Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Jolene Ketzenberger recently put together a list of 50 restaurants that you should try in order to get a solid representative sampling of the culinary delights on offer in this flyover metropolis of ours. Unfortunately, you have to go to the Indianapolis Star website in order to find the article. Amy and I compared notes on the list, and we’ve been, together, to about half of the restaurants; and each of us have been to a couple of the places without the other one. For reasons passing understanding, Delicia is not on her list, even though Ms. Ketzenberger wrote about this new Latin American restaurant almost two months before her list was printed.

What is perhaps stranger about Delicia not being on her list is some of the other places that are, including two in particular that rub me the wrong way. The first is Scotty’s Brewhouse, which might have local roots, but is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill bar and grill, even if it is a little heavier on burgers than most bar and grill places—which typically do a little of this and a little of that, to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, rather than express any kind of personality of their own. The list has a few dive diners, which are totally acceptable; but Scotty’s is the only chain-like bar-and-grill type place listed. If the list really needed a higher-end local burger place, Bru Burger would have been the better choice. I have eaten at both places (the downtown location of Scotty’s), and there is nothing that Scotty’s does that Bru Burger does not do better.

The other one that rubs me the wrong way is Pizzology, though I haven’t eaten there. It’s not the food that bothers me about that one—it’s the location. Pizzology is in Carmel. I’m starting to warm up to some parts of Carmel, particularly along the Monon Trail and in the Arts & Design district; and I understand that everybody loves Neal Brown. You can’t spend too much time reading about food in Indianapolis—or near Indianapolis, I suppose is more correct—without hearing something about Mr. Brown, to do either with his fancy Neapolitan pizza place in Carmel, or with his fancy libations bar in downtown Indianapolis. The Libertine is on Ms. Ketzenberger’s list, and that’s a-okay. Last time I checked, 38 East Washington Street is in Marion County. 13190 Hazel Dell Parkway is in Hamilton County. I don’t really care if it’s near Indianapolis or not—it doesn’t belong on a list of 50 places that give you a true taste of Indianapolis. Plus, if Neapolitan pizza is part of what you need to try to get a taste of Indianapolis, there’s always Napolese, which is...let me check...yeah, it’s on the list.

Now, having said all of that, scratch either of those two undeserving places, and add Delicia to the list. This recently-opened Latin American restaurant in SoBro (in a former Movie Gallery space) is doing a lot right in just the couple of months that it’s been open. We stopped in on a Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, and were seated right away. It was our fake anniversary, so Amy opted for a glass of wine (the house sangria), and I tried a Fountain Square Brewery Workingman’s Pilsner, which was as bright and playful as a whimsical ale (with perhaps just a touch of citrus in there), and just as crisp and clean as an upright pilsner. And it was cold, too. Sometimes in the delay between the beer being poured and then brought to the table, some of the chill has a chance escape into the ether. That was not the case here.

We tried the Salsa Trio for an appetizer, which consisted of salsa fresca, sikil pak, and tomatillo, served with tortilla chips. The salsa fresca was a roasted tomato affair on the mild side, but very full flavored and rich. The tomatillo, we had been warned by our server, was on the spicy side. I didn’t find it to be all that spicy, and neither did Amy—and she’s pretty sensitive to heat in food. Instead, it was a very fresh, bright, and green (yes, that can be a valid adjective for the flavor of food), a solid counterpoint to the earthy red salsa. Then there was the sikil pak, which was more of a dip than a salsa, made from roasted pumpkin seeds. This one was rich and creamy, not spicy, deeply satisfying, and entirely unexpected.

For the entrées, I had the Ancho Peach Pork—pork medallions with ancho-peach glaze, white mashed sweet potatoes, and roasted vegetables; and Amy had the Tamal Corn Cakes—tamal cakes with barbacoa beef, pico de gallo, cilantro-lime crema, and queso fresco. Unfortunately, this long past when we ate at Delicia, I don’t recall what I thought of the Tamal Corn Cakes, although I seem to remember thinking they didn’t taste quite as good as they sounded on the menu. The Ancho Peach Pork, however, was excellent. The pork medallions were as close to melt-in-your-mouth tender as anything I’ve ever eaten. The ancho-peach glaze might have been a little heavy on the peach, and a little heavy in general. It almost, but not quite, overpowered the flavor of the very tender pork. White mashed sweet potates were another unexpected delight—sweet and creamy, and also oddly mysterious in a way that regular mashed potatoes just aren’t.

We were beginning to lament the fact that we hadn’t been to a restaurant that really knocked us out since we ate at Bluebeard last year, but Delicia came awfully close; and there is absolutely no question that we will be back. The only question is how long we’ll manage to wait before that return trip. (The menu can be found on their Facebook, but you’ll have to find that link on the magic internets yourself. I only provide links to real webpages.)

5215 North College Avenue

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ralston's Drafthouse

It is perhaps inauspicious when you elect to dine al fresco and then have a bird deposit the remnants of its own dinner on your head just before your put-upon-looking server brings out the silverware wrapped in a paper napkin. Things are not getting better when, several minutes after taking your order, said put-upon-looking server comes back out and says, “I’m sorry, I forgot what you guys ordered.” To her credit, however, she remembered the second time, and the food was correct when it came out. I also got to experience northern-style German potato salad—I think. I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing. I had to go home and Google potato salad and its German variants in order to determine that what they brought out to me was not, in fact, a mistake.

I’m not sure I even had high hopes for Ralston’s Drafthouse, the new, uh...I’m not even sure what you call it. I guess the answer would be brewpub. The new brewpub on Mass Ave, in the space that formerly housed Agio, before the recession forced Chef to pull up stakes and move on. We never ate at Agio, but after it closed, it seemed to remain frozen in time for quite awhile. I’d walk by, and I could see the tables set for dinner, with folded napkins and polished silverware, like they had fully expected to open for business the next day—only they never did. I’m not sure Ralston’s Drafthouse is an improvement over the spooky image of a restaurant all set for a service that would never happen.

The menu is heavy on flatbreads and salads, with a few run of the mill appetizers and a few appetizers that are, admittedly, not to be found on most other menus—a fried brie stick, fried pumpkin ravioli, and masala bean dip, with garbanzo beans, ginger, cilantro, and masala curry mix. In retrospect, I should maybe have gone for one or two of the appetizers. When I scanned the beer list, I told Amy that I wanted to come back sometime to try the Sun King Popcorn Pilsner, a brew that I thought they had prepared exclusively for sale at Indianapolis Indians games. I was unable to sample one on Tuesday when we had lunch, because I had to show up at the old juke joint later on. I have heard that there are places where you can drink while you’re at work, but an ultra-corporate fake art house is not one of those places.

I had the Perfect Personal Pepperoni and Peppadew Pizza. I don't remember the exact name, and it’s not on the menu they currently have posted online. There was definitely some P alliteration, though. It consisted of “old world” pepperoni, peppadew peppers, and fresh mozzarella cheese, except that what was actually on it was plain-old part-skim mozzarella—again, I think. There wasn’t much of it, so I had a hard time telling exactly what it was. As far I could tell, the only thing that made the pepperoni “old world” was that it wasn’t cut into that perfectly spherical, ultra-thin shape that’s usually associated with pepperoni. The peppadews more closely resembled sweet bell peppers than their spicier cousins.

Amy had the Ralston’s Recession Burger, which was little more than a regular hamburger with shredded potatoes mixed into the patty—supposedly. I tried one bite, and would not have guessed that it contained anything resembling a potato if I had not read the menu. As burgers go, though, it tasted pretty good. Each meal at Ralston’s comes with one side. Amy had the Lemon Champagne Cucumber Slaw, which you probably could not have paid me to try. I opted for the Fried Rosemary Potatoes, except that they were out of them. I wound up with the German potato salad instead, and was surprised when it came out cold and creamy, rather than warm and vinegary, like every other German potato salad I had ever had. Cold and creamy is apparently how they do it in northern Germany, as opposed to the southerners, who like warm and vinegar.

Ralston’s Drathouse managed to underwhelm even low expectations—so unless Sun King starts distributing the Popcorn Pilsner in cans to local liquor stores, it looks like I’ll have to make it back to Victory Field sometime to try one.

634 Massachusetts Avenue

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Jackson es de 6 Años

Yesterday at school, Jackson's teachers and classmates sang "Happy Birthday" to him in both Spanish and English; and then Jackson sang both versions for us in the car on the way home.



Bakersfield Mass Ave

Open just a few months in the Mass Ave space formerly occupied by Bazbeaux Pizza, Bakersfield does not do a whole lot of things; but what it does, it does reasonably well, claiming inspiration from the Bakersfield, California, music scene of the 50s and 60s, and presenting a take on Mexican street food that goes heavy on the trendy fusion tacos that have popped up in food trucks all over the country. The menu consists of eight varieties of tacos, two salads, two sandwiches, and a handful of appetizers. The drinks menu doesn’t overshadow the food here quite as much as it does at The Ball & Biscuit or The Libertine, but Bakersfield has clearly taken a cue from those popular establishments, with probably a healthy dash of Fountain Square’s Revolucion thrown into the mix for good measure.

They start you out with two squirt bottles of salsa—one green tomatillo with a bit of avocado, the other roasted tomatillo with what I think must have been a hint of chipotle or habanero, though without much in the way of the spicy punch you might expect from those peppers. We sampled the chips and guacamole, and used the salsas liberally with the appetizer. Both were delicious, though just a bit too thick for a squirt bottles (the roasted tomatillo one especially). The guacamole was very thick and very heavy on the avocado, mixed up with just a bit of onion and lime juice, along with an herb that I think might have been Mexican oregano—an unusual but not unappealing addition that helps to distinguish this otherwise pedestrian guacamole from others of its ilk.

Amy and I each ordered two tacos, and they came out on a communal plate, served open faced with wedges of lime—the better to show off the handsome presentation of their innards. Amy had the Pastor and the Molé, and I had the Huitlacoche and the Rajas. Even though our server had described the four-inch corn tortillas the tacos are served in, I was still surprised by how small they were when they came to the table. They can easily go down in two bites, and I would imagine that there are some hardy, hungry souls out there who could take one out in just one bite. The first one I tried was the Rajas, with poblano, fresno, and bell peppers, ejotes (green beans, and yes, I had to Google it to figure that out), chihuahua and fresco cheeses, and cilantro. If you think that sounds like a lot to have going on in something you can make disappear in two bites, you’re right. The Huitlacoche consisted of corn truffles, roasted poblano, corn, onion, cotija cheese, and cilantro.

What I ate certainly tasted good, but most of the individual flavors got lost in the shuffle. At $3 or $4 per taco, sans the beans and/or rice you are probably used to getting at other taco places, there’s a reasonable likelihood of going away hungry here—or of dropping twenty bucks on lunch. Maybe they hope that you’ll fail to notice if you drink enough of the $2 PBR drafts. I’m not sure what my answer to the all-important “would you go back?” question would be. I would probably need to try the aforementioned Revolucion and an Asian-inspired taco joint in Broad Ripple called La Chinita Poblana before I could say for sure; but even if Bakersfield were the best of the three, I can’t really imagine wanting to spend that much money on so little food a second time.

334 Massachusetts Avenue