eating indie in indy

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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.

 


Christina’s Pancake House ( formerly Sister’s Place ) 215 Terrace Ave.

I am starting off my lunch review with a picture of the best part of my lunch. Pie

A delicious slice of Lemon Meringue pie for $3.50. They buy the pies from Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Chicago. The same outfit that the previous owner use. It was an excellent piece of pie. I can’t say the same for the rest of my lunch. My meat loaf dinner was $9.45 and came with soup or salad, roll and VOD as well as a plate of meat loaf and “lumpy mashed potatoes” all smother with gravy. One of the soup options was Chicken Gumbo. Well it was not what I expected.

I think you could call this many things but Gumbo isn’t one of them. I have never seen a Gumbo that didn’t have the Trinity in it. Nor have I ever had a Gumbo with macaroni added to it. Overall it had the flavor of a Campbell’s Soup. Would not do it again.

The roll was interesting. It had a slight Ciabatta chew to it which I thought was nice and they use real butter which is always good. As for the veggie. Why bother. It was straight from a bag of frozen vegetables and no attempt was made to even make them even interesting.

Now we come to the center of the plate. The meat loaf. It wasn’t bad just not really good. I would guess that it wasn’t made in-house. I based that on the compaction and the fine grind of the meat. If I am wrong then they can redeem it by using seasoning in a more bold fashion. Since they refer to their potatoes as lumpy I would guess they are made here from real potatoes. They are pretty lumpy and pretty good. The gravy was more than likely from a mix but had a decent flavor to it. I think if you want a more “scratch made ” experience you should try breakfast, which they sell all day. It is a really large menu so you could probably find something you like.


Dave & Betty’s Diner 4801 Southeastern Ave.

Diner   noun

1.

a person who dines.

2.

a railroad dining car.

3.

a restaurant built like such a car.

4.

a small, informal, and usually inexpensive restaurant
This little joint fits definition # 4. Although there are a couple of examples of # 3 in this area. One is on east 38th street, it is barely recognizable as to its original intent as it was converted to a Subway some time back. The best example is the Oasis Diner in Plainfield Indiana.
Dave & Betty’s doesn’t look at all like this but their intent is the same as every other diner in the country. Serve good food at good prices.

Pat’s Humongous Burger.

This is the half order of biscuits and gravy that we split as an appetizer. The gravy was better than most but not as good as Ollie’s. The biscuit was very nice indeed, and it only cost $3.60.

For my meal I could not resist their Beef Manhattan. For all you non Midwestern folks that is a roast beef sandwich cut on a bias with a pile of mashed potatoes in between the 2 halves. Then the entire thing is covered in brown gravy. There version was $ 6.60.

The taters were Potato Pearls and the gravy was probably from a mix but the beef was real and the portion was generous and it was hot. I thought it was delicious. It reminded me of my first Manhattan as a kid at the old Troy Restaurant in Downtown Indy. It is hard to resist hot beef and gravy. Of course had I been more observant I would have noticed that there special was meat loaf and I have a “thing” for meatloaf.

As big a lunch as it was I decided I had some room left for pie. In this case it was Banana Dream. A real pie crust filled with banana pudding and topped with whipped cream. It was pretty good. I probably could have eaten a whole pie.

This diner doesn’t have much of an electronic presence so I scanned their menu but only the lunch part turned out.

Dave & Bettys Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Uptown Cafe 6404 Rucker Road

This place is a sister restaurant to one in Noblesville so it is tough to find any info about the menu. The only site that has a menu has the Indianapolis address but a website for a joint with the same name in Butte Montana! Those silly folks at Google.

I had planned on scanning the menu and posted it with the review but of course I forgot to bring my wand with me. I am adding a link to their place in Noblesville. It may not be identical but it should be similar.

https://www.facebook.com/SunriseCafeatUptown/menu/

They make several things in-house so we had to try a couple just to “sample”.

The first was a cinnamon roll.

It was a beauty and tasted pretty good. It was a bit tough, as though it had been microwaved to reheat.

We also got a half order of biscuits and gravy to share. The biscuit was a bit doughy but the gravy was pretty good. I second Pat’s thoughts about Ollies.

They also offer a series of Breakfast Bowls. That is simply a bowl with stuff in it and eggs on top. You can also get more stuff on top of the eggs if you so desire. I opted for a corned beef hash bowl.

They do their hash in a clever way. They offer a Reuben sandwich so they keep shaved corned beef on hand. They take that meat,chopped and add it to their shredded hash browns. Hash; with no onions. This particular bowl had onions in it, also Swiss Cheese. Actually I believe it was a processed cheese, white American cheese. In either event it was one heck of a breakfast. I really enjoyed their corned beef hash. The meat was tender and the potatoes were crisp. Make sure you have an appetite because it is a Big bowl of food.

Pat is still watching his carbs so he didn’t eat his jam so I did. It was sweet and had a strong strawberry presence. It also has a great deal of pectin in it. Which is neither good nor bad. Just an observation. It would be good smeared on some toast with a cup of coffee. Overall I think this little joint is going to do well. It is close enough to me that I will be back. When it gets warmer. As for prices both of our breakfasts were under $9. You may get it a bit cheaper at one of those breakfast chains but why would you want to go there?


Ruth’s Cafe 3443 E. 86 th Street

We had a very pleasant breakfast today. The restaurant is open from 7 AM to 3 PM and serves breakfast all day as well as lunch. We took advantage of that by ordering some of both.

Among their specials for the day were two different Quiche. One had no onion so that is what Pat ordered. I know it had artichoke in it and cheese as well as other stuff; but I don’t recall the other stuff. I also have no idea what it cost. It was Pat’s turn to buy and I neglected to ask.

This is the half order of B&G Pat got for $6.

This is the Quiche Pat ordered, price not known. They give an option of salad or fruit. As you can see he opted for the greenery. A very nice looking salad with lots of Spring mix.

I was intrigued by their hash. It is made with smoked brisket. You can order it as a side for $4.75 or as a Not so Old School breakfast for $8.50; which is what I ordered. They have several bread choices for toasting as well as muffin and all come with house made berry jelly. What berries? Haven’t a clue but it was pretty good.

This was a very respectable hash. Big chunks of beef and potatoes cooked just right. Tender yet with enough texture to give your teeth something to do. The only minor flaw was my eggs were not quite over easy; more over medium. They worked out though. All I wanted was some yolk to mix in.

Since they make their own scratch biscuits I got one for an extra $1.75. It was very light and fluffy. One of the better biscuits I have had around town. In addition to the jelly they also make their own sausage. We thought it was quite good. Lightly spiced and tasty which made for an excellent taste. However there is just something about Ollie’s that makes their B&G; in my opinion; the best in town.

They also have an interesting lunch menu; which you can reach here:

http://www.ruthscafeindy.com/menu/4589349372

When I get time I am going back to try lunch; hopefully soon. On a “side note” Zomato classifies this joint as a diner. Of course like with a lot of things Zomato does that is debatable.

Ruth's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The 4 Seasons 1935 N. Shadeland Ave.

These must be the Four Seasons greeting you as you enter.

This is a small diner that offers decent food in large portions at a most reasonable price. Nothing fancy or elaborate.

I resisted all the breakfast specials, and the chipped beef and gravy and decided on more typical luncheon fare. Liver and onions for $7.49. It is served with a choice of soup or coleslaw. This joint always has 2 soups; everyday. Today’s offerings were Lentil and Cream of Potato. I chose Potato soup

It was a big bowl but it was pretty bland. Salt, pepper and crackers helped but it could have used some work in the back of the house. The liver;however; was more than decent.

It was a big piece and although too thin to cook mid-rare it did come out a solid medium. With the exception of a couple of “veiny” parts I could cut it with my fork. The onion had a nice color and carmelization which is always welcome. The mashed potatoes and gravy were okay, nothing to rave about.

I agree with Pat’s assessment. Not necessarily a destination but a viable option for dining. I would like to try the chipped beef and gravy; not too many joints offer that around here. As big as the menu is I am sure you can find something to interest you.

Four Seasons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


J.J’S Fish Chicken & Gyros. 203 E. 30th Street

Last week Pat left on a trip west so I was on my own. I got busy so I wasn’t able to go anywhere. As it turned out Pat’s trip was interrupted and he wanted to have lunch. We arranged to meet at a place that doesn’t open until noon. I had a earlier commitment so we planned on meeting at 1:30. Alas the joint wasn’t even open. It was supposed to be; it just wasn’t. I decided on J.J’s. I had eaten there before and found the food to be uninspired but good.

The last couple of years Indianapolis has seen several Fish and Chicken fry joints open. Most are national chains. The leader of these chain stores appears to be Jordan’s. J.J’s has a very similar menu. It is a very small place. It is primarily a take away place, they can only seat 4 people.

They offer several lunch specials for $5.99. All come with fries and a drink. That was my first exposure to J.J’s. I was in the area and starving so I stopped and ordered his wing and catfish combo. I received 3 medium size chicken wings with a filet, fries and a drink. $5.99.

I think Pat was dubious of my pick. They sell Italian Beef sandwiches; and I know Pat likes those.

Sometimes I am a sucker for fried fish; especially Ocean Perch. So I got the Perch and fries special.

I really enjoyed it. The fish was nicely done. Too many places think that fish has to be fried hard to be done. They do a very good job with their fish. Both flaky and tender. This place isn’t too far from me so I can see myself getting some carry out dinners here. The prices are more than reasonable.

Also don’t worry about the area. I am sure some folks still see it as the old Dodge City, but remember that Goose the Market is a few blocks South on Delaware. This area is in the midst of “gentrification”. For better or worse the hood is changing.
JJ Fish Chicken & Gyros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Mayberry Cafe 78 West Danville In.

This is going to be a fun post. Not only does this joint have good food it also has some great photo ops. Even for a bad photographer.

This is parked out front. I couldn’t get the whole car into the pic. I backed up all the way to the wall to get this shot.

This is the view we got when we parked. That is right. We parked right behind Sheriff Taylor’s squad car.

The town of Danville is the home for this Cafe. The cafe is an homage’ to Andy Taylor and the popular TV series featuring Sheriff Taylor and all of his friends and family. In addition to all the kitsch and pictures they also offer an amazing menu of good food.

To start we had to try the mushrooms. They served them in a metal cone, more apt for pomme’ frites;. I thought it was pretty cool for mushrooms.

The mushrooms were pretty good. Not exceptional but good. Worth the 6 buck charge. This place offers beef in many ways, all of which are slow roasted brisket.

I was torn. They offer a very nice salad bar for $7.50. They also offer variations with soup or baked potatoes with the salad bar. I was tempted but their house burger is a combo of  sirloin and brisket ground fresh daily and grilled to order. That was my call. I asked for it rare. I was told they could do that. The burger came out more medium.

In defense of the kitchen Indiana has rules regarding the temperature of ground meat products. If I remember properly all ground meat patties should reach a temp of 165 degrees. So I can see a kitchen dude just agreeing with the server and then cooking the burger to what they consider “legal temp”. Some joints will cook me a med- rare burger with no problem. Some won’t. So it is probably a crap shot. What I can say is this was a very good burger. Had it been cooked to rare or medium rare it would have been fantastic.

So I must say I was quite impressed with the food. I also thought that the decor was wonderful. It is a combo of country kitsch and old-time TV memory.

As an end to our lunch we shared a strawberry shortcake. It was very good. Two thick slices of pound cake smothered in strawberries and covered with whipped cream. Three bucks.

So I think this is a wonderful place to visit. Not only do you have an opportunity to hang in a Mayberry joint you also have a chance to have some excellent food.

Mayberry Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Charlie Brown’s Pancake and Steak House 1038 Main St Speedway In.

charlie-brown

No. Not that Charlie Brown. This Charlie Brown

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Sorry. I couldn’t resist. This Charlie Brown has only been around since 1975, serving breakfast and lunch to 1000’s of folks in this west side community of Speedway. Pat and I have had this on our list for so long we had damn near forgot about it. Today we remembered and thought it was time.

Some folks call it a diner. Some folks call it a truck stop;without all the trucks. Out of all the reviews I read no one really had anything bad to say about the food. Except for one guy, and he was down on the whole Speedway thing.

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Pat allowed me a bite of his cakes and they were quite good, nice and fluffy. I too fell in line with breakfast. A sausage omelet with raisin toast instead of pancakes.

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I thought it was great. Three eggs loaded with a large portion of sausage and cheese. I can’t say anything bad about my meal or this joint. I believe my plate was less than $7 and Pat’s was about $5. They also have some excellent breakfast specials they serve before 11 AM. They offer regular lunch items as well as country fried steaks smothered with sausage gravy. That is for a serious appetite. Also they have a “fritter” as well as a breaded tenderloin. I would guess that would be closer to something we got at the drive in when we were kids. So folks who have been here know. New folks in the area should probably find out. It is a nice little joint.

 

Charlie Brown's Pancake and Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


A2Z Cafe 4705 East 96th Street

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This little joint changed hands about 2 years ago. Before the change it was an Italian eatery. The current owners, Gina and her husband were frequent diners and friends with the old owner. Cut to the chase and they ended up as the new owners. New owners with no restaurant experience. We got all of this from our discussion with Gina;one of the new owners. She is a delightful lady with both charm and talent. An artist by trade;  and an I.U grad she and her husband are the guiding lights of a cozy little joint with a fun and slightly quirky menu.

It was a rainy morning and we felt we needed a sweet fix so. we started with an order of fried biscuits with apple butter for $4.

a2z-cafe-001

These were delightful little bites. Bits of fried dough covered with sugar. In an act of lily gilding they serve them up with apple butter. Add a cup of coffee and you have a really tasty start to your day.

They serve breakfast and lunch most of the day. In addition to the traditional cafe items they offer some fun dishes. Such as the Tater Tot Scramble. That is two eggs scrambled with ham, bacon, sausage and tots then covered with sausage gravy and then topped with cheddar cheese. It comes with toast for $8.50.

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This is not haute cuisine. It is a a fun and filling dish featuring all of the basic food groups you would expect for breakfast. From a strict culinary standpoint it has too much stuff in it,but that’s okay. The eggs were very soft and the gravy was very creamy. Actually I was impressed with the overall execution of the dish. The only reason I wouldn’t order it again is because all of the other fun stuff I would like to try.

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For a couple of rookies Gina and her husband are doing a really good job. I am including a link to their menu because I think it is a fun one.

http://a2zcafe.com/menu.html

 

 

A2Z Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato