Friday, February 27, 2009

Rock Bottom - Mmmm Beer

Between the chain breweries that call Indy home, I had always favored the brew at The RAM. Although, ever since Rock Bottom installed their new location on the northwest side of Indy, I have been going there a lot more often and sampling a lot more of their beer, especially the varying seasonal selections. I have always been a fan of different Ales and IPAs and tonight I had one that blew my mind.

Liz Laughlin, the head brewmaster for the northwest side location, has created something truly special in the Velvet Ale. I don't know how long it will be on the menu, but I already have plans to go back for more of this great cask ale in the near future. One sip will tell you where the name comes from. The texture is just as the name describes. There is a great balance between the sweet and bitter flavors in this beer. The hoppiness moves near IPA territory. This beer was so good I barely remember the meal.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taqueria! - El Taco Torro

This is going to be my first entry in a series called Taqueria!

I will be exploring Indys' many fine taquerias and reporting back.

Let me start off by saying I love Mexican food. I like it authentic and I understand that people have different ideas of authentic in this city. What I mean is that I like it down and dirty, street food style. If there is anything on the menu other than tacos, burritos and tortas it better have names like menudo, cabeza and nopalitos. And I actually want to have a hard time having a conversation in English with whoever is behind the counter.

I am a big fan of the small taquerias that have been popping up all over Indy for the last 10 years. I will admit that sometimes you need to be a little cautious with some of these places aka some of them are dirty as hell.

I stopped into El Taco Torro yesterday for lunch craving some tacos de tripas. If you actually clicked my hot little link back there you might currently be getting sick right now, but let me tell you, this is like bacon stuffed with foie gras. Shoved into a corn tortilla with onions, cilantro and a nice squeeze of lime juice and this is possibly one of my favorite food discoveries of the last few years.

El Taco Torro also offers up all the standard fare that you would expect in a taqueria: burritos, tortas, pollo azado(roasted chicken). They also have a menu of soups and other treats depending on the day, but they keep it pretty simple.

This place may not be for the faint of heart though
, it is not a polished restaurant. This place is mainly for the Latino population in this area to stop and have a familiar meal. There is salsa in styrofoam bowls just hanging out on the counter along with an array of pickled veggies for topping your tacos. The counter wasn't very clean, but I showed up just after a lunch rush. The young grill man behind the counter was very nice and spoke broken English, he also cooked my tripas very nicely. You may need some basic Spanish to interact, but not much. And that is just how I like it!!

El Taco Torro apparently doesnt operate a website, but you can find them right next to their mothership, Carniceria Mi Mexico, at the corner of 79th and Michigan Rd. (7853 N. Michigan Rd)

*I suggest taking cash as they have been very confused by my Visa on two occasions and had to bring someone from the grocery next door to operate the credit card contraption.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chain City - a trip to BBQ Hell

I like to cook, I like the process and I respect those who do it every day as their trade. My late-blooming interest in cooking has also led me to have a love/hate relationship with the chain restaurants that overpopulate the Indianapolis dining landscape. I remember a recent Indianapolis Monthly (a great supporter of local kitchens) article on the issue. While at the same time reporting on the ridiculous ratio of chains to persons, they actually seemed to be promoting the array of chains that can be found in our city.

Some days I can't imagine a better treat than a JBC, fries and a fountain Coke from Wendy's. I think we all have a early learned, deeply ingrained connection to some type of fast food. The places I cant stand though are the O'Charley's, Friday's and Applebee's of the world. Just the fact that I just had to type that many apostrophes and esses has me pissed of right now. Then on the other hand are the "luxury chains". Ruth's Chris, Oceannaire and McCormick and Schmick's that do a wonderful job (most of the time) of carefully crafting their signature dishes for the masses.

Whenever my parents call and ask if I have plans for dinner I can almost bet on hitting a friendly neighborhood chain. Well, Mom called the other night...

This brings me to a recent trip to a new player in the Indianapolis market, Famous Dave's. There is one just around the corner from me. I have had the food before, a few times, but only in carry-out format that family had ordered. I had a decent impression of their food from these early experiences. Average, bland sauce for taste buds of any age and the meat (pork) was tender but slightly dry. I guess that's what all the sauce was for...

Having already sampled their average BBQ. I decided to order the Shrimp Po' Boy from the Shrimp Extravaganza! special menu. I actually enjoyed the Po' Boy, the shrimp was crispy and not overdone and their remoulade sauce was pretty good if a little too sweet. I did remove the mountain of fried onion strips that were also on this massive sandwich. I didnt need that much more breading considering it was served atop a ciabatta bun that would have been 4 inches thick without the shrimp and other fillings!!

Honestly, I think everyone enjoyed their meals for the most part. My girlfriend ordered the half BBQ chicken and the bit I had of it was very tasty and moist. My parents enjoyed their assorted pulled meats as well. On a slightly ironic note, my absolute favorite part of the meal was the cornbread that comes with every dish, awesome!

The worst part was the atmosphere. I was not prepared for the circus inside. Ridiculous cartoon paintings of pigs and fire adorned nearly every open space that wasn't already covered by some trite "vintage" metal sign or random photo of a fat guy standing next to a smoker in his backyard. I wish that fat guy was the one who was supplying the food!
And the dining room was packed with loud kids and a 30 foot-long table that had a group celebrating a birthday, it was 7pm on a Sunday night though, so what should I have expected? I must add that our server Hung was awesome!

Lesson learned: Not all chain food is awful, but Famous Dave's idea of a fun, family place is way off the mark and slightly insulting. I could have gotten a better meal from a local joint without the circus and for a better price.

Local place I would have gone instead: Hoghead's BBQ in Broad Ripple

sorry for the long read, Im new at this blog thing...

and so it begins...

I wanted to create a place where I can talk about all the great (and sometimes awful) places I eat.
I might go off on tangents at times but it will always be about my hometown, the city I love, Indianapolis.