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

City Cafe

I had one goal for lunch yesterday… find some willing co-workers and a new place to eat in downtown Indy. It’s not surprising how willing they are to go out. We’ve been going out like this for years and now we even have an excuse. “Austin’s going to put it on his blog. They say that it causes pain and suffering at times, but I don’t feel a bit sorry for them.

We’ve been hitting quite a few places around the office, so City Café seemed to fit the bill since it’s only five blocks away. We could even get some exercise… that’s the pain and suffering part.

The weather was nice and sunny, but not too hot, and after a few minutes, my associates and I reached our destination at the City Café. I’d been curious to try this place and had read some really great reviews about it.

As we entered, one of the servers welcomed us in and we were seated in a booth near the front door. The a/c was cold and the booth managed to fit the three of us snuggly yet comfortably.

The City Café has a small, narrow dining area in an office building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Mirrors on the wall really help open up the feel of the place and it was nice to see some artwork on the walls from children who must have come there for a field trip. It’s great to see establishments like this support the community like that. If you’re interested, the bathroom is all the way in the back, past the kitchen and in a shared part of the office building. Don’t forget the key, or you’ll be disappointed.

Enough about that… let’s get to the food.

Right away, one of my co-workers commented on how small the menu was. He’s into chain restaurant kinds of places where the server needs a forklift to bring your menu because it’s so heavy. I felt that the amount of choices went along with the size of the place and I had no problem picking three or four things I wanted to try. Here’s a link to their menu.
Both of my co-workers decided on the Chicken Club. It had grilled chicken breast, bacon, avocado and lemon aoli on grilled sourdough bread. This was my first choice as well, but if well al had the same thing, that would make for a pretty lame review.
I went for the Big Cheese. A grilled cheese with extra flair. (I can’t wait to make this one at home.) It has a mix of cheeses… sharp cheddar, provolone and jack cheeses with Southwestern flavors and cilantro on grilled sourdough bread. The Southwestern flavor appeared and tasted to be chipotle mayo with mild green chiles and cilantro. Pretty tasty and even better with three kinds of melty, gooey cheese.

All of the sandwiches come with chips and a pickle spear by default. And appropriately so. The sandwiches are the star here and are pretty hefty and filling as well.

The service was good and our server wasn’t intrusive, so we were able to converse without distraction while waiting for our victuals.
Overall: I really enjoyed the City Café and look forward to my next visit. I hope you give it a shot too.

Special Note: City Café offers breakfast and the rumor is that it’s one of the better options for morning grub in the downtown area.
City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 28, 2010

Historic Steer-In

So I wasn't even planning on going out to eat today when one of my friends calls and says he wants to go out and get a burger because it's his birthday. Well how can you say, no, to that. It was the perfect opportunity to check out the Steer-In. I'm glad I did. The atmosphere was calm and I could tell there were a lot of regulars there as well as people who were trying it for the first time. That’s a good sign.

It was petty quiet for during the lunch rush. People were coming in to grab some predictable lunch and get back to work. That’s exactly what they got. No frills for a great price. The place had the feel of an old-school diner. (I bet it would be good to come here for breakfast.) There were jerseys on the wall from some of the local schools in the area and the place had an interesting seating arrangement. There was a counter in the shape of an oval so the servers could go in the middle to serve food and refill drinks. It was similar to the seating at Charlie Brown's in Speedway. All of the servers seemed pretty experienced and offered reasonable and friendly service.

The Steer-In has a wine and beer selection, with quite a few different bottle choices. No draft beer. All the bottles were displayed on a shelf on the wall for people to pick the beer of their choice.
Our waitress quickly took our order and the wait was on… about 20 minutes. I assume that there was only one cook on the line in the back, because everyone had to wait for a while. My friend and I were in no hurry, so we just conversed and sipped on our drinks.
Although it took a while to get our food, when it came, it looked good. I ordered a traditional club with chips and my friend, the birthday boy, ordered a mushroom and Swiss burger with fries.

My sandwich was pretty simple with nothing out of the ordinary on it, but that’s kind of what I was looking for. Just a classic club with chips and a pickle spear. Take a look. It went down easily.

My friend said his burger was good, and he had no problem finishing it either.

This place has been around for years and I figure they put out a consistent product most of the time. That means return services and more years to dish it out.

Here’s a link to their menu: It’s pretty extensive and they even offer pizza with dough made in-house.

Some interesting facts: Homemade pizza dough and great meatloaf... they use the owner's secret recipe and put a little brown gravy on top. It's historic because it was owned by the Polar Ice Company, now named Home City Ice.

Overall: This place was pretty good and I’ll definitely come back for more and I would recommend that you do as well. Give it a try, it might become one of your favorite spots in town.
Historic Steer in on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

El Rodeo

Do you ever just feel like doing what you want to do and then doing it? That’s how I’ve felt lately when it comes to writing about some of my favorite places to eat.

Some people don’t get into this type of thing, but I do, and a lot of people I know do as well.

That’s a waste of time…
You’re going to get fatter doing that…
It’s just not healthy…
You’re going to spend too much money!

All of the feelings these comments give me dissolve when I get to tell people publicly how much I love a certain restaurant and how much they’re gonna love it too.

On some of the blogs and reviews I’ve been reading, people get really critical of certain places and they seem like they’re really not enjoying themselves. That’s not the approach I’m going for. Most, if not all establishments, have positive attributes about them. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t still be open. I’ll let the market decide whether a place should keep it’s doors open or not. That not my job, or passion. I want to tell people how great places are and reasons to enjoy going to them.

Today I went out to lunch. I wasn’t planning on doing it and my wife and I even talked about all the reasons I shouldn’t go out and why I should come home for lunch. Have you ever had this discussion? Well, guess what? It didn’t work out as planned.

It was amazing! The stars aligned, paths crossed and one of my favorite lunch-time eateries had such a strong gravitational pull that I couldn’t break loose. I started digging in my pockets for dollars and loose change. I was getting close… I had four dollars. I thought to myself, “That’s not enough for a tip.” Look in the ashtray… another five dollars! I’m all set for one of the best cheap lunch specials in town. I’m going to El Rodeo in Speedway.

I may sound crazy, because a lot of people say they don’t like this place very much, but to me, it’s some of the best cheap food I’ve ever had.

$3.99 Special!!! Let me say it again… $3.99 Special!!!

It’s hard to get out of a fast food restaurant for that price and this stuff is made by hand with loving care by some of the best guys and gals from South of the border. Fresh salsa, great chips, flavorful ingredients – and they’re service is lightning-fast too. More times than not, the salsa is pretty spicy... that's a good thing in my book. El Rodeo has got handling a busy lunch down to a science. The place starts getting packed shortly after 11 a.m. and it’s still full at 1 a.m. Even during the busiest rush, the service doesn’t suffer.

Today was no different. I got there at 12:30 p.m. and the place was packed, but I still got seated right away at a nice little table close to the big screen TV. Watching TV isn’t why I came here, but catching ESPN in the early afternoon never hurt anyone.

The look of the place has really changed in the last couple of years. They have all new murals painted on the walls of tough looking Mexican bull riders and their hot little Latin maidens. The place is just downright cool. And the outdoor seating… I didn’t even tell you about that. It’s huge, with wrought iron tables and colorful umbrellas. There’s so much foliage around that it feels like a tropical oasis.

Enough of the environment… Let’s get to the food. I usually come on Wednesday’s or Thursday’s. This being a Wednesday, #5 was the lunch special. $3.99! I always go for the chicken, so the lunch came with a chicken taco, a chicken burrito, and a side of Spanish rice. The plates are always filled up and covered in creamy Mexican cheese. Awesome!

Each table has a selection of hot sauces based on taste and they help accentuate the great flavors in the food. If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m in love with this place and you might be too, if you give it a shot. I try to come here every week or so. I wouldn't want to eat here more frequently than that, or I might get a little pudgy around the middle. (That's a joke for those of you who know me; I'm "portly-wide.")

Atmosphere: Nice, clean and relaxing even during the lunch rush.
Service: Extraordinary... really. They need to sell their system of service to other restaurants. The servers are always friendly and they get your food out in a flash. That's a huge plus if you're trying to grab a fast lunch.
Overall: Good, inexpensive food that tastes great and will fill you up.
Special Note: I didn't take many pictures because I feel like I need to respect the place. I've been eating here since before my kids were born. I love it and I'm looking forward to many more years of belly-filling experiences here. Enjoy!

El Rodeo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Urban Element Cafe & Lounge

Urban Element for Lunch!
 9th and Pennsylvania

This place has been around for a few years now and has really made an impact on the restaurant seen in the area around where I work. In fact, a couple of months ago, the owner, Steve, opened up a new location a few blocks away at the corner of Alabama and Massachusetts Ave. My wife and I went there the other day and it’s first class… but that’s for another review.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting forever to write a review about this place. My coworkers and I come here all the time for great “lunch-grub.” Check it out.

Today we came in about 12:30 p.m., so the lunch crowd was in full swing. There was some cool Jazz and Bossa Nova music on the stereo and it felt great to get in from the sweltering heat.

For a small restaurant, Urban Element has quite an extensive menu. Here’s their Chalk Board Menu above the counter and then a copy of their lunch menu.

Looks pretty good, Huh?

My friend Solomon and I ordered and were given a number, so the servers could bring us our food when it was ready.

We got our drinks and our orders were out within 10 minutes.
I ordered one of my favorite burgers today…
the Black and Bleu burger with fries.

The burgers always satisfy here. They have a charred and crispy edge to them and the toppings and cheeses always bring out a great flavor in the beef.

Solomon ordered a hamburger with cheddar cheese, mustard and ketchup. He said he loves their burgers because, “It's like eating a meatloaf.”

Needless to say, we didn't have any problem finishing our meals...

The place has a nice atmosphere, and a busy lunch crowd.
There’s a beer and wine selection as well.
Before we left to go back to the office, I picked up a piece of h
omemade strawberry cake for dessert. Take a look at this…

Special Remarks: The owner really caters to the Indy scene. He recently replaced the flooring with all hard wood, so on the weekends people can come for dancing. Every time I'm there I see a flyer advertising new acts in town. We have yet to go visit on a Friday or Saturday night, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll let you know what happens.

Urban Element Cafe & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 21, 2010

La Piedad

Eating OUT!
So, it’s been about two years since I’ve posted on my blog. I’ve been getting kind of inspired by reading a lot of other blogs lately and decided to take the kids out tonight and then post the results. This won’t be as stream-lined as some of the other blogs I’ve been looking at, but maybe after a while I’ll get the hang of it.
So, here goes… I read about this place on a food blog last night called, so the kids and I decided to check it out tonight.
When we arrived, the sun was beating down on us, but the covered patio seemed pretty cool, so we sat outside. We were quickly greeted by two servers working the patio. The kids got water and I got a Negra Modelo.
It tasted great going down and it was the first time I’ve had lime in one. I usually just have lime in Corona.
The chips and salsa came out shortly. Nothing to scream about, but it kept the kids busy while I sat back and enjoyed my beer.
The waiter quickly took my order and the food was out in a flash.
This dish is the Pollo La Piedad. I think it's one of the house specials. It tasted great and was very hot. Not spicy, but HOT!! When the server brought it out to the table it was bubbling like crazy. The dish consists of sliced chicken breast smothered in molten hot cheese. It was quite tasty with three flour tortillas, Spanish rice, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce and pico de gallo. Every thing tasted fresh and hot. Much better that most of the inexpensive Mexican restaurants I’ve been to.
They had a pretty good kids menu with quite a few selections. The kids had a quesadilla meal with fries.
The price was great too… under twenty dollars. That’s what I call, “I’m alone with the kids and we’re going out to eat for cheap.” It even included a beer.
Overall, I’d come back here anytime. I especially like going for a walk through Broad Ripple after dinner. Ice cream anyone?
La Piedad on Urbanspoon