Tag Archives: Indianapolis

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

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

Northside Nights: Spring Edition (Special Event)

2 Mar

It is that time again – another restaurant week is approaching. Northside Nights, a version of Devour Downtown but on the North side, will be up and running March 8-18 for the Spring eating edition.

There are quite a variety of restaurants available; almost all are local or local chains. I’ve been to most, but for a few, it has been quite a while. I think I may have to try to the restaurants I’ve never been to, including some chains, like Ruth’s Chris. Yup, never been. Here are the others I may need to try:

  • Bella Vita
  • Hellas Cafe
  • Ruth’s Chris
  • LA Cafe
  • Michael’s Southshore

I’m most curious about Michael’s Southshore as I haven’t heard of them prior to this. From a quick look at their menu, I really wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up there. Though, I did discover this 2 for $57 deal which also included wine. This does leave the debate of ‘wine vs. dessert’, but another option to consider.

Another great thing about Northside Nights? Daily giveaways. Be sure to register to win gift certificates – and you can do so everyday!

Save the date for these other events this year too:

  • Devour Downtown: July 30-August 12
  • Chow Down Midtown: June 11 – 24
  • Northside Nights & Savor the Southside: September 11-23

Where are you looking to try, or where will you return to? Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts!, as well as how your experience was.

Taste of Carmel (Special Event)

22 Feb

I love food events. And there is one coming up in my neighborhood. I’ve been graciously given complimentary tickets to the Taste of Carmel, which will be at the The Ritz Charles on Thursday, March 1 from 6-9pm, and am looking forward to it.

A few restaurants/breweries who will be in attendance include:

I acknowledge I haven’t been huge fan of a few of these restaurants, so I’m actually a little excited to see what they come up with for this event knowing they’ll be bringing them their a-game. I’m most excited for Cooper’s Hawk and Sunny Chinese Kitchen since I haven’t tried them yet. In addition, also excited to see Happy Everything will be in attendance – they have a great chicken salad I’ve tried at the Farmer’s Market and I’m hoping it will be available. This small list is only the beginning of all the restaurants that will be available for tastes.

If you are available and want to grab bites from local restaurants and sips from the wineries and breweries available, tickets are extremely reasonable and all for a good cause. 100% of the proceeds go to the Orchard Park Elementary school as this event is set up by the Parent Teacher Organization. A mere $25 gets you drinks and tastes, acoustic guitar entertainment from Shane Rodimeland, and the opportunity to bid on some great packages including (a personal love of mine) Disney World tickets. Or, grab a group of your friends and reserve a table for 8 at a mere $175.

AND today and tomorrow only, there is a special discount just for you. A buy one, get one FREE offer!  Visit this link and use the code TASTE to purchase one ticket at $25 and receive one ticket at no cost. Remember, two days only! Two tickets for the price of one? You can’t beat that! Update: This offer has been extended to Friday, February 24 at midnight!

I haven’t been to the event before, but I’m looking forward to Thursday. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there as I’m tasting my way around the room.