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Don Gusto P.J. Cafe 3960 S. Meridian Street

Pat “discovered” this joint some time back and we had planned on coming here last week until Bazbeaux got in the way.

Since they are a bakery I wanted to try a Torta. I opted for their Torta Milanese with steak. It can be prepared many different ways but the main ingredient must be breaded and fried. Their version had lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese and a fried egg to go with a very generous portion of beef steak.

It was an excellent sandwich. All of the components fit well together but what brought it from very good to excellent was the bun. It had a wonderful texture. Soft and fluffy yet with a slight chew to it and perfectly toasted. I was really impressed that sandwich.

The poor Cannoli we shared certainly didn’t last long. I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture. It was crisper than Cannolis I have had else where but it was still pretty good. Since it is in a part of town I hardly ever go to I am not sure when or if I’ll be back. I sure would like to. Those torta rolls are just that good.

 


Bazbeaux Pizza 333 Massachusetts Ave,

Bazbeaux is probably the first “gourmet” pizza joint in the city. That is to say the first joint to offer toppings other than pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella cheese. They opened about 30 years ago and are still pretty popular. They started in Broad Ripple and then expanded to Carmel and downtown Indy.

Patrick has long insisted that we have already reviewed Bazbeaux. My contention was no, we haven’t. We were on our way to some Mexican restaurant on the South side when Pat commented on an article from Nuvo. The article was about local pizza joints and of course Bazbeaux came up. So we decided to go there instead. We didn’t realize that this location was serving a lunch express only. That is when you stand in line to order a slice, some cheese bread or a side salad.

Definitely NOT a Sahm’s salad

I believe they had 4 pizzas that day. Cheese or Pepperoni for $2.75 or a slice of Greek pizza or a BOT for $3.25. I opted for a slice of BOT; which stands for bacon, onion and tomato.

For some reason they added a chiffonade of basil on the top. Having a fresh herb on the top of a hot pie can be tasty at times but when the pie sits under a heat lamp some of the flavor is lost. The pepperoni was fine. Both slices  were fine. Nothing special. A pizza may stay warm on a heated buffet and under a heat lamp but it certainly does not improve the flavor. From the size of lunch crowd this format has probably increased its business but I think the food may have suffered. Of course one could make the point that if people keep coming in what does it matter.

Should I try this joint again it will be at a location where I can get a pie made especially for me.

 

 


Sahm’s Tavern & Big Lug Tap 435 N. Capitol Ave.

That’s right another Sahm’s. Some might say that reviewing one is like reviewing them all. Well this isn’t Mickey D’s. There may be some commonality in the menu selections, however even these aren’t identical. Since the introduction of Rockstone Pizza; a wood fired pie; you can order pizza at several of their locations.

The base price for a 10 inch pie is $10 with a $1.39 charge for toppings. Pat ordered double mushrooms.

Another thing all the Sahm’s I have been to have in common are outstanding salads. Even the standard side salad is exceptionally well done. I think their secret is they pay attention to each salad they make. They treat them as some thing more than just a side dish. This is quite evident in their entre salads.

This is the Chop Chop Salad. A huge salad loaded with diced bacon, peppadew peppers, capacolla, black olives, blue cheese, pistachios, beets and grape tomatoes. To me the cool thing about this salad is that the greens are tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and a creamy Italian before the goodies are added. I liked the double dressing and especially liked the greens being dressed in the beginning. That is how salads used to be served. Now this is an epic salad. For an up charge you can gild the Lily by adding steak or chicken. All of their big salads are available as full or half. I got the full for $10. The half is $6.

Another plus for ordering a salad is that you get a slice of their coffee cake. I guess that is your reward for eating your veggies.

It is such a simple confection. A sweet cake with a nut paste in the center and dusted with powdered sugar. So simple yet so good. Another addition to all the Sahm’s is Big Lug Beer. That is the Sahm’s Brewery and has been around 3 or 4 years. I believe they were one of the first beer joints to offer their beer in a glass other than a pint. They still do and it is still a great beer.

 


Ukiyo 4907 N. College Ave.

This is another Neal Brown restaurant. It is Japanese inspired with some non traditional twists. Or as is stated on the intro to their website a Hip Japanese spot serving ramen at lunch & small plates at dinner, plus reservation-only omakase. They change their menu with the seasons. I had wanted to get there while they were still working on their warm weather menu. However I missed it. They are currently serving their Fall and Winter menu. It has not been updated on their website so I have included a copy.

 

I was very excited by the food so naturally I over ordered. I started off with the shio koji duck breast.

This was an excellent dish, The duck was tender with the texture of beef filet. The greens were new to me but I liked them as much as any salad green. The crunch of the bean sprouts rounded it out nicely.

I ordered all the dishes simultaneously. The duck came out first followed by the other two.

If you like things fermented or pickled I suggest their daily tsukemono.

That day the choices were daikon radish, green bean and burdock root. All three were put up in a different pickle so you had different flavor to combine. The flavor base was familiar yet unique. It would be a great complement to any full or fatty dish. Which leads to my last dish. Their version of poutine. Curry crinkle fries. This is a side of fries smother with a curry beef gravy. I started eating before I took the picture.

This was a huge bowl of curry cheese french fries, well worth the $6 price tag. I wasn’t able to finish it so I took half home along with some of my pickled veggies. It was a cute gimmick but I think a thinner straight cut fry might be better. Regardless of the fry it was good food. So the next time you think you want a Whopper think of this bowl.

They also feature sushi. As a matter of fact they offer half price sushi for an hour on Tuesdays.

They also have a full bar. So I splurged and ordered a Tori Manhattan after lunch.

Brian my server was also my bartender and he did an excellent job with everything. Up to and including mixing my cocktail. I have never had Tori Japanese whiskey; but it does make for a smooth drink. I also appreciated the use of the coupe glass. A nice little touch of old school.

I plan on going back on a Tuesday for sushi. I have never experienced  a Happy Hour for food.

 

 

 


Goody’s Family Restaurant 1601 E Main Street #2 Plainfield In.

White gravy on a white platter doesn’t give much contrast does it.

I wanted something more lunch like so I decided on liver and onions. The server convinced me that the senior meal was the way to go and she was absolutely correct. A very nice portion of meat with potato and vegetable. Plus a salad or soup all for $7.

The salad was quite respectable not to the Sahm’s standard but sufficient for its purpose.

The potatoes and gravy were probably not made from scratch but they fulfilled their purpose more than adequately. These were merely the opening acts before the main event. The liver and onions. I order liver any time I see it on the menu. I like it and it is good for you. My ideal plate is fully carmelized onion and a nice slab of liver more medium rare than medium.

This plate got one out of two. The onions were nicely done but the liver was a bit more than medium. However it still retained a moistness that some joints fail to meet. It also was a beautiful piece. Not one bit of vein. It was all soft edible meat. So I realized maybe my quest for a “perfect” plate of liver might fail not because of the restaurant but me. That is except for the joints that turn it into shoe leather. That’s entirely on them. You meed a thick slice to get a mid rare finish and that seems hard to find.

Overall I enjoyed my $7 lunch. I know Pat will be back but I don’t ride so I don’t think I will make a return trip, but if I am in the area I know where I can get a good meal.

 

 

 


Books and Brews 6420 Cornell Ave.

This a local chain with about 9 locations with the Mothership up around 96th Street. According to their website franchising may be available so I have no idea how many if any are franchises. The concept is rather novel. All of their places have print book libraries where you can browse and read with your lunch. The books are also available for sale.

https://www.booksnbrews.com/broad-ripple

All of their beers and menu items have literary names and to be honest some are pretty cheesy; but that’s okay. Beer and cheese go well together. Pat ordered off the Special menu and got the Return of the King

In addition to Panini style sandwiches they offer Naan-Fiction. That is their version of pizza. The flat breads can be ordered with choice of sauce and various other toppings. The options are red sauce, BBQ sauce or buttermilk Ranch. I really don’t get the Ranch at all, but I am sure they offer it for a reason.

My piece of Naan-Fiction was called the Wilbur. Pulled pork with mozzarella, cheddar cheese and garlic salt. With that combo I went with BBQ sauce. It was really pretty good. The Naan made a nice crisp crust. The sauce seemed exceptionally sweet but not excessively so. The amounts of pork and cheese were a trifle sparse but all in all not a bad lunch for $9. I would probably do it again, but more than likely I would try one of their other options.

This is a nice little joint. It is North of the Canel. That is the quiet part of the Village. It is also the part with trees in the front. We ate on the porch so it was more like having lunch at a friend’s house. I want to get back and enjoy the quiet and their beer and food again.

 


Ralph’s Great Divide 743 E. New York St.

Another old school joint I haven’t been to in a while. They are noted for their house made pies and creamy potato soup, but you really need to try the ham. The soup comes 3 ways. Plain, Hot Pot Aug (as in Ah Gee) which is covered with cheddar cheese or the Hot Pot Pig. As you can imagine the Pot Pig has bacon and hot pepper cheese.

Going in I knew I needed to save room for pie so I ordered one of their combos. A half a ham sandwich and a cup of Hot Pot Aug soup.

Their pit ham is bourbon glazed so that should get your attention. The result is delicious. It makes for a nice and simple sandwich. As good as the ham was the soup stole the show. It had an excellent consistency and the sharpness of the cheese paired nicely with the subtle richness of the soup. It was a tandem I would definitely enjoy again.

For dessert I opted for a slice of Butterscotch cream pie.

It was every bit as good as it looks. Flaky crust and a rich Mousse like filling. It was definitely worth the calories.

As good as the food was I think the service we received may have been even better. I would like to thank Samantha and Libby for their courtesy and hospitality. Next time I am trying the Hot Pot Pig. I am also sure to have some pie.


The Whistle Stop Inn 375 S. Illinois Street

This is a little place. A place folks like to call a hole in the hole or a dive bar. None of these are meant to disrespect they are merely meant to describe an old school bar. A place that has no pretense of being a hang out for hipsters or a gastropub. It is a joint that has bar food and proud of it. It is a joint where the owner serves your beer and cooks your food. It is a bar from my youth.

They don’t have much of an electronic foot print. I should have made a copy of their menu. Their menu is small and basic. The usual range of sandwiches you might find in a small bar around here and they are all in the $6 to $7 range. The first thing we ordered was an app of clam strips. You don’t see these very often. They come with a nice homemade cocktail sauce and are worth doing again.

I was really torn between meatloaf and Sloppy Joe; both are made by the owner and I am a sucker for either. I finally opted for a meatloaf sandwich on a bun. I could have gotten it on bread; toast even. That is how accommodating the owner is.

The meatloaf was nicely done. A great texture, neither too dense or loose. It also had a great beef flavor. You didn’t taste a bunch of non-meat additives. This ranks with the best I have had.

Pat and I both enjoyed our lunch immensely. I want to go back and try the Sloppy Joe. As for the service it was wonderful. I never got the owner’s name but she is incredible. She remembers what the regulars drink and eat and she is a first class Hostess. Keep this hole in the wall in mind when you go see the Colts or just drop in if you are in the area. I think you will like it.


Liter House 5301 Winthrop Ave.

https://literhouse.com/

This was Bent Rail Brewery and now it is another part of the Sahms Family empire. I thought their Big Lug was ambitious but this could at least rival that location. As you can tell from the name that they have a German theme going on with a beer Garden planned. They also have a large smoke house in the works. They hope to have the whole project completed by Oktoberfest.

As an appetizer I was tempted between the rabbit pate and the Cornwurst. They were out of the pate; so by default it was the Cornwurst; pulled pork corn dogs, curried ketchup, rutabaga mustard for $8.

These little things were crazy. A nice pulled pork wrapped in a beautiful corn dog type batter. The curry ketchup and the mustard were very good complements to the corn-ness. The only possible critique would be the dryness of the “wurst”. In order to shape and coat the pork balls they were limited on the amount of sauce they could use. More ketchup would help.

For my main lunch I ordered a Bratwurst. They don’t make their own sausage yet. They do make their own buns though. Right now they have Smoking Goose make their sausages to their own specs.  The brat was excellent, full of flavor and a very nice snap to it. The mustard creme fraiche brought a nice creaminess to the sandwich which balanced nicely with the fried shallot.

For my side I got a simple side salad. However it was hardly simple in taste.

I ordered it with their smoked peach hefeweizen vinaigrette. It was a clean and fresh dressing that clung to the greens and enhanced their taste. The way I think a salad should be. It could be my imagination but it seems as though every salad I have gotten from a Sahms restaurant has been a cut or two above other joints. This new place is another home run for the Sahms and I am looking forward to Oktoberfest.


The Coney Islands of Indianapolis Part 1

I am reasonably sure that most folks have heard of a Coney dog or as it was called years ago a Coney Island. That is a hot dog topped with a meat and tomato sauce. If not then surely you are familiar with the Chili dog. The difference is the type of meat sauce. The Chili has a more pronounced Southwest flair to it. I have always thought the Coney Island dog came from New York. Actually I have discovered that the name may be from New York but the sandwich hails from Detroit. At the turn of the century Greek and Armenian immigrants started selling hot dogs smothered with a meat sauce. Possibly in an effort to “Americanize” it they named it Coney Island. Since that was the reputed home of the hot dog they thought it apt.

The reason I got interested in their history is a new carry out joint opened in Indy selling authentic Detroit Coney Dogs. The owner gets the sauce from Detroit so it should be authentic. After I realized that I had to get to Chucks Coneys I thought why not make it a multi part review. I know of several joints that sell coneys and chili dogs. Knowing that I could eat more than one in a day I decided to go ahead. Due to the logistics Chucks would be my last stop for day one. Naturally it wasn’t open. Their web site listed Saturday hours they just weren’t open. So let’s begin with Big Dan’s.

Big Dan’s used to be called Mr. Dan’s; and before that it was Gay Dan’s. As the sign says it has been around since 1950. I think in the 80’s it fell on hard times and now only the one at 5925 Mass. Avenue remains. I read where in the past 50 years 16 Mr. Dan’s have opened and closed. It is an authentic Hoosier experience.

They use an all beef dog. Initially it was Nathans now it is Eisenberg dogs; the Chicago dog. The dog is excellent. A great snap with a bit of spice and wonderful texture. I really couldn’t tell much about the coney sauce the amount was small and it couldn’t compete with the cheese and onion. I think to properly judge I have to go back and try just the dog and sauce. My version with onion, cheese and mustard was $4.68.

They have some replica ads from the Gay Dan days.

Garcia’s Hot dogs.  5102 E 16th Street

Garcia’s is a hot dog-cart doing business at the corner of 16th and Emerson Ave. I have seen it on several occasions but never had an opportunity to stop. I am glad I finally did. He has an amazing set up that allows him to griddle his dogs to order. He also has bacon wrapped dogs.

He greets every customer with a smile, a handshake and a hearty Welcome My Friend. The man understands Hospitality.

He splits his dogs length wise and cooks them on his griddle; giving them a bit of char. He puts them in a steamed bun, adds cheese then a bunch of chili. The onion finish gives it a nice crunch. His chili has a definite Southwest flavor. Loaded with cumin. Reminiscent of tamales. More than likely from a can but fits the dog well. It was very messy to eat in your car, it could stand a knife and fork.

Next time I am in the area I am trying a bacon dog with some of his homemade relish. His chili cheese dog was $3.50. I gave him $5 because that was definitely a 5 buck dog.

Coming soon Part 2 of Coney Dogs on Indianapolis.