Tag Archives: North Indianapolis

A2Z Cafe

5 Dec

Strip malls. There is something about restaurants being in strip malls – anyone agree? They are everywhere in Indianapolis, ranging from formal to casual. Some people won’t even give these a try because of the location. Unfortunately, I sometimes don’t always remember these options because of the strip mall concept. But one night, I remembered. I remembered a restaurant where we had a really great breakfast a few years ago. And then I remembered they also serve dinner. Hubs agreed, it was time to check out A2Z Cafe for dinner.

Sadly, when we arrived on a Saturday evening, there was no one there. It was maybe 7pm and we were the only patrons. Another couple did arrive immediately after us, but that was it. I began to wonder if it was because of the mall concept or the food, but I was committed to trying.

Our service was quick and friendly from the one server in the restaurant. I know she didn’t have any other tables besides the two of us, but I like to think the service would have excelled all the same if the restaurant was packed. After reviewing the menu, I was also reminded that the main theme of the restaurant is Italian. I was craving pasta, so I knew this is where I needed to be. Having a special soft spot for goat cheese, we settled on splitting a goat cheese salad as a starter. Once again, the service was prompt and the salad was warm upon delivery. We were presented with a plate of spinach, dressed with a warm balsamic reduction. Slightly sweet, tangy and intense, the reduction was paired with tender figs. I loved the subtle crunch of the fig and the concentrated flavor of fall. This was paired perfectly with the hazelnut crusted goat cheese. There was quite a large portion of goat cheese that we were able to share. The hazelnuts were slightly fried and the goat cheese was warm and creamy. Everything about this salad was great.

Hubs had ordered the lobster ravioli, which was on special. I had a quick bite, but it was after he had salted the dish. Because of that, I thought the sauce was extremely salty. Hubs did agree, he thought it needed something but the salt was too much. Besides the seasoning factor on hand, the sauce was extremely rich as expected. Lobster didn’t shine as a main ingredient either, but the pasta was fresh in taste. An oregano heavy hand took care of the bread, though it was still good to slather up the sauce. Once again, I only had one bite, but hubs thought the dish was good, just too rich to finish.

On the other hand, my dish was everything I wanted and more. The pasta of my penne con gorgonzola was boiled al dente and soaked up the creamy and cheesy sauce of the dish. The sauce was rich, but cut with the saltiness of the apple smoked bacon, I couldn’t get enough of it. The bacon was in small pieces so that each and every bite had a taste. Complimenting the whole dish was the slightly grilled taste from the chicken, which was extremely tender and portioned well. I thought I could have kept eating this dish, but the portion was just right as towards the end, the richness did catch up to me. But I slathered the bread with the sauce and literally cleaned my bowl clean.

As mentioned, the brunch we had here back in the day was delicious and why we returned. The dinner definitely stood up to my expectations as it fulfilled my Italian taste for the evening. It was creamy and rich-everything that I had wanted. Two entrees, a salad appetizer, beer and glass of red wine left us with a bill just under $50 prior to tip. The food was worth every penny. I left that evening with a full stomach and a reminder to not forget the great food of A2Z that evening.

Just a side note – the owner of A2Z also owns Carmel Burgers. Two very different concepts, and though I wasn’t a huge fan of the burgers, I’m a big fan of the Cafe.

A2Z Cafe * 4705 East 96th Street * Indianapolis, 46240 * 317.569.9349

A2Z Italian Cafe on Urbanspoon


3 Oct

Sushi.  Something that many people don’t trust here in the Midwest.  After all, we are landlocked so people often question the freshness and quality, thus the taste and dependability to find consistency in the area.  I’m quite a fan of sushi.  But I really don’t have a ‘favorite’ in the city. But that doesn’t stop me from noshing.

I enjoy a few sushi restaurants I’ve reviewed or dined at in the past, one being Sakura.  It doesn’t look like much on the outside, or even in the inside.  If you don’t know about the restaurant, you may have passed it numerous times while driving on Keystone.  I hadn’t been for years – literally – and then a friend asked to meet up for lunch there.  I quickly remembered really enjoying it and asked myself “why haven’t I returned?” as I drove there to meet up with her.

When I walked in, I wasn’t surprised to see it busy.  This place is always busy, which to me, is a good sign.  That means you are going to get some great food.  And when I say busy, don’t expect the service to be slow.  I only have to wait for a table, not my food, as they are always on top of things.  My friend and her colleague had already sat down which meant I didn’t have to wait for a table.  Fine by me as I slide into the booth and started to drool looking at the sushi bar.  They had already ordered, so I quickly made the decision to go with a basic lunch special. Sushi lunch #1 to be exact.

While they nibbled on some squid, my miso soup and salad came out.  I love ginger dressing, and this was the expected ginger dressing that you get on your crisp iceberg lettuce.  I didn’t expect anything less and I didn’t need anything more.  It was simple, expected, and standard.  The miso was the same – chunks of tofu, mushrooms and kale floating in the dashi (miso broth).  Once again, expected.  No complaints, but nothing to rave about.

But let’s be honest.  Normally, you don’t go to sushi restaurants for their salad and soup.  You go for the sushi – which is why I ordered a variety of nigiri and a handroll.  The nigiri consisted of tuna, yellow tail, shrimp, krab and eel.  All were delightfully fresh tasting, without any fishy smell or taste.  I could have done without the krab as it wasn’t in line with my sushi fish needs at that time.  Don’t get me wrong, I have this guilty pleasure with sitting down with a package of ‘krab’ from the grocery store.  Yes, I’m talking about the bright orange strips.  Hand raised and guilty – I love the stuff.  But when I go out for sushi, I’m not really wanting that.  I really enjoyed the yellow tail – it was probably my favorite.  Well, other than the handroll.

There is something I love about handrolls.  They are messy to eat, but there is something about their design in structure that makes me love them.  And Sakura’s softshell crab is divine.  Yes, it is covered in a spicy mayo based sauce, but this is the exception I make for this roll.  I love the crispness of the crab, mixed with the rice and seaweed wrap. It is probably the reason I’ll continue to return to Sakura – it was after all, the first thing I ever ate there.  And you can judge and say “eating fried crab with a mayo based sauce isn’t liking sushi.”  I know it isn’t your standard sushi – like the eel or squid that I also snacked on – but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t good my friends!

With all of this, I’m curious.  What do you think is the best place for sushi?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

Sakura * 7201 N. Keystone * Indy, 46240 * 317.259.4171

Sakura Japanese on Urbanspoon

Oakleys Bistro

3 May

Deciding where to dine for my birthday is always a difficult choice.  Since I celebrate the whole month, I’m always able to end up at a variety of restaurants.  But for the ‘day’ celebration, I had decided on Oakleys Bistro.  Hubs and I had dined there our second year of living in Indy back in 2005 and enjoyed a great meal from our recollection.  Why we never returned was beyond me, so I thought it was about time we returned.

We were quickly seated on the busy Saturday evening at a quiet booth/table towards the back of the restaurant.  The restaurant was quite busy and the service around us did seem a little jumbled, servers sometimes moving frantically from table to kitchen.   Beyond that, the restaurant was slightly dark with simple decor.  An open kitchen (hubs knows how much I love to watch the action) was bustling with 3-4 chefs making entrees for the patrons.  We began with some drinks, hubs with a martini and myself with a chardonnay, while we perused the menu and waited to order.

We began with a shrimp corn dog – one of Oakleys specialties that will never leave the menu.  What looks like a standard corn dog (without all the grease on a paper) may surprise the patron as it is wrapped around a nicely cooked shrimp.  The shrimp is tender, as was the inner breading, while a crisp outer shell is perfectly fried.  The great taste and expected texture of corn was there and the gourmet honey mustard, though a bit more honey than mustard, was a good accompaniment.

In addition to the corn dog that we split, we each ordered our own appetizers.  Hubs the pan fried crab dumplings while I ordered the lobster waffle.  The dumplings weren’t very memorable, nothing too flavorful.  The crab was finely chopped and didn’t boast much flavor, being drowned by the other fillers.  My lobster waffle was a mixed dish to me.  The waffle was flat of taste; just a standard, flavorless waffle.   However, the sauce which it was presented with was outstanding.  Crispy leeks gave it a subtle crunch, while a zucchini saute gave it a freshness.  A heavy cream based mustard sauce, rich in all textures and elements, the taste of lobster was still apparent.  Absolutely fantastic, a perfect portion due to the richness.

I had also ordered a salad just because I couldn’t resist the ‘toad-in-the-hole’.  Once again, a beautifully plated dish bright in colors and depth.  The brioche was toasted to perfection while the egg was perfectly cooked in its ‘hole’.  The egg yolk poured over the great toppings once punctured, including the roasted peppers, crisp frisee and creamy brie.  The prosciutto wasn’t as noticeable as I would have liked it to be, but when I did get the salty crunch I was very pleased.  The perfect pop in flavor was the truffle vinaigrette – it brought the dish to a whole new level.  Once again, my favorite of the evening.

Up to this point, we were both pleased with our  meals.  Me more so than hubs since his dumplings were only fair, but we were both anxious for our dinners. Unfortunately, hubs duck & duck was extremely disappointing.  Overall, the dish was just lacking in flavor; at one point he said that he wouldn’t have even known it was duck.  He was extremely disappointed and didn’t finish his dish.  Even his side was a bean mixture, lacking in flavor within the fried potato shell.  One thing that shocked me was his dish, though beautifully presented, looked awfully similar to my seafood dish.

I had ordered the tilapia, which was cooked very well, tender and flaky and presented simple and clean flavors.  Unfortunately, there was a sweet jam on top (which was also on hub’s duck) that was overpowering.  Fortunately for me, it was only on one small piece, so I was able to eat around the sweetness and enjoy the fish with the mixed herbs/greens it was served with (this was not the same case for hubs).  My side was a risotto with creamy flavor texture and solid flavors, especially when mixed with the crisp potato shell (hubs received the same) ‘serving’ dish.  Unfortunately, I did have a long hair in my dish around one of my last bites.  I thought it was mine, but then I found another one.  As none of the chefs had long hair, I thought maybe it was rolled in during prep work.  Then again, maybe two of my hairs ended up in the dish.  Either way, it didn’t end well for my last bite.

But, there was a gem of our entrees – our side dish.  The mac & goat cheese.  This has to be one of the best mac & cheeses in the city.  Creamy goat cheese mixed with basil, covering different types of noodles.  How much butter and cream went into this dish, I didn’t want to know, but the richness definitely informed me there was a lot.  Though I couldn’t eat the whole side (we were splitting it anyway), I wouldn’t have wanted to because it was so rich; I had a hard time finishing my half.  But with each wonderful bite, we made our way through.  Hands down – amazing (I apologize for the photo – it was quite dark and I’m not a photographer by any means.)

We pondered dessert, but were both so full that we passed it up.  At this point, the restaurant was slowly clearing out from the earlier frenzy.  Even the servers didn’t seem as frantic as they were when we first sat down.   Overall, I have to say we were disappointed and didn’t leave with the same ‘high’ from the first time we dined there.  But, this is only because of the entrees.  I would easily return to try again because there were so many good points to the meal.  The lobster sauce, the ‘toad-in-a-hole’ salad and the shrimp corndog.  Hands down the best mac & cheese I’ve had.  All were great, highlighted in their own ways.  I guess we’ll just need to head there for lunch or be careful about our entree selection next time.

Oakleys Bistro * 1464 W. 86th Street * Indy, 46268 * 317.824.1231

Oakley's Bistro on Urbanspoon


11 Feb
Working on the northwest side of Indy, there are many chain restaurants to dine at for lunch.  I’m a brown bagger, since I love to cook at home, but sometimes you need to get out and dine.  One of my favorites in Sawasdee for some Thai food.
Bestie and I headed our way there for a Friday lunch and as always, the place was busy.  But not too busy that we weren’t able to get a table immediately. We sat down and placed our orders, both with began with their spring roll and soup.  The spring roll is a standard spring roll, nothing too bold in flavors, not greasy, but nothing to rave about either.  The soup, Thom Yum, is the hot and sour soup.  The broth is heavy in pepper taste and also thick in fat flavor.  The spice was mild enough to eat, but with a slight kick to remind you that it is a hot soup.  Bits of green onions, tomatoes and cilantro lent minor flavor, as the broth was the main taste.
Bestie ordered the classic Padd Thai.  Served with a large serving of sprouts, her noodles were mild in spice, great in flavor.  Lack luster in color, the brightest element was the green onion chopped up with the chicken and stir fried noodles.  It was classic Padd Thai, and mild in spice.  I had ordered the Padd See Ewe, a thick noodle dish at medium plus one heat.  Anything beyond medium plus one at Sawasdee is too much heat for me, and this dish had the perfect amount that left my mouth with a slight fire but lots of great flavor.  A vegetable mixture of greens, broccoli and carrots were crisp and perfect with the thick dense noodles and thick chunks of chicken.  Easily could have been made into two portions, I must have been really craving Thai because I ate it all.
Lunch specials run cheaper than the dinners, but portions are still large for the under $10 fare.  Sawasdee is “decorated” in a hodge podge of items, so don’t base your overall opinion on the decor.  But when you want convenient spicy food, Sawasdee may be the place for you.
Sawasdee * 1222 West 86th Street * Indy, 46260 * 317.844.9451

Sawasdee on Urbanspoon