Palomino

For seven years, we’d been hearing about how fabulous and ritzy Palomino is… the fancy place downtown where you go if you want to impress your clients. Well, we were thrilled enough with a night out for grown‐ups only, so we finally decided to try it.

My initial response? Ehh… The place was packed, which made sense (going out to dinner two weeks before Christmas on a Friday night when you’re attached to a mall is a guarantee that you’ll have company) but didn’t subtract from our service. Our waitress was friendly, busy, and a little absent‐minded (she first brought the wrong glass of wine, then charged me for three glasses, then charged me for the most expensive glass on the menu, then finally took off the charge all together). But like I said, she was friendly. Read the rest of this entry

Deano’s Vino

Alas, I had such high hopes and expectations for Deano’s Vino. We’d purchased wine, cheese, chocolate, and ground buffalo from them when it was still just a wine shop, and frequent newsletters and event postings made me eager to finally sample the food.

I was so totally disappointed, it just breaks my heart to give them one star, but I call it as I see it. However, if a simple lunch is going to take two hours (30 minutes to get my order taken, and the dining room was not busy at all), I should be able to enjoy it. I did not.

I ordered the bison burger, expecting something gourmet (or the least bit fancy). The patty was obviously mass‐produced (it had the straight edges indicative of being flash‐frozen and separated from other patties by a square of wax paper) and overcooked. And if Deano’s version of “served open‐faced on Texas toast” means “grease soaking through half of a split‐open Wonderbread hot dog bun”, then so be it, because that’s how it arrived. The pasta salad that accompanied the sad burger was nothing more than penne, chopped purple cabbage, and some flavorless olive oil. All for the bargain price of $8. I would have been more satisfied had I gone to Burger King, to be quite honest.

My dining companions were equally underwhelmed, I think, and we all spent the last 45 minutes of the meal looking nervously at our watches, knowing that we were all missing meetings and wasting time. Not only did the waiter (who was a little too nice) bring one friend the wrong order, he also gave $21 in change after another friend paid with a $20. That was the highlight of the meal.

Other reviews have made mention of the delicious food, but i’m not sure I’m willing to risk the time and the money to come back and give something else a try. So disappointing.

Sky City Cafe

Located inside the Eiteljorg Museum, I’d heard good things about this surprising museum restaurant.

I wanted something on the light side, so even though the Monday soup selection of chicken corn chowder sounded excellent (and the quesadilla and soups offerings change daily), I opted for the potato and white onion with epazote and red chile. It was a bit zesty, but not heavy at all… just what I was looking for. The accompanying cornbread was tasty, too (but then, I’m a sucker for corn and for bread, so what better combination?)

Again on the lighter side, I chose the Painted Desert Roasted Red Pepper salad, and was not expecting the salad to be as enormous as it was. I had asked them to go easy on the Monterey Jack cheese (since I’ve resigned myself back to Weight Watchers) and they obliged. The red pepper vineagrette dressing was not overwhelming, nor was there too much of it, and the lettuce was crisp and green (no iceberg here!).

This is definetly a cut above your average museum cafe. The menu begs a repeat visit, since it changes daily. The desserts on display would be worht the return trip alone! The atmosphere was bright and clean, the staff was friendly, and the food was flavorful, creative, and unique. Lucky for me it’s just a short walk across the river!

Bertolini’s Authentic Trattoria

We had a free babysitter (thanks, Aunt Sara) and a prior engagement downtown, so we were going to make the most out of our evening out.

We arrived slightly after the dinner rush, but the dining room w s still bustling and the hostess never even officially greeted us before we were whisked to a crumb‐covered table. Our waiter never offically greeted us, either, but rather haughtily waitied for us to place our drink order.

Like most restaurants these days, the portions were huge. I ordered the field greens salad and Chris went for the Ceasar, and we were presented with dinner plates heaping with leafy greens; it would have been enough for a (rather monotonous) meal, especially coupled with the loaf of bread the size of a basketball that was also brought to the table. The bread was topped with a glob of pesto the size of an ice cream scoop

Christopher chose the Fazzoletto, a glorified lasagna with lots of creamy cheese. It was tasty, but a little heavy. I ordered a special, grilled peppers with Italian sausage and grilled polenta. I could have used more polenta and a little less sausage (do we need two whole feet of sausage!), but it had just the right amout of heat and we had enough leftovers for another dinner.

Though the food was good, the ambience and the service was lacking. Were we expecting too much from a mall restaurant on a Saturday night? We were hoping to have a “special dinner” since the opportunity so rarely comes around anymore, and although we enjoyed the meal itself, the overall experience wasn’t really worth repeating again.

Bazbeaux Pizza (downtown)

Gourmet pizza with homemade sauces and dough; 50 toppings; salads (try the creamy basil dressing) and decent sandwiches. We favor the garden pizza and the Tchoupitoulas (fun to say, more fun to eat). Also try the new Broad Ripple location, although downtown provides some fun people‐watching along Mass Ave and a door‐blocking mannequin named Maxine. This is a great place for lunch, as they offer three or four pizzas‐by‐the‐slice for a few dollars.

Updated!!!
We opted for take‐out sandwiches the other day. I went for the tuna sub, which had lots of tuna and very little mayo. That made it a little dry and crumbly, but I appreciated not drowning it in Hellman’s.

Chris had the Muffaletta, and I am only now beginning to appreciate the spicy, salty, nasty goodness that is 18 kinds of Italian meat and green olive spread with cheese. These are big sandwiches (and come with chips and a pickle), so to finish one was a bit indulgent but so worth every bite.

Scholar’s Inn

First founded in Bloomington, Indy is blessed to have this Mass Ave establishment. Creative entrees, funky decor, a stylish upstairs bar, a fantastic wine list, desserts to save room for (creme brulee and tiramisu, to name two), all make the Scholar’s Inn a favorite. They’re big fans of polenta, serve unique seafood dishes (try the escolar) and dude, half price champagne specials for Sunday brunch!

Updates: After five people were made to moan like Bill Murray in “What About Bob” over how good the food was, may we recommend: The Rocket, Harvest, and Wedge salads, the pine nut crusted salmon, the lemon‐thyme chicken, the Scholars Inn meatloaf, the BBQ tilapia, and some scallop special that included gnocchi… Even my sister threw carb conciousness to the wind and truly enjoyed her dinner!

Buca di Beppo

Family‐style Italian food is acceptable, but most people dine for the tacky, flashy atmosphere (big parties get to sit at the Pope table). The best part is that garlic only comes in one size: whole cloves. Bring Listerine.

Bottom line, there are much better choices for a big, fun Italian meal.

MacNiven’s Pub

The sting has worn off since MacNiven’s took over the space previously occupied by Brother Juniper’s, and how lovely to discover that pub food can, in fact, be tasty and not heinously overpriced!

We went on a whim with two out‐of‐town friends on a beautiful afternoon, so the atmosphere was open, breezy and (understandably) not crowded. We were given our choice of seats, and the waitress was quick to grab drinks. Sadly, no one opted for beer (though if I wasn’t pregnant at the time, I so would have picked something out of the 120+ options they offer.

I went for the grilled chicken sandwich with schezuan sauce and steak fries. Typical, nothing special, but tasty. If anything, I would say it was even a wee bit on the greasy side, but consider the source of that comment: any oil is too much oil, when you’re me. I think most normal people would find it just right. The fries in particular were chunky and crisp on the outside…just the way I like them.

Chris ordered the roast beef MacHatten, which was a slice of thick white bread topped with about half a pound of mashed potatoes (anyone for carbs?!) and a heap of thinly‐sliced, lean roast beef. The entire plate was covered in brown gravy, something that just doesn’t get made at our house. I can vouch for how good it was (I helped), and it just right. Not too salty, just enough zip.

Jaysun went all traditional and ordered the fish n chips. A little one the greasy side, but what do you expect? He seemed pleased with his food, except for the fact the was charged extra for an additional dish of tartar sauce.

Louisa’s veggie club sandwich was probably the hit of the table, and the spicy aioli, she said, was excellent. Avocado, sprouts, bell peppers, red onions, and more all topped white toast and came with a side. She tried the sweet peppered neeps (mashed turnips) and enjoyed them a lot. They gave her a very hearty portion and she wasn’t able to finish, but she gave her approval.

One of my favorite parts of the meal was visiting the ladies room. Who are the two sexiest Scottish (or played a Scot) men you can think of? Yep…the walls were covered with photos of Mel Gibson as Braveheart and Sean Connery as 007. Chris said the men’s room also had Bond photos, but in there it was more about the cars and the picture of Halle Berry. To each his own.

All in all, I’m glad we tried MacNiven’s and sorry we waited so long to do so. For a pub, they also offer a surprising number of vegetarian dishes, and I came thisclose to trying the vegetarian haggis. Maybe next time, as I’m certain there will be a next time. Well done!

Iaria’s

Pronounced “eye‐REE‐ahs.” Saying anything else will earn you funny looks. A noisy, bustling, busy old family‐owned hole‐in‐the‐wall filled with happy people. Killer eggplant parmesan (an indicator dish, if you ask us). Also serves pizza and lots of pasta.

Update 4/29/2005:
We visited Iaria’s again after a hankering for Italian hit, and it was so much better this time! The dining room was still noisy, but the food was much better than I remembered it.

The minestrone soup that is included with all entrees is fantastic and was just what we needed to warm up after coming in from a cold, crummy spring evening. My spinach ravioli and meatballs were excellent. The standard tomato sauce (the smooth kind, not the chunky marinara) must have, as Chris put it, “had some crack in the sauce, it’s just. that. good.”

Chris’s chicken marsala (the old standby) was also delicious…a little sweet, but not too sweet (I like it sweet, Chris likes it more savory). The mushrooms were meaty and hearty, so he seemed pretty happy. As much as he tried to only eat half and take some home, he failed and managed to finish.

Jon ended up in the Clean Plate Club after ordering eggplant parmesan (his old standby) and Christine enjoyed her mushroom ravioli and inappropriately large sausage.

Our waitress was friendly and attentive, even with a full dining room. We enjoyed the evening immensely and I’m looking forward to our next return trip.

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.