Happy 3rd Anniversary, Emily and Christopher! After our IBJ article ran in April, the owner of Peterson’s emailed us and invited us to try them out.

We needed a special occasion, and this certainly fit the bill, so we made reservations for a Friday night. They specifically asked if we were celebrating, and when Chris told them, we ended up in a nice, quiet corner booth.

It was no fun not being able to order something to drink (they boast an extensive wine list), and Chris opted for a modestly-proced Zinfandel. Observing the coversations being had at the three surrounding tables, we realized that because we were not as interested in drink as we were in food (one of the sacrifices of pregnancy), we didn’t so much receive lesser service, just less service. The sommelier spent a lot of time at the other tables and seemed to be very attentive. Our waiter was no less attentive, but we just didn’t see him as much and felt a little slighted.

We started out with an order for the jumbo lump crab cake, and it’s been too long since we’ve had a real crab cake like that. Huge chunks of crab, perfectly crispy on the outside… nice. Because it took a while for our order to come out, we were also treated to a shrimp cocktail. We eat shrimp fairly regularly, but I think we now know what shrimp can be when prepared to its best potential. Huge, three-bite shrimp with zesty cockatil sauce (though it didn’t come close to the joyously nostril-hair-searing heat of Petersons’ downtown competitor—you know which one) were lightly grilled and beautifully presented. The cocktail was served with an unusual garnish: a crispy, paper thin slice of a fennel bulb. Unique!

Next came salads. My gourmet spring green salad with sweet basil vinaigrette was simple but flavorful (as always, I think restaurants could get away with using half as much dressing as they drench the plates in). Chris had the baby spinach salad, which was standard except for the way they shredded the egg into curly little strings. We note the little things.

And then the main course. Chris ordered the 16 oz ribeye (cooked medium), and it came back nice and pink, the way he likes it. I had my share of little bites, and it was a little rare for me (I like mine medium well, to be honest), but it was an excellent cut of beef and was sooo good.

I (sigh) went all out and ordered a “Red List” fish and went for the swordfish chop. They warned me that it was not the traditional swordfish steak, but rather it came with the bone still attached. Wow. Now I understand why swordfish is on the red list in the first place, and as guilty as I felt as an informed seafood consumer, it was excellent. The fish was tender and soft, but cooked medium well, so it was firm all the way through. It also came with a shredded bed of potatoes, on which rested a little cake of asparagus gratin topped with roasted hazlenuts. It was also accompanied with sweet carmelized onions, and the whole thing was unbelievable.

We can’t seem to go to a steak house without also ordering the most decadent side dishes possible, and this time was no exception. The spinach (as in “creamed spinach”) seemed to have been added for coloration purposes only, with the cream and butter being the main feature of the dish (read: still a good thing, but teetering on the edge of ridiculous). We also went for the potato bread pudding that we had sampled at Zoobilation, and we were not disappointed. Topped with Danish bleu cheese, this dense wedge of carbohydrate goodness was almost too rich, especially considering the sides that came with my dinner.

We did manage to save room for dessert (I did take half of my dinner home), which ended up being the most delicious cinnamon crème brûlèe ever. Chris also overheard the waiter at the next table telling folks about the secret batch of Limoncello that the chef had made. Not wanting to miss out on an off-the-menu secret like that, he ordered a glass and, in keeping with the rest of the evening, it was sweet and strong and an excellent way to end the night. This secret was something that should have been shared with common folk, not just the suits who order multiple bottles of $100 wine and ask the waiters if they want to join him for shots of Patrón right then and there.

All in all, the food was everything we had hoped it would be and the service was very accommodating. Our waiter even had the bartender create something “fruity, frozen, non-alchoholic and with ginger ale” at my request. They also took our photo to commemorate the event (a pticture that will not be posted on this website, even though we’ve posted some doozies in the past).

My biggest “but” about Peterson’s, however, is the same observation I’ve made at other similar steak houses in the area. In order to feel like you truly fit in, you need to be willing to spend as if your are in a much higher tax bracket than we are. We felt a bit our of our league, even though restaurants should work hard to make every patron feel like they belong, no matter what kind of car they arrived in, what label is on their suit, or how many bottles of wine they order. Yes, we go out to eat to enjoy the food itself, but the atmosphere is just as important.

When presented with another special occasion (please let us not have to wait another year), we would be inclined to visit again. It is certainly not for everyday eating (at least not for us), but the staff was friendly, the food was delicious and well presented, and the quality of the experience was enjoyable. All in all, a special evening and a wonderful way to celebrate my love for the man I married.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Thanks to a gift certificate from Chris’ work, we were able to enjoy our 2nd anniversary dinner, compliments of someone else. We probably wouldn’t have gone to Sullivan’s otherwise, but it was fun and every bit as “old boy’s club” as they make themselves out to be.

We started with the iceberg wedge (and yes, there was lettuce underneath the gallon of bleu cheese dressing), which, surprisingly, had some flavor. The sourdough bread was, as Chris would say “good nasty”. Chris ordered the 16oz strip steak (melt-in-your-mouth goodness), and I committed the cardinal sin of steakhouses: I ordered fish. My mahi-mahi was excellent with avocado-jalapeno salsa on the side. We probably could have passed on the broccoli with ©arnaise sauce (nothing memorable) but the horseradish mashed potatoes were awesome…made with all sorts of things we don’t usually eat at our house (like butter and real sour cream). We put in our dessert order early so we could enjoy the Grand Marnier souffle, and thank goodness we saved room…excellent, orange‑y, and creamy.

All in all, this was a fun evening and a good excuse to get dressed up (and wear the new sparkly jewelry I received…thanks, hon). The service was attentive (four people asked us how we were doing with our food before we even had a chance to taste any of it) and friendly. I don’t know if we’d visit again (without a gift certificate) but it was a pleasant way to spend an evening with the one you love.

Update: We returned about a year later on a Wednesday evening to find the atmosphere a lot less smarmy than last year, and not nearly as bad as, say, The Oceanaire, another expense-account competitor downtown. Our server stayed out of the way, but he was friendly and helpful in guiding us to selections that would fit our tastes that night exceptionally well.

Emily ordered a filet which made her do that thing where she rolls her eyes back in enjoyment. I had the Cajun rib-eye, and oh my lord was it char-licious… absolutely awesome char and so perfectly melty-tender inside. It was a lot salty and not so peppery at all, but absolutely delicious, let’s be clear on that. At our waiter’s counsel, we forewent the hash browns (probably more greasy than we wanted) in favor of the potatoes au gratin (greasy, but with the added bonus of cheesiness). Lumpy shards of potatoes in oozy, creamy, cheesy—you get the point. Delicious, of course. The creamed spinach was just what you’d expect: it was good, but didn’t exactly stand out. Dessert tipped me into slightly-uncomfortably-overstuffed territory, but the deep-dish apple pie was worth it. Sweet, tangy, buttery crust falling over the rim of the soufflé dish, and cinnamon ice cream. Delightful.

The “anything goes” bar, as described by our waiter, did not have Harp lager. I’ve been trying to get a Harp at a restaurant for months around this city! Help! The next restaurant that has a Harp for me might just get an extra star or something.

St. Elmo Steak House

Another Indianapolis institution, said to be one of the great steak houses of America (just look in the back of any airplane magazine). Emily finally saved up enough to try it, and even managed to keep the reservation a surprise right up until the time we crossed the street. As expected, the restaurant was packed during our Friday night visit, which was designed to quench a serious hankering for a steak. And quench it did. Two days later, we are still eating virtually nothing but salad to try to make up for it.

We started with shrimp cocktail and salad. Mostly shards of horseradish, the cocktail sauce was indeed “super-hot” as promised, and the rush of flames through our sinuses was quite fun. The house salad dressing was also unique, with hints of rosemary, basil, and lavender, perhaps.

Emily ordered a filet, while I ordered a New York strip. The steaks were beautiful, though mine was cooked considerably more than medium-rare, as I had ordered. Emily’s filet was a pleasant reminder of why beef is what should be for dinner more often. The mashed potatoes accompanying my steak were out of this world, probably more cheese than spud. Emily opted for (what else?) steak fries, which were a bit soggy, but any fry is a good fry. She never met a starch she didn’t like.

It was hard not to feel rushed. Our waiter was friendly but hurried, not taking time to engage in conversation with us until he brought the check. The host staff did have their act together, though, noting that our party was celebrating a birthday and sending a wedge of carrot cake to our table, which was a pleasant surprise.

After being touted as having the best service in Indianapolis, we were a bit disappointed. For the price of the dinner (and the effort it took to get Chris to wear a tie), we wanted to be doted upon. Friday night was not a good night to have this expectation met.

The food, however, was worth the price (and since red meat is a rarity-no pun intended-in our house, it’s nice to be able to treat ourselves once in a while. Happy Birthday, Christopher. I’ll have mine medium rare.