Tag Archives: Bar

Sonata Cafe

11 May

In celebration of a friend’s birthday and birthday month, a few girls and I decided to participate in a progressive dinner in the Carmel Arts & Design District. After a few sips of wine at Shiraz, we walked our way down the street towards Sonata, one of the newer restaurants in the area. We were excited to share a few tapas while continuing great conversation and company.

Walking into the restaurant, we were warmly greeted by the hostess. The main floor of the restaurant was empty on this particular Wednesday evening, but it was pretty easy to imagine people lounging at the tables with a coffee in hand. A casual environment, there was a coffee bar and counter that had bakery items available for purchase. Art adorned the walls, though I didn’t get a very warm fuzzy vibe. More of a casual, clean and simple feel of a Spanish cafe. The hostess grabbed a few menus and we walked through this area to the stairs to head our way up to the second floor. Upstairs, there was a larger group (also celebrating a birthday) enjoying their evening, a full bar with several seats open for patrons, and a table of six seats perfect for our group.

After ordering a round of sangria, beer, and one whiskey old fashioned for me, we settled on a few plates for our first round. We began with (starting left and moving clockwise) empanadas, brick vegetariano, and hummus. The empanadas were stuffed with gouda and sweet corn. A crisp exterior, the empanada was served with a simple concasse sauce – which really is a red marinara sauce. Overall, it was crisp and tasty, though a bit dry in the contents for me as I couldn’t taste much from the gouda. The brick vegetariano was delicious: layers of vegetables and phyllo covered with a concasse sauce once again. The mozzarella between the layers melted beautifully tying in the perfect level of salt to the dish among the crisp phyllo. I really enjoyed every bit. The edamame hummus was creamy in texture and subtle in flavor. I did enjoy it, but the brick won my heart in the first round.

Second round had us focused on the bread basket. We ordered a few breads to compare, all different in their own way. From the top moving clockwise, we ordered goya, monet, and giotto. The goya was a portabello mushroom on top of a toasted ciabatta type of bread, slathered with herbed goat cheese. Goat cheese goes a long way in my book, especially with some marinara. The mushroom was tender and rustic in flavor, but really I was loving up on the goat cheese. Carrying on with the goat love, the monet was the same bread vehicle slathered in the herbed goat cheese, but this time topped with a bacon jam. Per the menu description, it was a tampenade. Per my taste buds, it was sweet, salty, and savory. I wanted a bit more out of it, but it was still good. Just my least fave of the bunch. Finally, the giotto was fantastic all because of the balsamic glaze that adorned the bread. Under the savory glaze were sauteed leeks, onions, and garlic. It was missing asparagus (and the server noticed this, taking off some money to make up for it), but to be honest, I really didn’t miss it as I enjoyed all the flavors melting together with each bite. I enjoyed all three though I think the goya and giotto may have slightly bat out the monet.

Our final round has us munching on four plates. Beginning on the right and moving clockwise, we began with the gambas, which are essentially deep fried shrimp. The shrimp are somehow stuffed with cream cheese before battered in a corn flake crust and deep fried. They were then served with this intense raspberry sauce. It was too sweet for me, though I could see how one may really love all the flavors. The shrimp was lost in flavor though as the raspberry was the dominate flavor. We also had the dedo de poll: goat cheese stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon. The chicken was tender with mild taste of goat cheese and the bacon was crisp, but I really enjoyed the slightly spicy sauce on top. Chunks of apples gave it a slight sweetness which balanced the sweet & spicy contrast nicely.

Next up was the gnocchi con gambas, or pasta with shrimp. Gnocchi is a dense, potato pasta and these were tender and cooked well. Once again, the marinara is very clean and has good, simple flavors. I wasn’t blown away though. It is definitely a simple yet good dish, I was looking for something a bit more extravagant that evening. I didn’t get that extravagance with the croquetas de jamon either, though I did enjoy popping these little fried pieces of deliciousness in my mouth. Simple, but yum. a mixture of ham and bechamel cheese is always great. When you fry them up croquete style, that fried and crispy crust always ties them well.

With drink, prior to gratuity, total bill was $24 per person. Not bad when you have a plethora of food to select from. Service was good and I really enjoyed the relaxed environment. We definitely were all full as we had bites of everything around the table. It is good to note that a few things are capable of being added onto if you have a larger group. For instance, we ordered additional gambas to ensure we all one to taste for a few dollars more. I’ll be returning with a group, because that is the best way to do tapas!

I also have to apologize. I’ve been absent due to traveling and catching up with life. And unfortunately, during professional dinners, taking photos isn’t usually a top priority. I may be critiquing in my head, but just not in a picture. BUT, I’ll be making it up to you come the 21st. They’ll be a give away for some delicious food. Why the 21st? Well, I’m traveling again…stay tuned…and thanks for being a reader and contributor!

Sonata Cafe, Bar & Art * 31 east main street * carmel, 46032 * 317.844.5551

Sonata Cafe Bar Art on Urbanspoon

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El Meson

1 May

A colleague and I have decided to try a new restaurant around our office space once a month. After working there for several years, I was shocked to see all the random places I have not been. Hoping to cure that over the next few months, we began with El Meson.

In the quite large restaurant, there is more than meets the eye of the bright exterior Mexican restaurant. Set up to simulate an outdoor garden in decor, the colors are bright and bold. To the right of the main dining area is more dining, but to the left is this dark, mysterious night club atmosphere. Open late, I have to imagine that a club atmosphere is exactly what it turns into. But on a lunch hour, we weren’t interested in those details. We came hungry for some chips and Mexican flavors.

I opted for a chimichanga as it had been quite a while since the chimi and I engaged with one another. What I received was a full plate of food, all that was good but not the best thing I ever ate. The beans and rice were simple, mild in any flavor profile. The main component, the chimi, was also average. I had expected something a bit different as most chimi’s are wrapped up tight and are full of filling. This was wrapped with open ends, stuffed only with a mild and slightly dry chicken filling. The edges were all crispy due to the frying, but it wasn’t heavy in oil taste or anything like that. Just an average meal. Covering the chimi, the classic white cheese sauce was the highlight of the meal for me. Basic quest is always good in my book – very rarely will I turn on a cheese.

It took quite a while to order our food, though our server was pleasant and engaging. That day, El Meson filled my Mexican craving though I would have liked a bit more flavor throughout. My colleagues enjoyed their meal, so maybe I just need to break up with the chimichanga once in for all.

El Meson * 8920 wesleyan road * indianapolis, 46268 * 317.872.4600

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

Chef Mike’s Charcoal Grill

12 Mar

I’ve had this Living Social deal for quite a while, so prior to the Michael Jackson Cirque show, hubs and I made our way to Chef Mike’s for (what we anticipated to be) a quick bite. I’ve heard about the place, but not much besides where it was located and that they (obviously) use a charcoal grill for the menu.

When walking in, you walk into a small space with two hallways leading in the opposite direction. One door was labeled for a private party, so we went into the ‘bar’ side. As we walked down the hall, we were abruptly stopped by the hostess. She awkwardly informed us she would seat us and then walked back down the hall to grab menus, then disappeared. She ended up circling the restaurant (from the opposite side) and aggressively saying “I thought you were following me?” An awkward layout with an equally awkward greeting.

We ended up in a booth down the right hallway, which then in return had me sitting with my jacket on the whole meal due to the cold draft that came up from the front door. The atmosphere was extremely casual, a family friendly bar of booths and tables lining the wall to the medium sized bar. I didn’t make my way back there, but hubs informed after he had used the restroom that there was a large room on what I perceived to be the ‘other side’ of the restaurant (where the private party was). He said it was open and nicely laid out, though not really private for the group that was there.

After 10 minutes or so of waiting, our server approached in a slightly rushed manner. The private party was about to put in their order, so she encouraged us to order right away to beat that rush. I appreciated the gesture, and was lucky to have had those 10 minutes to decide what I wanted. We ordered a crock of the apple onion soup to share and each a burger. A few minutes later, she came by with our drinks and we began to wait for our meal. And then we waited some more. Confusion set in when a family of 6 were given there meal prior to us, though they came in after we did. At this point, time was ticking away. Time we didn’t have to be forgotten as we had to leave for downtown. At this point, I thought my soup was a lost cause, but she finally showed up with it, which is when we then asked to have our check delivered with our food to help save on time.

The soup was smokey. Not just the apples and onions, but the broth and cheese seemed almost like it was infused with charcoal smoke. Both hubs and I assumed it had been sitting in the smoke right at the end to finish it off with that flavor. But it was overwhelming – and I should have stirred it up because as we approached the end of the crock, it wasn’t smokey at all. The onions and apples were tender and slightly sweet, with a rich and subtly smokey beef broth. It was a good cup of soup, something different and unexpected.

During our soup eating, the time continued to tick down to 10 minutes until we had to go. She refilled my soda at one point, and we had to unfortunately ask for our food to go. It came out about 5 minutes after in to go containers. I was trying to finish the soup, so hubs started on his burger. He raved between bites, liking the taste and texture of the burger, while I worked on paying our bill. My burger looked great, but it was missing the tomato, lettuce and pickle. The bun looked and tasted fresh with a slight charcoal char. It was thick enough to uphold the juicy chive and bourbon burger with jalapeno havarti cheese. As I ate it (in the car), I really enjoyed the charcoal taste that I love with burgers. It wasn’t overwhelming like the soup, but definitely lingered after every bite. The chives provided a crunchy texture and subtle onion flavor with every bite, but I couldn’t get any bourbon taste out of the mix. I’m not quite sure why I ordered havariti – it is great for melted cheese, but so mild in taste and the anticipated spice was non-existent. The burger itself was very good – I didn’t need the cheese or the missing toppings to know that I liked the flavor. My side were potato skins – which were really deep fried potato slices. They were different and good despite being pretty greasy, I enjoyed seeing a side that I hadn’t seen before.

I clearly thought just over one hour would have been enough time for this meal. Maybe without a large group and busy server, we could have. But I think that our order may have been delayed or forgotten. The service wasn’t very apologetic, not that she was rude either, just slightly uncomfortable as she knew we weren’t very happy about it all. To add onto the annoyance, we didn’t even get the right amount off our bill from our Living Social deal. It was $20 worth of food and our server ended up only discounting us $15, but I didn’t have the time to argue the bill as we were grabbing our to-go boxes and running to the car. Despite all of the setbacks, the burgers were great. And overall, we did make it to our show on time due to inhaling our burgers in the car. I’d go back, but I would also ensure that I didn’t have a place I had to be afterwards.

Chef Mike’s Charcoal Grill * 7102 Woodland Dr. * Indianapolis, 46278 * 317.295.9490 * @chefmikesgrill