Sunday, December 26, 2010

Red Lion Grog House--take 2!

FLOE has decided after the last review, that some places should get another look after that fresh, awkward opening phase.  So, with the winter chill in the air and the Colts win confirmed, we decided to head out to a family pub, The Red Lion Grog House.  It was about 9 months ago we first ventured to the very "green" Red Lion.  So, green if fact they didn't even have their "grog" license.  Not cool.  But now, liquor license acquired, Red Lion has a pretty impressive beer selection on hand and has accomplished the lived in, comfy neighborhood pub feel. 

Our most entertaining waitress brought Libby a Sun King Cream Ale, and Fred, a Strongbow Cider.  Yum.  The kids were going with water today--no milk in da house.  No biggie.  We were here to see how the dishes were holding up!  So, to start, the Toad in the Hole sounded like a good way to begin the evening in an English pub! 

While waiting we soaked in the warm setting--a long, galley-shaped dining area, multiple flat screens aglow, and that lovely sound coming from over the kitchen wall---deep frying!  Crackling, bubbling, somehow so comforting to hear that happy dance! 

Our appy arrived quickly and as it was our first toad in the hole, we had no idea what to expect.  A small chunk of sausage lay in a circular disk or nest of some phyllo-like dough, three in total resting on a bed of brown gravy.  The sausage was different, a nice (not hot) spice to it---sage, thyme?  The breading was a bit dry so the dish definitely needed the brown gravy that was very seasoned(a bit salty) and quite good.  Aioli garnished the dish and was a good addition.

Fred decided the Chicken Piccata sandwich with chips was the way to go while Libby went with some more of that lovely sausage in the Blanket Bangers with chips and a side of aioli. All chips (remember folks, these are fries) orders come with a side of sauce...we went with one of the hot curry and one of the mild curry.  Ozzy ordered the grilled cheese with bacon (on the side) with chips to share with Stella.  Such a thoughtful young lad.

The Blanket Bangers(awesome name) were quite nice.  The dish came with three wrapped sausages.  The aioli was a must and the mild curry was Libby's favorite!  Not healthy in the least, but damn yummy.  The fries were a good cut, brown, but definitley more laden by the frying than crisp and lightened.  Not complaining, just an observation.

Fred's Chicken Piccata Sandwich was a first of its kind for him.  While he always loves piccata, the concept of a sandwich is the sort of unexpected twist that makes Fred love food so much!  How was it?  Interesting and flavorful, but the novelty wore off after 4 or 5 bites.  All in all, it was a half decent sandwich, but really nothing to write home about.  The real hit was the chips in the mild curry sauce.  It was wonderful going between the hot and mild curry. Normally, Fred goes for the hotter stuff, but this time the mild was where it was at!  The chips and curry sauces are available as an appy...and if you don't get them as a side as your meal, you should seriously consider ordering the appy.

Ozzy gobbled down the grilled cheese, even though it was cheddar instead of his beloved American.  Stella concurred and they happily munched away between bits of chips and cheesy goodness.  Ozzy even ventured into the mild curry and went back for seconds!!!  Stella will, of course, dip into anything. :)

Wrap Up
Price-$$,- A bit on the pricey side, but good beer comes with a price we are usually willing to pay.
Atmosphere***,-Welcoming and cozy for a neighborhood pub.  Definitely would be a great place to watch the game.
Service****,-Great service with personality and personability!

Fred- B+ ,While English pub food is never going to win any Michelin stars no matter who is in the kitchen, everything was well-prepared and thoroughly enjoyable. 
Libby- A, Totally appreciate good pub grub--especially sausage, chips and sauce!  Beer was really good and as always, I sooo appreciate it when I can go to a pub with the kids!
Ozzy- A, Happy boy and quietly munching!
Estelle- A, Dipped and enjoyed her meal.
Red Lion Grog House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Teddy's Burger Joint

FLOE was psyched to see another home-grown startup on the south side of Indy. We hurried over to Teddy's Burger Joint for a quick bite on a weekday night. At the corner of State Road 37 and Southport, we thought it'd be a snap to find. We easily found Teddy's sign, but the restaurant itself wasn't so easy.  For a strip mall, this was about the worst spot you could get for visibility. Teddy's is located in the back corner, behind a Steak & Shake.  It's not really visible from the road. Location choice? Not so good.

Appointed with diamond plate and (nicely done) homemade tables, Teddy's decor seems like a cross between a garage & a finished basement. They've added a stage in the corner for live entertainment, a playroom in back for the kids and a fireplace in the middle of the open dining room. Several large flat-screens are positioned around the room ready for the sport du jour.

Being an order-at-the-counter type of place, we had to stop for a minute to take in the menu. Teddy's sports an impressive microbrew selection on tap, but we decided against it tonight. We were a little taken aback that the only size burger they offer is a 1/2 pound monster.  Smaller size options would be nice, considering the price.  Even for husky mom & dad, a 1/2 lb burger is a bit much.  They come in Angus by default, but it can be substituted with a bison, turkey or veggie burger.   As Teddy's is shooting for the gourmet burger angle, we stuck with the red meat, except for our resident carbitarian. 

Libby opted for the Cajun burger on a wheat bun with a side of cheese fries and a draft root beer. Fred can never pass up a chance to order bison, this time on wheat with a fried egg and one of Teddy's 5 specialty mayos, horseradish! He also threw in a side of cheese fries for good measure. We were surprised that a specialty 'burger joint' didn't ask how we would like them prepared, but decided they must know what they're doing.

First impression of the food? Mammoth slabs of meat on burnt buns along side straight-from-a-bag fries (seasoned at least) and a cup of pre-packaged nacho cheese. Seriously? For the prices they're charging, those buns should never have left the kitchen. We thought this was supposed to be a specialty place....

Fred's bison was a little over-done and dry.  The egg fried within an inch of it's life.  The whole sandwich would have been a complete disaster but was saved by the horseradish mayo. Now THAT'S the kind stuff that will put a place on the map. Crazy-good mixed with a little ketchup for the heavily seasoned fries too. Speaking of fries, the nacho cheese was surprisingly good -- nice and zesty.

Libby's Cajun burger arrived with the same, obvious burned circle on the bun (as seen above).  It was nicely dressed with grilled onion, green pepper & cheese.  The first bite revealed a pleasant seasoning, but she didn't find anything particularly Cajun about the burger.  It was a little overcooked to her taste.  The fries dipped in the nacho cheese sauce was surprisingly good for something that looked like it came out of a can.  The root beer was root beer.  It was sweet and hefty on the price @ $2.99 a glass.  That's more than half way to a real beer.

Ozzy really enjoyed his extra healthy meal of kraft mac & cheese also with a side of fries & chocolate milk.  Oh! He did have some fruit with it! (ketchup) *sigh* He took a quick trip to the chalkboard-lined playroom but got bored without any other children to play with. This is a good idea. 

Stella absolutely loved dipping the fries.  She had no interest in bites of the cajun burger, but had a bit of the bison.  Again, the nacho cheese was the star.

Given that condiments seemed to be a real strong point and can have such an effect on a meal, Teddy's staff need to actively promote it.  The person behind the counter should have been putting their best foot forward by promoting their specialty mayos and nacho cheese.  A format that requires standing in line and staring at a huge menu on the wall requires the staff to help lead the customer.  When you charge as much as you do for a gourmet burger, your staff has got to steer people in the right direction.  You need to ask "how would you like that cooked".  Libby didn't even notice that the specialty mayos existed on the menu...

Wrap Up
Price-$$,- Hefty for burgers and fries---were they actually gourmet burgers, this would not have been an issue.
Atmosphere**,- A good startWe liked the homemade tables, but nothing said "stop, watch the game and have a few beers."  A pity, with this outstanding beer menu.
Service*,- Order at the counter than they bring the food to your table.  No enthusiasm for their own food.

Fred- D,  This is just bad execution.  Overcooked meat and burnt buns.  The mayo was good as were the cheese fries.  But when you're supposed to be a gourmet burger place, that's not exactly high praise. When I compare it to other burger places around like Boogie Burger or Brickhouse burgers, it just doesn't compare.  There was just a lack of caring in both burgers.  They were both dry, uninspired and on burnt buns.  An incredible disappointment.   
Libby- C-, I can appreciate a good beer selection, especially in a homegrown establishment.  But you still have to woo me with good service, reasonable prices and high quality preparation.  I found the prices to be too high.  It's ridiculous that the only option is half a pound of meat!  There were some high notes with the nacho cheese sauce & Fred's mayo, but everything else was just "meh".  I can get a huge sandwich prepared exquisitely with attention to detail and preparation, standing in line looking at a wall menu at Shapiro's and feel like I got a good deal paying $12 (with no sides).  It's not the price, it's the price for what you get.
Ozzy- B+, Ozzy really liked the play room and certainly didn't have a problem with the food.  He gobbled up his meal completely.
Stella- B+, She was content through the meal dipping her fries in nacho cheese sauce and then sucking it off!
Teddy's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Swan Brewpub

Nothing is going to wet FLOE's appetite more than a new brewpub in town!  When we heard of the Black Swan Brewpub's opening, we had to head west to Plainfield to check it out.   Having just opened a little over a month ago (10/10/10), BSB is still a little wet behind the ears.  But with a serious chef in the kitchen and the upcoming brewery taking shape, this place could be a serious force in the Indy foodie scene.

We were a little sad to see it was located in a strip mall, but once inside, you'd never really know it.  Rich, dark woods, a black tin ceiling, and local art displays gave a less conventional feel to the place.  It scored some cozy points with low lighting, comfortable seating, and an overall relaxed atmosphere. 

Even without their brewery up and running, the Black Swan offers 16 outstanding beers on tap.  Budweiser fans will be sorely disappointed as there is not a single macro-brew available.  Yes!  Since we couldn't decide on just one, we shared a 10 beer sampler. *sigh* :)

We started with a duo of appetizers -- an order of frites and the Brewpub Stuffed Peppers.  The frites come with your choice of toss and dip.  As these were for the kids as well, we chose the salt & pepper toss and the beer cheese dip.  The frites were light and crispy.  Nice. The cheese was more of a fondue than a crock full of cheese.  Stella certainly approved.  We were hard pressed to keep her fingers out of it.

The second appetizer consisted of sweet, roasted peppadew peppers stuffed with chorizo and served on a bed of creamy goat cheese.  Yowsa!  Tiny mouthfuls of bliss!  A light spice from the chorizo combined with a slight tang from the goat cheese simply left you wanting another.  Too bad they only serve 5 of them!  Actually, there couldn't be enough of those little happy bites.

Since it was slow, the chef, Nick Carter, came by and introduced himself.  Nick discussed how they use as much local ingredients as possible...yay! Fred, being a homebrewer, was psyched to discuss the future brewing plans and was even happier to be given a personal tour of the brew-room to be.  Nice touch. Thanks, Nick! :)

Fred had decided to try the Roasted Portabella Sandwich and Libby, the Braised Lamb Shank.  Ozzy went with the usual.  Our waiter was careful to mention that the Roasted Portabella was a cold sandwich...good to know.

Fred's sandwich was indeed, chilled, and he was thankful that the waiter had warned him ahead of time.  While it was very odd at first, the flavors worked wonderfully and the combination of veggies made for a well-balanced meatless treat!  Accompanied by a side of frites, this time Fred chose the Truffle Oil and Parmesan toss with the Kalamata aioli.  The toss was light and went perfectly with the sandwich, but wow! that Kalamata aioli would make an old shoe taste went on a little bit of everything!

Libby, eagerly anticipating her lamb, was slightly dissappointed.  Not so much by the lamb itself, but by the bland gravy accompanied by the uninspiring roasted veggies.  There is nothing worse than the urge to get a salt shaker out. The meat was good, some tougher bits, but the flavor was there.  This called for a seasoning intervention.  To experiment, we dipped a bit of the lamb in the Kalamata aioli and pop! a noticeable improvement.  A sauce can make or break a dish and this brown gravy was a disservice to the whole plate.

Ozzy was unimpressed with his mac 'n cheese, but couldn't get enough of the well prepared frites.  Not much of a stretch, we know, but the cheesy cream sauce wasn't doing it for him.  Stella couldn't agree more about the frites, but also enjoyed some of the roasted veggies and lamb. 

We had to do the deed and try a dessert.  A mere trifle; bourbon pound cake, cinnamon pastry cream, apple compote, and fresh whipped cream won the vote.  Yeah, basically a deconstructed bread pudding, as most good chefs feel comfortable with, but this was a nice variation.  The poundcake was cold, so it held it's shape and had some texture while the compote and creams gave it some real richness.  All parties present approved! 

Bottom line, there was room for improvement, but our overall impression is...we're going back!  Appy's kicked butt, and entrees and dessert were good, but we have to try the ambitious brew line-up when the time comes.  Oh!  And there is wonderful thing on the menu called a Brewpub porterhouse that is actually a pork porterhouse...yes, next time little piggy.

Wrap Up
Price-$$-$$$$,- Can be pricey, but a nice varied menu allows you to splurge if you have the desire.
Atmosphere***,-A good start, but needs to be worn in a little more.
Service****,- Probably a slow day, but wow, what a first impression!  Nothing beats the Chef's direct attention and our server was informative and very professional.

Fred- A-,  Love the idea of this place!!  But is the west side really ready for it?  Awesome apps, and I'd love to try 3/4's of the menu!  For a bud light and cheeseburger side of town, I worry this place is a hard sell.
Libby-B, Except for the blah gravy, everything was tasty.  When spending $20 on an entree, expectations run high.  Next time I WILL be having the pork porterhouse!  Beer selection rocks and is only going to get better once the brewery opens. And thank you, Black Swan, for doing your part to support locally sourced ingredients.
Ozzy- B, Didn't approve of the mac, but couldn't get enough of the frites.  Dug on the dessert as well.
Stella- A, She ate everything and was especially fond of the roasted zucchini that mommy snubbed. ;)  She also performed her staff-charming duties admirably. 

Black Swan Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mesh on Mass Avenue

Mesh on Mass is a new hotspot in the old “SI” locale.  FLOE decided to check it out after reading several positive reviews and we were curious to see what it had to offer to the hip Mass Ave scene.  To be on the safe side, we called ahead to check if children were welcome and we were delighted to hear that yes, there were accommodations!  

Once we entered, we began to wonder if it was in fact comfortable for “flip flops or a tuxedo”  as the webpage claimed, and yeah, for the most part, we think so.  Fred in an old t-shirt and khaki's and Libby in her scrubs felt slightly under dressed on a Saturday evening, but otherwise, yes.  They really improved the interior from the bizarre Scholars Inn decor.  From memory, there had been an overwhelmingly tacky red and black motif.  Now, rich, warm earthtones, contemporary wall hangings and comfortable seating set the right mood for dining.  It is a real treat to go to such an adult environment in a trendy part of town that welcomes families and doesn't make you feel like you're ruining the experience for someone else.  *sigh*

The menu is concise but offers a nice variety of options.  We also noticed that Mesh is associated with Stone Creek.  Our waiter, Joseph, clarified that it was the same owner.  We had grown suspicious after seeing the familiar sauce for dipping the warm fresh baked bread. Yum.

An appy sounded good, so after checking with the waiter that it wouldn't be too spice for Stella, it was the short rib epanadas with honey chipotle and red cabbage slaw.  It was passible.  No real punch of flavor, but solid.  Maybe the slaw could have used a bit more zing?  Still, start that left us ready to be wowed by the main course.

After seeing lamb chops bordelaise with carmelized brussel sprouts and chive creme fraiche, we knew one of us was getting that!  Since Libby was feeling a steak, the Steak Frites(pepper crusted sirloin, herb butter, fries and citris pepper mayo) would fit the bill.  Ozzy was feeling adventurous...not.  Mac and cheese with... the fruit bowl on the side(!).  Fruit's good!  Stella would be sampling whatever she wouldn't choke on.

Fred was a lucky man.  The lamb was cooked perfectly.  A medium rare, yet the fat had no firmness and melted easily with each bite.  The bordelaise with caramelized brussel sprouts was ridiculous!  The absolute highlight of the meal!  If you want to learn to love brussel sprouts, this is gonna do it.  It's very rare that a vegetable side dish is the center point of an entire dinner experience.  Yet we would have dined on these sprouts alone.  Fred was struggling with whether to pick up the lamb chops and suck on the bones...with Libby's encouragement, he delicately indulged.

The steak was ordered medium rare and came out pre-sliced, which Libby was happy to see.  Stella had decided the high chair wasn't going to work for her so Mommy's lap it was -- making the use of a knife impossible.  The steak was good.  Usually, medium rare does steak the best justice, but in this case, the medium well edges had the more tender texture.  All in all a well prepared steak.  The large portion of fries had a lovely light crisp outside that the chef had somehow gotten parmesan cheese crumbles to stick to.  They then added parsley, some good seasoning and a touch of bacon...yum!  Oh, and the citris pepper mayo was nice too.  Stella dipped everything in it...even some cantaloupe.  That one, not so good. ;)

Ozzy finished his very krafty looking mac n cheese and actually enjoyed the cantaloupe in his fruit bowl.  Who doesn't love to see their kid eat something healthy once in awhile?!  Stella was a big fan of the bread, strawberries, fries, the dipping sauce, and some of the empanada.  She was a happy girl and quite pleased with gazing out the large window by our table. 

Libby had to try a dessert, so tonight the bread pudding with white chocolate, cherries, bourbon whiskey sauce and vanilla haagen dazs was the pick.  Not usually a huge bread pudding fan, this one was nice.  Moist, a little depth of flavor and definitely warmed the tum-tum.  Stella enjoyed her sample as did the boy.  Daddy could take it or leave it, preferring his glass of port instead.  Ozzy jealously guarded his vanilla ice cream, refusing to share with mommy or daddy.  But in a touching move, had no issues with giving the lil' one several bites.

Wrap Up
Price-$$$-$$$$,- Certainly pricey, but neither of us balked at the bill.
Atmosphere****,- Not quite "flip-flops to tuxedos", but close.

Service***,- Perhaps not personable, but very professional and timely.  Each course came out just when we would expect it.

Fred- B+, I love a menu where the sides interest me as much as the main courses.  There are several items I will be excited to try on our next visit, especially the pork belly with white bean cassoulet.
Libby-B+, Solid meal and good beer selection with more on the menu I want to try!  Will definitely go back as Mass Ave is one of my favorite spots in general and I can never get enough of an adult dining atmosphere that welcomes my entire family.
Ozzy- A, While he had a hard time staying in his chair, there were plenty of smiles and "yums".  He really enjoyed watching the pedestrians outside while we ate.  The next day he even asked if we were going back.
Stella- B+, Plenty of space between the tables allowed her to roam a little after she could stand the highchair or Mommy's lap no more. She thoroughly enjoyed everything she was given, especially the citrus-pepper mayo.

Mesh on Mass Avenue on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

City Barbeque

City Barbeque, a small chain out of Ohio, made the south side the lucky recipient of a new bbq place last week!  You can't have too many bbq joints!  We had been watching for weeks as the final touches were completed and eagerly anticipated the grand opening.  Three large visible smokers only heightened our glee.
We know, why come during the opening?  Service is bound to be bad, food is bound to be worse, right?  Well, in this case, not so much.

At first, we were confused as to where to stand once inside.  It's got the look of a typical chain from the outside, but a less standard layout inside.  You enter from the side of the restaurant and once inside, there is an ordering line immediately to your right.  No real space to stand anywhere other than the line.  Everyone orders for themselves and then you pay, find a seat, then get your food when your name is called.  And it's fast!  Like fast-food fast.  Our food was ready to go by the time we sat down.  Servers meander around to offer beverage refills and clear tables, but otherwise, it's more of a self-serve establishment. 

Seating was a little tight, but after taking it all in while we noshed on some pork, chicken, and brisket, it started to make sense.  It was very much like an upscale-ish bbq shack.  There was all kinds of hoopin and hollerin coming from the kitchen, lots of people around, lots of servers, signs on the wall advertising the peach cobbler or offering to buy your own homemade bbq sauce in exchange for a City Barbeque t-shirt...kind of a different, fun vibe.

So, lets talk about that pork, chicken, and brisket.  We decided to go with the Deluxe City Sampler--quarter chicken, half slab, pulled pork, brisket, and texas toast with two sides, gumbo and corn pudding.  Ozzy had to try his staple dish with hush puppies on the side.  Stella was dining on a bit of everything today.

Well, it was quite a platter.  Where to start?  We decided to start with a bit of pulled pork...oh, but the sauces.  How many were there?  Uh, about 7, we think.  Sadly, the website doesn't go into them, but we can recollect, a mustard sauce, a few sweet options, a couple of spicey and a vinegar.  They were all good.  Like most bbq sauce, it's hard to find one that is bad.  So,we put a little on everything.

The pulled pork was good. Tender, flavorful.  The ribs were disappointing in that they weren't nearly as tender as they could be.  You could taste the smoke, but they were tough and rather than falling off the bone had to be torn off the bone with force.  The brisket was good.  But it was difficult to differentiate the pulled pork from it.  They were side by side and the textures were the only thing that separated their flavors.  Especially when smothered in bbq sauce!  But the sides were awesome!  The corn pudding was just what you want, sweet, moist, buttery and so easy to spoon in.  The gumbo was almost too good to be a side.  On it's own, it had good heat and great sausage chunks.

An unexpected surprise was the texas toast.  Usually a total throw away side or something you don't want to waste tummy space on when eating delicious meats.  But this stuff was different and actually really good.  Kind of sweet and reminiscent of Hawaiian bread or challah. Way soft, it would be the perfect bread for a pulled pork or brisket sandwich...Sadly, we tried it as an afterthought and didn't get the chance to do the whole sandwich thing...that would've been really good. *sigh*  Next time.

The one item we ordered that needed nothing added was their chicken.  Holy smokes!  It was pure perfection.  That was some moist meat.  And such flavor!  Easily the best bbq chicken we've had anywhere.  Next time we go back, it will be more of that chicken and some of this amazing sausage we saw go by our table.  Oh, yeah, it was total eye candy (or should we say meat candy?)....  But will it stand up to Big Guy's sausage? hmmm...

Ozzy didn't share any of the mac 'n cheese, so we're assuming it was "pretty good."  The hushpuppies were never a family favorite and so they were -- dry, oddly fishy and meh.  Stella was very happy with all the meat and the awesome texas toast.

So, all in all, for a grand opening experience, the first lunch they served in Indiana, it seemed to go off without a hitch.  Ozzy even got a free balloon out of the deal! :)

Wrap Up
Price-$$,-Actually, pretty cheap for bbq.  Our platter was the Deluxe City Sampler at 19.99 and was more than enough chow for all of us.  A much smaller combo(with two fewer meats) at Famous Dave's runs 19.99.  We just realized we didn't get the cornbread, but even so, more than enough grub.
Atmosphere**1/2-Fun idea, but still a little awkward.  Needs something.
Service***- Opening day, first was overkill.  Someone was checking on us every 3-5 minutes, but that is to be expected for a good opening.

Fred-B, Had I gotten just a plate of barbeque chicken, this would've been an A+.  But unfortunately, the ribs were shockingly sub-par.  The other meats deserve a B, so therefore, one awesome, one awful--B it is.
Libby-B, Some very high notes and average notes.  I will definitely be back to try out some sausage and get more chicken!  After a few months, we'll have to see where they stand.
Ozzy-A, When asked later, he reported "Really cheesy and yummy."  And he got a free balloon!  Happy boy.
Estelle-A, Girl didn't refuse any bites of food and consistently screamed for more 'til she was full to the brim.  And the screaming was definitely ok. ;)
City Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tulip Noir

With a rare chance for a weekend brunch, we decided to give Tulip Noir a shot.  We'd heard they were vying for best brunch in Indy so expectations were high.  Upon walking in, we were greeted by the finest Ikea-wear around.  This place practically screamed modern, minimalist design -- a real oddity in our little midwestern town.  The staff keeps it impeccably clean and obsessively straightened.  We were seated immediately and Ozzy's fears were calmed at once after he was informed that yes, they do have pancakes. We should say that 3 of the 4 of us were seated as we had to flag down a waiter and specifically ask for a high-chair for our 11-month old. 

As we had both already had our coffee for the morning, Fred ventured into Tulip Noir's impressive tea menu and settled on the Tie Kuan Yin Oolong  while Libby decided on a pomegranate-blueberry juice & banana smoothie to share with Stella.  While we thought the presentation for the tea was cute, if a bit pretentious, it became obvious that TN was not going to be known for it's service.  We can understand that perhaps this tea is meant to be enjoyed sans sugar.  But being uncouth hoosiers, it might have been a good idea to ask if we would like some sweetener if it is not provided as a matter of course.   Also, how is one to drink a smoothie with no straw?  We were forced to flag down another server to request both.

The smoothie was a disappointment.  Not only was it slimey in texture, it was too thick and slightly bitter.  It seemed as though the bananas were not ripe enough.  Having said that, Stella did not mind one bit and quite enjoyed it.

As is usually the case when we review a breakfast place, Fred chose the Eggs Benedict while Libby went with the "Dreamy" french toast.  Ozzy chose the buckwheat pancakes rather than the "pancakeys" after hearing that the later came with only honey rather than syrup.  Bold move, son.  Stella was very happy to have bits of everything.

As our food arrived, we realized we had made a dreadful mistake.  It became obvious that Tulip Noir's menu is a la carte.  It would have been nice if the waiter had mentioned this fact after noticing that none of us ordered any sides.  In fact it never occurred to us as the side dishes on the two-sided brunch menu are on the back below the "Salads and Sandwiches".  Not exactly where we would go looking for breakfast side dishes. 

Regrouping, we were pleased by the visual appeal of all three entrees.  Fred's eggs looked picture-perfect.  Too bad he couldn't cut into them as he had no silverware.  Time to flag down another waiter.  Joy.

Upon his eventual first bite, he found the hollandaise to be spot on and the eggs were cooked perfectly.  Unfortunately the canadian bacon seemed lifeless and off as was the untoasted english muffin.  While we don't expect even a high-end brunch place to make their own canadian bacon or english muffins (although that would be fantastic!), it would be nice if they purchased quality products.  The otherwise well-prepared dish was brought down dramatically.

Libby's french toast was indeed dreamy.  She had to remind herself to keep the moaning to a minimum as it is a small establishment and in this atmosphere that would be frowned upon.  Stella greedily filled her mouth to maximum capacity with berries and bits of toast.  Unfortunately our uptight waiter felt it appropriate to offer Stella a plate as the messy table was paining him.  Even after we politely informed him that she would just shove it onto the floor, he froze in position with the plate out-stretched for several seconds.  While there were plenty of other children in attendance that morning, our waiter was visibly uncomfortable with a messy table.

Ozzy was obviously torn throughout the meal.  On one hand he was very hungry and had pancakes with yummy syrup in front of him.  On the other hand, these were not Aunt Jemima.  No son, these are buckwheat pancakes.  For what they were, they were good.  The fruit was nice and the blueberry-pomegranate syrup was fresh and tasty.  Unfortunately, Ozzy's reaction was, "Mommy, I think they forgot some ingredients. These aren't good."   But hunger prevailed in the end and we noticed that at least 3/4 of the pancakes were still consumed.

Wrap Up

Price-$$$, Very much at the high end of the breakfast scene.   
Atmosphere-****, We really enjoyed the modern decorSomething fun and different for Indy.
Service- Zero*s, Wow. Can we give a negative *?  This was easily the worst service we've had within the Indianapolis city limits.  It bordered on insulting.

Fred- D-, The only saving grace here was the french toast.  It really was excellent.  But "Competing for Indy's Best Breakfast"?  You MUST be kidding me.  For the price they charge, I would expect outstanding service.  I've had a more attentive waitress at Waffle House.  On top of that, the food was only mediocre.  What, exactly are we paying extra for here?!?  If you want an amazing brunch in Indy, go to Hoaglin To Go on Mass Ave or Zest in Broadripple.  They blow this place away.  And from the relaxed attitude and warmth of the waitstaff, they appear to do so effortlessly.
Libby- B-, Although our server had his personality quirks, I found the whole scene quite entertaining.  Fred was visibly upset. Ozzy was visibly upset.  Stella was busily enjoying her breakfast, as was I.  But sadly, I won't be experiencing the dreamy french toast again.  Although I'm pretty sure the vanilla challa french toast at Hoaglin To Go will suffice.  I also wasn't aware at the time exactly how much we were paying for this breakfast or my experience would have been lessened.
Ozzy- D, We really can't blame Tulip Noir here.  If there is a next-time, we might have to explain to Ozzy the full breadth of his ordering decision.
Estelle- C, While the girl really enjoyed herself and provided for lots of smiles from the other patrons, it was obvious she wasn't welcomed with open arms from the waitstaff.

Tulip Noir Café on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mug N' Bun

Having heard for years from our Speedway friends that they have the greatest drive-in around, FLOE eventually succumbed to our need for grease and made the drive up to 10th street.  Just off 465 right before the industrial center of Indy, it's a genuine throw-back to another era.  We decided to stay true to the drive-in vibe and stayed in our car.  As the signed helpfully explained, you turn on your lights (day or night) to signal that you'd like service.

Deciding that we basically wanted to order the entire menu, picking only a "few" items was a challenge.  After much discussion, we decided we would share everything and graze our way through the menu.  The lil' reviewers came up front with mom and dad to share in the bounty.

As soon as we rolled the window down for our tray o' health, that wonderfully familiar fried drive-in smell wafted into the car.  This was going to be good!!! To start, we ordered one regular root beer and one diet, unwisely choosing the 24 oz size, missing out on what we later learned was a frosty mug for the 16oz or a collectors cup if you order the 32.  Dag nabbit!  Rookie mistake.  After several sips of each, we were happy to find that we actually preferred the diet.  It's much heavier on the root beer flavor and visibly darker than the regular.  Not that anyone enjoying Mug N' Bun is watching their figure, but at least we wouldn't have to add even more calories to the meal next time...

Fred's first pick, the catfish sandwich, was spectacular.  It had a great fry on it with no hint of fishiness.  Even Stella's eyes perked up with a quick taste.  Of course the Oz would have none of it -- Boy just doesn't know what good is...

Libby decided for two "main" dishes, a single burger with cheese and a regular dog with sauce & cheese.  The burger, while basic with only ketchup& mustard (lettuce or tomato are $.40 extra), was exactly what a greasy spoon should serve.  Nice 80/20 patty straight off a flat-top.  Perfectly cooked and juicy, it made Fred openly wonder how the fast food restaurants can stay in business serving patties from a factory.  There's just no comparison.

The dog was also simple.  Either boiled or steamed, it was nothing special but still solid.  Libby would have liked the sauce/chili to be a little sweeter, more like a coney.  But it was just right for Fred, who prefers a chili dog to a coney. 

For sides, we chose the Buffalo chips, seasoned fries, zucchini sticks, hot pepper cheese balls, and mac & cheese wedges (Ozzy's, of course).

The mac & cheese wedges were really the only miss for the entire meal.  Ozzy just didn't get it and ended up picking out the macaroni from inside them and then moving on to the rest of the deep-fried evil.  The rest of us agreed that they were edible, but certainly not up to the level of the other greased up grub.

The fries were solid as were the buffalo chips (battered &fried silver-dollar sized slices of potato).  The hot pepper cheese balls were interesting, especially with a quick dip in some ranch sauce.  They had a nice heat that only hit you at the end.  But seriously, how can deep fried cheese be bad, especially if there's some spice to it?

The real star of the sides had to be the zucchini.  The fry was much lighter than the other items and they still had a hint of crunch to the veggie itself.  Perfect in the horseradish sauce!  Unfortunately for mom & dad, Stella found these to be her absolute favorite, finishing off 3 of the 6 sticks.  Rats!!

After dinner we decided we couldn't do a review of a drive-in without sampling the shakes.  So on went the headlights!  One vanilla, one chocolate please! No idea the level of prep, we decided again, these are solid shakes.  Not over the top, but definitely the sweetness you crave after a savory trip down memory lane.  Next time, must do the float action and try the tenderloin!

Wrap Up

Price-$,-Definitely cheap eats.  Our smorgasbord came to a grand total of $35 with a good tip.
Atmosphere***-Just what you expect and remember from any drive-in...only thing missing was roller skates!
Service***- A fast, feisty waitress told Ozzy how it is..."Life lesson--Mug N' Bun=Fried"
Fred- A, Dammit, now I have to try each and other every one of the frieds on the menu.  Excellent zucchini!
Libby- A-, Good burger, good dog, excellent catfish, great root beer.  I like my fries a little toastier and I was jonesin' for a coney sauce rather than a chili.  The menu just says "sauce." Really enjoyed this and look forward to a future family date with carry-out Mug N' Bun at Tibbs Drive-in!
Ozzy- A, Other than his confusion with the fried mac, Ozzy was a happy camper.  While enjoying his vanilla shake, he exclaimed,"This is soooooo good!!!"
Estelle- A, Daddy is still kinda peeved that the girl scarfed down half of the zucchini. ;)  She happily sampled whatever we would let her try.

Mug-n-Bun Drive-in on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

West Coast Tacos

Have you ever had a cosmic dining coincidence?  Have you ever just wanted to eat something so bad that the universe actually lead you there?  Well, either FLOE is in good with the stars or the luckiest SOB's in town 'cuz that is EXACTLY what occurred today.  We were driving to the Children's Museum and started to muse about how much we would love to try that beloved taco truck we have heard so much about.  We had no idea where to look, then was right there before us!  On one of our favorite dining spots, Mass Ave.!  *angel chorus*

So psyched to stumble into some kind of wonderful, we grabbed a nearby parking spot and rushed into the stifling heat to the short line at the corner of Mass Ave, Delaware and New York.  There was no menu, but Fred felt confident and all was cleared up when the young man at the window announced these simple words..."We have three meats today, chicken, pork or beef, and a green or red sauce...what would you like?"  Well, that was simple enough!  Three beef with red and three pork with green and a chicken sans sauce for the kids...well, for Stella.  Great!  Back to the car to enjoy our cosmic treasure!

As if we were meant to be comfortable in the swelter, a breeze blew through the Element and allowed us to take it all in.  First, the pork with green sauce...light, fresh with hints of cilantro and onion(and that was ok).  Just delightful and refreshing.  Piled on two corn tortillas it was a light bite and as good as we had hoped.  Then, there was the beef with red sauce.  Libby actually moaned a little.  Could it really be this good?  Fred, while feeding Stella bits of chicken that her mouth gaped open for, was unable to speak. But his eyes spoke volumes...yes, yes, yes!  How could something so delicate and simple from a truck be so incredible?

After Fat Dan's, we are beginning to wonder if this uncomfortable weather thing and incredible eats just go hand in hand...Sadly, Ozzy had no interest and was holding out for his dear mac 'n cheese at the Children's Museum cafeteria...whatever.

So, in summary, this is a must experience.  The much revered West Coast Taco truck moves daily.  You must either facebook, tweat, or be guided by the fates to enjoy this light, zesty lunch.  You won't want to miss out on this Indy phenomenon!

Wrap Up
Price-$, $5 for three small tacos that will knock your socks off.
Atmosphere-?-Kind of depends, but they picked a nice shady spot for us! ;)
Service-****, For a lunch truck, they were accommodating, polite, and fast.  Works for us!  They were even so kind as to break a large bill at the beginning of the lunch rush.

Fred-A, I've been happily burping it up the rest of the day!  Both red and green sauces were awesome and the seasoning on all three meats was superb!  No hiding anything here with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, or tomato...just perfectly cooked, incredibly seasoned meats in wonderful sauces. 
Libby -A, I could eat the beef with red sauce all day!  Actually, all of it was can't go wrong here.
Ozzy- no vote...amateur. This kid has no idea what he is missing!
Estelle-A+, Stella chowed on a bit of everything and was only to happy to get another bite, and another, and another.

West Coast Tacos on Urbanspoon

Big Guys BBQ

Disgusted that the best BBQ we'd found on the south side was a chain (Famous Dave's), FLOE was excited to hear of a home-grown place that had opened up in Center Grove.  Big Guy's BBQ shares a double-wide strip mall location with Hula Bean coffee, an ice cream place and a doughnut shop.  All not only under the same roof, but at the same counter & cash register.  Tres bizarre.  Upon entering, Big Guy himself, Chris Sullivan explained that we needed to step next door to order at the counter.  Sounds good.  On our trek to the counter we were able to pass a table display of some of their specials, not wax food, but real smells...good advertising.

A small menu made it easy to narrow down what's for dinner.  Definitely two combo platters to sample 4 meats and 4 sides total.  Fred decided on the pulled pork, pulled chicken, cole slaw and ranch beans.  Libby went with the Kielbasa, brisket, green beans and potato salad.  Ozzy was delighted to have a combo made almost just for him, a pb & j and mac 'n cheese!  Grammy came along for the ride and went with her own combo of the brisket and pulled pork with cole slaw and homemade chips.

It was slow at the time we arrived so seating was easy.  It was very cool to be served by the owner and chef himself, who was quite surprised to be asked for a pic for the blog.  No idea who or what we were, he played along.  Big question for Big Guy now is how exactly is the BBQ?

Fred was very worried when he first bit into his pulled chicken.  It was lukewarm and dry.  But then the pulled pork!  Luscious.  Perfectly smoky with beautiful juicy bits.  If we wanted to show a foreign visitor what pulled pork was supposed to taste like, this would be it.  The beans were also a pleasant surprise.  Not just a bunch of chili powder mixed into some beans but a great jalapeno bite and a dash of smokiness to round out the flavor. 

Libby was pretty happy with the brisket.  Some dryer parts but also some extremely tender, melty fatty bits that altogether had a great smokiness.  The sides were good.  A creamy potato salad that wasn't over the top in tang and the green beans were mild and had some sort of meat addition Libby couldn't identify.  But the star of this show had to be the kielbasa...holy smoked sausage!  So tender, with the perfect amount of char.  It almost melted in your mouth and had so much flavor!  Even Stella, with only her third tooth coming through bit into a skinless piece like it were softened butter!  Her expression said it all.  More!

Big Guys only offers 3 sauces, regular, spicy and mustard.  The flavor of the regular and spicy were about the same, with only a bit more heat on the latter.  Both were good but nothing to write home about.  The mustard sauce was heavy on the vinegar with mustard to the extreme.  Perhaps it would have worked well on the kielbasa, but who on earth would want to cover up any of that wonderful flavor?  This place is definitely meat-first with sauces as an after thought.

Ozzy's pb&j was served on a bun rather than bread.  Mom & Dad thought that was a bad choice, but Ozzy loved it...devoured every morsel!  There were even a few "mmm's" overheard throughout the meal.  Oddly, he did not find the mac to his liking.  It was of the baked variety rather than boiled, so it was "too hard" in his opinion.  The rest of the dinner party quite liked it.  It did have some peppery overtones, so perhaps our finicky boy had a legit kid complaint.

Stella was right at home and seemed to be the entertainment of the evening for the few surrounding diners.  She lapped up the attention along with a good portion of pulled pork, chicken, kielbasa and texas toast.   Wow, what is this?  A child eating meat?

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$, Cheap even by bbq standards.

Atmosphere-* 1/2, Confusing ordering and decor.  Nothing about the place said stop and stay awhile.  FLOE will be happy with take out in the future.
Service-**, Order at the counter, you're brought the food and that's all she wrote.

Fred -A-, The only downfall was the pulled chicken which was fine once sauce was added.  I just wish I had gotten the chance to ask if the kielbasa was house made since it was so amazing.  North siders, it is worth the drive just to get a lick of that!
Libby -A-, Loved my kielbasa...that's right, MY kielbasa. ;)  And the brisket was pretty delish too.  Sides were not show stealers, but the potato chips, whether crispy or floppy, were straight up awesome!
Ozzy- A, Definitely no complaints and it didn't hurt having a kick butt bakery attached for dessert!

Estelle- A, Couldn't get enough of any of the bbq.  The girl was chowin' down.

Big Guy's B-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Little Mexico

We recently took a trip to Little Mexico for a review but held off on writing it as we had been invited by some friends to meet there for a second visit.  The moment you walk in, the amount of colorful, carved wood is overwhelming.  Beautiful and over the top.  It's hard to imagine how much work went into the walls, windows, booths, tables, chairs and bar of this restaurant.  Everything is a carved, colorful piece of work.  You'd never think you were in a strip mall.

We were immediately met with the usual chips & salsa.  In this case a very mild, but fresh salsa with good chunk to liquid ratio and a heavy dose of fresh cilantro.  We couldn't decide whether or not the chips were house-made but regardless they were a good salsa delivery device.  On our second visit, our friends asked for a spicier one and the kitchen sent out a habanero sauce that kicked their socks off.  Even a 50/50 mix with the regular salsa was a bit too much. 

Fred ordered burritos on both occasions.  First was the Chile Verde followed by the Chile Colorado.  Each was served alongside a salad with sour cream and guacamole which went untouched on both occasions.  Each burrito was stuffed with slow-roasted pork, rice, sauce and then smothered in queso blanco.  The pork was perfectly cooked and juicy but both the red and green sauces seemed a little tame.  The flavor was there, it was just begging to be kicked up a notch.

Libby's first night demanded the Pollo Mole Poblano.  A very good mole with well prepared chicken, corn tortilla's and the same salad with sour cream and guac went down too easily.  It seemed a crime to leave one drop of that mole on the plate.  Definitely a meal that will make you hate yourself in the morning.  The second night would only top this one with gourmand-ish proportions, the Special Dinner; which is too big to fit on one plate and encroaches on other people's space at the table.  Embarrassed by the insanity, she did quite enjoy it overall.  Although the tamale was dry, it was saved by the pleasing enchilada, chile relleno and chalupa.  Two margarita's could have skewed perceptions a bit, but hey, when pronouncing the name of the town on the back of the menu gets you one for 25 cents...well, turning down another libation sounds ridiculous, right?

 Little Mexico seems to have immediately become one of Ozzy's favorite restaurants.  The little man even liked the salsa?!?  Amazing.  But really, what's not to like for a carbivore?  Too many chips, followed by a cheese quesadilla with fries & rice??  Sounds like Oz-heaven to us. 

Stella was also right at home.  Not only are the walls decked out in incredibly loud colors and interesting authentic Mexican carvings, but the noise level and general commotion about the place kept her interest throughout.

 Wrap Up
Price-$-$$, Nothing out of the ordinary for Mexican... 
Atmosphere-****, Wow.  This place POPS and when you hear everything was custom made and shipped in from the owner's home town in Mexico, definitely a 4-star showing.
Service-**, It's a big plus in the food dept when the servers barely speak English, but both service and the kitchen were slow on both occasions. 

Fred - B-, Ida know.  I wouldn't mind going back, but I'm certainly not going to seek it out.  Everything was solid (especially the salsa) but nothing had the kick I was looking for.  Just too bland throughout the meal.
Libby -B+, The first night presented an excellent mole, the second night was hit or miss but also a very pleasant experience.  And now that I know I can pronounce the name, I'll definitely take another $.25 margarita!
Ozzy- A+, Kids everywhere, carbs to munch.  And he even tried (and liked!) salsa for the first time.
Estelle-A, At home and entertained.  What more can you ask for with a 10-month old?

Little Mexico on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fat Dan's Deli

"Wow...I need more napkins and a shower!"  Not necessarily a good sign when you're out enjoying a family dinner, but in this case it's only the beginning.  FLOE had an opportunity to go out on one of the hottest Saturday's of the year for dinner.  Libby was off so it felt like a great day to venture up to Broadripple!  We really should live around there, but you know how it is...economy, etc. etc.  Back to our story...we were super psyched as we had decided to finally sample Fat Dan's!!! So many awesome reviews and now it was our turn.

We must reiterate, it was hot out.  Hades hot.  Slatherin' in the nethers hot.  And Fat Dan's A/C was either non-existent or had just given up in the kitchen heat.  No problem.  We were there for the food, no matter the consequences.

As you walk in, the first thing you notice is the non-chalant atmosphere.  You could be in any hole in the wall in any big city.  Low key, small space, but a lot of personality.  Definitely the spot to go to after a night of drinking with friends.  There is a chalk board menu and an order-at-the-counter set up.  Perfect for street eats with a seat.  Sadly, we found that they were out of several things; the cole slaw, ribs, and wings...hmmm.  FLOE knew they had to try some form of barbecue and the Italian we got the I.B. dipped with sweet and hot peppers. You can get it in any number of different ways including double dipped or with cheese whiz.  Rib tips and their house made fries were a must.  We can't forget the draft Upland Wheats...especially good on this sweltering day.

So, we cop a squat at a table near the picture window and spend some time examining the scene.  Stella was oddly calm and observant as she sat on Libby's lap.  No folks, this is not the kind of place that caters to wee ones.  Again, not a problem. Ozzy noticed some games around(a large old-school arcade racing game, Connect 4 and what looked like a chess game box) and immediately wanted to know if they were for kids...uh, could be, but our guess is it was for the bigger kids. ;)  So, he settled on Daddy's iphone.  Out of seemingly nowhere, a nearby patron got our attention and asked if we were FLOEats Indy...uh...yes.  In the literal heat of the moment, we hope we came across as thankful of their compliments as we were.  It was somewhat shocking to be noticed.  Thank you, young reader, whomever you are.  We truly appreciate your support.

Did we mention it was hot?  ;)  The food arrived with a parchment paper matt for the table.  No plates here. On top of it was placed a huge Italian Beef that looked the part...tons of peppers piled high and the kind of maneuvering that doesn't allow for any type of clean or polite eating...this was a "MANwich."  Just get ready to get sloppy.

So much flavor...and more heat...It was hot before the food got the beads of sweat were forming and suddenly FLOE was beginning to feel a religious experience coming on.  What is it about eating spicy, hot food in an equally sauna like environment?  Libby kept thinking how being this uncomfortable was really adding to the experience.  You were earning the goodness that was going in.  It was cleansing, real.  Not the commercialized comfort we are exposed to and grow to expect on every dining experience.  This was the real thing.  Fat Dan was pulling no punches.  This is what it costs in 90 degree weather to have a great sandwich...Man-up...or Woman-up in this case. ;)

If the Italian Beef weren't enough, the rib tips just gave more.  More flavors, tons of different textures between the char and the fatty super tender tender in fact that Stella, with only two bottom teeth, was able to enjoy her first bit of pork ever.  Such a comfort to know that in our twilight years, when we're down to dentures, we'll still be able to enjoy some rib tips!

Lastly, the fries.  Not that they are the bottom of the barrel by any means.  They were great.  Hot, skin on, fresh cut potatoes...excellent frying well seasoned.  As good as they were, they really paled in comparison to the whole meat experience.  Kind of like when you go to Fogo de Chao and they have that killer salad bar, probably the best we've ever had, but you don't want to waste an inch of space when you know the meat love that is to come.  Yeah, this is yet another carnivores paradise.

Oh, and if it isn't crystal clear...Even though you weren't there this day, we love you, Dan.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, $10 per meal...more than the average fast food, but more than worth it.
Atmosphere-****, Normally sweating while we eat wouldn't get such a high rating, but in this case, it just added.  The two staff were as warm as the kitchen.  Upbeat and truly happy to serve great eats!
Service-****, Self order and fast.  Exactly how it should be for a great Italian Beef.

Fred - A+, Perfect beer selection an Italian Beef JUST like I remember from Chi-town!
Libby - A+, Solid and delicious meats and potatoes.  It was the kind of experience that will stand out in my memory.  Don't change a thing.  Keep making it and they will come.
Ozzy- B, Lots of visual entertainment and tasty fries.
Estelle-B, Although Stella wasn't as comfy as she could be, she was diggin the pork and fries!

Fat Dan's Chicago-Style Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scotty's Brewhouse

A day off together always calls for an opportunity to review.  We considered making the trip to Fishers to Scotty's Lakehouse, but thought better of it...too close to nap time.  So, instead, it seemed like a good opportunity to try Scotty's Brewhouse downtown.  We had been to the location in Bloomington a couple of years before, but had no memory of it.  From the website, we saw they had an extensive menu and today, burgers were sounding pretty good.

We had heard several good things about this location.  After finding street parking, we were immediately impressed by the large amount of outdoor seating, including a very comfy-looking crazy-large couch encircling an equally large fire pit.  Sounds like a great spot to enjoy a nice summer's evening to us!  Since it was mid-day and 90+ outside, we chose to keep it all inside this trip.  We were immediately seated in what appeared to be a semi-private room which could be closed off for larger parties.  Upon first sitting down we were impressed by the incredible amount of flatscreens.  It was like eating in the electronics department at Best Buy.  Each extra-high booth had it's own TV plus several 50+ inchers on every wall.  Talk about an incredible place to watch a game! Fred pondered if he'd rather keep our Colts tickets or have a season ticket to our own booth here, if one were offered.

While waiting for Stella's highchair, we wondered how it would fit as the booth was raised a good foot above a normal table.  Never fear!  Scotty's has thought of that!  Soon a very tickled Stella was happily munching away in her equally-tall chair.  Nice work, Scotty's.

On to the food, but not without a couple of thirst-quenchers.  As expected, Scotty's boasts a really spectacular draft menu.  Fred eventually chose New Albanian's Beaks Best Bitter while Libby went with the Sun King Wee Mac Scottish ale.  It's not often you find an English-style bitter around as they're often misunderstood here in the US.  Lots of great hop flavor but with only a hint of bitterness.  We both agreed it was a perfect brew to stand up to the belly-buster to come.   

As we had just reviewed the fried pickles from Parky's, we decided to get them again for some contrast.  Sadly, these paled in comparison.  While they still had a nice tang, most were stuck together causing the batter between the pieces to be uncooked an mushy.  Once un-stuck we found that the batter fell off the pickles making them hard to eat.  While they were served with 2 yummy (and artery clogging) sauces, horsey & ranch, this was not a good start to the meal.

The rest of the meal came out quickly.  Ozzy's mac n' cheese looked great and both mom & dad thought it was mighty tasty.  Unfortunately the extra cheese placed on top was enough to turn him off of it.  A real shame, but we are certain that any less-finicky kid would love it.

Libby's Atomic Mo'Fo burger was very good.  A large burger at half a pound, dressed with montarey jack, jalapeno slices and the burger seemed to be dipped in the mo'fo sauce it was so well coated.  All served on a kaiser roll.  I would always prefer a toasted bun, but the taste of the burger itself made up for it.  She chose a side of blue corn chips with salsa.  Oddly, she only received around 2 tablespoons of salsa to go with half a plate full of chips.  While she wasn't too hot on the salsa, there still needed to be about 4 times the amount.

Fred chose a build-your-own bison burger with pepper-jack and mo'fo sauce.  The burger was perfectly cooked and juicy.  Not the easiest job with bison.  A real winner, especially with the mo'fo sauce to light up your tongue.  Unfortunately his waffle fries had the same problem as the pickle chips.  We're not sure if it's an oil temp problem or just a lazy fry-chef, but this is a big issue.  They were a jumbled mess of stuck, half-cooked fries;  a real shame, especially at a beer & bar-food establishment.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, Right around average for a downtown bar.
Atmosphere-****, Yeah baby!  On gameday we might show up even if they were serving sandpaper!!
Service-****, Absolutely no complaints here.  There were plenty of servers and everything came out quickly.

Fred -B, This really should have been an A- if not for the fry-problems. 
Libby - B, Top quality beef, cooked to order correctly.  A fantastic mo'fo sauce.  The bun could have stood to be toasted.  It was a little soggy with all the extra sauce.
Ozzy- B+, Although he didn't care for the mac 'n cheese, he loved the tv and there were plenty of other kids options on the menu. 
Estelle- A+, She ate up not only Ozzy's applesauce, but even had a taste of a fry. 

Scotty's Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parky's Smokehouse

Road trip!!!  Several weeks ago we received a generous invitation from Gary and Julie Parks to try Parky's Smokehouse in Lebanon, and today we finally had the opportunity to go and give it a try.  Being from the south side, it was quite a trek at about a 50 minute drive, so we had to be strategic in our dinner time planning.

After a pleasant drive through old Lebanon, past Memorial Park, Parky's gave a very good first impression.  From the outside, it looked like a chain.  Very polished.  We aren't sure if the building was originally a different chain, but it had the look down...great signage, designated carry-out parking, and a contained playfulness.

Inside was more of the same.  Great layout and excellent marketing.  From the cute pig with shades t-shirts to the signature sauces available for purchase, these people obviously had a lot of pride in their product.

So, for the reason we came...the eats!  We had reviewed the menu beforehand and already knew what we wanted.  To drink, Fred went with a tall New Belgian Fat Tire ale.  For a small selection of brews, they really had a good mix.  The Kentuckarita, their signature margarita made with Jim Beam and frozen smooth, was a must for Libby!  Libby never knew that her two favorite spirits, bourbon and tequila could go so well together!  These came out quickly and were accompanied by a bread basket.  Fred was very happy with the Fat tire and Libby was on cloud nine -- Only disappointed that she had decided on the 12 oz instead of the 27 oz.!

For starters, we decided to go big and take on the Smokehouse Sampler!  This is a belly buster in it's own right; Corn & Black Bean Salsa, Tortilla Chips, Curley Ques(thin onion rings), Boneless Barbecue Glazed Chicken Wings, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Fried Dill Pickles and Fresh Fried Potato Chips served with barbecue ranch dressing.  Wow!  So many good things about this appy, it was hard to know where to start.  Our initial interest was in the fried pickles...and yes, they were exactly what you want when you're in the mood...well battered and that little tang that melds so perfectly with the homemade bbq ranch dressing.  The mozzarella sticks, housemade potato chips, curley ques, and boneless chicken wings were all really good, but the show stopper had to be that corn and black bean salsa!  Fred and Libby have never had anything like it.  Such a sweet, flavorful surprise that really makes salsa belong in a bbq joint!

Knowing we still had entrees to order, we paced ourselves and were so glad we did.  Fred, continuing the sampler feel, went with the Barbecue Blast; a quarter rack of ribs, a white or dark chicken quarter, pulled pork, brisket, turkey breast and smoked sausage...what was he thinking???  Libby, trying to stick a more conservative sounding array, went with the two meat combo plate of the bourbon chicken and the pulled pork.  Both came with two sides.  Fred went with mac&cheese and sweet potato fries and Libby the barbecue beans and creamy coleslaw.  Ozzy went with his usual that came with a side of fries and applesauce.  Can we say Pig Out?! 

Where do we begin?
First off, the kids were very happy!
Stella gleefully enjoyed some of the bread basket, sweet potato fries and the applesauce.  We had never seen the girl eat so much regular table food with the family in her life!  Ozzy loved the mac&cheese and kept proclaiming how full he was...he was careful to add that we must box up all the leftover mac as he would want it tomorrow!

Now, for the meat!  What a bountiful feast it was!  We had to agree that everything was good.  There was no failure here, but there were a couple of stand outs.  The ribs were crazy tender and fell apart as they should.  Even the fat was all chewiness or underdone bits, just melt in your mouth goodness.  The brisket had great flavor and texture.  The turkey was a surprise and perfect for trying out all the sauces!  Much more flavor than we expected.  The bourbon chicken was moist and the sauce was nice and easy.

Oh, the sauces...can't forget those!  We had the pleasure of trying sweet, spicy, mustard, molasses, bourbon bbq, and apple.  Again, hard to know where to start!  The molasses really stood out as it had a very unique flavor that gave the impression of rich was amazing!  Went very nicely on the brisket. The apple was like putting apple pie filling on the meat and that was a treat on the turkey and chicken.  The mustard felt very honey mustard-y and was a good contrast to the wide array of sweetness.  The spicy was mild as was the bourbon flavor of the bourbon bbq.

The sides were good.  The most outstanding being the barbecue beans...a fun twist with black beans and huge hunks of the pulled pork...oh, baby!  The cole slaw was very mild in flavor and didn't really stand up to anything else, but it would have been good with a lighter dish...needed more zing.   As mentioned above, the mac & cheese and sweet potato fries were hits with the kids.  Simple preparations that kept the meat the guest of honor.

FLOE had planned to try dessert, but there was just no way.  Full to the brim, we rolled out in a carb coma, fighting the urge to nap on the way home.  The torrential downpour didn't help, but all in all, this was well worth the trip.  Next time, dessert, but for now, we will rest easy with dreams of molasses over brisket, tender babybacks, and Kentuckarita's by the pitcher...

A word of warning...this place is not for the weak of stomach.  Bring an appetite and extra insulin if you got it! ;)

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$$, Actually, very well priced for barbecue.  Our meal included, one large and one small beer, two 12 oz Kentuckarita's, the biggest appetizer, a kid's meal, the largest meat sampler, a combo platter, and everything came with two sides.  Our total was right at $80 and was well worth it.  If one doesn't order basically everything but the kitchen sink, it is quite reasonable.
Atmosphere-****, You would think this place is a chain!  It is so polished and professional, yet has so much personality.  Julie and Gary are doing things right!
Service-****, Again, very impressive.  Our waiter seemed pretty new, but it was obvious his goal was to give us a fun, inviting experience. By the way, the menu is HUGE, so there is literally something for everyone!

Fred -A-, Wonderful find with surprising off the beaten path items.  Couldn't get enough of the salsa or the kentuckarita...only complaint....have to ask for any of their amazing sauces rather than have them at the table.
Libby - A+, I absolutely LOVE this place!  Not only is it a great mix of clean and contemporary, but it has a feel of downhome hospitality that is hard to find north of the Ohio.  The food was so comforting and it was not just a meal, but an experience!
Ozzy- A+, Comments like "This is great!" "I'm so full," and "Don't forget the leftovers!" really speaks volumes from our finicky fella.
Estelle- A+, As Stella's first opportunity to enjoy the meal with the rest of us, she was one happy 9 month old!  It was nice to put the baby food up entirely for one meal!
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