Hoaglin To Go Cafe & Marketplace

I truly wanted to like Hoaglin To Go Cafe & Marketplace. We had sampled some of their offerings previously at an Indianapolis Originals event and were blown away. Their sun-dried tomato and pesto torte is something they should well be proud of, and the chocolate cherry bread pudding is way better than my own! Naturally, I was looking forward to trying more of what they had to offer.

The restaurant is bright and colorful, and quite conscious of its trendiness. A large deli case shows off baked specialties, salads, and other edible concoctions. I ordered one of each of the day’s specials to take with me: one vegetable lasagna and one portabella stacker.

A dime bought me eight minutes at the parking meter, but that time expired nearly three times over while the bustling staff tended to tables. In fairness, I did come in at five minutes to noon on a Friday, but it was quite surprising that assembling two boxed lunches could take twenty minutes, especially with no place to sit while I waited.

Each lunch came with a “field green salad,” which was nothing more than a pile of iceberg lettuce, a few slices of cucumber and roma tomato, and mostly-oil-on-the-side. The vegetable lasagna was rich, savory, and cheesy. Its flavor was shaded more by mushrooms than other vegetables, and the parmesan shavings topped off the lasagna brick with a satisfying saltiness.

The portabella stack was tasty enough, but rather insultingly small, considering the 3‑inch-diameter mushroom accompanied by the same measly “field green” salad. This is a silly $8.50 lunch special. Not quite vulgar, but close. It had some cheese on it or whatever, but did I mention that it cost $8.50?

Dessert was a treat, but the key lime pie unfortunately did not make up for disappointment of the preceding lunch. Again, we have tasted excellent samples of Hoaglin’s other offerings, and we will give it another try - but not carry-out next time - maybe brunch is a better match for us. And it will have to wait until this credit card bill clears, freeing me from having to look at this Hoaglin’s receipt.

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.

Corner Wine Bar

One of the most extensive wine lists in the city (may we suggest the Fetzer Gewürztraminer #251, which is a surprisingly good wine for the price, in our opinion), some of the best food (Bistro Style Chicken, carrot souffle) and some of the best dessert (bête noir and a glass of port). Sit outside on a nice evening, and you’ll enjoy yourself. We promise. The only reason why we haven’t been back recently is that the menu still does not appear to have changed.

Update January 2005: We went back a few weeks ago, and no menu changes apparent. I tried the ginger pork chops, though, and they were tender and juicy. The horseradish mashed potatoes were delicious, and the carrot souffle…why it’s not on the dessert menu is beyond me. Chris had some average pasta, nothing special. The bread could have been warmed up a little bit, and is it me, or is 3 ounces a little small for a glass of wine? We didn’t particular jive well with the waiter, and that’s usually our litmus as to whether we’ll order dessert, so this time we headed out after the meal. To sum up, it was OK, but not as great as we remembered it. A few menu changes and a little perkiness would do them good.

Update February 2005: We received notice from the owner that a new menu is on the way. We’re looking forward to going back and testing it out, and hopefully a more favorable review is on the way.