Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's back: Devour Downtown

This has been going on twice a year for several years.... it is this 2 week push to promote downtown restaurants - Devour Downtown. You can go here to check out the participating restaurants for the Summer of 2010.

This is a good chance to get a fairly big, usually 3-course meal from some of the nicer local and premium chains downtown. For a view of the city, the Skyline Club just cannot be beat. And, it is typically only open to the general public for Devour Downtown. When we went to Palomino during one of the Winter Devour Downtown's, I was amazed at the portion sizes, they didn't seem reduced at all. I will say, though, that the time we tried Dunaways, the appetizers seemed especially small. If you don't want to spend $46.50 per person to try Fogo de Chao, it looks like you can get try their roasted meat extravaganza for just $30 during Devour Downtown. One of my all-time favorites downtown is Santorini's Greek Kitchen in Fountain Square - the best fried eggplant by a kilometer!

It's been a really long time since I've been to Iaria's, an Indianapolis icon. And, two eating for $30, featuring samplers of their entrees? That's basically Olive Garden prices....

Get out and support our downtown restaurants!

All Hail the Batali!

You know what this is? Well, besides a weak photographic effort, it is one the best sandwiches you can find in Indianapolis. It is the Batali sandwich from Goose the Market.

It is just a great coalescing of flavors in this sandwich. And, I can personally testify it is NOT something you should try to eat while driving. But, since it comes toasted, it was sitting there, taunting me with its lusciousness, so.... I gave in.... and, I returned to the office with a stain on my shirt - guilty of gluttony.

I can't say anything new about Goose that you shouldn't already know. But, it is a neat shop. We don't have the funds to shop from here all the time, but there are some especially fantastic items in the cured meats case. And that bacon.... boys oh boys.... The Better Half signed us up for 3 months of Goose's Bacon of the Month club, and I so looked forward to each month's selection. We also got a special gift upon joining of some bacon brittle, and that is something that should sell all the time! Butter and Bacon! Yum! The only downside to the club was that the t-shirt wasn't humorous or ironic. Oh well, a minor complaint.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


When we stopped in at Greek's Pizzeria the other day, we also decided to look in at this new-ish shop in Broad Ripple, SweeTies. The SweeTies location has a lot of space. I'd say it is even cavernous for the amount of goods they have offered for sale. They sell (surprise) cupcakes, ice cream (not of their own making), truffles, etc. They have a few private rooms, so I guess if the fellas want to do some fondue before the big game, now they know where to go.

Interestingly enough, when getting ready to write this review, it coincided with an interesting posting on Serious Eats asking feedback (a poll) on whether or not people care about cupcakes.

Now, sure, I think most have caught on that this is a trend that took off from the Sex and the City show. It did seem to take a while to hit Indy, as I remember almost 6 years ago going by the first cupcake shop I'd seen in Toronto with the Better Half. In fact, when she first move here, the Better Half (who makes wedding cakes for friends) toyed with the idea of trying to start a cupcake shop, but both of us are fairly risk averse.

Anyhow, you have to register to vote, see the results, or post a comment to the Serious Eats poll. I can easily get annoyed by some food trends (number one enemy of mine - those who label themselves "foodies"), but when it comes to cupcakes, I have to say... I like 'em. The comments on that poll are insightful, but ultimately, I like cake, I like frosting (especially cream cheese frosting) so.... I like cupcakes. I don't usually want to invest in a whole cake if we're out, so spending $3 or so for an indulgence makes a lot of sense to me. Also, kids always love cupcakes.

We picked up three different flavors of cupcakes from SweeTies - chocolate-peanut butter, sweet potato and strawberry-lemonade. They were all pretty good. The sweet potato had a bit too "perfumey" of a taste for me, but... the real revelation was the strawberry-lemonade. I wasn't expecting much, but it was a nice mix of tartness and a fruity punch. I don't think I'd want to eat this often.... and, the cupcake reminded me of kool-aid... it also reminded me of this from Voodoo Doughnut... but it was a tasty, pleasant surprise.

How does it stack up to other local cupcakes? Well, I'm still partial to the goods sold at The Flying Cupcake (Red Velvet Elvis). Not only do I prefer the taste, but you get a definite jump in size at The Flying Cupcake. I've tried Holy Cow Cupcakes in Carmel, too, but other than the novelty of their maple bacon cupcake, I think they're inferior to Flying Cupcake. And, while I find it quaint that Maxine's Chicken and Waffles is attached to a gas station, I somehow don't feel the same way about a cupcake shop.

The verdict on SweeTies cupcakes: 3 belly rubs (out of 5) - tasty, trendy, doubt the trend can last.

Post Script: I don't know much about the Sex and the City show, so I looked up some info about the cupcake tie to the show. Apparently, they featured the Magnolia Bakery one time, and this little clip apparently started this trend (I could well be wrong, my research has been severely brief and limited).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Korean Taco Love from NYTimes

Congrats to the West Coast Taco guys for getting some love in today's NY Times. They are also prominently featured in the slide show.... Sing it: Come on - baby, don't stop... don't stop till you bi-bim-bap....

Out and About: Ikea (Cincinnati)

On yet another sultry summer weekend, we decided to get out of town. We needed a few items and the Better Half had been itching to get to an Ikea for some time, so we headed to the closest location. There is an Ikea just North of the 275 loop in Cinci on I-75.

I often forget how pretty Cincinnati can be. We had first headed into Kentucky, then took I-75 over the river into Cincinnati. When you come around a curve and see the cityscape, it is a really pretty city. And, the Ohio River gives this land undulations! Wow, its not just flat! Cinci is the home to some good local eats, but we passed on Skyline, Gold Star (funny little milkshake video), Graeters and even Montgomery Inn. This was a shopping trip. Sigh. Besides, we have Skylines here in Indy, and I have to go by myself there. Somehow the mountain of cheese on the food doesn't excite the Better Half, and in fact makes her kind of nauseous.

Ikea brings a lot of fond memories to the Better Half. It reminds her of her very enjoyable 6 years in Toronto. On the flip side, it also brings back some not so pleasant memories, such as when she was so poor when first moving to Toronto that she considered buying a $99 kids bed. Anyhow, while I'm not a shopping enthusiast, somehow I don't mind the occasional trip through the sprawling Ikea stores. Maybe it is part of my Scandinavian heritage? Maybe it is the collection of funny commercials found on YouTube? Maybe it is the lingonberry infused oxygen they pump into the stores? Maybe it is the smell of the swedish meatballs that waft across the mezzanine from the cafeteria? Maybe it is the au pairs? Whatever, it is kind of fun for an occasional trip.

There is no reason to bore you with the dresser and other items we bought. We did share a value meal, which consisted of 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips and a fountain beverage (we got the lingonberry drink, of course) for $2. You can get a single hot dog for $0.50.

I enjoy the food section, conveniently located after the store check-out, right before you load up at curbside. We picked up some Swedish chocolates, and I enjoyed the color and symmetry in the jam wall.
As much as I wanted to, we did pass on the cheap Swedish meatballs. We will return, we have remodeling plans, and hope to finish out a basement room soon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greek's Pizzeria

I've never really understood how the Papa Murphy's locations stay in business. I don't necessarily think the pizza is so bad, but Papa Murphy's fails for me in that part of why I get take home pizza is that I want it baked, warm and ready once I get home. My worst experience with it was in a large group and one oven in the home.... how little sense does it make to eat in slow waves.... Blah.

So, what does this have to do with Greeks Pizzeria? Well, after having Greeks, my feeling was it explained why some people go to Papa Murphy's. The taste of Greeks was okay, but... ultimately, for the taste, I do guess I'd just as soon spend half the money and bring home a pizza from Papa Murphy's and bake it myself. We tried the Greek's Special, and it was just okay. If you're going to spend $14.50 on a medium pizza, I'd say you're far better off at Donato's or Mellow Mushroom. Shoot, I do feel like Domino's has made some major improvements with their new crust, so why not try some of their deals instead and get a Domino's for much cheaper?

I'm not fond of being especially mean on here, but my feeling about Greek's was that Greek's ultimately explained where the "Delivery? no, DiGiorno!" ad idea came from. I'm not sure who would win in a taste test between Greeks or DiGiorno.... and, I'm not sure it really matters.

The verdict: 1.5 belly rubs (out of 5). There's a lot better choices out there.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

IndyStar feature on the near Westside

You've likely seen it, but a nice little feature here by Jolene Ketzenberger of the IndyStar on all the rich, ethnic, food diversity over on the near westside. If you long for flavor and instead of the dull sanitized world of the pretty chains, there are plenty of great places to eat at over off of Lafayette Road.

Nice job on the photo gallery, too, by Frank Espich.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rene's Bakery

Like many, I love Rene's Bakery. I think it is cool how small of a shop they have in Broad Ripple (tho, admittedly, I'm sure they'd like to move up in size), and I appreciate their presence at the downtown farmer's market by the City/County building, as well as how they were always at the winter farmer's market on East street this past season.

I really enjoy the baked goods from Rene's. On a recent weekend visit, we picked up the best scones (Wild Berry!) that I'd likely ever had. Now, for full disclosure, these were not competing against very many experiences, and the bar was low, but for a change this was not a super-dry scone that begged for a drink after each bite. We also picked up some cookies, and we tried some of their macaroons.

Now, macaroons are really going up in popularity. And, they are a really... um.... cute food. The last time I was in NYC, I was kind of surprised to see how many people were carrying these clear plastic cases of assorted colored macaroons. Anyhow, the Better Half and I tried a mix of the 3 flavors they had. And, they were great. Light, sweet, flavorful. I think I liked the berry one best, but the pistachio was also very nice. Anyhow everything in the case seems to be good at Rene's.

While deciding what to get, I was talking to the owner, and he mentioned that they had now placed a Cafe Rene downtown. So, this morning I worked from "home" and stopped in at the Cafe. It is at 50 S. Meridian, and they share some space with the Ball State University Indianapolis Center at the corner of Meridian and Maryland. It is a pretty small location, with only about 3 soft chairs, and 2-3 tables with tall stools. They have the usual mix of the baked goods, but also have wrapped, prepared sandwiches. I didn't try a sandwich, but in the 90 minutes I was there, they had a nice trickle of business and several asked about the sandwiches. I usually don't get very excited about pre-prepared (is that redundant?) sandwiches, but... there is definitely interest in them. I had a very nice fruit tart, so I felt a little less guilty about the butter content of the crust since I was getting some fruit.

I was told that the Cafe Rene concept may get expanded to other locations. I wouldn't go back for the current location's ambiance, but the baked goods.... they always are worth a visit, no matter where you can find them.

The verdict: 4.5 out of 5 - high end consistency, and the owner is a warm, engaging fella.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to roast a pig

Wow... lots of work, but would be a lot of fun....

Slide show from the NY Times.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amber Indian Restaurant

Well, by now I've more than made up for the 10,000 calories burned (based on one of my friends' heart rate monitors, which actually stopped at 9,999) during RAIN. I've been wanting to try Amber Indian Restaurant at Carmel Drive and Meridian Street for a while, so I met a friend there for lunch Tuesday. Guilt free eating is a good thing, and I was mistakenly under the impression I could still consume without remorse.

There was a nice crowd at the restaurant at noon, which is a good thing at a buffet as you hope the trays are turning over fairly rapidly. The restaurant is decorated nicely, and is clean. I'm not an aficionado of Indian food, but I do enjoy it. Indian food, for me, is kind of like Chinese food anymore - when I eat it it is usually part of a buffet. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I haven't done any "research" on it, but it seems like offering the buffet was a good way of helping introduce people to Indian food in a much safer and experimental way. Indian food is by far the most popular ethnic food in England (interesting article here), and while I've not travelled there, I wonder if the lunch time Indian buffet is as omni-present there as here? I kind of doubt it, as I think the buffet is more of an American thing.

Anyhow, going in, my preference was for Indian Garden location downtown, and their fantastic Butter Chicken. We've also been over to the India Palace location on Lafayette Road, north of the mall, and they offer a Sunday evening buffet, which has been nice to take friends to introduce them to Indian food when a weekday lunch doesn't fit. India Palace is also very good, and I like their curried goat quite a bit.

The service at Amber is fantastic. Three sips from your water glass and it is refilled. A plate is emptied and it seems before you can even rest your fork and consider another buffet pass the plate is ferried away behind the kitchen doors. The food was also very good. It was in line with what you'd expect, a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items, all of good quality and nice variety. On a personal level, I would have liked to have seen some of my favorite items like Aloo Gobi or the Matar Paneer (they did have out the Palak Paneer - spinch). A new item that I'd not had before that I really enjoyed was Amber's Garlic Chicken, which was fried chicken pieces in a spicy sauce loaded with garlic made soft from being sauteed. I'd have also liked to have had a biranyi dish on the buffet, but they did have a "brown" rice as well as a white rice. The naan at Amber is served warm directly to your table, which is very nice, and you have a choice of regular or garlic (why would one not ever pick garlic?).

Overall, it was a very good experience. The lunch, with only water to drink, was a bit over $9. And, since a pita combo at Pita Pit is over $9, I'd say this is good value (All U Can Eat!). I think I still prefer India Garden, but it is also where I've gone the most often.

The verdict: 3.5 belly rubs (out of 5) - traditional, great service, solid execution.

And, it is true. I've completely made up for the caloric output from RAIN. I weighed 3 pound more on Tuesday night than before we started the ride. Guess I need to get back on the bike.

Monday, July 19, 2010

West Coast Tacos

As I start writing this, I notice WIBIA has also put out a review on West Coast Tacos... so... we'll see how my feelings compare to his.....

I've been pretty excited about the arrival of West Coast Tacos. I'd read about Roy Choi's now famous Kogi truck out in Los Angeles, and I thought it was a genius idea (good review here with fantastic slide show from well-known LA food critic Jonathan Gold). I'm all for fusion in food. MORE FUSION, that's what I say..... But, I just kind of worried that Indy wouldn't necessarily flock to the idea of a Korean taco. But, I am happy to be proven wrong.

We stopped in around 8:30 to the West Coast Taco truck last Thursday. It was a mellow pace, and we sat down on the curb outside of the cardinal fitness to eat our tacos. This wasn't dinner, it was just a snack. And, as WIBIA has pointed out, if you think of it as a snack, then you're set. Don't go looking for a meal, cause the current portion sizes are just too small. The truck was out of the tempura-style fish tacos and the chicken by the time we got there, so we only were able to try the steak.

How does it taste? It's fantastic. The meat is marinated in bulgogi marinade, and that is placed on two small corn tortillas. This has an ample serving of their fresh salsa which comes heavy with cilantro. Now, I love Korean food above all the other Asian cuisines. When eaten in taco form, the flavors carry a huge punch, and it blends very well together. That said, the meat is a bit overwhelmed by the salsa, although it is a very pleasing salsa with nice fire. Tasting the meat by itself, you can pick up the bulgogi flavor a lot better. Regardless, the taco is really tasty, and it leaves you wanting more.

The only downside is that part of the reason I wanted more was because the tacos are small. We had had dinner 2.5 hours earlier, but these three tacos merely whetted my appetite, did not satisfy it. Partly, that is praise - cause they taste great. But, if I was wanting to feel full, I'd have been disappointed. As the Better Half finished her tacos, and I thought about stealing one, I also considered getting 3 more, or walking over to BRICS. Instead, I ended up going home and having a bowl of cereal.

It's great to see food trucks in Indy, especially one that isn't serving just hot dogs (especially boiled hot dogs). I was able to go out to Portland last summer on two occasions, and the food trucks there are legendary. The fad of higher-end food trucks is, of course, flying ahead in NYC, too. I hope we keep seeing more of this trend here. It has to be less overhead for the proprietors, and it just adds more wanted diversity and choice here.

I brought up the Kogi truck, but that wasn't to try and point out that the West Coast Taco guys were not brand new in their offering. Their site and interviews make it clear that they got inspired while out in California. So, while they may not be Asian prodigies, they are providing a great product here. They said that on weekends, they're typically serving continuously from 7 p.m. till 4 a.m. Awesome. I hope they keep doing so well. But, I guess this does give me an excuse to link to my favorite blog - some contributors for the Freakonomics blog talking about the intellectual property in food and creative cuisine.

Let's get back to the topic of fusion. While I love the Korean influence that is obviously making a mark on both coasts through Roy Choi and David Chang (of the Momofuku empire - check out the price of a 6" cake from his milk bar!), I just love seeing and tasting more food blending. The West Coast Taco guy said they're working on a kim chi quesadilla. Deluxe. I'd love to see a bulgogi cheese steak. Or, how about General Tso's burrito? Or, well... there's this!

Alright, so went a little link crazy today.....

The verdict: 4.5 belly rubs out of 5 - taste and flair make up for small portion size.


This is my Gundy Year.... So, needing something to mark it I convinced two friends to join me for a Ride Across Indiana. Yup, we started at the state line by Terre Haute, and ended at Earlham College in Richmond. And, it was VERY hot on Saturday. The first 65 miles went great. The next 45 went kind of poorly, with many thought of quitting, what with being right around Indianapolis. The final 50 went... almost easily. I'm not sure how to explain that shift in pedal pressure, but... it was overall .... actually a good time. We finished under 9.5 hours of riding time, so that beat our goal of 10 hours.

With the heat and all the effort, it was an amazing day of consumption. While I didn't track it well, I think I drank somewhere between 500-600 ounces of Gatorade and water. Oddly, while we ate lots of food all through the five official (along with 3 other unofficial) stops, at the end of it, food wasn't a huge priority. Maybe I was frustrated that RAIN was followed by a WAEC - Walk Across Earlham College to get to the fitness center showers. Anyhow, one Chipotle burrito before we left Richmond, and on to bed.

Sunday? Sunday was a completely different story. The grazing was ON....! Cook out at some friends' led to large consumption, along with a guilt-free Five Guys visit last night.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(Premium) Chain-O-Rama: McCormick & Schmick's

Well, this is a bit tardy, but from the idea wondering about premium chains, back on July 5th, the Better Half and I used a nice thank you gift card and went to McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant.

Located at a hotel (hyatt? hilton?... I forget) at Illinois and Market, it is nicely decored in dark wood and some really nice stained glass. The wait staff is professional, and it was a really tasty meal. We started with a lobster tempura roll that was really well done. The seafood chowder was rich, peppery and a nice touch of sweet from the corn.

The Better Half had one of the lobster specials, and it came with Israeli couscous. I'd not had Israeli couscous, and I can't say I'd like to have it again. Just too slimy. Kind of like the big tapioca balls in bubble tea.

I had some fantastic scallops. I can't say what is perfectly prepared or not, but... man, these were fantastic... what with the low light and my aversion to bringing out a camera that needs a flash, I just ditched pix for the utensils and got eating. And, the scallops came on a really nice bed of risotto. I usually am only so-so about risotto, but I liked this as it had a bit of a "crust" and liked the bit of texture than the mushy quality that risotto usually seems to be served as (now, does that mean it was burnt?... don't know... but, it was really nice).

We took home the seasonal dessert special - blueberry cheesecake - and for an appetizer, a salad, a cup of chowder, and two entrees and a dessert, it came in at just under $100. Yeah, that's a lot for two people in my book, especially if you aren't even drinking any wine, but... for a nice outing as a change of pace, it seemed like a worthwhile spend.

It was a really nice meal, well prepared, very tasty. I've been to McCormicks & Schmick's at lunch, and find the lunch menu is actually pretty nice. I just finished a combo from Pita Pit that cost me over $9, so spending $12-$15 at MSSR seems like a worthy outing.....

The verdict: 4.5 belly rubs out of 5 - professional, well done, great flavors.

Below is from the bathroom....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For what it's worth....

... this is my favorite pizza in town.... Can you recognize it?

It is a pepperoni and garlic pizza from Mellow Mushroom. Yes, it is a chain. But, there is just the one location in all of Indiana, in Carmel off Meridian at 116th. When it is fresh, man, is it great. I love the crust, it is chewy, yet a crispness to the "skin", and unlike most of the huge delivery chains I actually want to eat the crust. Especially if I have some of their esperanza dressing left from a greek salad to dip the crust into.

Some of the specialty pizzas seem to complicate the pie and leave me underwhelmed. So, I just like to keep it simple - pepperoni and garlic. If I want to ruin my breath for even longer, maybe even add some onions......

4.5 belly rubs (out of 5) - always tasty, always great.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

King Wok

Time to talk about some good, cheap eats. So, we went over to one of the richest areas of cheap, local, ethnic foods in the city. The corridor on Lafayette Road on the west side (from about 34th to Georgetown Road) has such diversity - from several Indian options to numerous Mexican and South American options. And, if you need some groceries, you can go plunder the variety of region-specific aisles in the Saraga grocery store.

Anyhow, this evening found us at King Wok. And, do you know what a kind of funny thing is? I really like that they don't have a web page (I realize that doesn't make a ton of sense). They just have a restaurant. Too many places can get all the media and social networking items in place, but may not serve any good food. I feel like King Wok does a nice job on the food, and you can't beat the prices. Mom joined the me and the Better Half, and we were in business.

The Better Half is partial to the Bun, or noodle dishes. She lived in Toronto for 6 years, and we went to some great, cheap places there near Kensington Market in the Asian neighborhoods (great place to visit!) nearby. We have struggled to find the same quality of Asian restaurants here, but King Wok is pretty decent. Now, the thing we both found that stood out about the Bun dish is that typically, I believe Bun is to come with vermicelli... and, King Wok seems to server more of a spaghetti... and, I don't think that their noodles are rice noodles, but I could be wrong. Beyond that, the flavors seems in line, and there was a nice portion of the pork, beef and the cut up egg roll. Mom had the same.

I ended up with a rice dish with the same mix of marinated pork and beef because of the thicker than normal noodles. Very tasty all around, and I appreciate the sweet chili sauce that is provided to add to the rice. Best of all, none of the dishes was over $7 (we also started with some pretty decent vegetable tempura and the cold, garden rolls). So, for under $40 we three could have a hearty meal, full of spice and flavor. Hard to beat......

Indy Restaurant Scene has spoken well of Saigon, further south on Lafayette Road. And, one of her commentors mentioned they have a Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi), so I really need to get there. I definitely prefer King Wok over Viet Bistro in Castleton, though many who are a bit iffy on "divey" looking places would most likely prefer to have a Vietnamese meal at Viet Bistro rather than a location like King Wok or Saigon.

The verdict: 3.75 belly rubs (out of 5). What lacks in some food quality is made up for in great value.

And, I'm so proud of myself I never made a punny joke about wok-ing this way.....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chain-O-Rama: Granite City

While I can't really speak for the quality of the beer at Granite City, I have been there a handful of times now. I'm not sure if these guys have reviewed the beer, but they seem like a pretty authoritative site for beer reviews.

Anyhow, we've stopped in at Granite City for work lunches, and the other night the Better Half and I made a stop. Like many of the chain style brew pubs, the menu is extensive. From beer cheese soup (nice and rich) to shrimp tacos (pretty decent) to steaks to large salads to pasta... you can find it all here.

What I don't think you'll find is a great hit anywhere. It is all pretty decent. But, on this visit I paid something silly like $15 for Charlotte's pasta, and I thought it was a very poor deal (though the chef went crazy and burdened the thing with a load of crispy prosciutto. I was mostly attracted to the mention of pesto in the dish, but... I guess I prefer pesto more with oil on pasta, and not necessarily mixed with a heavy red sauce. [Further evidence of the worlds worst food photographer below]

Pretty safe, pretty decent. Not real memorable. If the beer is better than the mass marketed stuff, than maybe it is worth multiple visits. But, like with our work lunches, it fits a big group and everyone can find something. And, there is definitely something to be said about that.

The verdict: 2 belly rubs (out of 5). Typical, but decent.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chain-O-Rama: Monical's Pizza

I have some trepidation about reviewing pizza. Some people take it very, very seriously. Some have very strong biases towards regional styles (Chicago, California, New York, Colorado, Mississippi.... okay, maybe not Mississippi).

Me, I just like pizza. I prefer Giordanos over Uno's. I like various versions of NY Style, both locally and stuff I've tried on trips to NYC. And, I love Beau Jo's out in Colorado (and the honey that is served for the crust). But, I also like chain locations like Pizza Hut and Donatos. Anyhow... over the long weekend we stopped in at the Monical's at Glendale Mall. This place is tucked on the backside (east) of the mall, and I'm not sure how many people actually see it as they shoot up or down Keystone (there are at least 2 other locations in town). Anyhow, we've picked it up at various times, and since I ultimately prefer thin crust, we do like Monical's. We had the Italian Special this time, as that is the Better Half's choice. It has sausage, onions, green olives, mushrooms and banana peppers. It's tasty, but maybe a bit too heavy on the green olives for my liking.

Anyhow, I like it. It's tasty, its satisfying. No, nothing exceptional, though. Verdict - 3 belly rubs.

What I find pretty interesting about pizza places is that so many seem to have a background of some humble beginnings from a college campus. Up at Purdue, we used to have a Garcia's Pizza by the Slice, and the lore was that two Illini students took their tuition and opened it up and were now fabulous wealthy. This inspired me to... well, do nothing, really, other than to brain storm. This was back in the very late 80s, and New York Seltzer was big. I would tell my roommate we needed to start up a soda line. I wanted to call it Purple Mountain Majesty, and we'd play off patriotic themes. This could then have been spun off into Amber Waves of Grain bread. Instead, he decided to pursue a PhD in the stickiness of polymers or something like that. My friend, Dr. Lew Zer......

Anyhow, Monical's was founded near Olivet Nazarene University. Mellow Mushroom was founded near Georgia Tech University. Papa John's was founded by a former Ball State student who appears to have learned the trade from Greek's Pizzeria, which started in Muncie (by the way - I've not tried it... is Greek's any good?).

I don't really know if the guys that started Garcia's actually got fantastically wealthy. But, I like to hope they did. Maybe they're down near Zihuatanejo, Mexico living off the spoils of their pizza slinging days. Cheers, mates....

Slice is also a fun site to bounce out to for pizza-related information.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Do NOT tell your cardiologist if you eat one of these...

Wow.... part of the Great Bacon Odyssey.....

Hat tip: A Hamburger Today

Product Review: Lara Bar

Summer brings on a fair bit of biking for me. And, this year, I've had some goals around a really long ride, but we'll see if my training allows me to hit that goal. Anyhow, since it is hard to carry a cheeseburger in a bike jersey, I'm often searching for something to eat on a long ride.

The original Power Bars are just not something I can stomach. I do like most varieties of Clif Bars, though, and especially like dried fruit flavors like the apricot. But, the LARABAR is likely my new favorite.

I've seen this in several places now, but first found them at the old Wild Oats location in Nora that is now a Whole Foods. LARABAR no longer says it is "raw", but they apparently are not cooked. They are full of lots of nuts and dried fruit, and yet they usually maintain a higher moisture content than the other really dry, fiberous sport bars out there. Cherry Pie is by far my favorite flavor. Lots of good carbs, digests easily, and some protien to help prevent your muscles from breaking down too much on a long workout.

The verdict: 4.5 belly rubs (out of 5) - of course we're grading on an exercise-based curve. In any other situation, lay this next to a Snickers and there's no contest I go for the processed sugar bar.

Field Report: Tony Packos (Toledo)

I think I need to go to a work location where the historic local fare is NOT a hot dog.....

But, I found myself in Toledo last week and looked up some information on a local restaurant to try. Tony Packos seemed a likely candidate from its longevity, lore and common appeal.

I was downtown Toledo, right on the Maumee River. Toledo has a brief little river walk, and it made me wish again that Indianapolis had more of their buildings along the White River. Anyhow, I used the GPS to find the closest location (of 5) on my way out of town. Turns out I appear to have landed at the "original" location, on Consaul Street.

The menu definitely has more than hot dogs, but the hot dogs and chili sauce seem like the rite of passage for a newbie. I ordered one of the specials - which was a chili dog and a chili mac. I was intrigued by the chicken paprikas, and tried to get a sense of that dish by also ordering a side of the paprikas dumplings with gravy.

The hot dog had a casing with a nice "snap", good flavor and I really liked the chili sauce and the onions. The chili mac was tasty, but.... I prefer a chili mac over spaghetti noodles, yet Tony Packos serves them over their dumplings. Now, this is a major change over when we first moved to Indiana from Denver when I was 13. Some of our family introduced us to chili over spaghetti, and I just wondered what was wrong with these people. But, over time, I've come to appreciate the local variation, whether from Steak-n-Shake or Skyline Chili. Now, a funny thing I noticed is that many places that serve a chili mac usually give you that little bowl of oyster crackers. And, I did toss some of those over the chili mac pile, which is basically dressing up carbs with carbs. But, the crunch was a nice texture addition.

The paprikas and dumplings was a further investigation of simple carbs, and not really all that flavorful. I have never cared for dishes like chicken and dumplings, and that is what this is. Minus the chicken. It was worth a taste, but not a return, and it made me feel like I'd have been wanting more "zing" from the dish if I had ordered the chicken paprikas.

Tony Packos is from Hungarian roots, and the menu has a section entitled Cabbage Creations, which just appeals to me out of sheer novelty.

Another thing that Tony Packos does that is fun and unique is they have celebrities, both local and those passing through, do bun signing. So, all around the restaurant they have these special cases with autographed hot dog buns. Some gimmicks like that seem cheesy, this one seems appropriate.

The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5) - a good hot dog, good value, great historic charm.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Day Weekend Treat: BRICS

Hope everyone has a wonderful and patriotic Independence Day weekend. With beautiful weather, and a day full of physical labor behind us, the Better Half and I went to pick up my bike from the Bike Line in Broad Ripple (a water bottle into the rear wheel on Thursday led to a bent spoke - luckily nothing worse) then walked down the Monon to try BRICS, the new Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station. The shaved ice stand on the Monon is nice, but it sure has seemed like an obvious step to have an ice cream shop here.

They've done a great job of rehabbing what I believe used to be the Broad Ripple Station. It is a nice, warm, trendy spot. The Better Half was particularly impressed by the tile, what with our thoughts going towards a kitchen remodel. Talking to the scooper (is that a proper job title?), we found out they don't make their own ice cream, but it is from Sherman's Dairy Bar up on Lake Michigan in South Haven. I've never tried this ice cream before, but it was quite tasty.

And, the portions were enormous. I guess I should have asked if a "1 scoop" can consist of two flavors..... so, while the Better Half tried the Grasshopper, I had the Banana Nut and the Chocolate Peanut Butter. The Grasshopper wasn't very minty, but the Banana Nut had candied walnuts (wait, maybe they were pecans...?) and was quite tasty.

We spent $9 on the 3 scoops, but... the portions are huge. Yes, you could definitely get a better value from the grocery store. But, there is something about sitting outside on a patio, on a warm, pleasant day, and just indulging in some good ice cream.

Welcome, BRICS, I hope you stay around.

The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5) - summer and ice cream, what a pairing.

Oh, and from BRICS' "about" page, it looks like at least one of the owners is from Indy's famous Vonnegut family - most famous for Kurt the author, whose family had the old Vonnegut Hardware store downtown.

And, for what its worth, I really prefer Matthews Bicycles out on Pendleton Pike for repairs and as an overall bike shop. Great selection there, too, with a load of bikes upstairs. Great service shop and very friendly, and knowledgeable staff. Its right next to a King's Ribs, too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chain-O-Rama: Rally's Bacon Champ

Man, what a mess.

Stopped through the local Rallys for dinner on the road as we've been way too busy on house stuff in the evenings. I do like Rallys burger, and when they first came on the scene I was a big fan of their seasoned fries. Anyhow, if it is dinner from a sack, I figured I might as well at least try something new. And, behold, Rallys has the Bacon Champs available in three flavors - firecracker, maple and pepper.

So, I ordered the maple. And, as soon as the words came out of my mouth, the thought "this will be too sweet" rattled through my brain. But, it has bacon, so it was worth the try.

Now, it is pretty obvious bacon has been riding a pretty long ride as a food trend. It seems predictable that on almost any episode of a food contest, the person that uses pork belly often wins. But, as a person that just loves good food and kind of gets annoyed by food trends, I sort of wonder - when did bacon ever go out of style? I mean, bacon on a burger is just one of the best combo's ever. I mean, I even fondly remember that odd bacon disk that McDonald's put on the Arch Deluxe. [And, as a bonus, there is this fun old commercial for the McDLT]

Anyhow, tried this burger. It truly was a mess. The bacon texture was inconsistent, likely owing to being microwaved before hastily being slapped on the pile. The sauce was just way too sweet. The mix of sweet and salty is appealing, but this boat was sinking in a sea of sweet sauce. The burger seemed dull and lifeless beneath all that sauce. And, as it has been a long time since Id' been to Rally, I was at least looking to the fries. These seasoned fries reminded me far too much of fried chicken. Not good.

Rallys has some decent, cheap offerings. Skip the Bacon Champ and stick to the Big Buford.

The verdict: 0.5 belly rubs (out of 5)