After our trip to Working Man’s I was inclined to hit a BBQ place or a newly opened brewery. Pat was leaning more towards a meat and pick two kind of place. Since he was just back from Chicago, where he and his wife had biked 200 miles in two days,for charity,I thought it best to forgo debate and head to Mann’s Grill.
What can I say about Mann’s Grill? It is an older place located in an industrial area on the west side and is notorious for its low prices and big portions. It also serves breakfast all day. They have done some remodeling since the last time we were here. Turning a counter that separates the kitchen from the dining area into a wall with a pass through and adding faux brick to the dining room walls.
As far as food goes it is your usual diner fare. All of their dinners are $7.50 and the sandwiches are in the $4 to $5 range. You can also get a breakfast of 2 eggs, meat and potato choice and your choice of pancakes,french toast or biscuits and gravy for about 6 bucks. That is the kind of joint it is.
I decided on beef tips and gravy. For my sides I opted for corn and mashed potatoes.
I had to take 3 different shots to capture all the food. The beef was done well. Falling apart tender and smothered with mushrooms and gravy. The beef was tasty, the mushrooms were canned and the gravy was from a mix; never the less it was pretty good. The potatoes were nicely seasoned and tasted like real spuds. The corn was also canned but they did season it well. So you know what to expect here. Nothing exotic or fancy. Just a nice meal at a good price. Our lunch tab was $15. Remember ambiance costs.
I have known about this place for quite some time, but have been conflicted about eating here. The website was unclear about the source of their roast beef, ham or turkey. Was it purchased already cooked from a vendor or did they buy the meat and cook it off themselves. One blog I read really didn’t clarify the issue for me. So I believed that the only think they cooked themselves was the soups and the meatloaf. Granted, at one time I thought it a good idea to eat a joint’s meatloaf whenever possible. To judge their skill. I quit that after running into too many GFS and Sysco thaw and warm products being used. So I figured it would be meatloaf once again.
The place is attractive and bright. I don’t think I saw a single deuce in the dining room. It seemed it was for the most part 4 top tables.
All the tables are set with cloth napkins and a bottle of water. I have noticed a couple of places doing that. That must be the new “thing” around town. As soon as you sit down your server brings you a bowl of pop corn, giving you instant garnish for your soup.
This is outside the main entry so it gave me an idea how I would start my lunch. Some beer cheese soup. It had been a long while since I had any. Even though it was August it sounded tasty. Beer and cheese.
This was a cup. I thought it would pass for a bowl in a lot of joints. I thought it was pretty good. A light cheese presence with a touch of beer. I added some of the popcorn to it. That is why the spoon is in the bowl.
The meatloaf sandwich is served on sourdough bread. It is topped with provolone cheese, crisp onion and special sauce. I added some bacon to mine. I was quite pleased with their version of an American Classic. The meatloaf had a good amount of thyme added to it as well as grated parmesan. The special sauce is a nice home-made ketchup. My poor bacon got lost in the shuffle. The onions weren’t as crunchy as I hoped. I think me putting some of the kettle chips on it would have given more texture. They aren’t shy about the amount of tater chips they give you.
Today was the first day of a new menu. After lunch I talked with Patrick, the manager. He told me that in addition to getting all of their product from Hoosier sources they cook off all of their beef, ham and turkey. So I think you should expect some superior club and other “deli” sandwiches. As for me when I return I think it will be a Chef salad. Or maybe a Cuban. Or a Club. Or a Roast Beef or…. I don’t know.
I am including a link to their website as well as scans of the new menu. I hope that helps.
Okay. Normally our lunch day is Thursday. Pat decided that we would go “rogue” today and hit some joint that we would never normally consider. I decided to hit a joint I have noticed on the “net” that is located in Brightwood. This is a working class neighborhood that some folks call the hood. I grew up in that neighborhood. So actually I was rather excited to check out the new Brightwood.
The building has been around for a long time. For years it was called the Bungalow. A joint noted for its catfish dinners and bar service. I had been there a few times 35 years ago. My dad went there on a few occasions. Actually I forgot about it until I saw an entry on Urbanspoon. From what I recently discovered the Sawmill has been opened for quite a while. It was named after the veneer factory across the street. That particular factory has been around since I was a kid.
The joint has not changed much in the last few years. A long bar, several tables and a rather cool back bar.
Their menu is unpretentious and very Hoosier. I didn’t bring my scanner so I was not able to present the menu. Now that is a bummer. I always pride myself on the fact that I can usually present a joint’s menu for everyone to see. This time my camera was not up to the task.
They make their own fries, and onion rings. They also hand cut and pound out the pork loins for breading. Normally I try to avoid breaded and fried food. I am supposed to eat a Heart Healthy diet. However, sometimes a man needs some fried meat.
Their version of the Hoosier staple was a great example of a simply good sandwich. It was not as intricate as some places. It was simply a nice hunk of pork that was hand pounded and breaded and fried. It wasn’t a great BT by any standard. It was a good one. It was tender. The breading was a little light.
The fries were nice. They cut them in-house. I don’t think they double fry them. Which I think is how it should be. In either event they really should season the bad boys. Their fries are pretty good. They just need some cojones. One thing I enjoyed was that they put the tenderloin on toast. Not the obligatory Texas toast, on a flat top,but white bread toast from a toaster, I liked the crunch.
The previous day the Sawmill had a hog roast. So they ran their pulled pork sandwich as a lunch special.
I think I agree with Pat’s assessment. If I found myself in the neighborhood I would go again. However Brightwood is hardly a destination;anymore. The food is tasty,the beer is cold and the new owner; Rhonda is a delight. So should you find yourself on Sherman Drive by all means pop in. For two sandwiches and fries the tab came to under 14 bucks. And a domestic bottle will cost you $2.75. So I think it was a good afternoon in the neighborhood.
I’m talking about opinions. Opinions as in reviews, specifically restaurant reviews. I read quite a few reviews in the course of determining which joint Pat and I should visit. Reviews have been a part of food preparation since the first person started cooking for strangers. Back when I was in my “prime”, so to speak, reviews were common place. They just weren’t as abundant as they are now. Once only newspapers and magazines took the trouble to send someone to an eatery just to eat the food and write about it. Now with the increase of cable TV we have different food networks,complete with recipe shows and cooking competitions. That might be the reason there is such a surge in the number of new restaurants opening.
Furthermore with the advent of the PC has come Yelp and Urbanspoon. Now every one is a Restaurant Critic. Remember the old saw: “Those who can’t do, teach”? Well I amended it to “Those who can’t do,teach,and those who can’t teach critique.” That is where I am now. As a chef/cook I was also a teacher. They both go hand in hand. As a kitchen head it is your responsibility to create the menu, establish recipes and procedures and to teach everyone who works with you every thing you can. The more the individuals learn the more valuable they become and the more time you can spend on other things. Now that I no longer have a commercial kitchen I can play in I get my kicks vicariously by writing about the food.
In addition to the “like” reviews I also read the “do not like ” reviews as well. These can be just as helpful as the positive ones; maybe more. I pay close attention to the dates as well. If a joint hasn’t been written about in a while it may mean that word of mouth has out paced the reviews. Or it might just mean the “blush is off the rose” and that particular joint is not as “hip” as it used to be. People can be fickle. Another thing I pay attention to is what I call the “geology” of the restaurant. Some places that have been around for a while will have “layers” of differing opinions. At first the reviews are positive for a year or so and then they change to negative. If they stay negative I will usually avoid the place. If the joint rebounds and wins the public over again that means that whatever happened has been rectified. In which case it could be a winner. In all cases the reviews are opinions of 1 or 2 people and damn few joints can be flawless at all times. I like to consider a bunch of the positive and negative posts in order to get the feel if the joints has off days or if it just isn’t very good.
One more thing I find funny is some of the reasons given for the negative comments. The woman who complained about having trouble figuring which door to use to enter. Or the party that came in 5 minutes before closing and griped about the food they were out of. No joint wants to run out of menu items,but sometimes demand is higher than normal on certain items. And restaurants are always adjusting pars; sometimes just too late. For the most part people are nice. But some folks really aren’t. My personal biggest gripe are the newly relocated people; usually from Chicago; who complain that Indianapolis Restaurants are not Chicago Restaurants. Really. You moved for a reason didn’t you? I am sure some big nasty old Hoosier Hillbilly didn’t drive up to Chi-Town, hog tie you and bring you back in his pick-up truck. Some one in your family or Company picked Indy for a reason. I am sure it wasn’t a conspiracy just to deny you dining pleasure.
So not only is it fun to eat out it is fun to write and read about it. I hope everyone takes advantage of both Yelp and Urbanspoon and plans a dinner date or a family night out. And I hope everyone enjoys their food.
Winter decided to ease up on us a bit and let the temperature soar to 40 degrees. So in celebration we decided to head north to Boone County , specifically Zionsville. A small town known for high property values, smart little shops and The Friendly Tavern. Now who can resist a joint with Friendly in its name?
This place has been around for more than 35 years. We know this because our bartender has worked there for 35 years. Now that is staying power for both the place and the person. She has gone through 4 owners during that time. I dare say people would think they came into the wrong place were she not there.
The menu features typical tavern fare, is reasonably priced and Pat approved.
I noticed that their chili had won an award in the past. So, since the past is where most old dudes are comfortable, it seemed as though I should give it a try.
I am glad I did. It was one of the best mid west style cups of chili I have eaten. It had a respectable amount of spice and a touch of sweet, typical of Hoosier chili. And no pasta.
I decided on a turkey reuben. Not sure why. It just sounded like something I should try. It was pretty good, but not rock your world good. The swirled rye bread was great. The turkey was common deli sliced, and the kraut was typical. And it had no cheese. They tried to “kick it up” with a horseradish mayo on the side; but it could have used a bigger kick of horseradish. I ate it all. It was good, just not great. But I am not sure what I was expecting. I think I was sidetracked by the rib eye steak calling my name. It tempted me. But I resisted. That was too much food for lunch. If I manage to get back, the steak is mine.
The joint is not that big so go early. They open at 11:00, we got there at 11:20 and the place was starting to fill. We left at noon and there was a line at the door. It’s no wonder the place is popular. They have good food, more than reasonable prices and the staff is super nice and friendly. I mean how can they not be when Friendly is your name o.
Well South of Chicago, take notice there is a Hoosier right here in Naptown that cooks a pretty mean hunk of beef. The Fresco Italian Sandwich Shoppe actually has 2 locations. One in the Marsh Grocery at 320 N. New Jersey and the other at 310 W. Michigan. On the canal. Since it was raining we opted for the New Jersey location. The joint has only been opened about three years. It is run by 2 brothers using their Dad’s recipes. And these recipes are golden. Their signature Italian beef is easily as tasty as South of Chicago’s. Fresco might have a slight edge in that they offer their sandwiches as a 4 inch half or an 8 inch whole.
We started off splitting a small Caprese Salad. He uses Roma tomatoes from a local Farmers Market, uses a local Mozzarella cheese and grows his own Basil. So needless to say the salad was fresh and delicious.
I was torn between the beef and the meatball. The owner suggested I get the beef and he would give us a sample of meatball to try. So how could I not accept such a generous offer. Again all I can say is the beef is easily as tasty as South of Chicago. On that Pat and I were in agreement. He “discovered” this place when he was shopping and had already tried a half of a beef sandwich. I might suggest you get yours dipped. The Gonnella bun soaks up all the tasty jus and still keeps its shape. A lesser roll would dissolve. As for the meat ball and accompanying red sauce it too was excellent, and on the same level as the beef.
So I can’t think of anymore to add. Except this. If you like Good Italian Beef now you have a second place to score. In addition if Caprese or meatballs are your thing then this has to be at the top of your list.
Oh Goodie! Just what Indy needs one more hip coffee-house with pressed sandwiches. Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against coffee houses it’s just that they all try so hard to be hip. In much the same way coffee joints in the 60’s tried to be psychedelic and in the 50’s more bongo and beatnik. And Panini can be a delightful lunch. You just have to be a tad circumspect about the fillings otherwise you might have a “mushy” sandwich. This particular joint is in an excellent location at the corner of 16th St. and Alabama St. An area that seems to have changed over night from semi hood to more metropolitan. For want of a better word. As far as decor I would call it industrial chic or proletarian casual. They left the concrete floor untouched. Chipping paint and all. They also enjoyed the use of gray corrugated metal siding and wood. Whoever owns this place put some bucks into it. It was just not my cup of chai. But they obviously are targeting a young crowd, not old farts like me and Pat.
As far as food options go they offer some breakfast options, including pastries from Circle City Sweets, a local bakery that has a pretty good reputation. They also offer soup from Circle City Soups. As I understand it Sweets and Soups are owned by a husband and wife. And no I have no excuse as to why we have not tried these places before. For lunch they offer 5 pressed sandwiches each with a historic Hoosier name. As far as meat options they have smoked turkey, Mortadella and City Ham. They proudly announce that the ham is from Smoking Goose . A well know local meatery. So from that I guess we can assume the turkey and Mortadella are from the same source. Pat tried a Tarkington. A turkey and provolone sandwich 86 mustard.
I tried the Harrison. I am a sucker for avocado. One thing Pat and I both noticed, at the first bite was that they stuck romaine in the sandwich and then toasted it. Now I really like wilted lettuce but toasted romaine? Not a big fan. To me it had an odd taste that detracted from the flavor of the ham. They have spinach on the menu I think spinach would be a better choice than romaine. To me the biggest deal was the lack of texture. The only crunch was the bread, which had a nice toast to it. Between the melted Swiss and avocado the overall effect was rather bland and mushy. It needed some prominent texture and some distinctive flavor. But I am not going to go through the entire menu and suggest alternatives. This is not my joint and they did what they did for a reason. Best of luck to them.
I almost forgot my soup. Gazpacho. It was the best part of lunch. Ironic that they don’t make it here.
Pat and I normally plan our excursions well in advance. This time our decision to go to Irvington was totally spontaneous. The reason I’m putting this in is we have a friend,Jim, who lives in Irvington and works out of his home. Whenever we have lunch in that vicinity we call him and he joins us, This time, since this decision was spur of the moment and I didn’t have my phone with me, and since Pat didn’t have his number-we could not call. So now on to the food.
They have a trendy chic menu of sandwiches,salads and home-made soups. Featuring ham, turkey, different cheeses and sprouts. They also have roast beef which I avoided, thinking it was pre- sliced deli meat. I found out later it might be roasted in-house. Now that is a cow of a different color. Their SOD was creamy chicken and mushroom. We each had a cup and it was wonderful. Thick with chicken and mushrooms in a delicious real heavy cream sauce. The best I have had in quite a while.
Pat had a combo with the aforementioned soup and half a grilled cheese. The sandwich was pretty standard. Thick toast, cheese and tomato. Pretty basic. I on the other hand ordered the most pedestrian sandwich on the menu; a sloppy Joe. What can I say, I’m a Hoosier. I can’t pass up sloppy Joe or meat loaf. The sandwich was good, but it is what it is. Ground beef browned up with peppers and onions with a sweet tomato sauce. You see a sloppy Joe sandwich is like beer. They are all good;just some are better than others.
They don’t serve chips with their sandwiches they serve something they call veggie straws. These are square little tubes in pale green,light red and beige. They don’t have a distinctive flavor. My guess is they are an extruded potato product with vegetable color. Whatever they are they are different and definitely cute. Make paste of cheese or a compound butter and you could make a funky edible log cabin. Oh,one more thing they offer pastries and locally made chocolates. They have a display case up front. I not sure why I didn’t take any pictures. At least of the chocolates. They are turtles and hearts approximately 1-1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. They are made off premise and brought in and painted. That’s right painted in pastel colors. They look like little enameled jewels. Next time I go I am both taking pictures and biting the heads off a few turtles.
This week’s target was the Red Lion in Fountain Square. Pat and Fran had been there before so it wasn’t a complete mystery. The location is the old GC Murphy lunch counter; so it’s not too big of a space. Our server Katie told us up front she was fighting a hangover;something I’m sure we can all appreciate. I told her before lunch is over I would have to take her picture for my blog. She groaned, and then posed obligingly. However due to her frail condition at the time I won’t publish her picture; especially since I remembered to take pictures of our food. Patrick decided on a Hoosier tradition, a breaded tenderloin. He declared it a first-rate effort. A nice portion of tender meat with minimal breading; just enough to protect the flesh and offer a pleasant crunch. All their sandwiches come with fries, or you could substitute baked beans, or tater tots. They hand cut all their fries and the result is a great 7/16 skin on french fry properly fried and seasoned. Naturally I chose the meatloaf sandwich with tater tots. The meatloaf came on toasted white bread, with a little dab of gravy, Swiss cheese and topped with onion rings. The meatloaf was well-prepared however to me it was too peppery. I don’t believe it was the gravy I think it was the meatloaf. The two onion rings on top were crispy and tasty. However, the bread could have been a whole lot crisper. The slightly crisp bread coupled with the gravy made the bread more chewy then crisp. Overall I think lunch was quite good.It gives me a “hankering” for some of their more substantial fare. Like ; bubble and squeak, bangers and mash, and hot pie. However if I ever go back to that particular place is still debatable. I will explain later.
I discovered a new beer; a Triton Brown ale. Katie first told me it was a double barrel Brown from Triton. And then she told me it was Sweet Georgia Brown from Triton. In either event it was delicious.Today I went to their website and discovered all they had was a double brown, no Sweet Georgia Brown. Now I am confused. No matter, as that Shakespeare fella said that which we call a rose etc.
Now back to the buzz kill. I took pictures of our server Katie, a delightful Fat Tire neon sign at the end of the bar as well as our food. No problem. We were sitting at a deuce next to a wooden partition that separated the kitchen from the dining area,it was all of 5 foot high. When I stood to take a picture of the kitchen I was told by someone in a position of authority that picture-taking was not allowed. I thought it was funny. I asked Katie what would happen if “the big boss” caught me taking pictures. Would he confiscate my camera or what. She told me, in a joking fashion that he would “beat me up”.I had no problem with what had transpired up to that point. It was their prerogative to allow pictures or not. However they could have handled it differently. What appalled me was the fact that prior to this we got smiles and in general acknowledgment of our existence. Afterwards we were treated as pariahs.No one spoke to us or even looked at us. That led to an interesting situation in trying to get our check and pay our bill and leave. It doesn’t negate the fact that the food is decent, the prices are okay and the service is good, as long as you don’t piss off the Boss Lady. Any issue I might have with this joint is just that, my issue. The joint is worth trying. Just keep the cameras in your pocket.
The Steer In has been a staple in Indy’s food scene for a long time;and with good reason.When we first sat down I couldn’t help but notice my neighbor’s plate of meatloaf.A big slab with potatoes and gravy;the perfect elixir for a chilly,rainy day.But I resisted the impulse to order it immediately and went through the menu.They have an extensive new menu.Matter of fact it’s so complete that if you can’t find something to eat either you aren’t hungry or you are too picky to eat out.They offer pizza,with fresh made dough and with that comes various Italian style sandwiches.They also have a section of favorites that includes among other things the aforementioned meatloaf and beef and noodles;which is what I had.Tender chunks of beef with spaetzle style noodles.The noodle choice was an excellent one; just enough “tooth”to balance the smoothness of the real mashed potatoes.They even serve Hoosier green beans;cooked down with bacon.Not that easy to find.Pat wanted a stuffed pizza;which we had on good authority was excellent.However figure on a 40 minute wait time;so he got a mushroom, jack burger instead.And of course it was great;their burgers are always great.Our other companion;Jim; ordered a Pizza Bomb.Toasted Hoagie bread with pepperoni,salami,peppers and onions,topped with red sauce and cheese.It gave him a Happy Danish face,actually we all had Happy faces when we got through.The pictures on this post were all taken by me with my camera phone;they’re not so hot.Trust me the food is a lot better than the photos.They just started delivery service;I don’t know the delivery area but if you fall into that zone consider yourself a lucky eater.