South of Chicago is probably best known for their Italian Beef sandwiches, and rightfully so. They probably have the best in the city. They also have pizza and during weekend lunch they have a buffet, featuring one of their entrees in addition to the pizza. On Tuesday it is Italian sausage.
This is a small joint so the buffet doesn’t take up much space. They offer a modest salad bar as well.
For the hot food they have various deep dish pizzas and one large thin crust cheese pizza.
For me taking pictures of a buffet is problematic. The sneeze guard gives off a glare so I can’t stand in front and take a shot so I have to stand at the end. With this set up the space is limited so this is the best I could get.
There are more elaborate buffets in town but this modest affair is more than adequate to sate your appetite. Plus it is only 10 bucks each. Drink included. I really enjoyed their food. The toppings on the pizza were abundant and the sauce was rich with nice body. Cautionary note it is heavy with tomato paste; which I like; but you can almost OD on it. The sausage was very good but I am with Pat on the beef. For that you have to hit the joint on Monday. Regardless of the day of the week this place is quite legit. Here is the schedule of the entrees with the buffet.
The sign is a bit misleading. The Thunderbird opened as a night club in 1950, and “rocked” it old school until 1972. I was never there. I went to old-time “divey” bars and for late night entertainment there was Broad Ripple.
I think this new incarnation opened 2 years ago as a dinner house. They just recently decided to give lunch a go. Here is a link to their website.
I suggested this place a couple of weeks ago. I think Pat agreed just to humor me. As he has said many times he is a simple man with simple tastes. Also he has a well know aversion to onion.
I don’t agree with Pat’s assessment that this place is a bistro. Their food is pretty much comfort foods with a Southern focus and a chef driven spin. Are their prices high? Yep;on some items. A 9 buck grilled cheese is high. On the other hand at $3 my biscuit sliders were quit reasonable. Especially when you realize a McDonald’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuit costs more.
One thing Pat commented on was how oily the chips were. Tasty but oily. Evidently they flash them in the fryer for a bit and then sprinkle them with old bay seasoning.
They have okra fries on their menu. I like fried okra. Finding it around here is difficult. The few places that offer it give you this frozen stuff in a bag . Here they buy it fresh, cut it and fry it to order.
You get a nice sized bowl for $5. They offer a spicy mayo based dipping sauce I wasn’t really a fan of. I did enjoy the okra though. It is pickled before it is breaded and fried. Which adds a whole new layer of flavor and it also adds a bit of acid to the mix. Now for the biscuit sliders.
They offer two options. Braised pork belly and fried chicken. I got one of each. The belly was melt in your mouth tender. They topped it with an onion jam, which was pretty sweet. It fit well with the fatty pork but after a few bites it became almost cloying. The next time I get it I will 86 the jam.
You can get your chicken biscuit mild or hot. I chose hot and it had a pleasant burn. The chicken biscuit comes topped with their slaw and house pickles. The slaw was vinegar based and played off the spicy crunch of the chicken nicely. My taste for slaw leans more towards the creamy style but this variety did its job well. I think a side of the slaw might be too “dry” when eaten by itself. The biscuits themselves were nice. Flaky yet substantial enough to hold up to fried chicken. The pickles were unique to my taste buds. They are of the refrigerator variety. You slice ’em; pickle ’em and stick them in the fridge. I enjoyed them.
This place is well-appointed with lots of wood and custom light fixtures. The whole joint has a dimly lit ambiance. Suitable for an evening of cocktails and snacks. I think that would be the best way to enjoy this space. With some friends and a few cocktails and eats. They offer craft draft as well as wine but I think they take their mixed drinks very serious. The bartender has several bottles of syrups that they use to flavor some of their liquors. The bartender is also serious about Bourbon. He likes to keep Bonded bottles around. Nothing says commitment like a few bottles of 100 Proof bottled in bond liquor.
Shelby Street is like a lot of streets in a lot of cities. A street that serves several small businesses and several older homes in various states. Some that show their age and others that seem ageless. In other words a working class neighborhood. Invariably such streets lead to a more hip destination. In this case Fountain Square. The intersection of Shelby and Virginia Avenue. This whole area has a bunch of really nice joints. And its share of non-fancy joints. The kind that the cool kids don’t go to. Pat and I try to hit both sides of the street. The hip, and the not so hip.
We are admitted cheer leaders for the Mom & Pop joint. The joints that never get the publicity or fanfare that some joints enjoy. Sometimes it is deserved and sometimes it is an oversight.
I think EJ’S fits the latter; more than the former. Originally it was called Ma & Pa’s Cafe. You can see that on the menu and as well as the house car.
Yep, those two rake looking things are eye lashes. Cute.
Thursday was a typical Indiana day in January. Snowy, cold and icy. The sort of day that makes you wish your ancestors had settled farther South. So both of their specials hit home. Ham and beans and cornbread, or pot roast. I felt some lovin’ from the oven so I ordered Pot Roast.
My plate came out sporting more of a beef stew look. Nice chunks of beef, carrot and potato in a rich brown gravy. They even threw in a monkey dish of green beans. It seems that they use a chuck roast, and stewed or braised it down slowly, gently and long. It was so tender you could eat it with a spoon. The ‘taters and carrot were equally nice. The beans were Ho Hum. But I got some bread and butter to sop up the sauce. It wasn’t haute’ cuisine, but it was very tasty, and filling and only $5.25.
Pat passed on the special and opted for a double cheese burger with a baked potato. For $4.99.
I put the scans of the menu on the Urbanspoon page for EJ’S Diner. It is small and pretty straight forward. It is opened from 6 AM to 2 PM so you can get breakfast all day. They offer scratch made lunch specials and soups and the prices are definitely right. So if you’re hungry for down home cooking you know where you can go.
Well guys there’s a new joint on Virginia Ave. It’s similar to a lot of new joints, in that it sports a lot of wood, granite and shiny new equipment. I think the Ember , with its use of warm colors, projects a more cozy atmosphere than most.
Their menu is a single sheet of paper which keeps it simple to start and allows them to change it without a huge cost. It also is one heck of a lot easier to peruse than the encyclopedia some joints offer. They have a smoker which they use for wings and brisket. So that separates them from a lot of places around.
Since Thursday was such a miserable, cold and snowy day I decided I needed a cup of hot soup to start. Their SOD didn’t trip my trigger but they did offer chili. Or in this case Wandering Chili. Now that means they change it on whim. One day “traditional” with ground beef, another day chopped brisket or maybe chicken chili. That day it featured ground beef and beans. Maybe more traditional but not quite typical. It was a tasty mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and chile powder. Very good and definitely on point for the weather.
Their burgers are 1/2 pound, hand formed patties of a mixture of brisket, round steak and short rib. They cook them to order and serve them on a toasted brioche bun with choice of side for $8.50. I ordered mine medium rare. Well the kitchen guy goofed and it came out well done. One of the owners, who was also our bartender , was very apologetic and adamant about giving me a recook. Well hard-headed me was just as adamant to keep it. I kept it and the funny thing, as it grew cooler more of the flavor of the beef came out and as the Swiss cheese warmed the tastier it became. Now I am determined to go back and try the burger at a more civilized temperature. Besides, their draft beer system wasn’t up and the owner graciously took the burger off the bill.
So it appears the New Year is off to a good start. A new joint is up and running and appears to definitely be a keeper. And more are on the way. Eating places, breweries and even a distillery. And you can expect Pat and I to keep you all informed. Happy New Year.http://www.emberurbaneatery.com/