The Rathskeller

Indianapolis’ oldest restaurant, serving German food, of course. We divide the Rathskellar into two distinct sections: inside and outside.

Inside is where you eat if you’re on a (debatable) first date with your future spouse. You then argue over who pays the bill and end up going dutch. How romantic.

If you’re in the mood for bread and meat, this is your place. Any sausage-type food is guaranteed to be excellent, and the pretzels and pumpernickel bread alone are worth it. And, if it’s not too sacriligeous to order cajun food in an authentic German restaurant, the creole red snapper is fairly well done.
For those more loyal, the schlat platte is excellent, and anything ending in “-itzel” is worth a try. Chris has opted for the mixed wurst plate on several occasions, always wanting to get as many types of meat into one sitting as possible.

And then there is the outside. In the winter, it’s kept warm and toasty with a tent and huge fireplace. In the summer, however, there is no better place to hear live music in the city. A wonderful outdoor bar (the lines move quickly, but be careful standing on the wooden stairs, espeically if you’ve already had one Ultimator) keeps revelers from getting thirsty while they listen to the likes of Push Down and Turn, Jennie deVoe, and our favorites, Polka Boy. People, ain’t nothing like a warm summer evening, a 32-ounce beer in your hands, and fifteen guys doing their rendition of “In Heaven There is No Beer”. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

ShelBi Street CaFé

Casual, intimate spot with sassy service (the waitress who flirted with my father during his recent visit identifies herself as “the bitch in black glasses”), and a very kind, talented chef (he always comes out to check on us). The select menu changes frequently, but some favorites are always available. The gingham salad is great for lunch, and they usually have some great soups as well. I recall a tuna entree that was fantastic for dinner one evening, and the portions are refreshingly reasonable without being huge. The strangely-spelled name came from the salvaged neon sign lettering from a defunct nearby florist. While the desserts are delicious, please don’t be like our friend, who ordered all four or five desserts in place of dinner (seriously). If you do opt for dessert, make sure you get the pineapple bread pudding. Many thanks, too, for the waitress who recommended coffee with a little nip of Frangelico.

Midtown Grill

This is where the official first date took place. All I remember was some fancy martini and the adorable man sitting across from me, but I know the food was enjoyable, attractive, and the beginning of a beautiful thing.

Update 1/2005:
We took some friends here as an official “Last Night Out Before the Baby is Born”, and we enjoyed it once again. Fairly quiet for a Saturday night, we walked right in and were seated. Our waitress was a sweetheart, but came across with a “try me” attitude when asked what beers they have. The boys went easy on her.

Tomato basil soup was delicious, and the salad with cherries, walnuts, and greens was tasty as well.

Chris went for the linguine with meatballs. A mixture of veal and beef made the meatballs “spongy” in Chris’s opinion, but he was a Clean Plate Club member that night, so it wasn’t all bad.

My chicken roulade with spinach and roasted red peppers was delicious, and they managed to even make sauteed red cabbage taste good (secret ingredient not commonly used at our house: butter).

Sara and Rob both ordered the chipotle butter pasta and even though they went home with enough food for three more dinners, they both seemed to enjoy it.

All in all, a decent evening. We watched several people order something that required open flames, and more than once the waitress almost lost her eyebrows, but we enjoyed the meal (although a little pricey), the friends, and the food.

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Lots of people like this place because it’s pretty cheap. I like the fancy purple lamps and the spumoni that comes with your meal, personally. Serving typical pasta dishes that can be mixed, matched, or topped with 18 pounds of cheese if desired.

As far as “authentic Italian experience” goes, however, this is clearly a midwestern favorite and has few ties, if any, to the mother country. The lines on the weekend are horrendous (and usually full of tourists and twangy nasal locals), so be prepared to wait.

Asaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Authentic Japanese cuisine. Taka, the owner is very friendly and enthusiastic. $1 sushi specials during happy hour.

Although Emily prefers the salad dressing at other Japanese restaurants, Asaka is known for high-quality sushi at reasonable prices. They even honor requests for “no roe” when you order a sushi sampler.

Cath, Inc

Coffee And Tea House. Local art for sale, and a rocking horse for adults. Closes too early, but we make an effort to get there to pick up espresso. The guy who is always working on Alice in Wonderland arts and crafts is pretty nice, too.

Update: Horrors! Cath has closed its Broad Ripple location as of late October 2004. Alas, you can still get your caffeine fix across the intersection at Cornerstone. Fortunately, the City Market location remains open for business.

Milano Inn

Family owned, tasty Italian. Across from Lilly, Milano Inn probably qualifies as an institution, since it’s been there forever.

Our dining experience was slightly altered, however, due to the fact tha the couple sitting behind us had chosen this family establishment as the venue for their publicly audible break-up. Our waitress was not the sweetest thing in the world, either, but perhaps she was picking up bad vibes from the break-up mcgees behind us.

The calamari was acceptable…nothing terribly noteworthy, and although neither of us can recall what we had for dinner (mine may have been pasta primavera, since that’s my style), we do remember the after-dinner drinks…Chris had some port, and Emily enjoyed her chocolate martini so much that we stopped at Kahn’s on the way home and bought the necessary potables to make our own.

Mama Carolla’s Old Italian Restaurant

A family-owned neighborhood favorite. Try riding past this place (located right at the Monon and 54th) around dinnertime…good luck. Everything is fresh, tasty, and romantic. A real Italian experience.

The waitstaff has always been friendly (apparently even more so if you’re a smarmy businessman and your waitress is a young pretty thing) and attentive. Ask to sit outside if you go in the summertime…the patio is beautiful.

The carbonara is excellent, and Chris really enjoyed his veal parmesan, even if Emily did give him a hard time about ordering veal.

A half bottle of wine makes for a relaxing and hilarious walk home if you live in the neighborhood, and although we;ve had better tiramisu, it’s always a delightful way to end a romantic Italian meal.

The Melting Pot

Expensive, yes. Romantic, yes. Fun, also yes. Good, oh yes.

If you’ve never tried fondue, start with the court boullion, rather than the hot oil. This is cooking food in broth rather than deep frying it.

There are several menu options, but we’ve found the best deal is the multi-course dinner which includes salad, cheese fondue, the main entree fondue, and dessert (chocolate, hello!) fondue.

It is, however, very pricey, and although Emily has had several fun experiences at the Melting Pot (even including that time Alan paid for drinks and then drank half of her margarita while she was in the bathroom, and yes, Alan, I still remember that), Chris seems to think it’s too much money to have to cook one’s food oneself. That’s what makes it a fun and intimate dinner experience, and being able to take the time to enjy that with friends or a loved one can make for a relaxing and pleasant evening.

Or, you just do what we did and buy your own fondue set and then fight over who that last mushroom belongs to and who’s been using the blue spear and why is there an extra squash floating around in there?

Thai Cafe

Light and tasty lunches and dinners. Bizarre neon and foam brain thing on the ceiling. You can order stuff “Thai Hot” if you want, but you really have to want it; I think it costs a buck extra. The good waiter (the guy who looks like David Spade) seems to be gone, though, and he did a lot to make the dining experience pleasant. We still think it’s a good place to eat, and you run into surprising people sometimes.

The padd thai is always good, and the hot and sour appetizer soup has always been tasty.