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.