Tag Archives: non smoking

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

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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

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Divvy

20 Dec

Divvy’s tagline of “sip, share, savor” sums up the restaurant perfectly. A birthday celebration was the perfect opportunity for a group of us to sip some drinks, share plates and conversation, and savor each morsel that we put in our mouths. Divvy was, unknowingly to us, exactly what we needed. We had delicious food, reasonable drinks, and a very relaxed yet modern atmosphere all wrapped up in one. Recently opening in Carmel’s City Centre, Divvy is one of the new restaurants in the Carmel area. I was excited to learn of a new small plate restaurant so close to home, but I’m even more excited now that we discovered the restaurant has some fantastic food.

Before the food, we began with drinks. Beer tasters are a mere $5, getting you small pours of three drafts. I would say approximately 12 oz. total to sip on. The only draw back is there are a limited six drafts to choose from. There are more bottles, but they are not available in taster portions. There are also wine tasters, plus evolving wines. The evolving wines are bottles that are purchased by a case. Once that case is gone, they get something different to try, thus always evolving around tastes of something new. One red, one white. I settled on a taster of sparkling wines, a ‘bubble tasters tour’ of prosecco, dry rose and black bubbles. I had never enjoyed a glass of black sparkling wine, but it was delicious. A red wine with carbonation, something a little different. Great conversations during our sipping, we also met the owner, Kevin aka “Woody”. Makes sense he would have another great restaurant (if you haven’t tried Woody’s library for brunch, go soon.)

The plates came out around four at a time, but it was a good spacing for the eight of us to enjoy a bite and prep for another. The first round of food included the following (starting top left, working clockwise):

  • Fried Olives – stuffed with chorizo, the briney green olive taste overpowered the meat. But, if you pulled out the chorizo and noshed on that just a bit before the olive, it was a great combination. Salty for sure, but delish.
  • Bruleed Brie – warm and creamy brie was slightly charred. Creaminess was great with the subtly sweet cranberry/cherry chutney. Didn’t notice the cracker too much, but liked the tartness of the green apple. All great flavors – was my second favorite of the first round.
  • Edamame hummus – creamy with crispness of freshly fried wontons. Liked the play on the standard dip.
  • Fried goat cheese – a staple of any small plates, this was my first round favorite. Perfectly fried, the goat cheese and balsamic reduction were great together. I liked the simple tomato sauce – a nice rustic flavor that freshened the fried cheese.
  • Feta Dip – loved the creamy texture mixed with the crisp cucumber topping. And the smokey flavor of the bread gave good depth to the starter.
  • Fried cream cheese sticks – simple and crisp. The wonton shell overpowered the cream cheese for me, but other people at the table loved them. I was more of a fan of the sauce, a sweet slightly spicy chili sauce.
  • Cornbread muffins – I don’t believe they were the star of the description, and they weren’t the star of the dish either. Two sauces, one being melted butter and the other a chipotle jelly, weren’t big in flavor. I would skip this next time and order more corn brulee (it’s coming up…)

Round two were more ‘substantial’ items rather than starter plates of our first round:

  • Corn Creme Brulee – this is a MUST order. Delicious in every way. Creamy cheese base with nuggets of corn kernels and a slight spice of jalapenos. Everything was perfectly combined, and with the slightly crunch on top, I was in heaven. Hands down, best dish of the night.
  • Sweet potato fries – a basic, double fried sweet potato fry. Standard, but good. The kicker here was the maple bourbon sauce served with the fries – like a savory dessert.
  • Eggplant – similar to the goat cheese, all the same accompaniments but swapping cheese for vegetables. I like how they were simply grilled to capture the fresh taste.
  • Potato chips – homemade and fried to a light golden color, the onion dip was a classic touch.
  • Pineapple & Jalapenos – simple as it sounds, a mix of sweet with a lot of spicy, the chile mango sauce that it was served with didn’t really change too much of the flavor.

And round two continued with…

  • Scallops – buttery and smooth scallops with a slight crunch of breadcrumbs, it made me want to try more of the seafood options. Next time…
  • Bacon jam – yes, bacon jam. Combing the smokey, rich jam with the slightly spicy horseradish mustard on top of a pretzel roll. The rolls were a little dry, but the jam really was good.
  • Andouille Sausage – spiced sausage on a bed of nutty pecans (great texture combo) and a tart apple butter were a perfect combination of flavors.
  • Bacon steak – a fatty piece of meat in a blackberry barbecue flavor gave a sweet taste to what could have been heavy dish. The leeks didn’t add too much for me, and many people at our table didn’t enjoy the overall texture. But this girl likes her pork belly.

And of course, as we continue to share our savory dishes, we had to have a little sweetness to end the night.

  • Dessert nachos – cinnamon tortilla chips with a rich chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Hubs though the strawberries in a simple sugar sauce made the whole dish. To me, it wasn’t anything insanely creative, but the ingredients were all very good.
  • Blondie – loved the crunchy pecans with the soft, cooked bananas.
  • Brownie – rich, the strawberries definitely lightened the dish.
  • S’mores – my favorite of all the desserts, it was everything an adult loves of the childhood favorite. Slightly charred homemade marshmallows on top of chocolate and graham bottom – perfect.
  • Banana split – another shareable dessert (the nachos were too), it was the expectant flavors of a banana split. Nothing extraordinary, but still delicious with every bite.
  • Frozen mousse – chocolate mouse, creamy inside a slightly crunchy crust of frozen ice cream. It was divine, my second favorite, especially with the salted caramel and peanut butter sauce.

Service was good, but I really liked how interested our hostess was interested in our meal. She kept seeing what we ordered and asking how things were – more so than our server. She showed a vested interest in the food, and was excited we were able to try it. I also liked how Woody was walking around, seeing how things were going in the restaurant. The feel was clean and modern. The establishment is 21 and over without smoking – something I like but rarely find.

The only thing missing out of the night was a piece of communication. If you have a large party, note they will add 20% gratuity. It doesn’t say anywhere, which I wish it would have. Not that it would have changed anything, but it was a slight surprise at the end of the meal. Speaking of pricing, everything was reasonable, especially for a small plate restaurant. A beer flight, another draft beer, flight of sparkling wine, four small plates and a shareable dessert set us back about $60 pre tax and added gratuity.

Everything about divvy fit the tagline. We sipped, we shared, and my stomach is still happy from all the savoring. There were a few tastes I wouldn’t get again, but there are a few that I would definitely (again, the cream corn brulee is a MUST!) order again. And these plates were only a small taste of everything divvy has to offer. I can’t wait to get back and continue to sample the menu. I barely got to taste any of the seafood, and there was some poultry that I also must try.

Has anyone else dined here yet? I am interested to what everyone else ordered and tasted as there is so much more to this large menu of flavor.

divvy * 71 w. City Center Drive * Carmel, 46032 * 317.706.0000

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