Tag Archives: Lunch

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

Wolfies Grill on Urbanspoon

Seasons 52 (Return)

26 Mar

Spring has sprung, both in the weather and food industry here in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of attending a media dinner to preview the Spring menu for Seasons 52 (which is now available!) which included a webcast with the Director of Culinary, Chef Clifford Pleau, and Master Sommelier, George Miliotes. After the filling Fall menu preview, I anticipated a night of delights in both food and wine. That, and extraordinary service, were exactly what I received.

I arrived to a glass of Zardetto Prosecco with strawberry kir royal – a drink to get anyone in the Spring mood. It was not as sweet as I was anticipating, bringing out the natural strawberry sweetness of the strawberry infused bubbly. To compliment  the drink, a few appetizers were being passed around. These included a tomato flatbread, artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, and artichoke-stuffed artichoke leaves. I had a bite of each, my favorite being the tomato flatbread. Roasted garlic brings a deep, earthy flavor to the tomatoes, a freshness of basil elevates it with the salty Parmesan cheese melted on top. And I was impressed to see that the flatbread was crisp, not soggy from the toppings. I can’t say the same for the artichoke and goat cheese, though I still liked the flavors. Anything with creamy goat cheese will win me over, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the balsamic onion that was part of the flatbread. The other appetizer, artichoke-stuffed artichoke leaves, though beautiful in presentation didn’t do much for me. It was difficult to eat while standing and the texture was mushy. A combination of Parmesan, peppery arugula and rich, reduced balsamic glaze worked well in flavor, just not texture. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of any of these due to the atmosphere. There are some other appetizers I would really be interested in on the menu, including a chicken chile relleno and goat cheese ravioli.

We sat down and began the webcast. It was really great to see both Pleau and Miliotes showcase the ingredients and explain the pairings for the meal in a casual yet professional presentation. You could see their passion in the concepts, which carried over into the food that we ate that evening prepped by Executive Chef Partner Bill Erath and the local Seasons 52 team.A friendly banter between the two was a breath of fresh air, not stuffy by any means, and I appreciated them taking the time to answer questions via twitter from Seasons 52 across the country.

We began with a perfect Spring salad, tomato and Haas avocado salad. Creamy avocado was cut into large chunks with a tomato that tasted like it just came out of a garden. A spicy arugula seemed to season the two vegetables perfectly while a beautifully reduced balsamic glaze brought the dish together. There was a sherry vinegar toss that made the dish even more creamy by breaking down the avocado just slightly, creating a perfect dressing for the salad. All of this was perfect when paired with the grilled bread – a perfect crisp char gave it a crunch that was welcomed with the otherwise creamy dish. A glass of Aveleda Vinho Verde added a crisp, clean taste to freshen and cleanse the palate with each sip.

The parade of entrees began soon after. All smaller portions were served to us, but the chef did prepare what a regular portion would look like for us to see. Here is a recap of the three entrees we had:

  • Columbia River Steelhead Trout served with Botani Moscatel – this was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. Trout , cooked with skin on to ensure all the flavor stayed with the fish, flaked perfectly with a fork. An Asian flavor combination of lemongrass infused vegetable broth made the dish light and refreshing. A clean and beautiful presentation, a bed of basmati rice was also cooked with the lemongrass broth. Perfectly crisp edamame and snow peas mixed into the rice keeping with the Asian inspiration. And finally, I really enjoyed the light, citrus flavor from the grilled lemon, which produced much more juice than I could anticipate. I hesitate to say I would have liked a few more cremini mushrooms, but really, this dish was fantastic. I’d order it again in a heartbeat. And the sweeter in smell than in taste wine paired great with the dish.
  • Lamb T-bone Cops served with Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Corvina Veronese – this is a dish where you would say “is this really under 475 calories?!” due to the richness, steakhouse feel of the dish. It is something many Midwestern taste buds would throw down for (yes dad, you would love this!) The lamb was cooked perfectly to a pink, medium rare with the char 52 spice blend adding the perfect spice and crunchy crust to the meat. And if it wasn’t decadent enough, the mashed potatoes elevated with a dash of truffle oil brought even more luxury to the dish. A deep, red wine reduction took it up one more notch and played nicely with the crisp yet tender asparagus. I like to think this is what Seasons 52 is all about – showcasing healthy and flavorful food that proves you don’t need to add a lot of fat to get one amazing dish. A bold, peppery glass of red wine left a slight dryness on the tongue, standing up to the lamb on it’s own feet was served rightfully so with the dish.
  • Spicy Snow Peas & Shitake Mushrooms served with Lioco Indica Rose – An Asian BBQ was the star of this dish. Tangy and robust with toasted sesame seeds, a spicy chili sauce complimented the crisp snow peas and ‘meaty’ in texture shitakes. I really liked the crunch of the roasted almonds. The rose was better than anticipated as it was refreshing and only semi-fruity in flavor. Worked perfectly to balance the spicier than anticipated side dish of veggies.

Of course, no dinner is complete at Seasons 52 without a mini indulgence – or in our case, tastes of many mini indulgences. Out of the variety available, I was able to get my hands on a pecan pie with vanilla mouse (SO delicious – crunchy, creamy, sweet, savory, all the flavors of a dessert one may want!), key lime pie (tart in the most perfect way, creamy and refreshing), Mejer lemon (a little too much for me, it was more subtle than I anticipated and almost fake in flavor) and a bite of the Belgian chocolate rocky road (overdose of chocolate – this is any chocolate lovers dream, though it wasn’t my favorite). Also available are the mocha macchiato, chocolate peanut butter mousse, carrot cake, and fresh fruit. We were able to enjoy a sweet dessert wine, Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling, with each sweet nibble.

Yes, the food was very good. I do have to say, the service was also pretty fantastic. We had the pleasure of enjoying the company of Chef Erath, Barbara Rafalowski (managing partner), and Rokeena Williams (sales manager). All three stayed to answer questions after the dinner. I was impressed with their professionalism and knowledge of the restaurant and the industry. The three women who were the servers (I apologize for not having all their names) were absolutely wonderful. My fault entirely for not grabbing their business cards as I thought I had so I can’t give them all the credit they deserve. Make a note of that – if you have great service, you should grab the servers card because you can request them for when you return (which I’m sure you will). I have been to Seasons 52 a few times now and each time the service is absolutely perfect, always knowledgeable and never overbearing.

Hoping I can get back to try a few more items of their Spring menu before it goes away. Anyone else been lately and try their new seasonal menu? Would love to hear what you thought!

Note: though the meal was complimentary, opinions are honest and all my own.

Seasons 52 * 8650 Keystone Crossing * Indy, 46240 * 317.677.2589

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon


21 Mar

Broad Ripple has many restaurants, from fine dining to casual, it is sometimes difficult to keep up. At least for me, since I dwell in the ‘burbs and don’t go south of 82nd as often as I would like. But as I work in (north) Indianapolis, I sometimes get to Broad Ripple for lunch with colleagues. This past week was one of those times, and someone suggested Taste. I had driven by, never been, and thought it was the perfect time to give it a try.

We arrived early, approximately 11:30ish, due to a few meetings and conference calls we all had in the afternoon at our respective places of employment. So when we arrived, there was only a slight line with a lot of open tables. An open seating restaurant, Taste embraces the concept of counter ordering and then delivering food to the corresponding table number you are given upon ordering. I liked the casual environment as well as the mix of the crowd of who was dining. We sauntered up to the counter and perused the menu while we waited in line.

Now, this counter of sweet treats smiles at you as you try to avoid eye contact and stare up at the menu. Then the smell of the freshly baked bread and cinnamon rolls meander their way to your nose. Suddenly, you find your eyes wandering. I have no idea how I stayed strong, but I did. Heck, I even ended up ordering a salad as my main dish. As I successfully avoided the sweets, I also noticed all the eclectic yet homey items on the menu. I definitely want to make it back for breakfast as there were some items screaming my name. But instead, a salad it was. I’d like to take a minute to mention you can build your own salad from quite a variety of items, but I opted to pick one already put together for me.

But to start the excitement of our luncheon meeting, one of my colleagues ordered deviled eggs to begin as well as the pommes frites. As I silently jumped for joy (I knew we’d be splitting these), we made our way to the table and waited patiently. The two ‘appetizer side dishes’ arrived first, and we dived in. The deviled eggs were creamy with a rich yolk and mustard taste, yet sharpened with a dill flavor. They were great, though a bit pricey for half an egg at $1.25. But it was a treat that I’d probably get again (a variety of eggs would be an even better treat though!)

The pommes frites were thing and crispy, everything that I want in a fry of this variation. Salted with thick, kosher salt and seasoned with black pepper, the seasoning was moderate thus complimenting the salty fried taste that is expected. A basil aiole was served to mellow down any salty flavor one might have (though I didn’t see it apparent by any means) and added a slightly elevated scale to otherwise normal fry. I liked the bright contrast of the basil, and the creamy texture played nicely with the crisp fry.

As for the main event, I had ordered chopped salad. First off, the portion was quite big. And it wasn’t all romaine like I anticipated, but a good mix of the toppings that sometimes make people to perceive salads as unhealthy. However, that wasn’t really my thought as I began to break apart the whole side of corn, straight of the cob. I bet in the summer the corn adds a depth of sweetness, but this time around, I wasn’t getting it. ::sigh:: Seasons. But the pungent bleu cheese flavor played well with the other expected flavors of sharp red onion and smokey bacon. I did like the tart green apple that were chopped within the salad and the lightness that the sherry vinaigrette provided the greens. Overall, it was a good, solid salad. I wasn’t blown away, maybe should have gone with my second choice, but it was still a good salad.

Overall, a great menu that seemed moderately priced as cafes go. I look forward to getting back (maybe for breakfast, though they do now serve dinner) and ‘tasting’ a few other things on the menu. Yup, I went there. With a name like Taste, how could one resist?

Taste Cafe * 5164 N. College Avenue * Indy (Broad Ripple), 46205 * 317).925.cafe

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