Sunday, July 17, 2011

Clay Oven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clay Oven Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Three Pints

Okay. It's been a month, sorry to be absent. What better way to get back in the saddle than with a local brew-pub?! So, the lucky recipient of our unruly children and picky palates was Three Pints. A short trek to Plainfield and resting in the old Red Robin, sits the contender. A newly trellissed front porch begs for climbing hops, but otherwise, it's familiar.

We were seated right up front---thank you, unruly children. ;) Before arriving, we had researched the menu and were well aware this was going to be standard pub-grub... BUT we were still hopeful for some standouts.

Our waitress was prompt. But when asked about the beer she responded--- she doesn't drink beer. Okay. That's fine, but shouldn't you be able to tell us something about the four in-house taps you're serving? A detailed description, even if it's just rote memorization? Nope. Ok. How about a sampler? Oh, yes! She brought us a "sampler" of 4 little plastic condiment cups. *sigh* Yes, it was free, but OMG, plastic sampler cups??? We haven't drank beer out of a plastic cup since college! Why isn't Three Pints banking some dough on a slightly classier service in perhaps, glasses? They could easily charge $7 for a set of 4oz samplers. Not a local brewpub clientele, you may ask? In the 35 minutes we were there, 4 people came in sporting their "support your local brewery" t-shirts and growlers to boot. There are some beerchops perusing the place. You gotta respect your beer better than that.

The online menu reflected exactly what was in print. Ozzy and Stella were easy enough---the house mac(kraft) and the chicken strips. Daddy went with the pot roast sandwich and Mommy, the "brewpub favorite", fish and chips. The beers were acceptable, at least for a new brewpub. All on the hoppier side unfortunately, but of the IPA, APA, Scottish, and California Common, Libby decided on Scottish and Fred the California Common. Not terrible. Just not our favorite varieties. Let's give them 6 months and then check them out again.

The food was fairly quick. Ozzy was delighted to, in fact, see out of the box mac and cheese. Stella was disinterested in eating her overly battered and bland chicken strips. Once mom & dad were sure she was done, Ozzy helped himself to them. They were right up his alley.

Libby was excited to see the large fillets of battered Alaskan cod and was very happy to find the quality of the fish reflecting the $14 price tag. Two issues, wait. Three. The fish seemed like it was prepared in house, but sadly, the chef did not take care in frying. It was far too oily, and the batter just slid right off the fish. Not to mention the fries were awful. Awful! Out of a bag is expected, but sitting for who knows how long is completely unacceptable. McDonald's put them to shame. Shame. Shame! Shame! Shame! And last -- Our waitress didn't know what malt vinegar was and brought Italian vinaigrette salad dressing when asked.. Really? Yeah, really. At least the coleslaw was interesting and solid.

Fred's pot roast sandwich was exactly the stand-out we'd been hoping to find. Wonderful beef falling apart with an oh-so-not-so-good-for-you gravy. The optional horseradish really drove it home. And did we mention it's on a toasted brioche bun?!!! Super yummy and only $7.50! Unfortunately, Fred chose the vegetable medley for his side which he is pretty sure he has seen in every supermarket frozen food section. Two bites of that and he was done.

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$, You can eat cheap, but you may get what you pay for.
Atmosphere-**, Meh.
Service-*, It wasn't for a lack of attention, but a lack of training, understanding of customer service or their own beer. Also, anyone who says *I*-talian should be jack-slapped. ;)

Fred- C, While the sandwich alone was more A- range, having sampled everything else at the table, it is obvious that food is not number one on the Three Pints' radar. Nor is a well-trained waitstaff. If I do go back, maybe the sandwich with a side of the slaw would make for a complete plate of decent food.
Libby-D, I didn't finish anything. Not even a pint of beer. That speaks volumes.
Ozzy- A+, "I loved everything. Even Stella's chicken."
Estelle- C+, She did not eat much, but was hell bent on eating the blinds. Did we mention the kids were a bit cantankerous that day? ;)

Three Pints Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red Habanero

When walking into Red Habanero, you could easily mistake it for a Qdoba or Chipotle. And on it's face, the menu does nothing to distinguish it. Sure, there are a few items you won't find at the "fast casual" TexMex chains, but Red Habanero's bread & butter (tortilla & salsa?) are the same tacos, burritos, quesadillas & enchiladas. But where the chains have moved to dumb down the flavor for the mass-market audience, Red Habanero has turned up the heat.

After approaching the counter, we noticed there were several menu items labeled "Hot!". As most places take that to mean there might be a jalapeno or two thrown in, we paid that no mind continued to scan the menu. We decided on a pair of quesadillas for the kids -- one with chicken for Stella and a plain cheese for Oz. Libby ordered one of the "Hot!" items, the Jalepeno Lime Chicken burrito, while Fred chose his usual TexMex baseline dish, the Chile Colorado (this time in burrito form). On each burrito, we had our choice of 4 toppings including the usual cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream & cheese, but also tomatoes, guacamole, black olives, onion & mushrooms, to name a few.

As each entree came with tortilla chips, we sauntered over to the salsa bar to check out the options. Wow! Not just the usual 2 choices (hot & mild) but 5-6 solid ones. There was the house, tomatillo, ranchero, habanero, chipotle, & pico. We happily scooped out a bit of each for tasting. We were pleasantly surprised at the freshness & flavor of each. Per their menu, they make each one fresh daily. It's the little things that really make a place stand out from the crowd, and this was it for Red Habanero. Shockingly, the house salsa was the spiciest of the bunch, well ahead of even the habanero. Stella snuck a taste of it after watching Mom & Dad sample each one. She quickly got an aggrieved look and decided to dip in her beans instead.

The burritos are grilled in a sandwich press which Fred found a little odd, but not displeasing. His Chile Colorado was superb. The flavor of the beef was head and shoulders above anything you get at the chains. The ranchero sauce it'd been simmered in had crept deep into the meat. No need for a salsa to add flavor here. Overall, a great crunch and just enough heat to bring a little sweat to your brow. Perfect.

Libby's burrito was a pleasant surprise on many fronts. First of all, during preparation a large pre-marinated and grilled breast was chopped fresh right before her eyes! Impressive. The jalepeno lime sauce was applied liberally and had a lovely bright green hue. The real test was in the taste and after one bite "fresh" was really the best way to put it. The sauce wasn't really apparent until the third or fourth bite, Holy C***!!!, this was hot! Sure, there was the usual, discomfort in the mouth, a little bit of sweat forming on the upper cheeks, but it was the actual stomach cramps that got her attention. How can something taste so fresh and amazing and give you insta-ulcer?!!! It did cause a slow down in eating when you had to wait for the cramping to subside to have another bite. Yes, it hurt so good. Note to self; next time, heed the "hot" warning.

The kids simply demolished the meal. Other than Ozzy's beans, it was clean plates all around, with Stella wanting to dip her chips in Mommy's burrito. We tried Stella's chicken quesadilla and were surprised at the flavor even in the kid's version. Well seasoned meat and multiple cheeses. Either of us would have been happy to finish it for her!

As we were about to leave, an employee came out and offered free small cups of ice cream for the kids as well as a tiny 3" diameter sombrero. Totally unexpected at an order-at-the-counter joint! We could feel real pride and honesty in his voice and actions. When a chain does something like that, it's not even close to the same feeling.

Wrap Up
Price-$, Basically the same prices as the competition. Love it when you can support your local mom & pop without spending a dime more!
Atmosphere-**, You honestly could have been in any burrito joint---except for the stocked bar! Margarita with your burrito anyone!?
Service-****, No dead-behind-the-eyes minimum wage slaves here. If everyone who worked there wasn't family or friend of the family, we'd be shocked.

Fred- A- , I actually had to go back a few days later to try the tacos! (also awesome -- try the Three Amigos pictured at the top!). My only complaint is the grill on the burrito. I really think it'd be better without. It's a nit-pick though. Next I have to try the shrimp tacos. Yum!
Libby-A, Other than the intense pain, this was a fabulous experience. Great food with real attention to freshness. It's nice when hot means hot.
Ozzy- A+, Lets see, carbs, cheese & more carbs. Oh, then free ice-cream out of the blue! Ozzy heaven!
Estelle- A+, I'm sure we've shared her bean love in the past. But when you add chips & ice cream to the deal, you've got her dead to rights.

Red Habanero on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fire by the Monon

Another new restaurant has hit the scene in Broadripple -- Fire by the Monon. It bills itself as an upscale American grill with an emphasis on grilled local foods, local beer taps, and more heart-healthy choices. We walked the Monon from around the Biscuits vicinity and found Fire in a familiar area behind La Piedad. A red building greeted us and so did plenty of friendly smiles when we arrived.

Upon entering, to our right was a quiet looking bar area. To the left, another bar was visible...was there family seating available? Yes. In between the two bars there was a room with space for 5 cramped tables. To our dismay, almost half of it was taken up by a very loud 8-top of drunken 30-40 somethings whooping it up about weddings or bachelorette parties or whatever. Not a good start. We know what would help this! Beer! We needed to know what was on tap and get the kids some chow.

Chow was simple. Salads, a few entrees, some pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. The server informed us it was their soft opening menu, so things would change up soon. We went with a cheese pizza for Ozzy and pepperoni for Stella. Fred was into The Lake(grilled trout sandwich) and Libby the gouda-bacon burger. Both with sweet potato fries and shredded pickle(shreddies) on the side. Although after a couple of salads went by, we wondered if that was the way to go. They looked like something different and very fresh!

The beer selection was impressive, including locals Upland, Flat 12, Oaken Barrel, Barley Island and Sun King. Oh, how about an Upland Wheat for Libby and a Flat 12 American Wit for Fred? Sure! Fairly quickly, the beers arrived and Libby was sad to see the foggy beer in her glass. Now Upland Wheat should be cloudy, but not look (and taste) like dishwater. Whether the beginning or end of the keg, this was not acceptable. One taste and it was obvious this should not have gone out to the table. Our waitress, who seemed to have expected this, quickly swooped in and offered to exchange it for a Sun King. Ah. Much better. But it made us wonder aloud, why did it get served if they knew it was questionable?! The rabble continued.

This noise problem was not just us nor was it relenting. The table was getting the stink-eye from other diners as well. We have to ask, wasn't there room for 8 grown women to sit in one of your two bar areas? Ozzy decided he couldn't take it anymore and declared it was too loud, covered his ears, and asked to go home. Fred tried to tend the issue with some napkin made earplugs. On the way to the bathroom to insert them, he was stopped by another server who apologized and informed him that acoustic panels had been ordered. Another table arrived, and they were also informed of the noise reduction plan. We ended up scooting our table about a foot to help accommodate the small space for another table and that seemed to slightly help Ozzy's agony. Although Libby started to get feedback static from the jubilant noise behind her. Even Stella's occasional wails were muffled in comparison. Really?!

Before too long the food came. Yay! Ozzy was overjoyed and started to dig in as did Stella. Fred and Libby quickly snapped a shot of each sandwich and sunk in.

The burger was really good. Well cooked, nice seasoning and a very satisfying bite. The buns on both sandwiches were a wonderful toasted wheat. Teddy's, this is how you do a wheat bun right! The sweet potato fries were very familiar. Definitely from a bag. Not bad, just not special. The "shreddies" although only pickles were really fresh and the accompanying remoulade was a nice touch. Fred's trout sandwich was just that. A grilled piece of trout with lettuce and tomato along with the same remoulade. Not bad, just not special.

The kids' pizzas were fine. Ozzy ate his aggressively and Stella tried to eat a full slice new-york-fold style. While mom & dad were unimpressed with the crust, Fire does know what kids want in a pie.

When the check came, we were more than ready to go. It's a sad thing that the environment actually played a bigger part than the food or even the service in our experience. Yes, it was a soft opening, but how long should a soft opening go on? We know this "soft opening" had been going on for at least a week by this point, as other bloggers had already written about it. It is still hard to decide whether we care to go back and give it another try. Family seating should be just that. A group of adults out to have a good time shouldn't be taking up half the dining area when there are two bar areas available. Belly up to one of the bars. We would if we could. :)

Wrap Up
Price-$$, Your standard sit-down burger prices.
Atmosphere-*, Loud and nondescript. How do you make an old building have zero character? Maybe there is some in the bar areas...
Service-*, Friendly & they were obviously trying. But there were multiple mistakes made. Not just in seating that group, but our server knew the beer was bad. She hovered until Libby took her first taste and immediately offered to replace it. If you know it's bad, DON'T SERVE IT!

Fred-C , The food was "Not Bad. Just not special." That about sums it up. Maybe if they get their "stuff" together, I'll give it another go. But I won't be hurrying back any time soon. Also, if you want to stand out for your food, don't have your standard side dish come out of a bag. Whatever happened to (from Fire's website) "our first step includes working with local producers and suppliers to bring their best products to your table."
Libby-C+, The burger was very tasty. But this was the first time I truly understood how much impact atmosphere would have on my meal. It was very difficult to enjoy anything about it when my son was covering his ears in distress and all I kept thinking was "how did the hostess screw up seating this badly?!" The bars were almost empty!
Ozzy- D, He has never complained about noise before. Even at Chuck-E-Cheese. This would have been an F had it not been for the clean-plate-club pizza.
Estelle-B , After 5 ear infections in the last 6 months, Stella is almost half-deaf according to the docs. So she enjoyed her meal immensely! ;)

Fire by the Monon on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 22, 2011

Taste Cafe and Marketplace

We have read countless blogs, reviews, and comments from readers about the great things going on at Taste in SoBro. The opportunity presented itself so we went for it and decided to do lunch today---poor Oz-man had to make up a snow-day at school. :(

As soon as we entered the door around 12:30 on a friday afternoon, we saw there was a sizeable line. We looked around a bit and saw that seating was tight too. Was this a mistake? Not to worry, the line moved at a steady pace and out of nowhere a table opened up right when we needed it! Yay!

But first, the menu. This is an order at the counter set-up, with lovely glass cases showing patrons the intriguing lunchtime possibilities. There are wall menus, but the fine print makes them nearly impossible to read -- so thank goodness for the normal sized menus to peruse while you wait in line. Several things sounded good in the gourmet sandwich department; the albacore tuna nicoise, the curried chicken salad, the italian grinder, and the erin to name a few. Then others looked very good; the multitude of fresh sides, greek orzo and roasted beet salads, vine ripe tomatoes, tortelinni and OMG the desserts!!!

We had heard good things about the pommes frites, so that was a no brainer. But after much deliberation, Fred went with the Erin and Libby the italian grinder...and a slice of chocolate sponge cake with mocha butter cream frosting!!! Terrible, I know.

As we waited at our well placed plate-watching table, an incredible looking egg sandwich walked by twice and a couple of salads that didn't look too shabby either. It wasn't long before the frites arrived...Woah! A familiar looking cone of frites, good-sized portion to share, sprinkled with generous amounts of basil and seasoning accompanied by a light green basil-aioli....oooooo. We showed no mercy. Greedy bite after bite slathered in garlicy (and basily) goodness didn't stand a chance. These were serious business that put a couple of Broadripple favs to the test. Look out, Brugge, Canal Bistro, and Boogie, Taste's got your number!

So, naturally this made for some serious anticipation concerning sandwiches and cake. I mean, where do we go from here? Two lovely diagonally sliced french baguettes revealed a little of the glory within. Libby found her first bite of the grinder a real explosion of olive tapenade --a great thing at first, but quickly became a bit overwhelming in the salt department. The meats were of good quality, but the sheer amount of olive overpowered the cheese and even the meat. About half as much would have been a whole lot better.

Fred, on the other hand, made his "O" face of approval. Even though he forgot to nix the onion, he was in utter heaven. Erin was sheer creamy genius. An all veggie sammy, this creation included asparagus, sprout, red onion, provolone, swiss, more of that orgasmic aioli, and dijon dill sauce. The dill sauce and asparagus were really the stars. Creamy, easy, and the asparagus actually gave it the right amount of 'meatiness' with a little bite. *sigh* NEXT!

Ah, yes. The cake. Dessert at lunch. Who would do such a thing? Libby. Every time, given the opportunity. This was better than expected. Better than it even looked if that was possible. The decorative strawberry on top was nice and all, but please! A mere distraction! This cake was somehow light in texture, but carried a flavor punch that sent one reeling. That hint of mocha was beautiful. The icing SWEET and creamy. Dreamy. The perfect ending to a very lovely lunch. Taste can bake too. Damn.

Wrap Up
Price-$$, You can eat cheap if you want, but why would you?!
Atmosphere****, Beautiful, contemporary decor. No ugly soda fountain to be found. Instead, tasty looking homemade flavored waters. Come get your snob on!
Service**, Friendly & accommodating. But honestly they needed one more person cleaning tables. Can't call it a bus-boy, perhaps a Table Presentation Coordinator?

Fred- A-, I've never before had such a flavorful vegetarian sandwich. And I can even lie to myself and believe it was good for me! If it weren't for the overpowering tapenade on the grinder, this would have been in A or A+ territory. In my book, those frites are tied with Canal Bistro for 2nd best in Indy. A couple more dipping options and they'd surpass Brugge for the top spot!
Libby-B+, Yes, you can have too much of a good thing -- tapenade . Why are all the good frites in Broadripple? Share the love, people! And the baked goods? Forgetaboutit. Next stop? Brunch for one of those flirtatious egg sandwiches or perhaps truffle frites and aioli from the Aftertaste menu! Bring it.
Ozzy- N/A, Snow makeup day at school. Sorry Oz man. You would have loved the frites!
Estelle- C, Felt a little out of place. Babies are SO last season! Were high-chairs available? On our way out, we found them. Hidden behind the front door. :/

Taste Cafe and Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tamale Place

FLOE was headed to lunch before a quick trip to the zoo today, so it sounded like a good time to try out The Tamale Place on the near west side. In a strip mall off of Rockville lies this very modest, clean and easy "dive". Since it's scheduled to be featured on Triple D this May, FLOE had high hopes and were admittedly a little giddy to give it a go.

Upon walking in, we were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic clientele. It's always a good sign to see natives of the cuisine, but this was a true melting pot. We were met at the counter by a very helpful and patient staff member. She explained how to order and approximately how much food would be enough for the 4 of us. Since they call themselves The Tamale Place, FLOE decided to forgo the tacos and nachos (although both looked excellent!) -- today it was all about the tamales.

It should be noted that tamales are not a made-to-order item. Therefore the staff makes a set number of each per day and when they're out, they're out. While it's usually a good idea to peruse the menu ahead of time, don't get your heart set on a particular style before you walk in the door. You are at the mercy of the dry-eraser board.

After a protracted examination of the menu, we chose 3 tamales and 3 sides for the 4 of us. For the tamales we opted for the Chicken Oaxacan Mole, Chipotle Chicken, and Beef with Poblano & cheese. Our sides consisted of slow cooked black beans, homemade chips and salsa & easily the best Mexican rice FLOE has ever tasted.

Since we knew neither kid was going to touch the tamales (although Stella would attempt it not knowing how spicy they might be), we quickly sated each with their favorite. Black beans for the girl & chips for the boy. We're not sure why Stella has such a love for any bean, but she always gobbles them up. In this case, we had to fight her for them as these were not your run of the mill black. We couldn't place the spices used, but the overall affect was delightful. Ozzy attempted the salsa and immediately hit his water glass. Oops. Sorry son. The cilantro hits your tongue first, but the heat came on strong at the end. While mom & dad were enjoying their tamales, Stella accidentally got a chip full of it too, resulting in some serious tears. Double oops! Thankfully this only served to accelerate her black bean intake speed...

As the kids experimented, we took in the tamales. The Chicken Mole tamale was firm yet tender, with a pleasant extra mild mole. We found it made a perfect contrast with the fiery Chipotle Chicken. The chipotle was perhaps a bit dry, but solid overall. While the masa was identical in all three, the real tamale winner was the Beef with Poblano. The meat was tender and juicy; perfect with a hit of the extra hot red salsa.

We had ordered the rice as a backup for both kids but greedily kept it for ourselves after one forkful. Yowsa! Usually a throw-away side at most mexican places, this could have been served on its own! While there was undoubtedly a heavy hand with the oil, the spicing was dead on and there was a meatiness to it that we couldn't quite place. Simply a must-have on every visit.

Wrap Up
Price-$, All four of us ate for under $15. That's what we call Taco Bell cheap!
Atmosphere**, Very clean & well lit, but sparse and a little utilitarian.
Service****, The staff was very patient and helpful even with another couple waiting behind us.

Fred- A, This place nails it. There are no throw-away sides here. These guys mean business with every dish. I will make sure to try the tacos on my next visit. Now I just have to come up with a reason to be on the west side!
Libby-A+, Certainly the best tamales I've ever had. The best Mexican rice I've ever had. And damned good beans, chips and salsa. Just tell me when the Greenwood location is coming!!
Ozzy- B-, Definitely into the chips and wanted to try the salsa. It was just too hot. Mom & Dad should have been more cognizant of the spice with the little ones and gotten them a milder version. He might have even gone for a cheesy tamale. Oh well. Next time.
Estelle- A, Black beans = win! And the poor girl wanted to like the salsa too. But the palate isn't up to speed yet.

Tamale Place on Urbanspoon

Biscuits Cafe

Another long weekend nightshift came to an end and Libby was in the mood for breakfast! Something a little spicy, something a little homey. Fred and the kids decided to drive her drowsiness to Biscuits in Broadripple!
Biscuits is probably in one of the best hidden locations in Broadripple. Right off the Monon in a strip mall with at least three other eateries AND behind the new Thr3e Wisemen Brewery, Biscuits has achieved maximum quaintness. You walk in to what feels like a 1950's neighborhood diner with a little hispanic flair. We like.

The menu is straight up hangover heaven! And nightshift heaven, for that matter. Where can you find the usual diner breakfast fav's with lotsa mexican treats---Breakfast burrito with beans and rice, Spicey sausage gravy and biscuits, Breakfast Quesadilla, Breakfast chimichanga??? Hell-o, Nurse! This is what Libby is talking about!!!

Fred decided the breakfast burrito was right up his alley this particular morning. On almost every other morning, Libby would agree, but today she had to sample the spicey biscuits 'n gravy---or rather a duo of the spicy and the original---carb coma coming up! :) Ozzy insisted on some chocolate pancakes and for Stella, per usual, a little of everything. Hot sauce, anyone?! ;)
Service was organized, professional, and speedy...and many. We aren't sure who our actual server was as there was a crew that seemed to be tending our hunger/thirst needs. Again, we like.

Ozzy's pancakes were the giant chocolately goodness he was after. Two hotcakes, covered in chocolate sauce and powdered sugar was the carbotarian breakfast-dessert his little heart desires. Two giant thumbs up!

Fred's Burrito was enormous! Was this breakfast? Oh, yeah it was. Refried beans, mexican rice and the veggie fixins accompanied a larger than life, colorful burrito. Muy bueno. The red sauce went perfectly with the egg and chorizo, but Fred would have liked a bit more flavorful cheese. The refried beans and rice were standard mexican restaurant fare. This would be a great workingman's breakfast to power you through the rest of the day. No one leaves hungry.

Libby anxiously awaited her biscuits and holy cow, what a plate!!! Not only was it HUGE, but the spicy gravy had a very different pink hue to it. Hey, made it very easy to distinguish the spicy from the original. Sadly, the biscuits and gravywere very floury...not in the best way. But honestly, the gravy wasn't too shabby. Not quite up to Grammy's standard (or Zest's), but worth trying. And they certainly hit the spot.

Stella had nothing but good things to jabber. Lots of "mmm's" and "oooo's" followed the refried beans and pancakes, but sadly no love for the b&g.

Wrap Up
Price-$$-Not the cheapest breakfast, but not breaking the bank.
Atmosphere***, It was a diner! How often do you see an actual diner? And in a strip mall, no less.
Service****, The well-oiled machine of service!! No qualms about it, these folks know how to turn tables and do it with a smile.

Fred- B, If there is such a thing as "standard" mexican-'merican breakfast food, this would be it. Having said that, it was up to standards and I certainly would not complain about a return trip.
Libby-B+, Although they weren't the best b&g I've ever had, they were good. And honestly, I would like to try a lot more on that menu. Is it Sunday morning yet?
Ozzy- A, Ozzy reports the chocolate pancakes were "absolutely" good. 'Nuf said.
Estelle- A, If toddler speak is louder than actual words, Stella was a happy camper.
Biscuits on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Ever had Indonesian cuisine before? FLOE neither...until Garuda! The new SoBro Indonesian Restaurant off of College and 52nd is tucked behind Taste and is very muted in its outward appearance. We had no idea what to expect. Once inside, some minimalist decor showcased a small dining area open to the very busy kitchen.

The hostess was a bit awkward(not sure what to do, more nervous than accommodating), but we'll chalk it up to being only open about one month at the time. Our server was very polite, but again, awkward. We were glad to see a small menu---makes it a little easier to pick new things.

We noticed a lot of satay(skewered meats), some curry, and rice and noodle dishes with island flair. We decided to start with Lumpia, Garuda's Indonesian spring rolls. Fred had to have the Kare Opur(Indonesian Curry) with chicken and Libby the Beef Randang. Ozzy opted for a side of rice and Stella would sample from the lot.

Beverage orders were never requested, but we were brought water to drink. Hm. The menu also stated we could specify how spicy we would like our dishes and that never happened either.

The Lumpia came out pretty quickly and was just delightful! Visually very familiar, there was something different. The fried outside was thick like a chinese egg roll and had a hidden sweetness, while the inside had some curried tofu and mixed veggies that were more reminiscent of a spring roll. It was fried perfectly, nice and crunchy outside with a warm, tender inside. The pineapple chili sauce on the side was a great touch. Even Stella approved!

Entrees took a little longer, even though there were only two seated tables in the whole place and an army of folks in the back. Finally, they arrived and they were beautiful! And in appropriate proportions. Not the mega-size so many of us have become so accustomed to.

Fred's Kare Opur was so aromatic! It was quite mild with incredibly well blended spices--- the flavors had melded in the pot. It was familiar yet different in it's subtlety. Definitely a dish worth coming back for!

Libby's Beef Randang was actually the Beef Satay dinner. This was suspected, but not confirmed until after dinner when a quick look at the online menu checked out. Rather than a slow-roasted meat in coconut milk and indonesian spices, it was skewered beef with a side of rice and acar(a vegetable salad with cucumbers, pineapples and carrots marinated in a ginger-shallot lime sauce garnished with cilantro). One bite was all it took to see the value in these simple plates. Tender, flavorful, and so tasty it made Libby regret her earlier thoughts that less is more! More! More! The rice on the side and the acar worked better together than on their own. The yellow rice was again very mild in flavor---the acid from the veg was necessary. So, even though there was a bit of ordering confusion, Libby was very pleased with her surprise dish.

Finally, we had to try the Pisang Goreng--- more well known as fried plantains. Yummy. This version had coconut and rice-flour battered plantains, fried and sprinkled with coconut over a nutella and caramel sauce topped with coconut ice cream. This flavor combo was truly pleasing and the perfect sweet ending to a most satisfying dinner. Again, subtlety was the art of this dish. Lightly battered, lightly sweetened and even the coconut ice cream was more milky that sweet. One suggestion we would have is to have thinner slices. Plantains are naturally a bit bitter and the thicker slices caused the bitter plantain to compete with the already light sweetness. Otherwise, it was just de-lite-ful!

Wrap Up
Price-$$-Well priced for delicate, international cuisine.
Atmosphere**, Nothing exciting, but we're expecting it to flesh out over time. We did quite enjoy being able to view all of the chaos in the back!
Service*,- Very polite but GREEN. These guys need more experienced help to pay attention to detail and be on top of customer needs. There was a hostess, two servers, and what appeared to be two owners around, not to mention 4-5 chefs in the back. If they are struggling with only two tables filled, we cringe to think what a busy night would be like!

Fred- B-, I'd give the food more of an A-, very good. But the service was so poor, it weighed down the overall experience. I would like to go back to see if it's improved. If not, then that would be a huge red flag.
Libby-B+, Wonderful food, but the service was just bad. The kind of service where you know they are trying and can't seem to get it right. There's nothing worse than feeling sorry for your servers when the chefs are doing their part in the kitchen.
Ozzy- C+, Ozzy was not too impressed with his yellow rice, but he ate it and very much enjoyed the plantain sauce, rather than the plantain itself.
Estelle- B, Stella sampled from everything and preferred the acar, the curry, and the rice. The meat may have been too difficult for her to chew, but she seemed content overall.
Garuda on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Sisters Cafe

On our short list, Three Sister's Cafe made the cut a couple of weeks ago when Libby had a rare Saturday night off. A roadtrip for breakfast Sunday morning was on the agenda! FLOE was well aware that one of our food-porn heroes, Guy Fieri, had sampled some eats and we couldn't wait to try it our for ourselves!

Located in the heart of Broadripple, Three Sister's is situated in an old house with all the antiquated charms---creaky wooden floors, large windows, small rooms and quaint architectural details. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were super lucky to be seated immediately. Within 20 minutes, the line was out the door.

One very fun and friendly type of seating they do for small groups is "family" seating. If there is one large table, you could get seated with other guests...some may scoff at this, but we found it kinda cool. Could be good to meet some new people. :)

With a newly printed menu after triple D's visit, Libby decided to sample one of the show's featured items, the raspberry corn cakes with lemon curd. Fred had to try the omelet with calico potatoes. Ozzy requested the bear banana pancakes and Stella indulged in her own entree as well, the french toast. And can we just say, their coffee was FABULOUS. Nice and bold, not for the Folgers crowd.

After a fairly lengthy wait, the beautiful plates arrived! We were more than a little excited. Libby, being the lucky tester of the corncakes, was completely satisfied with her choice. The corncakes were bursting with raspberries...but let's not mince words---it's all about that lemon curd. OMG, this was pure lemon heaven. Breakfast? This was a straight up dessert! Beautifully simple and totally indulgent. Fantastic! A must have from now on, whenever we get back.

Fred's a 5-ingredient omelet with a side of calico potatoes and an order of sourdough toast really hit the tastebuds front & center. The mixture of exotic mushrooms, kalamata olives, brie, spinach and basil was to die for. Creamy, briney, mushroomy goodness with enough green stuff to make you almost feel like it's healthy. Of course any mistaken notion of that went out the window with the pound of melted butter on the very sour sourdough. Not that Fred was complaining!

Unfortunately the calico potatoes may actually have been healthy. They certainly tasted like it. We wanted to like this mixture of white & sweet potato hash browns. They had some spice to them, but they just tasted. . . . healthy. Perhaps it was just a lack of salt, but there just wasn't the depth of flavor that we were expecting. Sadly, they looked a lot better than they tasted.

The kids were not on the same page with their meals. Ozzy was a little disappointed with the banana-i-ness of his choice. Apparently, he didn't connect the whole banana-in-a-pancake concept and said he would prefer them sans bananas. There was still plenty that he would like there, but this was not his dish. Stella, on the other hand, was happily munching away on her french toast and had little to complain about during our entire stay. She was in a good place.

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$,- Comparable to any chain breakfast place. But this sure ain't Bob Evans!!
Atmosphere***, You could feel the love. It was Grandma's house with a little Broadripple flair.
Service***,- The wait for the food made it seem like something had happened in the kitchen, but the server was very attentive throughout.

Fred- A-, Now I'm on my 3rd killer breakfast spot in Indy. Between Zest, Hoaglin To Go and 3 Sisters, who can decide where to go?!? I'll give you a hint -- it won't be Denny's. A little more salt on the calico potatoes during cooking would have pushed it into A territory.
Libby-A+, If I were in a hurry, this rating might be different. But the fact is the coffee was delicious and my corn cake with lemon curd was "City Hall in Flavortown".
Ozzy- C+, While he was having problems with both the wait and his chosen meal, Three Sisters had plenty of other options and the atmosphere was very conducive to a loud 6 year old.
Estelle- B+, She had the best seat in the house for people watching and her french toast was more than deserving of the adult menu.

3 Sisters Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Bethel Ordinary

Having heard that one of the best pizza's in town was actually not in town, we drove out to Wanamaker to visit the New Bethel Ordinary (NBO).  Upon entering and seeing the scorched wooden tables and an incredibly small town vibe, we immediately felt at home.  There's no pretense here.

The NBO could be found in any small town in the midwest complete with 1950's style plastic letter wall special advertisements to an original antiquated main street building to a bit of confusion around import beers.  With no set beer menu, our waitress was unable to provide us with a full listing of their beers.  When we decided on a Guiness, she offered a frosty mug, we declined, she then just brought the cans...?

We perused the menu, knowing we were getting a pie, to see if an appy was appealing.  Since we were worried that Stella really is not a pizza person yet, we thought we would maximize our chances with an appy sampler---the fried onion rings, fried cauliflower, and fried cheese sticks.  The pie we chose?  We decided to go ultra simple since the ingredient list wasn't blowing our skirts up---half cheese(for Ozzy) and half pepperoni.  Simple should suffice, right?

The sampler came out quickly, and looked like it came straight from the bag---maybe the onion rings were done in house, but there is NO WAY the cheese sticks or cauliflower were made within 500 miles of the place.  Not really very good.  Stella tried some of everything and Fred was so happy to see she is not an onion person either. ;)  Ozzy made a valiant attempt at a cheese stick, but as it got gooey, he vetoed the effort.  Fred and Libby quite enjoyed the cauliflower, but all in all, it was a bust.

At this point, other diners started rolling in and it was obvious, pizza was the star of the menu.  This was both heartening and foreboding in that everyone was ordering 4-7 toppings...did we mess this up?  Well, showtime, here came the pie...TONS of cheese!  Ozzy looked a little apprehensive.  A nice touch, the demarcation made with a green herb and was a great concept-- something we would like to see on other pies.  It was obvious where one side stopped and the other began.

Unfortunately, the great first impression soon fell incredibly flat.  The mounds of cheese that were so obvious at first glance were in fact, straight mozorella on a not so exciting sauce and an overwhelmed, underdone crust.  One side sitting in a pool of unappetising pepperoni grease.  You can't pick up this pizza, a must use the knife and fork.

We soon found that where most places would put a single pepperoni, the NBO stacked three or four.  This was obviously done in an attempt to provide abundant toppings, but doesn't work well with buried pepperoni.  As other pies started coming out with mounds of toppings on them, we recognized our fatal flaw...NBO doesn't do simple.  But what pizza place can't make a pepperoni pizza?!?!?!?!

Only a couple of weeks ago we had outstanding cheese pizza at Thr3e Wise it really so hard?

Really?  Fred and Libby immediately went into a diatribe of how they were pretty sure that that one time they were weak and tried a Sam's Club Pepperoni pizza, that it was better than this! How is that possible?  A pound of mozzerella does not a good pizza make!  How can the crust cook right with a layer of insulation on top?  Why didn't we order 5, 6, 7 toppings?!  *sigh*

Having only eaten one to one 1/2 slices each, we decided that it simply was not worth ingesting anymore.  We left, not satisfying our hunger, but still feeling that there was a ball of mozzerlla stuck in our gullets.  Both of us fantasized of purging roman style and going to get, perhaps, some Brozzini's.  Ozzy on the other hand, could not be disuaded of his "pretty good" rating.  And Stella, while she didn't really eat much, certainly enjoyed her experience and was welcomed warmly by staff and the other customers.

This brings us to the final tally, where Fred had some serious sticker shock.  $44, before a good tip, as the service was fine for a 16 inch pizza, a mediocre fried appy, and two (not exotic!) beers.  Huh?!  An example...last night at Oaken Barrel---which is arguably very inexpensive and amazing for the price--two dinner entrees, a kids entree, a dessert, and 5 WAY better beers came to a grand total of $36.  Explain that to us!

In our diner's remorse, we dialed a friend who loved the place.  He explained, it's about the massive number of multiple toppings.  So, a word to the wise...don't do it.  Don't try to be simple, get the mother load and maybe it's a whole new ball game.  But as far as FLOE is concerned, we won't be trecking to Wanamaker to give it another chance.

Wrap Up
Price-$$-$$$,- Apparently, Guiness charges a shit ton to go to Wanamaker.  There was a special to get a 16 inch and a bucket o' domestic for $30...yet somehow two Guiness and an appy added up to almost $45? Oy.
Atmosphere**, Small town, comfortable, homey, in a historic-ly ancient building in town.
Service***,-  Other than a little beer-snobbery on our part, the service was fine. :)

Fred- F, I understand it's a toppings place, but what pizza place can't do a pepperoni pizza?!  And if you're a toppings place, then you need to up the ante on the toppings---nothing extraordinary or interesting here .
Libby-D-, I have never only eaten one piece of pizza in my LIFE!  This was not good.  It was depressing that so much cheese was going to see the dumpster.  The only saving grace for me was the fried cauliflower--don't know if it was from the bag or not, but it was all I was all I had.
Ozzy- B, The boy took every ounce of cheese off but ate up his crust.  He insisted it was "pretty good."  Alright son, whatever you say.
Estelle- B, Content to snack and soak it all in.

New Bethel Ordinary on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company

For months now, we knew that a new brewery was surfacing in Broadripple and were excited to find they had opened in January.  Almost a month ago, we planned to go on Fred's birthday, but some mean, nasty virus had other plans.  Last weekend was our moment and the melting snow and glaring sunshine made us thirsty for one thing.  A good brew!

Across Broadripple avenue from the McDonald's, Thr3e Wise Men has an excellent location...gooood parking (for Broadripple, at least).  As soon as you enter, Scotty's marketing know-how is apparent.  Not only is there great merchandising between t-shirts, growlers, very professional advertising, and a knock-out view of the heart and soul of the brewing process, but the techie factor is almost a bit much.  Even the picnic table seating went above and beyond with seat padding, smooth table surfacing, and the greatest high chair ever...a table-top latch on that really allowed Stella to be at table height.  Yay!  Since the dining area is a bit small, they made up for lost space by placing 4-tops like us at the same table as another couple.  Smart.  We've always thought it was strange that more places don't do this.  What's the worst that can happen?  You speak to a stranger?!?

There are at least 7 hanging flat screens in the very open dining area, each table has an i-pad and even the bathroom stalls have tv's?!  Naturally the faucet and soap dispenser were automatic, but even the hand dryer was some sort of high-tech freakiness.  We couldn't figure out what we were supposed to do with the i-pad(only could see a map and they'd blocked the home button) and the toilet tv wasn't getting a signal, but when it's all humming...

Anyhow, let's talk chow!  Although it may not be obvious from the fact that the name on the sign says "Brewery", this is a pizza place.  Yes, there are appetizers, salads, and a few desserts, but the main course is pizza.  This made Ozzy a happy camper.

But first, what to drink?  Why a sampler of course!  Unfortunately, they only offered three of their eight brews in each sampler, so Fred and Libby just had to get their own...shucks. Since neither of us are hop-heads, we stayed away from the single & double IPAs.  We were excited by the color & milkiness of their Blackberry Wheat, but as with most fruit beers, the flavor just didn't come through.  Pity.  Both of us decided that the Blonde was the choice of the night for our second round.  We found none of the beers to be extraordinary, just simple easy drinking beers that would all go well with pizza.  If you're really looking for a knock-out pint, there are better breweries in town (heck, there are three of them within walking distance!), but in this case, the beer does what it's intended to do, wash down a pie.

We started with the Goat Cheese and Wise Men Marinara.  Can you really go wrong with this most delicious combo?  No.  The only negative we can say is that the pizza crust chips they gave for dipping had some fairly burned up pieces -- the sauce was good, the cheese premium quality and the cooked pizza crust idea, not bad! 

For the entree, we decided to go with two pizzas.  A small plain cheese to appease Ozzy and a garlic, spinach, and basil for the rest of us.  Normally, thin crust is not our preference, but this was very impressive.  The sauce was outstanding!  The cheeses somehow different in a really good way (parmesan melted in maybe?) and the ingredients great quality.  I think we were all pretty shocked by how much we liked it.  Ozzy's comments of "Fantastic!" and "This is the best pizza ever!"  spoke volumes.  This coming from a kid whose normal praise for a meal is "pretty good."  Stella was shoveling as fast as she could....well, so were mom and dad.  Next time we'll go for a meat topping, but the spinach, basil, garlic mix was perfect to show off that awesome sauce.

 For dessert there are three options: elephant ear, brew-homemade carrot cake, and brew-homemade german chocolate cake.  Fred expressed no interest in dessert(too full), but the rest of the family was feeling chocolate!  Shaped like a small bundt cake and covered in crushed toffee bar, this was a hit.  Very rich and in Libby's opinion, was screaming for a good coffee---should've gotten some Hubbared & Cravens!  Next time.  Ozzy and Stella were equally enthusiastic.  The elephant ear looked really popular and pretty tasty.  And knowing Fred's love for carrot cake, next time he's in the mood, he'll be sampling.

Wrap Up
Price-$-$$,- Large pizza & a growler for $20?!  Sounds like a deal to us.
Atmosphere***,- Reminiscent of Scotty's other establishments.  Loved the padded picnic tables.
Service***,-  Plenty of staff, but we're not so sure the electronic ordering system was really helping much.  Our waitress had to step away from our table to punch everything into a gadget strapped to her hip.  It took at about 2 minutes for her to enter the order.  By that time she could have easily written it down and walked it to the kitchen.

Fred- B+,  Very good pizza, but there's so much better beer in Broadripple... Maybe if they'd called themselves Thr3e Wise Men Pizza Co I would have had lower expectations...  But all in all, it's a good deal and I'd definitely go back.
Libby-B+, I had a great time just soaking it all in---beer and atmosphere.  I was really happy to see they use as many local ingredients as they can--thank you, Thr3e Wise Men!  Next time, we'll have to try a meat pizza and hopefully they will have the amber available since so many seem to enjoy it.
Ozzy- A+, We've never heard such high praise from our boy!
Estelle- A+, Awesome high chair and she loved every bite.

Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon