were jonesin' for some juicy goodness.

After a little jaunt in the rain, we came across the hole in the wall Broadripple location. It seemed right, screen door, windows lined with bar stools and tables and the larger than life wall menu. Since we had done our research, we knew what we wanted to try before we got there.

Fred had feasted his eyes on the Disco Inferno. A third pound of Angus beef topped with Serrano peppers, pepper jack cheese, lettuce/tomato/mayo...cooked to perfection. A good char, not over done, and a nice heated finish. One bite provided enough heat for Libby, and she had other things to consider like...the Wild Wild West!

This burger was the same delicious Angus beef, a fried onion, cheddar cheese, hickory smoked bacon, lettuce/tomato/mayo and a nice sweet BBQ sauce. It was butta! Even, Fred, the onion-o-phob found the burger delicious. The garlic and parsley fries were the perfect match. Libby is especially fond of fresh chopped garlic, and this side had enough piled on to add some zing and spice to the not so exciting fries...honestly, they should have been double fried.

While sitting and watching the passers by run in the rain, it was the perfect, relaxing "burger joint" atmosphere. A customer came in just to get a smoothie, something we will have to sample next time! As it appears to be set up to ensnare the post-bar partiers on the prowl to satisfy that drunken craving, we actually did it in reverse---which also works very nicely. ;)

Wrap Up
Price-$$, worth the money for a burger done right!
Atmosphere-***, fun, inviting atmosphere that was small, intimate and had a great view.
Service-***, quick service, friendly, easy going.
Fred - B+, Thoroughly enjoyable grease-bomb. When can we expect a southside location to open?!
Libby - B+, A delicious, well-cooked product(Angus Beef). The toppings were a mouth pleasing combo and the fries, although needing a double fry, were very satisfying...gimme that gah-lic!
Ozzy - no comment, enjoying the night with Aunt Mary and Uncle Eric! (Thank you, guys!)

Boogie Burger on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 1, 2008

Maxine's Chicken and Waffles

After searching in vain in both Fountain Square and Mass Ave for an eatery open on Labor Day, the FLO stumbled upon a vision in southern deep fried glory on East Street. We had heard that a new soul food restaurant had opened up downtown. Usually our waistline concerns prevent us from considering such delicacies, but hey, we were in a pinch. And man are we happier for it!

Maxine's Chicken and Waffles may make northerners scratch their heads. Fried chicken atop waffles? We decided to leave that for another time. But we will be back to give it a go!

Upon entering, we were surprised to be seated; not just expected to walk up to a counter and grab a tray? We immediately noticed the large shower/fountain/wishing well in the center of the dining room. This made for a loud, but not unpleasant atmosphere. The rest of the interior was adorned in stucco with large arches and sconces on the walls. While tasteful, it seemed somehow out of place with the deep fried goodness being served.

After being seated, we both opted for one of the house specialties: B&K Ice tea. It's a mixture of sweetened iced tea & lemonade. Very refreshing! While looking over the menu, we immediately decided on a FLO-favorite as an appetizer: fried green tomatoes! YUM! Somehow we knew they'd be done right: thinly sliced. no flour. Just the perfect cornmeal breading. They were served with a creamy dipping sauce heavy on the onion. Ozzy, spying the green within the crust, dove into the complimentary corn bread instead. One very buttery face later, he was a happy boy.

For the main course, Libby opted for the smothered boneless friend chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens. She bestowed her mac-n-cheese on Ozzy who gave it two big thumbs up. Fred was torn between several of the hearty breakfast-all-day offerings, but ended up going with a blackened catfish sandwich with fried apples on the side.

Yowsa! Libby's boneless fried chicken was cooked to perfection. How do you get boneless chicken with the skin intact? The gravy was unlike any we'd tasted before. There was no milk, just the drippings from the chicken, some stock, flour and spices. Heavenly.

Fred's blackened catfish sandwich was well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but unfortunately too small a fillet for the oversized bun and toppings. Good stuff though and the fried apples were pie without the crust. Tender, sweet and warm. Delish.

Libby had never tried collard greens before. She was pleasantly surprised to find them something familiar. Very cabbage-like without the tang of vinegar. Instead, these had a porky goodness that complimented the smothered chicken.

After seeing a plate of the chicken and waffles walk past, Libby was ready for another visit. Somehow we don't think Ozzy would complain.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, Certainly reasonable especially for the large portions (Fred's sandwich not withstanding)
Atmosphere-** - ***, Open kitchen and lively dining area as one might expect. But the contemporary decor was somehow too stuffy for the comfort food within.
Service-***, Greeted at the door by an eager and accommodating host. Our server seemed almost offended that we were not able to finish our plates...sorry...wanted to...believe us.

Fred - B, Fried chicken. fried catfish. fried green tomatoes. fried apples. fried arteries. oh yeah.
Libby - B+, Although I don't have the most experienced southern food palate, the fried chicken was perfect. As for the mashed potatoes and gravy, more seasoning please!
Ozzy - B+, When asked if his mac-n-cheese was good, he simply replied "yup". But 3 piece of cornbread spoke volumes...
Maxine's Chicken and Waffles on Urbanspoon