Friday, December 17, 2010

Vending Machine Advancements

From today's Washington Post's day in pictures (picture #9)....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Steer-In review

Peering over at Indy Restaurant Scene's blog, some people take breakfast pretty seriously. I mean, I guess I do too... but, I find my breakfast tends to be the time I typically show the most restraint and, hopefully, good judgement. Lots of yogurt, granola, berries and Raisin Nut Bran on a typical basis... but.... well, we all have to indulge sometimes, right?

The historic Steer-In is over on the east side, at 5130 E. 1oth Street. It is an old drive-in restaurant with a lot of history - it was originally built by the Laughner family, who used to have a string of cafeterias.

I had been to the Steer In before, but it has been a long time. So, the Better Half and I met up with mom for a late breakfast last Saturday.

First off, the place is just sooooo cool looking. A complete step back in time, and I feel like it would be a great location in a Quentin Tarantino film. It is a full service restaurant with a wide menu of typical item from breakfast to lunch to dinner. I have only had breakfast at the Steer In, but from looking at a neighbor's Reuben sandwich, I'd like to go back and try theirs....

I had one of the skillets - the fiesta. It was loaded with the potatoes, peppers, some sausage and two eggs over medium on top. I added in a side of sausage gravy for my biscuit, and it was good but not great. The meal ended up something like $8.79 with the $1.99 for the side of gravy, but it is a big, filling breakfast. It is pretty typical of what you'd expect from a good diner breakfast, with the emphasis on good. The diner is clean, the service is efficient, the food arrives fast. And, it has a counter, which seems a pre-requisite for a diner.

The verdict: Great venue, good value, good food - what you expect, when you expect good from a diner - 4 belly rubs (out of 5).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bar-B Q Heaven review

On MLK Jr. Blvd. and about 25th Street, you'll find the retail location for Bar-B Q Heaven. From the mural on the side of the building, Bar-B Q Heaven has been open since 1952. They seem to have originally began as a retail location, but they've grown to a food distribution business as well. You can find Bar-B Q Heaven jars of sauce in some local grocery stores.

I stopped by recently after an appointment downtown, and took home a combo meal. I was hoping to get a combo of pulled pork and some rib tips, but... unfortunately, the combo at Bar-B Q Heaven is defined only as two (very large) ribs, and a half of a chicken. The combo meal also comes with two small sides, two slices of bread, and your preference of sauce (I went hot). A very large meal for a very respectable $8.88.

I find the food at Bar-B Q Heaven to be much like what you'd expect at a friends cookout. Only your friend has a serious set up for smoking the meat over wood. The ribs were meaty, large and a good mix between tender and a bit chewy. The chicken was huge, and the skin had gone somewhat crisp yet the meat was still tender. The hot sauce had a nice kick. The beans were pretty basic (no extra trimmings with the beans) but tasty. The cole slaw had some mustard in it, it seems, and it was decent. The cheap slices of white bread are perfect for sopping up more of the sauce. I had enough left over for the Better Half to have some of the breast meat with a salad for lunch the next day, too.

Overall, the value at Bar-B Q Heaven is high, though I don't necessarily crave the meat or sides. I'll go back, though, to taste the chopped pork and the rib tips. The interior of the store might put-off some since there are thick plexiglass walls between the employees and the customers, and you pay through a slot, but..... it is decent 'cue and will fix a jones for smoked meat.

The verdict: Good barbecue, good value, average sides. 3.5 belly rubs (out of 5).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Caesars and value

Wednesday, dinner ended up being quite late, so we decided to just grab something fast rather than cook. It has been ages since I tried a Little Caesars pizza, and this whole idea of a $5 "hot and now" pizza seemed like something to try. We took home a large sausage pizza for a grand total of $5.45 right as this location closed at 9:00 p.m.

The pizza is... okay. I am sure that it would be quite a bit better if it was fresh, so if you can time that, it is likely a really good deal. For instance, the next day at lunch, I ran out and grabbed a foot-long chipotle chicken sub at Subway and made it the combo. That cost me $9.97. Now, I realize that the Subway locations have some liberty in pricing and I could have gotten that week's $5 foot long, but... wow. $10 for a meal at Subway? That just seems way too expensive.

Anyhow, the pizza at Little Caesars isn't very good. It is even worse if you want to re-heat it later. But,... $5 for a large? If you're feeding a large group fast, especially if they're kids, well.... that'll make your money go a long way.

You know what else is also amazing? Mike Illitch, who started Little Caesars, owns both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. Wow. Make all the jokes about Detroit's economy or real estate (the old Silver Dome sold for the crazy low price of just over $500,000), but that is amazing that his pizza chain led to these other businesses.

Now, in the holiday season, there is a lot of shopping going on. We are doing even more as we prepare a room for our baby. So, I've been making some interesting finds while shopping......

Perhaps for the man that has everything? Including active follicles on his back.....

Was this perhaps an attempt at trying to produce the least politically correct doll ensemble possible?

I don't know, but one of these things just does not seem like the others (or as historically significant).....

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday message

No, this isn't about world peace - it is about diet soda. Now, if you listen to much sports radio, you might know that Colin Cowherd beats this drum already, but... if you want to drink a diet soda, try Fresca. No, it is definitely not the most manly drink out there, but... it's fresh and tasty! And, I think the thing that really helps it is that there is no full calorie alternative to compare it to. No matter what you tell me, I'm not going to like Diet Pepsi more than a real Pepsi. But, Fresca is just in diet, and... it stands well on its own.

Mike Wilbon has left the Washington Post to go to ESPN full time. A nice final column here.

Dan Lebatard has some great and interesting topics as a writer and commentator. His show producer did a segment as a phony character - Mark Hackman - commenting on the LeBron stuff for a Cleveland radio station. If you heard it or take the time - Hambuerguesa Con Queso!

Xavier Nuez has been to Indy for Broad Ripple Art Fair as well as a featured show at the Indianapolis Art Center. Love his urban shots. Anyhow, having spent 7 years in NE Ohio/Cleveland, I really like this recent shot from the Cuyahoga River.

Found this song by Bloc Party, "I Still Remember" related to a Neon Trees song. Nice.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saffron Cafe review

I have a slightly sinking feeling that my blogging days are winding down or will be cut back even more with our baby on the way.... so, I have this urge to get to some of my favorite places, and log some necessary record in the form of a review.

Saffron Cafe is on the short little stretch of Ft. Wayne Avenue, in the building that used to house breakfast stop Canary Cafe long ago, right near the IPS administration building, and not far from the Elbow Room. We've been to Saffron Cafe about 6 times now, and my only complaint about the place is that they need a 2nd set of doors to block some of the cold in the winter. Otherwise, this is a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant - Moroccan by specific ethnicity.

On this visit, I had picked up the Better Half from her office place to go out for lunch. We were both craving the shwarma from Saffron Cafe, which is in my opinion the best gyro (or gyro-like substance) in the city. So, no sampling from my dear wife's plate, since we were both getting the same thing. We did start with the zaalouk, which is basically Moroccan babaganoush - an eggplant dip. The pita is warm and the zaalouk is savory. A great starter.

We then both had the shwarma delivered. Ahhhhh.

For $8.95 you have the choice of salad or soup with the shwarma, and I had that day's special soup, which was basically Moroccan chicken and vegetable. With an appetizer already on board, and with the large portion of meat for the shwarma, the soup, while tasty and very hearty (lots of chicken), was really an afterthought. We were focused on the shwarma. The meat isn't from the same old mass produced 15 pound cone at Saffron Cafe. Instead it is a 90-10 blend of ground lamb and ground beef, mixed with seasonings in the kitchen and grilled then sliced for each order. It is just fantastic, savory, richly seasoned, and juicy. There are pickled onions, a little lettuce and both a cucumber sauce and some hot sauce. To make the pita manageable, I have to eat about 1/3rd of the meat without the pita - which is not a chore. Then, you can finally fold the thing together and eat it in an intact "sandwich".

Again, the shwarma is far and away my favorite gyro in the city. Please, give it a try. You'll never view the cone-meat the same way again.....

We were given a tajine for a wedding gift, and it hasn't really been a highly used item. But, you can find many tajine-based items on the saffron cafe menu. Due to the fact that tajine-items are for slow cooking, I don't believe most are cooked to order IN a tajine, but instead are served in very cool decorative tajines. But, there are some wonderful dishes to try, both lamb and chicken and a few other items. I've heard wonderful things about the steak specials for the evening meal, but not tried one yet. The meals are hearty and very filling. The wait staff is prompt, professional and attentive. The interior is dark and intimate, yet very friendly. Most of the entrees are under $20, so great value. Above all, the meals are so full of flavor.

And, something that has to be mentioned is Chef Sentissi. I believe every time we have been to Saffron Cafe, he has at some point come out to talk to patrons at each table, introduce himself, and seek feedback. He is warm and engaging and seems to truly love his work - it definitely shows. You can also see him during an appearance on WISH TV.

The verdict: robust flavor, big servings, warm welcome, good value - an Indy Grub Review favorite! 5 belly rubs (out of 5).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Great Cooks The Bakery review

This review would definitely have been more timely if it had come BEFORE Thanksgiving... but anyhow.....

I have been driving by this plaza where Great Cooks The Bakery is for a long time. I didn't notice it for most of that time, but finally it caught my eye. Great Cooks is at 86th Street and Ditch Road, in the plaza at the SE corner of that intersection. Having lots of company expected over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to go try them out early. And, it is a great little bakery.

There is still a sign for "Great Cooks at Home" on the other (North) side of 86th Street. Apparently that is the old location, when Great Cooks started as more of a catering business. I am not sure if they still cater, but they are now a bakery with soups and sandwiches available.

I realize that bakeries can be hit and miss based on availability of products, the season and individual preference. But, almost everything we tried in 2 visits within 3 days was great. The chocolate and raspberry rugelach (sweet, buttery, Jewish crescent rolls) are out of this world. In fact, I may stop tonight and get some more for company this weekend. The staff is friendly, the cases are brimming with selection, the sweets are delectable. The only thing I didn't care for was the pumpkin roll-up, which was a bit too "perfumey" in taste for me.

Anyhow, Great Cooks the Bakery is a very nice local bakery. Give them a shot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hank's Smoked Brisket review

Time to get back to some reviews....

When we lived downtown, I'd pass by Hank's Smoked Brisket on MLK Blvd quite often. It is just south of 38th Street, across from part of Crown Hill Cemetery (best view of downtown, from the top of the "Crown", up where James Whitcomb Riley is buried). So, after an appointment downtown, I grabbed a brisket sandwich combo (comes with 2 sides) and took it back to the ranch.

Hank's is only a take-out restaurant. In fact, when you go in, it almost seems like a waiting room for a doctor's office, but only a doctor's office that has a wonderful aroma of smoked meat (something I doubt Clarian is considering). I placed my order, than joined 4 other gents waiting for their grub in chairs akin to the waiting area of a barber shop. I had the beef brisket sandwich with sauce on the side and the beans and mac-n-cheese (I also used this opportunity to try one of the sodas I'd picked up at Jungle Jims - the Moxie Blue Cream Soda).

The brisket at Hanks is tender, juicy, smokey and delightful. They must smoke them earlier and wrap them up, as the only deficiency I'd note on my visit was that the crust was not very crunch, but had become more moist again from being wrapped in some cling wrap. Still, the meat was just very tender, a great flavor, and a load of it for a sandwich. The mac-n-cheese was pretty decent, and had was loaded with cheese and a bit of a crust to it as well (bonus points). The beans were a bit of a disappointment. To me, the beans often show the care of a bbq restaurant if they really put effort into them. I found these bbq beans a bit average, and I was not completely convinced these didn't just come from a can and then get enhanced with a bit of trimmings (sparse as they were) and some jazzed up sauce. However, I felt like the brisket was definitely worth going back for. They were taking orders for Thanksgiving, and since we were having a houseful for both Thursday and Friday, I did consider mixing things up and getting a few pounds for Friday, but... I made some cowboy chili instead.

Hanks is definitely worth the visit. The brisket sandwich combo was about $8.50, and you'll be satisfied and full after the meal.

The verdict: very good brisket, decent sides, good value. 4 belly rubs (out of 5).

And, as a side note, the Moxie Blue Cream was nice, but.... a pretty basic cream soda. But, the slogan on the bottle cap is stellar - "If you have Moxie, you have taste!" I love it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Product Review: Cherry Cordial M&M's


Have a great Thanksgiving. I hope it is filled with friends and family most of all, and keep your belly full!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cherpumple next week?

Have you heard about the confectioner's answer to the Turducken?

Behold the cherpumple!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

El Sol de Tala review

You know how everyone seems to love The Workingman's Friend? Yeah, I like it too. Anyhow, I wanted to try out a new-to-me tavern and check out their burger. Maybe it would be a similarly great, simple pub burger. So, I settled on trying McGinley's Golden Ace Inn. It is on the near east side, on Washington Street. I was going to meet a friend there, a guy that knows his way around a pub, and has the build and the hair to make you think he wouldn't be scared of much. Anyhow, he gets to the Golden Ace before I do, and... I start getting text messages. Text messages of the sort that let me know he was worried about the my restaurant selection. It wasn't his bodily welfare that he was concerned about so much as it was the dearth of people going in to the Golden Ace. So.... what does this have to do with El Sol de Tala? It is across the street and a block away from the Golden Ace, and it was having a lot of people enter into its front doors.

To appease my nervous lunch companion who had never been to El Sol de Tala, we changed locations.

And, while I'm here - does anyone have any opinions on McGinley's Golden Ace they want to pass along? Do I need to take a braver companion and get there?

When I first returned to Indy (after 10 years on a tour of the glamour cities of Des Moines, Little Rock and Cleveland), I often heard about El Sol de Tala being one of the best and most authentic Mexican restaurants in the city. I had first tried the one at the current location East of downtown (2444 E. Washington Street), but for a brief time they had a location in the old Union Station, on Meridian across from the Roberts store).

The current website gives a brief history of the restaurant, mentioning it has been in business since 1979. Now, that is ignoring some recent history when they shut down both locations for a while. I heard it was something to do with ownership partners, but.. it was definitely missed during that dark time.

El Sol is some great Mexican food. This was my first time since it re-opened and... it seemed a bit more refined than in my memory. I tried the empanandas on this visit, and they were pretty good. The pork one was very tasty, but the chicken was a bit too dry. The sides were nice, and I especially appreciated the salad.

The chips are warm, the salsa has a nice bit, the service is attentive. The tables are still bright and colorful, and the interior of the restaurant is spacious and of much higher quality decor than some of the somewhat blighted area outside El Sol's doors. El Sol has a wide expansive menu, and yet has great good prices, and the ingredients seem to be selected with care. The plating shows much more flare and attention to detail than the more El Rodeo-style of restaurants, and the taste is superior, as well. They also have a good selection of vegetarian items.

The verdict: 4.5 belly rubs (out of 5). Great service, great food, good value, local grub landmark.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A visit to Jungle Jim's

Having heard of Jungle Jim's grocery store in Cincinnati, we were pretty excited to finally get there. And... my goodness, what can you say? You need to get to their website for good pictures of the place, but... Jungle Jim's really is a food landmark, and worthy of a field trip.

Now, that said, I will say that while our local Saraga Interanational Market (south of 38th Street on Lafayette Road) has an awful lot going for it, too. It may not have mastered as much of the marketing pizazz that Jungle Jim's has, but... Saraga is pretty nice and has a tremendous amount of food diversity.

Oddly, the way we entered Jungle Jim's, we started at what I'd call is the "normal" grocery area and went towards the coffee and wine area. Yes, both wine and coffee sections were expansive, but... I was confused about all the fuss... I mean, yes, the bathrooms are quite humorous.....

But, then we got directed into the larger area... Wow... what a fun place to wander.... crazy amount of cheese.... neat dry and frozen products..... and the aisles and nooks devoted to various countries and ethnic foods is just food splendor... next time, we'll have to be be much more wise and take a cooler, but we picked up some dry good and some fun items. I focused on items like chocolates, chips and soda... the Better Half was more interested in organic type items (dried fruit and nut combinations)... in either case, lots of great stuff, fun things to try, easy to run up a huge bill.....

I had a lot of fun with the soda aisle...

You can assume that the "Grown Up Soda" flavors were the Better Half's choice... I was looking for things less grown up.... Now, it shouldn't be that hard to drink soda, but... I'm trying to save these, so.. I can't give reviews yet as I'm not wanting to overload on liquid sugar, but... just the bottles and names are cool enough.....

The chips from England were kind of interesting... I especially liked the Worcestershire Sauce chips, which was a surprise. But, man, I think those would be a hit here.

Anyhow, lots of fun all around.... Definitely make Jungle Jim's a place to visit if you head to the Natti.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Road Trip: Cincinnati

Cincinnati was the destination for a quick get-away. We headed down on Thursday, and stayed down town. I find Cinci interesting, because you can tell the city grew to prominence at an earlier time, it seems, than Indianapolis. There are some great older building, but too many seem closed or mostly empty. And, they do a nice job of using the water with the Mighty Ohio rushing by.

We wandered around some areas of the city, went to see Rock of Ages at the Aronoff Center. Pretty fun musical, kind of silly, lots of big hair hits from the 80s weaved into the show. We of course had to do some exploratory eating, so I'll mention some highlights here.

Friday, we wandered around the Mt. Adams area. Now, this is a pretty cool spot, very close to downtown, with some nice views of downtown and the river. We had lunch at the City View Tavern, which has a spectacular view from its patio.

I had a Myrt's Wurst, a griddled sausage on rye with American cheese and some horseradish. Nice, spicy, tasty. But, small. Sure, it packs a lot of saturated fat, but I was surprised at how small it is.

The Better Half had their signature burger, the Big Ted Deluxe. A very nice bar burger. City View Tavern is apparently pretty popular and well known, but not nearly as well known as Terry's Turf Club in Mt. Adams. We didn't feel like fighting the crowds there, but the burgers sure sound epic. City View definitely has a great view, the bartender is friendly, and it is just a nice place to stop in for a quick bite.

Another nice little joint was It's Just Crepes. They have 2 locations in downtown Cinci, and they offered up some very filling crepes. The two times I was in Paris, I would hardly stray from the sweet crepes, mostly going with banana and Nutella. These savory ones were well prepared, and stuffed with fillings. A pretty nice start to your day for just $6-$7. I'd really enjoy seeing this place have a location in Indy, as the idea seems easily repeatable, and the overhead seems quite low.

We did a little slightly fine dining, but... I tend to find the lower-priced meals more Grub-worthy and interesting to write about. I'll save the entry about Jungle Jim's for later, but... one really noteworthy spot is Findlay Market on the near-North side of Cinci. This is what the Indianapolis city market could only hope to be. We stopped in on both Saturday and Sunday. Yes, the Belgium waffles from Taste of Belgium were that good. Findlay Market is kind of like a homeless man's Faneuil Hall from Boston, just without the whole Freedom Trail tie in and the centuries old building. But, there is a nice mix of produce, meats, specialty items, and seafood. I'm sure it is great in the late summer with so much more produce. But, this is a worthy stopping point. And... don't forget the waffles!

So, overall, a very nice time in the Queen City. I did not see a pig fly, but we did also visit the Cincinnati Contemporary Museum of Art, the Underground Railroad Museum, and went to the Newport Kentucky riverfront, but didn't feel like taking the time to make a visit to the aquarium worthwhile.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What ever happened to....

... Orange Julius? Man, they were definitely a must visit spot in the visits to the mall in the 80s....

Well, I got wondering, and figured out they were bought by Dairy Queen. They've updated the logo, too. Those orange juice-sugar-ice bombs were certainly nice......

Had a great weekend in the Natti, and did make our fist ever visit to Jungle Jim's. More on that once I get caught up in the office.

Speaking of 80's era things, Neon Trees (whose song Animal is just great) have a lot of 80-ish influences. The song below if called 1983, and I love the visual shout-out to A-Ha's "Take on Me" video of yore.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Heading to Cincinnati for a long weekend... anyone have any good grub recommendations?

So, the Better Half is expecting. Pretty exciting times. She's past 30 weeks already, so... it's getting close. I am dubious about how much blogging happens once the baby is here, but... that's for a later decision.

We are now shopping for a lot of things, so... today's pictures come with questions:

Is this Military Surplus Store (body armor) or Babies R Us (baby sling)?


"protective enclosure" or "cage"?

Everyone - have a good weekend.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mr. Gyro review

Stayed in a gyro kind of mood and went looking for Mr. Gyro over on west 38th street. It is in a plaza that USED to have a Best Buy. Machu Picchu and Absynnia are in the plaza behind Mr. Gyro's stand-alone building.

(Indy Grub Review - home of the worst food blog pictures in town!)

Mr. Gyro definitely reminds you of a lot of grills in the Chicago-land area. The menu must have about 70 items. I went in wanting a gyro, but when looking at the menu I was definitely considering trying their Italian beef sandwich (especially since this rating entry from Serious Eats was in my head). Anyhow, I got the gyro and a Chicago dog. The Better Half had the gyro special, which came with a side (fries or salad).

I should first take a step back. Mr. Gryo is a pretty simple, unadorned place. It is an early 80s style fast food joint, with simple laminate tables and booths. Fairly clean, but not fancy by any stretch. Still, this place had me excited. It seemed grub worthy!

The Chicago dog I got was fairly true to form, but not the "right" neon green relish, and no sport peppers! You gotta have the sport peppers. Otherwise, ti was a decent dog, but nothing that Hot Doug or Gold Coast Dogs would consider the genuine article.

The gyros are enormous. Like, a mountain of sliced meat on a nice thick pita. Like, between the two of us, we left enough for likely another healthy gyro if one was so inclined to stuff themselves. This is not a thin pita pocket like at Sam's Gyros, but a 3/8ths inch thick pita disk. Lots of onions and tomato slices, some pretty average taziki (don't feel like looking up the spelling...) sauce. But... i don't know. The taste was good. But, maybe I was just over enthusiastic about the grub potential and the huge portion for your dollar. But... overall, it was just a pretty average gyro. And, I even felt like it needed a bit of salt, which is rare for a pita sliced from those enormous meat cones on a vertical spit..... The salad was a nice sized portion, lots of feta, quite a few olives, but just iceberg lettuce, which is pretty common even at nicer Mediterranean restaurants.

So, really, while I felt like it was great value, and very filling, I thought the taste was a bit below average on this visit. The Better Half definitely concurred.

The verdict: 2.5 belly rubs (out of 5) - huge portions, average taste.

Now, I got thinking about gyros some. I've stated my preference for the one at Saffron Cafe, and it is a more truly meat item that is presented on the pita. But, for most of the more mid-range to cheaper places, they are the giant cone of meat (or meat-like substance). And, I'm not sure, but how many places offer said meat cone? Mr. Gyro had a poster for Kronos, and you can check out their meat cones here. They offer a 35 pound meat cone. That'll be a winner at your next tailgate party. Anyhow, if you start with the same meat-like substance from the giant cone of meat, how much can some of these places really differ? Are all meat cones alike? I don't really know, but it is something to consider.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sam's Gyros review

After burning some calories at the Jordan branch YMCA, what should I do? Well, I should eat all those calories back in (or more) by stopping for a quick lunch at Sam's Gyros. I really enjoy Greek/Mediterranean food, but I don't typically get gyros. And, from my previous visits to Sam's, I was underwhelmed. But, I wanted to try it again, and figured it would fit the time window I had available.

If you've been through Broad Ripple much, you know Sam's is on College at 54th Street, between the Army surplus store and what used to be Northside News Cafe. It is a well-worn place, welcoming and comfortable.

They have three standard lunch specials - a gyro salad, a gyro special, and a falafel special. On this visit, I went with the gyro special and had the spicy gyro. For one stuffed pita, some fries and a drink it is $7.50 before taxes.

While I was underwhelmed previously, on this visit, I found the spicy gyro really tasty. Lots of heat, and the taziki (sp?) sauce was chunky and decent. The pita bread is pretty thin, and seems to break too easily. But, overall, a tasty gyro. Is it great? No, but a good value. I really love the shwarma at Saffron Cafe as my favorite gyro-like sandwich in the area. This is a few first downs behind Saffron, but it is pretty good. The fries, on the other hand, are a waste. They're an out of the bag variety, which is common, but they are cheap and very unexceptional. For about the same cost, get the full gyro - which is two stuffed pitas. You'll leave much more full.

The verdict: 3 belly rubs (out of 5). Tasty, decent value, a bit better than average.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Closing report

With not being downtown as much now that we've moved a bit north, I find I really do miss downtown... anyhow, noticed today that Taste of Tango on Washington has closed. We went once and had a decent meal, but nothing really stood out. It was rare to find many that talked about this place. So, wasn't terribly surprised it didn't make it. Their website certainly looked nice....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Zest! review

Zest Exciting Food Creations has been one of my "go to" places. In fact, I have often thought of it as one of my favorite local spots. My feelings about it are strong, as I've always thought of it as comfortable, comforting, warm, welcoming, hearty, tasty and good value. I like their approach to slightly upscale comfort foods, and like their use of ingredients. And, typically, I've always thought their prices are very good, with it being fairly difficult to find anything for more than $20 for a dinner entree.

Anyhow, it had been a while since we'd been to Zest, and mom had never been, so we headed there last week (south end of Broad Ripple, on 54th).

One thing I realize as I write this, I think I have typically been to Zest in a type of "seasonal" pattern. We've most often eaten outside, in their odd little "patio" are of the parking lot. And, the other times inside have typically been for brunch on a weekend. While we've been there for supper, I'm not sure we'd eaten inside at supper time. Anyhow, it was a weeknight and very quiet. Apparently in the last month or so, they've changed the evening menu. It is now much more simplified, with only 7 dinner entrees available, plus a few specials. Now I really enjoyed the "full"menu that used to be available at supper time. And, while I realize it makes the organization and planning (and, ultimately overall cost) easier to manage by having less items, I do miss the full menu (which is still available at breakfast-brunch-lunch. So many affordable, tasty offerings there.

We started with the tomato bon bons, which were fantastic. A nice, full-flavored appetizer, but hard to consume in one bite (tho, to the Better Half's displeasure, I did). The sausage-tomato-cornmeal-asiago came together quite well. The bread that comes with your meal is warm, fresh and wonderful. Especially the pretzel bread, but I have a weakness for pretzel bread.

This evening we had three entrees - mom with the braised beef short rib, the Better Half with the Zest take on Chicken 'n Waffles, and for my first time I had (a Zest menu favorite) the Asiago "Fried" Chicken.

Plenty of food at Zest, with large servings that will not leave you wanting more. I'd been out raking leaves and I left some food behind. Now, part of that is that I didn't care for the cooked-down wild mushroom ragout that much, it was a bit overpowering for me. And, polenta is pretty far down on my list after rice, couscous, potatoes, etc.... But, it is a tasty meal, and the quotes around fried just mean that chicken was baked with a bit of a "crust" made of breadcrumbs and asiago cheese.

The upscale version of chicken and waffles was very appealing in name, and it was executed well and hit some soothing, homey notes. The cheddar-scallion waffle didn't sing for the Better Half, but I thought it was pretty tasty.

Mom's slow cooked short rib was enormous, though the amount of meat eventually kind of wore you out on the taste. It felt a bit overcooked, but that is a risk with slow cooked meats.

Overall, satisfying as usual, friendly service, good value (2 of the 7 entrees at $20 or more). But, ultimately, I felt less "at home" at Zest this evening than I have at other times. Ultimately, I really like Zest with their brunch and lunch menu. It feels homey and local, the value is high, the food is satisfying, the ingredients achieve great things at a good price point. Supper here seems more of an attempt at a finer dining experience, and while it is well executed, it seems like a mixed message to how I personally have come to value and enjoy Zest.

The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5). Still a favorite, but not necessarily for the evening meal. Score on this visit bonused some from previous visits with the breakfast and lunch menu.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Miller's Pizza & Sub Shop review

Out on an errand one lunch time, and I figured I'd stop in at The Sandwich Machine over on NE Pendleton Pike (just a bit west of Post Road). When I was a teen and into my first couple of years in college, I worked in construction related jobs in Lawrence-McCordsville-Fortville, and the Sandwich Machine was a favorite. However, one really bad online review had me worried, and when I went by at lunch and couldn't actually tell if it was open... well...... I went about a half mile back to the SW and stopped in for a maiden visit to Miller's Pizza & Sub Shop.
Miller's is a very clean shop, impressively so. The site says the shop has been open since 2002 (and, apparently, the original owners are now back), so it seems the cleanliness is a matter of process discipline and attention to detail, not newness of the shop. That's a good thing.

Miller's has a pizza buffet at lunch. Pizza was not in my mind, but... hey, a pizza buffet... it has to be considered.... So, I ended up doing a bit of a double dip. I asked what their best sub was, and was told that the steak and cheese was the most popular, so figured I'd try that. I did not expect an original Philly-style cheesesteak, but.. was hopeful. I added a slice of pepperoni.

The prices are good for what you get. An 8" sub is $4.69. If you are definitely hungry, you can move up to a 16" for $9.29.

The sub comes on a nice soft, split top roll with a slightly crispy crust to it. The steak is advertised as shaved ribeye, and it is tender and tasty. No grizzle in this batch, which was nice. The provolone was good, though if I go back I think I'd ask to double cheese. There is no mayo, which tends to be a frequent addition to too many sandwiches around here. Overall, much better than expected, tasty, not exactly Philly quality, but I'd go back for it. Quick service, clean place, good price. Thanks, Miller's, that was nice.

Now, I also had a slice of the pepperoni pizza. Um... not nearly as good as the sub. Seemed like kind of the no-name, generic mall pizza you can get in numerous places. My biggest issue, though, was the sauce. It tasted like it was mostly just tomato paste, and I'd have liked a bit more seasoning in the sauce. I definitely won't go back for the pizza, much less the pizza buffet.

The verdict: 2.25 belly rubs (out of 5). Clean, bright and good value. Nice sub, but below average pizza.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jack's Pizza review

Does anyone feel really strongly about Jack's Pizza? As we've moved up into the Nora area, we drive by the one on 86th Street all the time. So, we decided to finally give them a shot.

So, honestly, I wasn't expecting much from Jack's. As this local chain shares a name with a brand of frozen pizza, it doesn't exactly elevate your expectations. Another frustration for me is that a company website was not easily found. In fact, I didn't find one. I could not find a menu online. The other thing that is a major issue for me is that I just don't like cutting coupons. The clutter just annoys me, and I don't feel like keeping around all these coupons that expire eventually. So, we were ordering sans coupons, and we took a hit on this pizza. We got a medium supreme. Jack's doesn't call it a supreme, but more like the Jack Pot, Full Jack-et,... something like that. There is also a pizza that has all 14 of their toppings, including anchovies, but that seemed a bit overboard.

They have 5 sizes at Jacks', so I assume the medium was the 3rd or perhaps the 4th biggest. You can tell I didn't spend a lot of time figuring this out, as I was ordering without being able to look at anything and talking to guy on the phone.

Anyhow, the pizza we got was pretty tasty. They have a heavy dusting of Italian seasoning flakes on top, and there is a load of toppings. The crust is completely unremarkable, though, so you really need good toppings to ignore the bland crust. And, they only have one crust type available, a thin crust. The supreme has a lot of green olives, which is something we like, but I realize many would not care for. Overall, it was tasty, and the topping mix reminded me of one we get more often from Monical's.

But, the real problem is that the pizza cost us almost $23. What? That is absurd to me, though I paid it cause I wanted to try a pizza place new to me. That is just bad value - especially for just a middle of the road pizza.

Have you noticed Pizza Hut's pricing campaign? We ate in at one just last week, and they've simplified the pricing and basically set it up so that you can avoid coupons. It is a great, simple structure - 3 sizes priced at $8, $10 and $12 ($1 more for a small handful of specialty pizzas). We don't' have to cut or save coupons, and they don't have to print them. Papa John's is similar, as they're pricing large pizzas at $10 with up to 3 toppings. It just makes sense, and best of all they're making it easier on the customer (what a novel concept!).

The verdict: 1.5 belly rubs (out of 5). Decent tasting pizza, below average crust and poor value (also really needs a website).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gigi's Cupcakes review

I don't know if every cupcake shop in town deserves a review, but... I dropped in at Gigi's Cupcakes over across the street from the Keystone at the Crossing mall on 86th street. It is next to a McAllister's Deli, so if you want to chase down a sandwich with a sugar bomb, you're all set.

Gigi's is a chain, which I didn't realize till I asked them. You can read the owner's story on the web site. Looks like the corporate center might control the daily flavors, too, which is kind of interesting. I assume they allow for regional favorites... like, if Indy was totally into lemon-mustardseed cupcakes with blueberry-salted-carmel, I sure hope they'd serve them often.

What stands out about these cupcakes is the sizable tower of frosting. I am all for a higher frosting-to-cake ratio, but... Gigi seems to have outdone herself with these and actually given you more frosting than even seems reasonable. Hunka Chunka Banana Love is interesting, and I'd likely go back for the Kentucky Bourbon Pie.

Ultimately, sure, they're tasty cupcakes. But, I just like the Flying Cupcake so much more. Even in the style of the store (this place seems so... corporately blingy, if that makes sense).... and, while I'm not anti-chain, for a cupcake, I'd prefer to push the local alternative rather than the chain.

In other news.... the combover abides!

And, this is one of the silliest early 80s music videos I've seen.... I barely remember it... I watched it all the way through, wondering if they'd keep up with the 16 screens... and, they do!... And, they have such obvious linkage of lyric to image that I wondered if I did this in 8th grade.....

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hunting season is upon us....

.... so, if you need a squirrel recipe, here you go.

El Pastorcito review

Boy has it been busy lately. I'm tied in with the sales cycle now as part of my job, and... that can have some serious peaks when we're proposing something.....

So, not much being posted here lately... and, we ate in a bit more, and the eating out we did lately has been more run-of-the mill, or not really stuff that cries out for a review. I will mention two things:

  • Pizza Hut - I still do love your pan crust
  • Rock Bottom Brewery - I keep getting dragged to you with work, and your Sonoma Chicken Wrap is truly miserable. So dry, it was like airport food, but worse. The tortilla is almost as thick as flatbread, and while your wrap is loaded with chicken, the whole thing is so dry, it was like I was grinding saw dust with my molars

Anyhow, went to El Pastorcito for the 2nd time this week, meeting up with a few friends there for lunch. WIBIA and Indianapolis Amy both have reviewed El Pastorcito, and their recommendations of this place got me interested.

First off, this place has an extensive line of tacos. They are the traditional style tacos, it seems, being served on two corn tortillas. Their are about 10 different meat options you can choose from, including flank steak, chorizo, chicken, goat and... brain. On my first visit I had the carnitas, flank steak, chorizo and goat. And, I tell ya - get the goat. That's some tasty protein. Now, I am a gringo that prefers flour tortillas over corn, but the overall taco is very good, and the pico that comes with it is a great, fresh addition.

On my most recent visit this week, one of funny items was from one of my friends who is a British ex-patriate. He mentioned that some of the mad cow issues had come from brains being fed to cows in England (can't confirm veracity). Needless to say, he didn't get the brain taco.

I tried the carnitas in green chile sauce. Good stuff. The meat was tende, but had a nice crust to it, the green chile sauce was flavorful, but not very hot. There was a load of flour tortillas to go with it, and sides of rice and beans for just $6.99. One of my cohorts had the huevos rancheros, and the medium fried eggs had a load of a nice looking, chunky red sauce on it. The other had a burrito, which I think I should go back for. It came with a side of rice and a pile of shredded lettuce, and it was about 80% the size of a Qdoba/Chipotle burrito. And, it is just $4.99. You can pick from any of the meats that go into a taco for your burrito, so lots of choice.

El Pastorcito is a clean, simple little place offering good value and good grub. The tacos are especially loaded with meat. If you're fine with a little taqueria, this place is a good stop. I really enjoy Mexican food in general, but I do trend more towards Tex-Mex than the more traditional Mexican spots.

The verdict: 3.75 belly rubs (out of 5). Great value, quick service, good portion size.