Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good Morning Mama's Cafe

Sadly, the final day of our four day weekend arrived so we had to go enjoy one more brunch!  After much discussion and research, we settled on Good Morning Mama's Cafe on 54th just east of College.  Mixed reviews intrigued us and since we have never experienced Mama Corolla's Old Italian, there were no expectations other than something new and hopefully fun for the family!  As it happens to be across the way from Zest Exciting Food Creations, we were left to wonder how good they must be to take on such stiff competition!

Upon entering, it is obvious this place is meant to be fun and inviting for everyone.  From the cute murals to the bright colors to the very loud dining area, everything about this place says kids, old or young.  We were very happy to see several families dining and for once, we didn't feel out of the ordinary in a trendy SoBro establishment. ;)

We were seated in the classically 1950's diner decorated open dining room that most certainly was a renovated service station.  It was a great design.  The chairs were surprisingly comfy and the layout just made sense.  There was one flat screen mounted above a nicely placed bar and a jukebox displayed in one corner. To Ozzy's dismay, the jukebox was "fragile" and just for show.

So, what's for breakfast?!  First, coffee.  Good, smack-yo-mama brew was just what we needed and just what we got!  Very impressive and most certainly stood up to the neighborhood competition. 

Next, Italian fried biscuits rolled in sugar and cinnamon sounded like the perfect starter.  There was something quite nostalgic about them.  Libby was pretty sure they were the same homemade doughnuts that Grammy used to make from a tube of biscuit dough.  Good stuff and very comforting.  Ozzy was more than enthusiastic about them and actually proclaimed that they were "SUPER good!"

Fred decided the special of the day was speaking to him, the Eggs Benedict with cheesy grits.  For Libby, a mimosa was in be followed by the Java French Toast (made with challah) and a side of the homemade corned beef hash.  And for Ozzy, the Blueberry shortstack.
Even though it was quite busy, we didn't have to wait long.  Fred's egg's benny looked awesome! Tasty ham, topped with little dollops of poached goodness.  Unfortunately they were skimpy with the hollandaise, but the eggs were cooked to perfection!  Fred always likes his hollandaise to smack him around a bit, so he was a disappointed there wasn't more lemon.  The cheesy grits were spectacular after a dash of salt! 

Libby was quite jazzed to see such a beautiful line-up.  The Java french toast was quite tasty, but there wasn't any of that kahlua flavor that the menu promised.  Toasted pecans, sugar, and cinnamon butter really made for a great bite, but not quite as good as the creme brulee french toast across the way.  Perhaps an overnight marinade would make that kahlua pop?...On the other hand, the corned beef hash rocked!  Just the right amount of seasoning, hunks of tender corned beef, and a nice fry on the taters made for one happy Mama!

Ozzy enjoyed his blueberry stack and finished most of it.  Mom nor dad had room to sample and give input, but if looks don't deceive, this was another winner.

Wrap Up
Price-$, Very reasonably priced for satisying fare!

Atmosphere-***, Fun, inviting, but might be a bit loud for some folks...for those of us with little ones, it was nice to not to worry that squeals of delight are bothering your neighbors!
Service-****, A warm & fuzzy waitress who took time to talk with the kids and make sure our needs were met.  Did we mention that Papa himself topped off our coffees?!  That's what we call service.

Fred - B, Very family friendly. Foods pretty darned good.  If I'm driving up to SoBro for brunch, I'll be pulling for Zest to get my bidness.
Libby - B+, This was a fine way to end our mini-vaca.  A delicious brunch with the fam that we will be sure to repeat in the I can't wait to try Mama Corolla's!
Ozzy- A, Ozzy loved the doughnuts and dug into the pancakes.  He felt comfortable to be in his normal loud state and seemed very pleased with everything.
Estelle-A, Nice highchairs and very welcoming of wee ones.  There were three other infant diners around while we were present.  Stella was in good company. :)

Good Morning Mama's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Petite Chou

To celebrate 11 years of marriage, FLOE was determined to make it to a nice brunch on a rare Saturday morning off together.  Planning some time at Holliday Park afterwards, we settled on Petit Chou in Broadripple.  Our enthusiasm was so great that we made it there just after 8am. One to avoid a wait later, and two to get an early start on a day that promised to be uncomfortably humid after midday.  (As it was very early, and neither of us was quite awake, no pics were taken...sorry, we spaced it.)

Upon arrival we made a mistake of picking a table towards the rear of the restaurant.  After we were seated, we were informed that we should get our own coffee up front.  Fred hopped up, avoiding 2 supporting beams on the way, to get some for us.  While we enjoyed the 4 coffee options, we were very much annoyed at the extra-small cups.  Several times we had to interrupt not only our meal but other diners' by navigating our way to the front of the restaurant coming uncomfortably close to their tables due to the columns in the walkway.  Due to the tight quarters you feel other guests sway sideways in their seats as you go around the columns.  We kind of enjoy being served at a sit-down restaurant.  It's fine to be able to get your own, but being expected to is another thing altogether.  The server made it abundantly clear that she was above getting you coffee.  Most of this could be avoided simply by providing decent sized coffee cups!!  

Service was slow, even though there was plenty of waitstaff and open tables available.  Highchairs and boosters were available and we saw that they allowed pets outside (even providing water for a thirsty canine diner).

Libby ordered the The Overachiever -- a specialty omelet with bacon, cheddar, sour cream and horseradish with side of roasted potatoes and two large slices of brioche.  She also order a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, which never came but was on the bill.  When we asked to have it removed, the waitress claimed it was in Ozzy's water container, which we assured her was not the case.  Lovely.  Thankfully Libby's food was good.  The omelet was well cooked, with a nice balance of ingredients.  Even kind of fluffy.  The roasted potatoes were crispy, but unseasoned so she resorted to table salt.  The toasted brioche was excellent, especially covered in the sweat cream butter.

Fred ordered the broken yolk sandwich with bacon and fresh fruit on the side.  Although the menu stated that the eggs would be served runny unless otherwise requested, his were way overcooked.  Instead of a yummy yolk running out the sides, he had a very hard yolk and crisped edges on the whites.  This meal was what we would expect at Denny's.  As a matter of fact, a Moon Over My Hammy's is better.

Ozzy requested a toasted bagel with butter which he enjoyed. (Petite Chou is part of the Cafe Patachou chain of local eateries.)

Wrap Up
Price-$$$-$$$$, Very expensive for breakfast or dinner, but lunch prices seem reasonable.
Atmosphere-*, Did we mention the columns?
Service-*, If I want a sh!tty attitude from my waitress, I'll go to Ed Debevic's.  Also, Zest does the get-your-own coffee thing right.  While you wait you can get your own, but once seated, they refill your (nicely sized!) mug...

Fred - D-, This should have been so good.  I really wanted to love this place and was excited to come back for dinner sometime to try the duck fat frittes.  But I don't think I want to give them any more of my money.

Libby - C, My food was admittedly much better than Fred's.  But the experience as a whole was tainted by the poor service.  A successful dining experience takes more than decent food.  I will not return to a place that does not want my business.
Ozzy-B+, Enjoyed his bagel and had many other food options.
Estelle-B+, High-chairs were available and she wasn't out of place.

Petite Chou on Urbanspoon

City Cafe

FLOE was off to the Children's Museum on Friday, but first we had to take the opportunity to eat a good lunch downtown...finally some City Cafe!  Just south of Michigan and Pennsylvania, City Cafe is a quaint galley-style eatery with local art adorning the walls, a huge city mural on the back wall, and a menu that boasts farm fresh ingredients from local growers.  It had been many years since FLOE had experienced lunch here, but if memory served, we were in for a real treat!

We arrived at a good time for lunch, just after 11, but dang it, we missed brunch again...keep hearing such good things about it!  We were happy to see booster seats and high chairs for the kids, but no kids menu here.  Ozzy still had options though, there was a very delicious looking grilled cheese on the menu, but a little too much good stuff for him, so we asked if we could get one toned problem, per our waiter he was getting the "no fun" grilled cheese.   It was a quick, easy choice for Fred as well.  After hearing the special, a grilled chipotle chicken taco, he went right for it.  Libby, on the other hand was struggling between the BBQ sandwich, the BLT wrap, and the fish tacos.  Final decision, BLT wrap with a cup of the special of the day soup, a very chunky creamy tomato! 

While we waited, we enjoyed our beverages; especially the house made raspberry lemonade.  It was so light and  refreshing!  Not the usual overly sweet or fake tasting stuff we have all become so accustomed too, but  very lemony with a hint of raspberry and very lightly-sweetened...really good stuff.

The entrees arrived in good time and looked as fresh as the menu boasted they would be!  Ozzy's grilled cheese looked sooo gooey and delish next to what appeared to be house made chips.  We later were told by our waiter that they were locally made by a venue in the City Market...yummy stuff.  Fred and Libby's both had some of the best looking greens we've seen in a restaurant in awhile, but that is only the beginning.

Fred's tacos consisted of pulled chicken with southwestern spices, cheese, avocado, tomatoes and some great looking lettuce.  On the side was a wonderful chipotle sauce that added just enough heat to make things interesting.  Everything melded well but it felt like it was missing a side.  Oh well, specials of the day are always works in progress and this dish was well on it's way. 

Libby's BLT wrap had the same wonderfully fresh veggies and some really nicely cooked, very tasty bacon.  It went so well with the cup of soup that had it's own depth of flavor thanks to good amounts of dill. This is the kind of food that not only tastes good, but makes you feel good!  Not only good for the bod, but supporting the green mentality is so important and still challenging to do on a consistent basis in these parts.  Bravo, City Cafe!

Now Ozzy's food, not necessarily "green", was still, very very good.  Sadly, the grilled cheese was still too "gooey" for him...crazy kid...but mommy and daddy like!  Fred already has decided next time he goes, that is what he is getting.  Oodles of  gooey sharp cheddar, provolone, and jack on a very nicely grilled sammi and those freshly made chips?  This time, ordered "fun" would come with a chipotle sauce to add some spice! Forgettaboutit!  Freaking awesome!  Sorry Oz-man, but you're missing out here. (coming soon, just a link to their Facebook page as of this writing)

Wrap Up
Price-$$, Not a cheap lunch, but not crazy either.  Especially when you consider they buy local whenever possible.
Atmosphere-**, Would be a three but every time we've come there's an awkwardness waiting to be seated.  There is nowhere to stand without feeling you're in the way.
Service-****, Informative, professional and well trained.  He made mention that he had not yet tasted the special and offered to go do so and report back.  Obviously tasting the special is a daily occurrence but we arrived at the very beginning of lunch.  Thumbs up!

Fred - A-, I've probably been to lunch here a dozen times over the years and I can't ever remember ordering anything off of the menu.  The special is ALWAYS so good.
Libby -A, Very pleased that the food stood up to the "farm fresh" hype.  I really wish I knew of more local eateries that offered such high quality local ingredients.  Any suggestions, readers?!?
Ozzy-C, While kids were welcome, there is no kids menu. 
Estelle-B, They have high-chairs available and she didn't feel out of place.

City Cafe on Urbanspoon


Friday, May 21, 2010

Binkley's Kitchen & Bar

We were on a mission.  Find the best sit-down burger in Indy.  Boogie reigns supreme in our minds, but it's not technically a sit-down. So, from a strong suggestion from a close friend, we headed for Binkley's in Broadripple. 

Originally a drug store in 1928, Binkley's is now a very well established restaurant with accommodations for both adult diners and families (to our delight!).  Once inside, the very contemporary decor was minimally decorated and tastefully understated.  There was so much buzz around that the squealing infant and talkative pre-schooler were never noticed.  A quick glance at the appy's made it easy to choose the Baked Goat Cheese served with naan.

Yeah, it was good...very reminiscent of the tapas version at Barcelona Tapas, but not quite the complexity with the tomato sauce here.  Not complaining one bit.  It was delicious!  This is the first time we've seen naan in Indy outside of an Indian restaurant.  A definite step up from the standard pita.

Fred and Libby had to sample some brews, so Fred chose the Celis Gran Cru and Libby the Goose Island Urban Wheat.  Both were easy on the mouth, but something about Fred's beer made Libby's very good wheat taste like ass....ah, it was a Belgian Triple we later discovered...not to be compared with a mere wheat.  Alas, they were both pleasing and oh, yes, Ozzy enjoyed his chocolate milk.

After looking over the menu, Fred decided he would order a burger, the Black & Blue, served with bacon and blue cheese crust.  Libby, not to limit Binkley's to a burger experience, went for one of the spring specials, a half roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and the veggie of the day, squash and zucchini.  Ozzy went for the kids' grilled cheese and fries and Stella settled on some Earth's Best peas and brown rice. ;)

Pictured right, the Black & Blue was huge!...not sure if only a third of a pound or more, but dripping with blue cheese sauciness and topped with fresh veggies(lettuce and tomato) and nice crispy bacon, it was one beefilicious bite!  It came out just as ordered, medium rare.  Even Libby, not a fan of blue cheese, was quite impressed with the combo!  Fred was heavily reminded of cheeseburger in paradise, but even better...super juicy with perfectly crisped bacon and a great flavor from the sauce. 

Libby's entree started with a salad mixed with strawberry!  It really popped!  Almost like a dessert, the fresh greens, house-made croutons and sweet dressing were just wonderful!  After the beer, appy and salad, this was really shaping up to be quite the experience.  Libby's roasted chicken came with roasted peaches in a thyme and balsalmic glaze.  On it's own, the chicken was sadly, uninspired...but add a slice of peach to the mix and it was raised up to a fresh and light bite...still a little light.  Not bad, just nothing special.  It felt light on flavor...too subtle.  Luckily the roasted potatoes were swimming in a pool of oily goodness, so mixing that with the roasted chicken added the seasoning from the potatoes and some fat...better.  Still, not something Libby would order again. Bummer.

Ozzy was very quiet in the buzz around us as he dined on his panini grilled cheese, yes, panini!   Served with fries, Ozzy was naturally in his preferred state of zen, carb munching.  He refused to share a bite, so we will have to assume it was better than his usual "pretty good."

So, big question is, did we find the best sit-down burger in Indy?  Well, Fred gives an enthusiastic thumbs up, but Libby is still on the fence.  Better than Brickhouse? Yes.  Better than any chain we have experienced, yes.  But the best?  Since burgers are not ordered at every dining experience, Libby doesn't want to commit just yet, but....anyone else out there know of a best sit-down burger in Indy?

Wrap Up
Price-$$, Shocked by the great price at the end!  Three entrees, one tall and two short drafts, plus an appy all for $57 before tip? Not too shabby.
Atmosphere-***, Like most places in Indy, it's hard to judge the ambiance inside based on outward appearances.  For years, we assumed this was an adult pub or adults only dining experience, but we were so pleased to see a kid's menu on the website and high chairs offered for the wee ones when we arrived.  Not necessarily a "family" restaurant, it is great to see such a grown up place be so welcoming of those willing to bring the munchkins to a nicer spot. 
Service-***, Timely in a busy section.  Polite and accommodating.

Fred - A, That burger was melt-in-your-mouth good and with a killer beer selection to boot! 
Libby -B+, Really enjoyed the appy and salad!  Entree was pretty blah, but one bite of Fred's burger made me wish I had tried one of my own!
Ozzy-A, Ozzy's most enthusaistic, "pretty good!" might chalk this up to the best grilled cheese place in Indy!
Estelle-B, High chair? check! Busy room? check!  Infant welcome?...yes, but still would feel odd if there were more than a couple in the place.  She was definitely admired by onlookers, but we could only imagine how much less appreciated she would be if this was the typical kids everywhere kind of place. 

Binkley's Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Iozzo's Garden of Italy

To kick off a much needed vaca, FLOE decided to be treated to a nice sit down dinner.  We finally decided on Iozzo's, as it has been on our list of places to check out since it re-opened last July.

We arrived for early dinner, just after 4pm, and were immediately seated toward the back of the restaurant.  Talk about a piece of artwork!  Beautiful place.  Exposed brick, huge archway to the bar area, etched glass dividers, hand blown glass lighting fixtures, contemporary yet comfortable chairs, original hardwoods...too bad we can't just move in...always dreamed of a downtown condo! ;)  Anyway, nice pad!

We decided to forgo an appy as there was bread and olive oil at the table and we were thinking Italian desserts must be sampled! The bread was a good sour dough and the dipping sauce had an extra fresh feel with diced tomato incorporated...good start.  We also went for a carafe of the house red...awesome.  Not too heavy and seemed to go well with everything.
Fred was struggling between the lamb, eggplant, or pork medallions...Libby the salmon, orzo, or duck breast...
Finally Fred went with the Lamb Porter House Chops and Libby the Salmon Piccata.  Ozzy decided on the kids spaghetti with marinara.

Both came with house salads and sides...Libby substituted her house for a spinach salad.  Good idea!  Tossed in a bacon vinagrette with dried cranberries, cucumber and almond slivers, it was the best salad Libby had encountered in recent memory!  Never had wanted to lick a salad bowl before...
The house salad tossed in a basalmic vinagrette was good, but Fred agreed that bacon makes everything better! ;)

All entrees came out in a timely manner.  Ozzy quickly dove in and didn't say much the entire meal.  Libby was very happy from the first bite of salmon... very moist, crisp outside, with a nice medium inside...almost melted in your mouth.  Green beans were very well seasoned. Libby was sure to ask for her side spaghetti with the sauce on the side...anytime an entree with a great sauce is ordered at an Italian restaurant, for some reason, it comes with the marinara all over do you sop up yummy piccata sauce with your pasta if there is marinara all over it?  So, lesson learned...if ordering an entree with it's own yummy sauce, and it comes with the "spaghetti side," get the marinara on the side. The marinara was pretty light on flavor and spice, so it was a really good decision.
Fred had a slightly different experience with his entree.  Sadly, the Lamb chops were the one true disappointment of the evening. While well-seasoned, Fred's "medium" lamb chops were far past the well done stage.  Tough and rubbery, if young children weren't present, we would have sent them back.  But as always, time is of the essence with an 8 month old in tow.  Fred found the green beans delightful and agreed that the seasoning on the marinara was almost non-existent.  Perhaps, this sauce would go well with a spicy meatball, but couldn't stand on it's own and should not be offered as the standard side dish.  Next time, I will opt for the Yukon mashed potatoes.

Dessert time!  Having felt shortchanged by his lamb, even Fred opted for his own plate. There were several good looking options, so everyone got to try something! It came down to the featured raspberry cheesecake for Ozzy, the lemoncello tart for Fred, and the Iozzo chocolate pyramid for Libby.

All were happy here.  The cheesecake was not shared with anyone until Ozzy was stuffed.  He even turned down a bite of mommy's chocolate to stave off sharing a bite!

Fred's tart was surprising and whimsical.  There were several different flavor combinations depending on where you stuck the spoon.  Fred made sure not to leave any on the plate!

Libby's chocolate mousse was just as it should be, light yet rich in flavor.  A rare thing to have a small dessert with such a sweet-tooth-satiating quality.  A perfect ending to her perfect meal.

Wrap Up
Price-$$$$, Price limits Iozzo's to more than a casual dinner out. 
Atmosphere-****, Beautifully restored building with a killer outdoor area which we look forward to enjoying on our next visit.
Service-***, We enjoyed our server's heavy Italian accent as well as his recommendations on desserts.

Fred - B, This experience is really hard to rate.  It's bolstered by the 4-5 other dishes on the menu I'm dying to try, yet harpooned by a main course that should never have left the kitchen.  All other aspects of the meal were delicious though and my overall experience was certainly an enjoyable one.     
Libby -A, Very happy with all aspects of the meal, the atmosphere...other than the hefty bill, you can't beat this Italian experience.
Ozzy- B+, Seemed to enjoy his pasta, definitely liked the dessert.
Estelle-B+, Welcomed by the staff(high chairs available).  Although she almost had a close encounter with the floor as her high chair had no crotch strap and she is still a wee bit squirmy.

Iozzo's Garden of Italy on Urbanspoon