Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Barking Dog Café

Another interesting place I’ve gone recently is the Barking Dog Café. I read a lot of reviews about this place and couldn't wait to try it. Just living a few miles away, it’s a shame that it was my first time.

Barking Dog Café is a small restaurant close to the corner of 49th and Pennsylvania located in a nice grouping of other fine eateries in the southern portion of Broad Ripple. They used to be located at the City Market, but I’m sorry I never got a chance to check it out down there.

One of the reason’s I mentioned reading reviews about this place is because I learned that they do the “BYOB” thing. I know a lot of places in Chicago do this and I was pretty psyched about having this option so close to home. You know, in case we needed to walk back or something like that. Anyway, my wife and I grabbed a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses and anticipated a wonderful evening. We weren’t let down.

When we arrived at Barking Dog Café, we were greeted nicely and had our choice of tables inside. (My wife and I enjoy dining early in the evening and then walking around for the digestion thing. It seems to work for us.) They have outdoor seating as well, but on a warm evening like it was, an inside table seemed to be the best choice.

The owners are a couple of self-starters that know what kind of atmostphere they want to create. The wife portion of the duo has her hands in every aspect of the restaurant. During our visit, she made sure every detail was thought of and met. She even brewed the coffee herself, to make sure it was just right, before we had our dessert. My wife and I could tell she loves what she's doing and has high expectations for the product she puts out. The husband is self-trained in French cooking and has quite an imagination with the dishes he serves.

Here's what we had...

Buffalo Shrimp Cocktail: Jumbo Shrimp on a Celery-Blue Cheese Salad with Buffalo Sauce

Fried ravioli stuffed with arugula and goat cheese

Mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette, red onions and chick peas

Fried clam strips with pommes frites and homemade sauces

Sautéed frog legs on hoe cakes

Homemade cherry pie

Each of  these items stood on it's own and was very delicious. The only problem is that the menu changes every month or so... if you want to call that a problem. 

The owners try to special order all of their items to make sure they get the best quality of everything they serve. Much of it is from local sources as well. When tasting the food, it's obvious that everything is the freshest it can be.

The food is amazing, the prices are reasonable and the portions are just right, so you don't walk away feeling stuffed. These two are doing it right and if you haven't tried the Barking Dog Café yet, I suggest you call right now to reserve a seat.

Please leave your comments below and let me know where you've been to eat lately. Maybe I'll check it out and put a review on my blog. And don't forget to subscribe.

Barking Dog Café on Urbanspoon

Tommy's Grill

I’m back. Sorry about the little break there. You know how drugs, alcohol, weddings and everyday tasks can get in the way, don’t you? Just kidding about the drugs and alcohol. Anyway, I’ve got quite a list of places to tell you about since my last posting.

Tommy’s Grill: It’s located up on North Michigan Rd. close to Walmart and Lowe’s, if you’re familiar with that area. This place has got a full list of things you’d want to have at a football game or other kind of grub-it-up party. They must have like 10 fryers at this place, because almost everything on the list has to take a bath in grease before you can eat it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.

I came here with the kids to get a sample of their Italian beef sandwich. Tommy’s has some signs on the windows outside that advertise some of the fare they have, like gyros, Vienna beef hotdogs and the coveted Italian beef sandwich.

I have to say it was pretty good, but no Al’s #1 Italian Beef if you know what I mean. Tommy does a great job of trying to replicate it thought. He even puts spicy giardiniera on top of the sandwich for good measure. He didn’t ask me if I wanted it dipped, but when I was eating it, I noticed quite a bit of tasty juice had soaked into the bread. Yummy!

The kids tried a Vienna beef hotdog and we also got what Tommy calls a pizza puff. It’s like a big version of a Totino’s pizza roll. I have to say, it wasn’t bad at all. We also tried some fries and Tommy has the usual selection of fountain drinks available as well.

The best part of the evening was getting the bill. We got all of this stuff for under $13. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think I’ll be eating here every week or anything, but if I get a hankering for some good-old greasy food, Tommy’s will be one of my first choices.

The inside has some simple tables and a couple of TV’s on the walls. It’s a no-frills kind of place, but that’s what keeps the cost down. Give it a try.

Please leave your comments below and let me know where you've been to eat lately. Maybe I'll check it out and put a review on my blog. And don't forget to subscribe.

Tommy's Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yats on Mass Ave.

So I just had lunch at Yats on Mass Ave. today. I know, I know, most of you have been there a million times and there’s nothing new I can tell you about the place. Well, you’re probably wrong. I stepped in the front door today and noticed that they just opened up a whole new dining area next door. That’s right, when you come to Yats now for lunch, you’ll be able to sit down without threatening someone’s life, or vice versa.

Joe, the owner, was hanging out there too. And he said that now people can even call ahead and ask for reserved seating if they’d like. What a concept. So tell all of your friends to book a table at Yats this week. Let’s double his business so he can finish Bar Yats right by my office. I’ve been waiting for it to open for some time now and can’t wait to only walk a block to get some of the best Cajun food in town.

Take a look at the new digs.

Oh yeah, while we were there, this is what my co-worker and I had to eat.

Thai Peanut Etouffee with Chicken: It had a great peanutty flavor.
Caribbean Jerk Etouffee: Hints of coconut and spice.

Red Beans and Rice with Sausage: My co-worker gets it almost every time we come, so it must be good.

I love Yats, and the atmosphere is always fun to experience, especially if Joe is around. What a great guy. Check out all of the locations again and again. In my opinion, it’s the best cheap food in the city.

Yats (Massachusetts Ave.) on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 5, 2010

Carne Adovada

Ok, this is a first for me since I’ve been blogging, but it’s my real passion… cooking. I recently purchased the Best of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recipes and Reviews 2010 magazine and saw a recipe that I knew I had to make right away. CARNE ADOVADA. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel left out, I hadn’t either. But I did know I would love it.

I altered the recipe just a bit by making my own chili powder and leaving out the recommended chipotle chile in adobo sauce. Since I made my own chili powder, I figured it would give the dish the boost it needed without the extra canned stuff. Don’t get me wrong, America’s Test Kitchen did the hard work by figuring out how to make this dish the best it could be with everyday items, so they get all the credit. I just wanted to give it my little spin and share the results with you.

This is one of those dishes that you can make beforehand and eat it later, because the longer you let the meat sit in this sauce, the more flavorful it will get. I served this with fresh corn tortillas, queso fresco and beans. Margaritas are optional for some, but not me. Plates are optional too. As soon as this came out of the oven, we were throwing it on corn tortillas and eating it over the sink. It's that good. Whether you want plates or a fancy drink, you make the call. Just make sure you give this a try.

So here we go:

Carne Adovada
(New Mexico Pork Chili)
Serves 6 to 8

¼      cup raisins
½      cup brewed coffee
1       (4 to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed to 1/8-inch thickness, and meat cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
         Salt and Pepper
1       tablespoon vegetable oil
2       onions, chopped medium (about 2 cups)
¼      cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½      cup chili powder (the recipe I used will follow)
1       teaspoon dried oregano
6       garlic cloves, minced
2 ½   cups low-sodium chicken broth
1       teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼      cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the raisins and coffee in a small bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave until the liquid begins to boil, 1 to 3 minutes; let stand for 5 minutes, until the raisins are plump.
2. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the pork, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pork.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the flour, chili powder, oregano, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and the raisin mixture, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a boil. Working in 2 batches, transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot.
4. Add the browned pork to the sauce in the pot and transfer to the oven. (At this point I put a piece of parchment paper under the lid to make a good seal during braising time.) Cook, covered, until the pork is fork-tender, about 2 hours. Skim the sauce, then stir in the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. (The chili can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Chili Powder
From the Professional Chef, The Culinary Institute of America, 8th edition
Makes 2 oz/57 g

1 ½ oz/43 g     dried chiles, ground (I used New Mexican chiles)
½ oz/14 g        ground cumin
1 tsp/2 g          dried oregano
½ tsp/1 g         garlic powder
¼ tsp/0.50 g    ground coriander
¼ tsp/0.50 g    ground cloves (optional)

1. Combine all the spices, including the cloves, if desired.
2. Place in a tightly sealed container and use within 1 month.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saigon Market & Restaurant

With my job, I find myself all over the city… in good areas and bad areas. I’ve found that if you only expose yourself to perfect little, SUV, soccer mom parts of town, where there’s no fear of getting car-jacked or propositioned by a prostitute, then you’re seriously limiting your options for some great “international” food.

Living on the Northwest side of Indy, I’m getting pretty familiar with what I’d call the local version of Epcot’s World Showcase. Just within a few miles radius, you can travel to India, parts of Africa, South America, Mexico, China, Japan and Vietnam. And it’s the real stuff. Not just some knock-off version of a dish that you might find at Noodles and Company.

This brings me to our next global destination. Located close to 30th and Lafayette Rd., it’s Saigon Market and Restaurant. If you come to this part of town, you can probably get your hands on some crack or other illegal substances, but Saigon’s Bun makes a great substitution. It’s so good, I feel like I’m doing drugs every time I eat it.

During this visit, I got two of my favorite items here: the #4 grilled pork spring rolls (Goi Coun Thit Nuong) and the #84 Vermicelli noodles with grilled lemongrass beef and egg roll (Bun Bo Nuong Cha Gio). It’s a mouth-full, I know. Both of these taste very similar, one is just in spring roll form. The spring rolls are sort of a warm-up if you will.

The atmosphere is nice and Saigon is totally appropriate for a family outing, a date night as well as a business lunch.

Like I said, I get a fix when I eat this stuff. Rice vermicelli noodles, Thai basil, vegetables and grilled meat. How can you go wrong? My favorite part is when I get down to the end of the Bun and it’s a soupy mix of fish sauce, vegetables, Sraracha and meat. I’m in love.

If you’re interested in a possible Vietnamese love connection, just go North of the corner of 30th and Lafayette Rd. You won’t be sorry. Give it a shot.

 Saigon Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 2, 2010

Monon Food Company

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one doing the stuff that you do? I mean, you go to work or hang out with your friends and tell them you blog about food and restaurants and they either look at you like you’re the greatest, most creative person in the world, or they look at you like you’ve got three heads or your pants are unzipped or something.

I kind of felt like the first portion of emotions earlier in the day and the second part this evening. As I’ve written before, my friends and the people I work with are very supportive of my blogging activities when it comes to the food scene. They even appreciate it sometimes. We talk about it all the regularly and the neat part is that I’m the only one who writes about this kind of stuff. In my circle of influence that is.

Well tonight, my wife went out with some friends to see the new Twilight move, so I had the kids all to my self again. That left me the opportunity to check out the Monon Food Company. I was pretty excited to check this place out. While we were there, I ran into a couple of gals and asked them if they’d ever been there. They said, “Yes.” And one of them said, “She’s one of the people who wrote about this place.” Speaking of her friend she was sitting with. I said, “Oh, yeah?” And sort of just walked off. My heart sank.

I mean, I know logically that I’m not the only one out there, in this great metropolis we call Indianapolis, writing about food, but it was kind of spooky or at least uncomfortable meeting someone else that does some of the same stuff that I do. When you’re home all alone sitting in front of your computer writing about some of the coolest stuff you’ve eaten, it’s kind of like being at the top of the world. You’re by yourself and that’s ok. You want people out there on the Internet to comment and say, “Your blog is great,” and stuff like that. But to come face-to-face with a real-life blogger without some sort of warning is just down-right creeping and surprising. It’s like when you’re peeing in the bathroom and start whistling a song or talking to yourself, and then find out someone else is in the bathroom with you, and they’ve been there the whole time. I’m just saying, it’s shocking.

Anyway, about the restaurant. It was pretty good. The outdoor seating was phenomenal, especially on a beautiful night like tonight. As you may know, at the Monon Food Company, you go inside to order your food first and then a server will bring it out to where ever you decided to sit. Well, the kids and I did just that. We kept it pretty easy and cheap in the food department tonight. I ordered the “at least Broad Ripple famous” fish tacos and some chips and salsa and fries for all of us to share. That’s it. The gal at the register was even surprised at how cheap of a meal it was. She even double-check the register before she conceded that the price was correct. That’s what happens when you get water instead of beer. The beer would be for me, not the kids, just to make that clear. They have quite a selection of beer and almost every adult in the place was drinking instead of me. They had kids with them too. That alone can cause one to drink, if you’ve never experienced parenthood.

After ordering we sat out on the deck to soak in the atmosphere. Like I said, there were lots of other young families there, so I didn’t feel all alone with my “kid situation.” People could have thought I was there for visitation with my kids, how awkward, but I did have my wedding ring on. I digress.

The food… it came out in about 10 to 12 minutes. The fish tacos were comprised of two warm flour tortillas, one for each taco, stuffed with grated cabbage and shredded tilapia. They were topped with a little guacamole and pico de gallo. The tacos were pretty alright, but dry and flavorless at times. I grabbed a bottle of Cholula and slathered it on. Aww, just right. Maybe a little sauce or something would make this selection better.

My favorite item, believe it or not, was the fries. I asked one of the servers and she said they weren’t deep fried, but baked. I don’t want to get critical about food techniques or anything, but if you drench anything in oil and stick it in a 400 degree oven, eventually you’re going to get the same result as when you’re deep frying. I’m just saying. Let’s call a truce and say they probably aren’t any more healthful that deep fried fries. They were delicious though. When I put them in my mouth they exploded for goodness sake. The kids weren’t really into them though. They were into the chips and salsa, which were pretty ordinary, but they knocked them down like they were eating a big pile of marshmallows.

Overall, I’d come back here just for the atmosphere alone. I’m really interested in trying some of their appetizers, with beer of course. Beer makes everything better.

Monon Food Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Maxine's Chicken & Waffles

I’m so excited about all of today’s wonderful events. My wife called me and asked if we could go to lunch. This made my heart skip a beat, and put a smile on my face. She really knows how to make my day. She had the kids downtown at the library to get some more books. As always, it was another fine opportunity to find a great place to get some lunch downtown. What a hardship.

I asked a couple of co-workers if they were up to the challenge of feasting and imbibing alongside with my wife and kids… they didn’t even flinch. IT’s ON!! We’re going to Maxine’s Chicken and Waffles.

I’ve been there once before with my son to have dinner. It was kind of late in the afternoon before the dinner rush and hardly anyone was there. It really wasn’t a good time to gather a solid impression of a place like this. Today was a different story. The place was hoppin’ and the food was on point.

If you didn’t know, Maxine’s shares a building with a gas station, so it can be kind of shocking the first time you see it. At least it was for my wife. It only shares the building though, not the same space. Once inside, there are no signs that you’re even close to a gas station.

The dining room is spacious with high ceilings and concrete floors. The kitchen is pretty open and you can see all of the great looking grub flying in the order window and out to the eager patrons.

The menu appears to have some more items added to it and our server said that a new one is about to be released. Just another reason to come back soon.

For lunch, Maxine’s offers some smaller $5.00 specials that my family and I decided to check out. We each got a waffle with a jumbo chicken wing. Our server let us exchange the kids’ wing in for a chicken tender and she was even nice enough to give them two to share. I also ordered some collard greens on the side for good measure. One of my co-workers ordered the fried catfish with fries and some greens and the other ordered chicken breast on rice, smothered in chicken gravy with a side of greens as well.

Our orders came out fairly quick, about 10-15 minutes, and boy did they look good. Each waffle comes with a soufflé cup full of peach butter. The butter was amazing, it tastes like candy. The wings were hot and had a thin coating of seasoned batter on them… quite tasty. But my favorite of all was the chicken tenders. I don’t usually rave about chicken tenders, but these things were amazing. They were hot and juicy inside and the batter was a little thicker and more seasoned than the wings. The flavor balanced perfectly with a couple of squirts of Frank’s hot sauce – YUM!

The collard greens were good too. They came with a slice of tomato and onion on top. They weren’t too firm or too soft… just right. And for some reason I didn’t every splash pot liquor all over my shirt like I usually do. It was a miracle.

The catfish was crisp and flavorful without a greasy feel or taste and the gravy on the smothered chicken had a lot of flavor without being either bland or too salty.

After all of that great food stuffing our gullets, none of us were able to get dessert, but I’ve already had the experience of biting into a piece of their homemade, made by a cake lady, caramel cake. You gotta get some. That’s all I’ll say.

The service was nice and expedient, and a plus was the free parking at the side of the building. That’s hard to come by when you’re near downtown.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. The fried cornbread is off the charts. It was hot and soft and when you smother that peach butter all over the top it’ll take you to a very special place… the ER. Just kidding. We don’t come here because it’s healthful. This is some serious soul food, and you’ve got to check this place out again and again and again-- 
Maxine's Chicken and Waffles on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe

I happened to have a chance to take my mom out for lunch and thought it would be great to take her to Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe. It's definitely my favorite place for Chinese food in town. They have a very affordable lunch menu and all of the lunch specials come with a choice of soup as a starter. 

I love the Hot and Sour Soup. Full of big pieces of mushroom and enough spice to catch you at the back of the throat. Yum!

I had the Kung Pao Beef (extra spicy) and my mom had the Spicy Garlic Chicken. It was fabulous.

I got a shot of the menu, but the light was low in the restaurant, so it’s not the clearest picture in the world.  Here a link to it from Naisa’s website: Menu. You can see that even for lunch the menu is pretty extensive. Some of my favorites are the fried dumplings, the Kung Pao Beef and most of all the Spicy Basil Curry Fried Rice -- Sautéed with fresh Thai basil, yellow curry, chicken, shrimp and
pork. No egg. It’s unbelievable!

The owners here do a great job making Chinese food that doesn't make you sick, if you know what I mean. It's not too greasy and it's full of healthful and flavorful vegetables. All of their sauces are homemade and they put their hearts into every dish.

The atmosphere is nice, with modern looking furnishings and local artwork on the wall. Being in fountain square it’s getting to be quite a popular place for international and creative eateries… and Naisa fits in well. I appreciate that they’re locally owned and have become an anchor in the area. They only have a little paper sign hanging in the window, so it's hard to miss. Keep and eye out, or you'll be on the opposite end of Fountain Square.

Everyone should try this place. It can really change your mind about how Chinese food should be prepared.
Naisa Pan-Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon