eating indie in indy

taverns and stuff

Lena’s Sugar Shack 5560 S. Brookville Road

This place is a rare item. A neighborhood bar. Not a Gastropub. A Bar. This whole stretch of road had more when I was young. That was when the International Harvester plant and later Navistar was open across the street. Now the building is gone.

They offer basic bar food at a very reasonable price. They also have specials featuring Domestic bottles for $2 and $2.50. Their half pound burger is only $5.99 with chips. That was what I decided on.

One other thing that is unique with this joint is they have a griddle, fryer and cold table right behind the bar. So all the cooking is done in sight. I bet it is a lot of fun when it is busy. As for my burger it was pretty tasty. Nicely toasted bun with a medium burger built the way I wanted it. Instead of chips I opted for some onion petals. I have never had these before and I really liked them.

The Sugar Shack isn’t too close to me but I intend to go back. Breakfast in a bar is great and their porch is just made for a little day drinking.


Whiskey Business 5220 Southport Road.

Well another tavern. From what I was told by the bartender we had last week this is a joint that scratch makes 90 % of their food. They have 2 locations. This one and one up north on Pendleton Pike.

http://www.whiskeybiz.com/

This spot is clean and nicely done up and offers 25 lunch specials every day for $7.95. They are the same every day so the kitchen doesn’t have to do something new every day. Also for the most part they are regular menu items at a reduced price.

Pat gave me a piece of his tenderloin and it was well seasoned and the meat had a great texture; but it had that unmistakable after taste of old oil in the deep fryer. That is a shame.

When I order I try to get something that I wouldn’t do at home. Because of the time it takes or the mess it would make. In this case it would have been the battered and fried cod sandwich. However I mis-heard Pat and I thought that was what he ordered so I went for the Sloppy Joe with fries.

I have a fondness for Sloppy Joe sandwiches. I know they are hardly a challenging dish but I do enjoy them. What I got yesterday was very good. I can’t say that it did or did not come from a can because I have never knowingly had that canned sauce. I make it from scratch, that is just how I am wired. The only bad thing I can say about my lunch was the fries. They had that same after taste as Pat’s tenderloin.

I am with Pat. I would like to try their $9 steak special but it is too far for me to drive. Overall it was a good lunch but it could have been better.


Monkey Business 5055 S Dearborn Street

Pat picked this place. He learned of it from his cousin, who is a regular. That is one of the interesting things about taverns. Their regulars usually visit more often than a regular at a dinner house. When you go to a dinner house you go to eat. Same can be said for a lunch place. When you visit a tavern you can eat or drink. Taverns also have a bunch more appetizers than a  restaurant. So the occasions to go to a tavern are more numerous. Pat mentioned that this joint was previously named Harry C’s. I have never heard of that place either.

We started out with some fried pepper jack cheese cubes. For some reason I neglected to take a picture. These little things were very good. Lightly breaded and cooked perfectly. I was really surprised that they weren’t hand-made in the kitchen. I have had these before and they weren’t nearly as good.

Pat didn’t write about what he had for lunch. I guess he was still thinking of his prime rib dinner. He had a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato for $6. I guess he liked it. I mean it is really hard to mess up a grilled cheese sandwich.

They offer a fish and chips platter with a choice of walleye or catfish for $7.50. Either fish will get you fries, coleslaw and tarter sauce. I opted for walleye, because it is a good white fish and you don’t see it around too often.

I liked it. It was a good portion of fish and it had  very tasty breading, Also the coleslaw was house-made and the amount of fries they give you is reasonable. Some places think it is necessary to serve up more french fries than 1 human can eat. I would like to see them offer an extra piece of fish for an up-charge. I could have handled another piece of walleye. On Fridays they offer an all you can eat fish and chips for 12.95. I think that is the price.

I like this little place. Good food and great prices. For the bonus their special that day was $2 Domestic bottles. They offer several draft beers and a  Craft brew cost $5. If I lived closer I would try that Prime Rib dinner myself


Kruger’s Tavern 323 N. Delaware St.

Well this is another import from Cincinnati, courtesy of the Thunder Dome Restaurant Group. This is the group that controls Eagle and Bakersfield which expanded to Indy recently. Bakersfield in 2013 and The Eagle in 2015. I know this joint barely qualifies as an independent but it is owned by 3 people 2 of which are brothers. They are just hugely successful and are expanding their brand.

https://www.kruegerstavern.com/locations/

This place grinds their own meat for the hamburgers and the basic burger is $9.99. They use 2 patties per burger and cook them on a flat top so I was a bit surprise the meat didn’t have crisper edges.

They also make their own sausages. That is what I opted for.

It was their Italian. Sicilian style sausage, polenta cake, braised fennel and olives, Parmigiano Reggiano

This was an outstanding dish. The sausage had a bit of heat from the Calabrian chiles as did the broth the fennel and olives were braised in. This was almost a perfect meal for me. It featured 2 of my favorite non meat items. Fennel and olives. Add in the pig and “corn bread” and I was as happy as a camel on hump day. They offer 2 other styles of sausage all are $12.

I want to come back and try the other two but it will have to be when it is warmer. When I go downtown I use the bus. I don’t even like driving through our downtown. Parking is always an issue when you go downtown to eat. Same with Krueger’s. All I can say is it is worth the trip.


Mayfair Taproom 2032 E 10th Street.

For many years this section of 10th street was home to several bars. Small one room bars of varying sophistication and reputation. One of the oldest was the Mayfair Tavern. It was characterized by the upside down sign. It had a very interesting history. This article from NUVO does a good job articulating that history and explaining the origins of the New Mayfair Taproom.

https://www.nuvo.net/beerbuzz/beer-buzz-mayfair-taproom-coming-soon/article_21e19fb0-9e88-11e8-b5aa-3b40a1930233.html

I would add charming to that description. I know the word charming and tavern don’t always go together but those lace curtains in the window just seem so damn charming. The building is old and the restoration/remodel was extensive and very well done.

The menu is quite small but it suits the space. To some degree it follows the BRBP in that it has a few Vegan options. I was intrigued by the Shepherds Pie. In was unique in two ways, The mashed potatoes were on the bottom and on top was arugula and HP sauce.

I must admit that my first impression when presented with my lunch was that it was the wrong dish. I had expected a few stems as garnish but I got a whole salad. I enjoyed my pie very much I just am not sure what the arugula brought to it. The potatoes were delicious and the seasoned ground lamb was on point as well. I like arugula. It is in the same family as mustard greens and its slight peppery flavor is always welcome to me. That taste did indeed bring another layer to the dish as did the HP sauce. I also enjoyed the crispness of the raw green. I have to go back and eat it again. I just can’t decide if the greens are best suited on top or as a side minimally dressed. Of course it is not my call and I am over analyzing. That is what I do. I just can’t help it. This is a great new place and I think the old owners of Mayfair Tavern would approve. They do not have a website but you can view their menu on their Facebook.

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

 


The Free Spirit 6155 E. 86 th Street

Well one more bar.Or tavern. In other words a joint that sells alcoholic beverage with food; as opposed to a joint that sells food with alcoholic beverages. I have no problem with bars or taverns. However a few weeks back someone asked me if ; as a chef ; I found some places or some food beneath me. I had never thought of that before. I just go to different places that sell food, with Pat, we eat then tell folks what we think. I don’t consider any particular food type  boring or “bad” I can consider the preparation of it sub par or as Pat would say “street level”. That being said lets talk about The Free Spirit.

This joint has been at this location nearly 4 years. I believe the former owner had it on Shadeland Ave. They have excellent food and beverage specials and the prices are more than fair. The majority of their sandwiches are under $8. They also sell pizza and breakfast all day.

Pat wanted to show the char grill on his burger because when we went to the Burger Study they aggressively char grilled his burger and he thought it barely edible. And that is a fancy upscale joint that charges $11 and up for their burgers and this burger was $5.49.

I decided on a Cocky burger. That would be a burger with cheddar, bacon. BBQ sauce and an onion ring for $7.49.

This was a delicious burger. I ordered it mid rare and that was exactly how it was served. Every element of the sandwich was on point. From the toasted Brioche style bun to the crisp bacon and the battered french fries. I have paid more for a lesser sandwich.

I think this place will do well. They have great food, excellent service and enough room for a crowd. I can’t think of anything missing. It is a fun place to hang out at.


Vern’s Place 2322 E. Washington Street

The sign pretty much says it all. It is a nondescript block building that would be easy to miss. However when you go inside it’s a whole different story. Inside is a clean and well put together bar. Pool tables in the front and electronic Dart machines in the back. It is like a shotgun house. Stand at the front door and you will pretty much see it all.

Their menu is as straight forward as the building. A few common appetizers and sandwiches and of course pizza. As an added bonus they offer breakfast. If you haven’t eaten breakfast in a bar at least once in your life you are missing out.

I opted for biscuits and gravy. A full order with fried potatoes is $4.99. I added 2 eggs for $2 and a side of 3 pieces of bacon for 3 bucks. So for $10, the price of a burger in some joints, I got a huge breakfast.

The gravy wasn’t as good as Olly’s but the biscuit was excellent and the potatoes were wonderful as well. You can tell from the picture the potatoes were nicely browned and appropriately crunchy. The eggs burst as they were being plated and the kitchen apologized. I thought that was sweet. Mixing the yolk in with the gravy was my goal. Nicely done.

Pat decided on a lunch type meal A tenderloin.

I don’t know if it shows up in the picture but they batter and fry their tenderloin. I have never eaten a battered tenderloin before.

Now no meal at a bar would be complete without a bit of day drinking.

So don’t let the facade fool you. Inside you will find pleasant service and good food at a good price. They open at 11 during the week and are closed on Tuesday. They start at 8 AM on weekends and they have their own lot.


Imbibe 1105 Shelby Street

More than 7 years ago when we started this Blog we ate at Shelby Street Smokehouse in Fountain Square. At that time it was on one end of a building with End of the Line Public House on the other and a self-described lobby bar in the middle. Imbibe. Now that bar has become a restaurant and the Smokehouse only exists in the form of 2 sandwiches that are on the new joint’s menu. The pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. Since I was not really impressed with my first meeting with the brisket I opted for the pulled pork.

As you can see it is a very healthy portion and the sauce is on the side. This is a very good sandwich. It has a definitely smokiness to it. However I believe a lot of that is enhanced artificially with liquid smoke. No matter it is still a good sandwich. The price is $7.99 side included.

Side Choice: Krinkle Kut Fries, Curly Fries, Beer Battered
Onion Rings, House made Waffle Chips, Creamy Cole
Slaw, House made White Cheddar Mac & Cheese As you can see the side options are many. Also for an extra $1.99 you can get a second side, side salad or cup of soup or chile. Sorry but BBQ is not complete with out cole slaw.

My 2 sides, onion rings and slaw were excellent as well. The slaw was creamy and sweet the rings were crisp. I just wonder if they were truly hand battered in-house. Regardless they were very good.

I believe the pizza is a take away from Side Kicks pizza. A short live pizza joint that occupied the End of the Line space when they vacated.

The  basic price of a 9 inch pie is $7.99 and each topping is $1.29. So all the food pricing seems reasonable. Even their beer prices are inline with most joints in the area. Five to six bucks each. I enjoyed my food very much. It is nice to see potentially empty space occupied. Also Ambrosia is working on a casual Italian restaurant in the area where the Smokehouse was. Now that would be something.


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.

 


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.