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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

Yo Joy Frozen Yogurt

8 Mar

I’ve noticed that some of the sweet trends that overwhelm Indy catch on within a delayed time. For instance, the cupcake craze was wild on the coasts, but Indy took off a few years later. The same thing is happening with frozen yogurt. I’m okay with this because it just builds the desire to find some sweet treats in the city. I crave sweet treats like the next person, and I’m a big fan of frozen yogurt, so I’m happy the FroYo craze is here. I live by a few, and I’m happy that I now work by one too.

Yo Joy is a great third space area with free WiFi available, comfy seating, and a clean and clear atmosphere for your working (or playing) pleasure.I liked the lime green color paired with white – it was playful but not overwhelming where you wouldn’t be able to function in the space.

Not only do they serve quite a collection of frozen yogurt, but you also have a bar of toppings to choose from. Not sure what you want? Well, they even have a ‘menu’ that helps gets your creative mind in place to build your own masterpiece.

Another great tip – happy hour. I had discovered a while back that an alcoholic happy hour doesn’t exist in this state, but I’m happy to report that a frozen yogurt happy hour does. Yo Joy has 50% off between 1-3pm. The perfect time for a dessert or mid-day snack at work with your friendly co-workers. We will now reference our snack choice with a “want to go to happy hour?” and our boss will be perfectly fine with that at 2pm on a Monday.

Yo Joy Frozen Yogurt * 9873 N. Michigan Rd. * Carmel, 46032 * 317.405.8459

Taste of Carmel – Recap (Special Event)

6 Mar

I hope some of you were able to make it out to the Taste of Carmel event this past Thursday evening at the Ritz Charles. For those who weren’t able to join us, you missed out on a tasty, and completely reasonably priced, evening. Even without the deal that was promoted, $25 allowed a guest to enjoy over 40 restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries. I meandered my way through the crowd with hubs and two friends as we filled our stomachs with some great food and drink.

We didn’t get to try everything. A few things I easily passed because I knew what exactly what I would get, like Jet’s pizza. Not that it was necessarily bad, but I just knew what I would be getting from the bite (or in that case, the whole slice of pepperoni pizza). The portions weren’t small either: full sliders, half an enchilada, half glasses of wine. Even if you wanted to go back and get more, there was plenty for you to nibble on.

Here is a recap of a few of the things we ate:

The best thing of the evening was from a new found favorite, The Local. A crisp beet chip with the sharpness of bleu cheese finishing the bite; a tortilla chip with tender, rare sirloin and spicy serrano pepper bringing the bite all together; and a bite of salmon with creme fraiche (though this was a bit lackluster). That beet chip was so fantastic: crisp and creamy, earthy yet sharp. It was a great bite that the whole crew agreed upon.

My second favorite of the night was from Pizzology. One of the reasons I loved it so much was that they featured something other than their pizza: polenta. The polenta had a creamy bite to it, working perfectly with the rich pulled pork that was on top. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top brought a perfect saltiness to the dish.

Though Happy Everything Catering didn’t have the chicken salad I love, they did have other simple foods on hand. A great hummus and tabouli combination (though a few more chips would have been helpful to finish eating the dips), a tortilla Mexican wrap contained cream cheese with basic Mexican flavors, and then a really great meatball. Not dense in texture, it had a rich sauce that was so subtly sweet. Sunny Chinese Kitchen was also there, showcasing her cooking talents with demonstrations, leaving us to have all the great bites that were produced, including this great potsticker. Pan fried on the outside left a crisp crust that was stuffed with a great mix of veggies and meat – not to mention, made to order as it was steamed and fried on-site.

A few other items we tried included Bub’s Cafe & Season’s 52 desserts, Eddie Merlot’s rich and creamy pasta, Cooking Greek’s Mediterranean collection (mmm, cinnamon rice pudding – see above), Taste of Sensu’s sushi, Sullivan’s lobster bisque and cheese steak egg roll (shown above, bottom right), Woody’s Homestyle BBQ pulled pork and brisket, and Daddy Jack’s Asian coleslaw with shrimp (top right). We also sampled wines from The People’s Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Harmony Winery (sparkling wine shown with Kincaid’s dish), Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co., and Sun King Brewing.

Among all the food, there was also entertainment from Shane Rodimel, chair massages by Rangeline Chiropractic, and of course, the silent auction that included a variety of packages. It was a tasty evening with good friends and a fun environment. Kudos to all the men and women who made this event possible; I hope Orchard Park benefits greatly from the event (I’m sure they will!) I’ll definitely be heading back next year, and maybe you can join me! If you were there, what did you like best?