Tag Archives: Family Friendly

Grille 39

19 Apr

Located in the Renaissance Indianapolis hotel on North Meridian, Grille 39 may be ignored because it is a hotel restaurant. Usually, if you live in the area, you don’t visit hotels thus ignoring the restaurants within. As someone who travels for work, I have no problem with many hotel restaurants. In this case, I was looking forward to the atmosphere that blended well with the Renaissance feel of earthly elements. Together, the two fit nicely, and I was impressed with the overall experience of the restaurant that evening.

We had Easter brunch at the hotel the previous weekend and had been invited to return for the Grille 39 experience. We dined at the restaurant on a Friday evening, around 7 p.m., and I wasn’t surprised to see many open tables due to it being a hotel restaurant. However, once you are seated you may even forget you were in a hotel lobby. The decor is rich in colors: burnt orange, dark yet brilliant blues. The seating was comfortable as we were sat near the fire for the evening. We were quickly seated and met by our server who was pleasant and informative throughout the evening. She explained the weekly specials and a few of her favorites after we placed our drink orders. With a smile, she delivered our drinks and we relaxed with images of a delicious meal in our heads.

Our appetizer were the bleu cheese potato chips. We had been looking at few other items but I just couldn’t resist a bleu cheese fondue and crispy, homemade potato chips. They were quick to be delivered and we immediately started crunching away. The potato chips were crisp with a heavier weight and flavorful with each bite as they were seasoned with something more than your typical salt and pepper. They were great on their own, but I really did enjoy the creamy and decadent bleu cheese fondue all over the chips. It wasn’t sharp like I imagined it to be, but still rich in flavor. Bleu cheese crumbles gave it the subtle sharpness that I was expecting. I liked the contrast of creamy and crunchy. It was also quite a large portion as we didn’t finish knowing we had a good meal ahead. But even with that being said, we also were given a basket of their breads. I had a nibble (okay, a whole slice) of their toasted cinnamon bread. It may have had some raisin components, but it was dried and delicious. Imagine taking a loaf of cinnamon bread and slicing it incredibly thin and drying it out. That’s what you got, but the flavor is so intense that it was a sweet treat for the beginning of the meal.

Hubs had ordered the sea bass for his dinner, grilled in cooking style. This 10 oz. piece of fish looked much bigger than we both imagined (and it warmed up great the next day for the two of us to split I might add). It doesn’t look like the classically grilled piece of fish we both imagined. We believe it was cooked in their infra-red broiler like their steaks. Despite this dish being bland in presentation color (that was due to the side items hubs selected), the fish wasn’t even close to being bland in flavor. It was cooked perfectly and had such moisture locked in the slightly crunch crust. It was a really great piece of fish, leaving us both wondering when the last time was that we had fish that great. He had also ordered it Oscar style. The subtle sweetness of the lump crab was great with the creamy richness of the hollandaise. The best bite included the fish, crab, risotto and hollandaise. His two sides were a potato au gratin (will explain later) and a Parmesan risotto. The risotto was a little too creamy for me (I know, it’s cheese risotto) and monotone in flavor. But hubs really enjoyed it and thought I was crazy for thinking that. I personally think I just wasn’t in the mood for risotto, because the next day it tasted pretty good as leftovers.

I enjoyed a steak dinner – something I normally never order out. But our server informed us that they sell more steaks than anything else so I couldn’t resist to see why. I ordered the ribeye (once again, completely out of character for me) to see how their infra-red broiler would work with the marble of fat and meat. I ordered it medium rare and what I got was spot on. One of the best cooked steaks I have ever ordered out, it had a beautiful sear locking in all the juices and resting to the perfect temperature that I had ordered. The crust was created through high heat and a house bast wad used to create a great flavor component. Olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, and black olives created a tapenade type of topping for the steak. A steak purist might baulk at this, but I thought it added such a great and unique flavor to every bite. Like the fish, the steak also came with a sauce on the side. I ordered the bernaise, a classic egg and butter sauce, but didn’t really eat it as the steak was so flavorful on it’s own. But I do have to mention the bearnaise was made very well. My sides were grilled asparagus, delightfully crisp and tender at the same time, and the potato au gratin. The au gratin looked great, loaded with four different types of cheese, but when eating it I was left wanting something else. I couldn’t help but see it prepared in a large pan and refrigerated, cooked and then cut into portions before being reheated. I’m sure that wasn’t the case (though I didn’t ask how it was prepared) but there was nothing to rave about. The flavors of four cheeses was underwhelming as cheddar was the main taste. It didn’t seem like it was cooked all the way through either, too dense in texture. The steak was clearly the winner of my meal as it was absolutely delicious.

I left surprised. I couldn’t help it. Even as one who isn’t against hotel restaurants, I wasn’t expecting the really great meal that hubs and I had. The prices seemed a little high (steak was mid-$30′s, as was the fish) but a few other items seemed standard. There was an ahi tuna burger that I was tempted to try and would have if it had been lunch. I could easily see having a drink and some appetizers and progressing into a casual dinner. I liked the environment, I really enjoyed the food, and with company like I had, you can’t go wrong on a Friday night date.

Note: the meal was compliments of Grille 39, but the opinions are honest and entirely my own.

Grille 39 * 11925 north meridian (renaissance hotel) * carmel, 46032 * 317.814.2550

Grille 39 (Marriott) on Urbanspoon

Toppers Pizza

12 Apr

Hubs and I took it easy this past weekend by watching a lot of Downton Abbey and Mad Men. During the marathons, we had to eat. Found ourselves needing food late Saturday evening and hubs gave me the option to pick (I know, we were real exciting on that Saturday night). I decided that we should try the newly opened Toppers Pizza. The national chain from Champaign, IL, recently opened on North Meridian Street. I figured it was time to give it a go and this evening provided the perfect opportunity.

For about $30 prior to tip, we prdered and received a 12 inch pizza, cheese breadsticks, 6 buffalo wings and a 2 liter of soda. I wanted to try a variety, so that is what we got. I had ordered online and really got to peruse the menu before placing the order. I was impressed with the selection, but confused with one item: quesadillas. Yup, the pizza place sells quesadillas. I have to wonder how they are, considering that if I wanted a quesadilla, I wouldn’t think of ordering it from a pizza place. There has to to be a story behind that…anyone know anything?

Anyway, I digress. Let’s begin with the buffalo wings. There is the option to order boneless or wings. I assumed the boneless were just frozen nuggets of chicken (don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet spot for those things), so I decided to try the bone-in. I was really excited, so I’m sad to say I really disliked them. A lot. I couldn’t get over how mushy they were due to the breading being soft. They had been baked, but it seemed like they could have been baked longer. We had ordered buffalo, and though I anticipated the spicy flavor I adore, I didn’t get any of that. I barely ate one and would stay clear next time. Hubs on the other hand thought they were what one should expect from delivered wings. I just wanted something of higher standards – he thinks maybe it would be better at the restaurant. I raise my eyebrow at that and we agree to disagree.

As for the pizza, I was slightly disappointed here too. We ordered the hand tossed and though the crust was good, it overwhelmed each bite leaving me wanting more toppings and sauce. As you can tell by the photo, it seemed like all the toppings migrated to the middle and stayed put. The sauce was just there and didn’t stand out by any means. I did like the sausage as it had good flavor, seasoned well with being hand pulled rather than frozen sausage. The pepperoni was standard and the mushrooms barely there. I would have liked more mushrooms (and all other toppings to be dispersed better) and for their flavor to be fresh and more apparent with each bite. I would order it again, but next time I’ll go with thin crust and look at one of their specialty pizzas, like the taco. I felt like I missed out on ordering this pizza, like I knew there was something better and I just picked the wrong one.

The main reason I’ll return to Toppers? Those cheesy breadsticks. I loved every single bite of them. The bread wasn’t soaked in grease, but you knew you weren’t eating healthy with the heavy dose of cheese and garlic butter soaked into every bite. Despite the photo and appearance of grease, it wasn’t soggy by any means. I don’t go for bread sticks that are limp because they are soaked with butter. These had substance and stood on their own with each savory bite. I’d like to point out we got the original, but you can get triple cheese as an option. I can’t imagine what the cheese is like on those, because I had plenty of ooey goodness with each bite. And the nacho cheese, which we ordered on the side for $.75 I believe, wasn’t necessary as they really stood on their own.

Overall, the price seemed a little high for the buffalo wings, but everything else was standard. I’d probably pick up next time to avoid the delivery charge and stay clear of the buffalo wings. Who else has been there? What are your thoughts, and would you order again?

Toppers * 12545 N. Meridian St. * Carmel, 46032 * 317.569.6031

Toppers Pizza on Urbanspoon

Big Mike’s Cafe Americana

5 Apr

I see Big Mike’s many times on the weekend when I’m driving home from working weekend events. I always pass it at 1 a.m. after the weddings I’m working and think “I wonder what the place is like?” This past weekend, hubs and I were gearing up to go run a few errands, but our stomachs reminded us food is good. And usually, food comes first. We have these diner cards and saw Big Mike’s was in the pack, so we agreed to give it a go.

The outside doesn’t seem very inviting or anything special. Big Mike’s is located in a strip mall adorned with wooden boards on the exterior on College near 96th Street. It looks slightly run down and unwelcoming, with a few tables outside that were not prepped for the nice weather (I clearly do NOT hold this against them though – this weather is odd!) Upon walking in, we were slightly confused on what to do as it seems like you would order at the counter and then grab a seat. Instead the server/host present greeted us warmly from behind the cash register and enthusiastically ushered us to a seat. At noon, the restaurant was empty which explained his enthusiasm. We grabbed a corner booth and took in the atmosphere. It is quite plain inside, full of tables and booths for guests. As mentioned, when you walk in there is a counter straight ahead across the room. One can’t help but walk towards it, so I wonder how the flow is when the restaurant is busy. Nothing special in the decor, so I was hoping that the food would help the mood.

We began with an order of garlic knots. Nothing beats bread dipped in delicious garlic butter. These knots were delivered quickly (which was good – we were the only ones there after all) and were piping hot. At first, I thought they were straight up fried. But, after a few bites I came to the conclusion that they could have been partially baked and then finished in the fryer. They were extremely tender and perfectly cooked on the inside, but had a slightly crisp exterior giving them that crunch. They were swimming in butter and covered in Parmesan cheese, It may have been the bottle shaker cheese and didn’t add too much. But don’t let that lead you to believe I didn’t like this, cause I did. They were good, but very rarely do I think bread is bad, especially when baked/fried and dipped in a side of ranch or nacho sauce. They were slightly greasy, a little messy, but that is what happens when you fry your lunch. We opted to add on a side of ranch and nacho cheese, though marinara does come with the knots.

For our meals, hubs ordered the Chicago sandwich. From where I was sitting, it looked quite messy with a huge portion of roast beef, sausage and mozzarella. Hubs comment on the sandwich was ‘it’s okay.’ The sandwich looked good so I had to grab a bite. But he was right, there really wasn’t anything spectacular about the sandwich. The bread was great, but the bite that I had was pretty much all Italian rope sausage. The sausage was part of the upgraded ‘Minchman’ combo consisting of the addition of Italian rope sausage and mozzarella. Was the extra dollar for the upgrade worth it? He shrugged his shoulders and I nodded in agreement – not really. He did eat all the fries – average, but they were hot and crispy.

I decided to try the tenderloin which is given 5 stars by the Tenderloin Connoisseur.  Clearly the tenderloin was hand pounded and breaded – no frozen tenderloin here. The meat was tender and flavorful, the breading slightly salty from being fried and crispy all around. I really enjoyed the pork flavor, clean and not muddles with the fried outer shell as it only complimented each bite. I heard about the pretzel roll and was anxious to see it for myself. I was little taken back as the pretzel roll as maybe 1/3 of the size of the tenderloin, though I did enjoy the pretzel bun versus a regular bun. It seemed fresh as it was soft with a slight crunch on the exterior. It was slightly sweet too like a pretzel normally would be. Only set back is that the pretzel roll made it that much more filling. A little too carby for me and I (at times) had trouble concentrating on the tenderloins flavor.  I was surprised that the flavor combination worked though and would easily order it again as my tummy was quite full with leftover tenderloin on the plate.

As mentioned, we had one of dining cards with us so we had to spend $30 for the meal to receive $10 off. I would have normally boycotted spending $3 on a side of ranch and nacho sauce ($1.50 a piece), but knowing that we needed to spend all $30 prior to tax/tip, we were okay with it. Our sodas and sandwiches on top of that got us to $30.75 before tax and gratuity. It seemed a bit more expensive than what I expected. But the breakfast buffet (which we obviously didn’t get) seemed like quite a deal if you were hungry. Our server, who stayed enthusiastic (maybe too much) the whole time, explained the breakfast well. You are given a list of potentials to order, and they cook it as ordered, as much as you want. So if you are hungry and looking for a buffet with a to-order twist, I would say give Big Mike’s a try.

Anyone else been? What were your thoughts on the atmosphere and food? I’d definitely give it a go again, though I do wish the outdoor seating would be ramped up just a bit. I’m a sucker for al fresco after all.

Big Mike’s Cafe Americana * 9611 N. College Ave * Carmel, 46280 * 317-571-1000

Big Mike's Cafe Americana on Urbanspoon

Wolfies Grill

30 Mar

Two friends had made their way to Wolfies and as they dined, they texted and said “it reminds me of your homeland!” So when hubs and I were out running errands, we decided to get to give it a try and see if it had some Wisconsin love in both atmosphere and food. We had noticed it another time when doing a few errands in the area, but it wasn’t open at that point. Tucked back in the shopping area of 116th Street and Keystone, you may need to weave a bit through the streets to give it a try.It looked liked a Northwoods type of atmosphere from outside – so far, it fit the description.

When we made our way inside, we entered into the main dining room area. Set with many tables, including low and high bar tables and televisions all over with a long bar on one end, it was cozy and comfortable. Dark, wood interior and forest green in color, the rich color palate made it even more comfortable with the woodsy feel of a lake house or log cabin. There was also a side room with a fireplace and a lot of comfortable seating. A great place to sit and relax after a long day.

We were immediately sat as the restaurant was not busy at all. I was glad to see the service was quick and attentive because of this. Our server greeted us with a smile and reviewed the menu as we expressed it was our first time. We ordered a drink and a few items to sink our teeth into. I was jonesing for nachos – it is my weakness – so I knew we were going to order them if they were on the menu. And yes, they have nachos, but not any type of nachos. Buffalo chicken nachos. Even as I write this, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about them. I was really excited, but I wasn’t blown away. The chips were covered with buffalo sauce and chunks of chicken. Though there could have been more chicken, there was plenty of lettuce and tomatoes, all of good standard, and this ranch sauce drizzled over the top. I’m a bleu cheese girl when it comes to my buffalo, so maybe to have that melted in with the cheddar would have gotten me to love these. Some chips were crispy, others not so much as they soaked in the buffalo. I’m still indifferent on these, but I’d probably order them again to give it another go as I l0ve the concept.

When hubs see pretzel, he’s sold. He quickly decided that a few more appetizers would round out his meal as the pretzel breadsticks were calling his name something fierce. They were doughy, soft and tender on the inside, but subtly had that crisp pull on the exterior. They had a great flavor too, and with the queso,  it was a match made in heaven. I couldn’t help but dip them in a little ranch too (yes, I stole one despite hubs hungry eyes) and enjoyed every bite. The wings he ordered, hot in flavor, were absolutely delicious. The hotness factor could have been amped up as they weren’t really spicy, but the crispy fried chicken crunched as your teeth sunk into the tender meat. I love wings when you can really taste the chicken and the sauce just gives it a little boost. I would definitely order the wings again, though with bleu cheese dressing rather than the ranch served with it.

I ordered the bacon blue chicken sandwich. Crispy bacon, lots of pungent bleu cheese and a good cut of chicken, it was a large sandwich. From all of the appetizers, I really only took two bites and saved it for dinner that night (it heated well – sans veggie and bun of course). The chicken was grilled, leaving a little too many charred bites. But the chicken itself was extremely tender and  I liked the classic combination of bleu cheese and bacon. A Caesar dressing mayo was applied generously to the hearty bun and added a nice flair to the sandwich that I wasn’t anticipating. And with that said, ignore the menu description of the mayo as it is a misprint. As for my side, our server recommended the mac and cheese, so I took her up on it. I was happy to see it was baked with a crisp topping but still creamy, cheesy and decadent. Nothing outside of a box, it was clearly homemade and seasoned correctly (sometimes mac can be too salty, just my opinion, due to the overload of cheese). It was a nice substitute for the regular fries. It was quite a large side though, which is another reason I didn’t eat the sandwich.

We clearly ate too much, despite not finishing anything on the table. But the food was good, the atmosphere homey and comfortable, and the service friendly. As mentioned, there wasn’t a lot of people in the restaurant, so staff were chatting more openly than I think they would with one another on a regular day, though this didn’t bother me. The televisions were great around the restaurant – lots to see from many angles – and there is plenty of room in the restaurant. On a busy night, it could potentially get really loud though. Pricing was reasonable and average as our final bill came to $43 before tax and tip. This also included a soda and 16oz Alpha King beer.

There are locations in Fishers and Noblesville too. I would assume the environment and food is similar, but can’t be certain on that. They clearly took the same menus as the Carmel menu says “Coming soon to Carmel”, so those could probably be updated. But I enjoyed our luncheon and would head back for a casual evening. Who else has been? What are your thoughts?

Wolfies Grill * 1162 Keystone Way * Carmel, 46032 * 317.844.9070

Wolfies Grill on Urbanspoon