Friday, March 22, 2013

Is it Chili in here, or is it just Nick?

FCA Day #13:  Nick's Chili    2621 Lafayette Rd., Indianapolis, IN

"Not Yet World Famousthe sign
"...for good reason" Brad

This place has been renovated, and the result is something that is clean, but feels like a fast food restaurant rather than the unique chili parlor it claims to be. It really felt like an Arby's to me. No real charm or appeal.

Ian, Bob, and Bryan all got the 5-way chili. The five ways are: spaghetti, beans, chili, cheddar cheese, and onions. They all gave it a rousing "...meh" reaction. 

I got a sampling of various hot dogs. From left to right: Carolina dog, classic chili cheese dog, and Chicago dog. The actual hot dog itself had a good flavor. It had nice crispy skin that snapped when I bit into it. It tasted like it was mostly beef. As for the different flavors, the classic chili cheese dog was the best. The Carolina one with chili and coleslaw was also pretty good with its sweet and tangy slaw, bringing it to 2nd place. The Chicago one was a bit odd. Not bad, but that style of hot dog may not be my thing. It's an interesting convergence of various flavors. And ultimately, no chili, of course. It sure is colorful though!

Their chili isn't bad. It has a nice smooth flavor, and is hearty enough. However, for a "chili parlor", I really expected a lot more in the flavor department. I make much better stuff at home. Ultimately it was a bit bland and mild for my tastes.
The onion rings were not special. Probably frozen. They were serviceable, and we'll leave it at that. The order was too much food for one meal - I gave away some rings and didn't finish all the hot dogs. But I'm glad I got a chance to try a few things out in the same visit.

The other guys, while thinking the chili wasn't all that special, seemed to enjoy the hot dogs. They were cooked well and quite flavorful. Bob says "The place is mis-labeled. It shouldn't be called a 'chili place', it should be called a 'chili dog place'!"

Verdict: better than fast food by a bit. Stop by if you are in the area and are hungry for a chili dog. But don't go out of your way for a special trip.

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal: 6, Experience: 5
  Bryan:  Meal: 7.5, Experience: 7
  Brad: Meal: 6, Experience: 6
  Bob: Meal: 7.5, Experience: 7

Monday, March 11, 2013

Maxine brings us chicken worth waiting for

FCA Day #12:  Maxine's Chicken and Waffles    132 North East Street Indianapolis, IN

"Vert de Ferk! Dis good Ferkin Cherken!" bad impersonation of a fictional Swedish Chef

This powerhouse of edibles is housed adjacent to a gas station downtown. It's fairly nondescript, but definitely not scummy. We were somewhat surprised to see it relatively empty. It was high noon on a work day, and it has a great rep. What gives? An hour later, while still waiting on the delectable fowl to appear, we figured it out. This place is SLOW. But for a good reason. They fry fresh batches of chicken up, and it runs out fast. Then they do it again. So we wait.
And it is SO worth it!

Spot the pimp, win a frisbee.

(not pictured: fried green tomatoes appetizer. They disappeared before I remembered to photograph them)

I ordered the titular chicken and waffles. Duh.
Amazing! Succulent enormous wings, it was like poultry in motion. I refuse to apologize for that joke. The blueberry waffle with gooey peach butter and breakfast syrup was a substantial sweet counterpart to the savory chicken. I'll be honest, I don't think I have tasted better chicken in the city. It may even be better than my southern grandmother's! Totally worth waiting for.

Ben's meal comes with a free angioplasty.
About a million giant chicken chunks, mostly white meat, fried to perfection. And mediocre onion rings (probably from the freezer). And some potatoes. Ben couldn't finish the banquet, but accidentally left the doggie bag behind. When he realized the mistake, he turned the van around and went back for it. Yep.

Bob fails at Chicken 101.
Pro-tip: the waffler sandwich contains NO chicken.

Go when you can spare the time. Order chicken of some sort. Thank me later.

Goodbye, Maxine. Your chicken is the best around. Too bad it takes so damn long to arrive.

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal: 8, Experience: 6
  Bryan:  Meal: 9, Experience: 7
  Brad: Meal: 9, Experience: 6
  Bob: Meal: 6, Experience: 6
  Ben: Meal: 9, Experience: 9

The best pizza in the state. No joke!

FCA Day #11:  South of Chicago Pizza    619 Virginia Ave Indianapolis, IN

"I feel like I just ate a large baby."  Bryan

This little gem of a pizza shop has flown under the radar of most people in Indy, but we are bringing it to the masses!!  The concept is not new, but the pizza.... oh the pizza is as good as the deep dish I have had in Chicago!

The buffet is simple, usually 1 veggie (or cheese) and 2 with meat.  The salad bar is small, but adequate.

Their sauce is superb, with that little bit of bitterness that says "yes, I am made from fresh tomatoes!".  We ate way more than we should have and so we all left in pain.  Bryan did not eat for 18 hours afterward.  Brad was so impressed he threw down the unprecedented 10 score!

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal: 10, Experience: 7
  Bryan:  Meal: 9.5, Experience: 9
  Brad: Meal: 10, Experience: 8
  Bob: Meal: 9, Experience: 9

Ralph's Great Divide succeeds in dividing opinions

FCA Day #10:  Ralph's Great Divide    743 East New York Street, Indianapolis, IN

"Nothing beats a good cream pie."  Ian

This place has some history. Located downtown in the Lockerbie area, Ralph's Great Divide provides reliable food for reasonable prices to loyal patrons. The talkative waitress gave us a history lesson when I asked about the place. Apparently, the older part of the building pre-dates the Civil War. It had been a carriage repair shop. The "newer" portion was added on around the turn of the 1900s, and became a pub. Then in 1982, it morphed into its current state, a restaurant names "The Great Divide". Neat.

Cool history is great and all, but how's the food? So glad you asked! I started with a serviceable salad:

In the ongoing quest to find low-carb options at such establishments (yeah, I know, shut up), I opted for the rib tips and a cup of loaded chili. The skewered tips were only okay. Not a lot of flavor, and not very filling. The chili was good, not great, but made slightly better with onions, jalapenos, cheese, and sour cream.

Vishal started with some macaroni salad. His review was "is okay".

Then Vishal's main course came out. An enormous club sandwich. I was jealous. He seemed happy.

Bryan and Ian ordered the German potato salad.  Both agreed it was different than expected (served warm and with a tinge of vinegar), but pretty tasty nonetheless.

The other fellas mostly got Tips and Aug, which is the rib tips served with an apparently amazing tasting potato soup/stew concoction.

Except for Bob. Bob got some sort of blurry bleu cheese burger on what bread that was apparently quite tasty.

For dessert, Ian and Bryan both got slices of the signature Coconut Cream Pie. I sampled a taste of Ian's it was phenomenal. I agreed with Ian's assessment, truly, nothing beats a good cream pie. Yeah, I said it.
I was still hungry at the end, so I, uh, ordered another cup of loaded chili. For dessert. Don't judge me.

Overall I thought the food I ordered was slightly above mediocre, but it looked like the others had better luck. The place itself is pretty awesome. Loads of character.

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal:8, Experience: 8
  Bryan:  Meal: 7.5, Experience: 8
  Brad: Meal: 6, Experience: 9
  Bob: Meal: 8.5, Experience: 8
   VishalMeal: 8, Experience: 8 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter is coming... Bring out the stew!

FCA Day #9John's Famous Stew    1146 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

"Bobby!  Bobby, God dammit!  I need some refills over here!"  waitress

John's Famous Stew...  Just the name gets me all excited.  

We had purposefully delayed visiting this restaurant until it was nice and cold outside.  And when it hit 15F, we decided it was time.  It was a fairly long drive to get there from the north side, but as you will read, it was more than worth the drive.

This place is a dive.  Really.  It fits the description perfectly.  Tightly packed tables, no windows to be seen.  It was like walking into complete chaos - the kind you know that will give you great food.  John's Famous Stew was already full when we got there around noon, with just a single table left empty which we grabbed asap.  The menu was fairly extensive, but when our waitress came by she took our orders immediately "What you having, hon?  Stew?  You having stew too?  Stew for you?  And you?"  OK, so apparently we are not supposed to look at the menu and just get the stew!  LOL

I had heard of their famous Tenderloin Supreme - a massive tenderloin drenched in stew - so I ordered that.  Bob followed suit with the tenderloin, almost giggling like a child.  Brad had a bowl of spicy stew (their stew comes in three levels of spiciness) with some onion rings.  Ian also had a bowl of spicy stew.

It did not take too long for the food to be served up.  Bowls were filled to the brim, steaming and accompanied by bread.  The tenderloin was impressive, honestly the largest I have ever seen, and was still thick!  I was in love immediately.  There is nothing I would change, no way to make this any better, no way to improve...

The Tenderloin Supreme:
Bob inhaled his tenderloin, being as impressed as I.  He kept looking over at me with wide eyes and nodding in approval, his mouth stuffed.

The only hiccup in the lunch was that Ian's and Brad's stew came out not spicy - they got medium instead.  The waitress quickly brought out a full bowl of spicy gravy to mix in.  This helped the situation greatly but still affected the ratings from them both

Brad's Stew and rings: 


While the tenderloin had mainly just gravy poured over it, the full bowls of stew were full of thickly chopped veggies and beef.  It reminded me of my Mom's stew as I was growing up.  

Vishal was able to come with us this week, and he did not get the stew...  he ordered a grilled chicken sandwich... That kinda blew my mind, but he has never eaten beef, so perhaps his introduction to beef should be a little on the easier side like a burger or something.  He did, however, very much so enjoy the sandwich.
I cannot wait to go back to John's Famous Stew.  That is all I can say.  I am still thinking about it and would go back today (two days later) if I was able.  I have to give this restaurant a 10 rating for the food.  I try to find a reason not to, but that reason does not exist.

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal:8, Experience: 8
  Bryan:  Meal: 10, Experience:9
  Brad: Meal: 8, Experience: 9
  Bob: Meal: 9, Experience: 9
   Vishal: Meal: 8, Experience: 8

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holy Tortas, Batman!

FCA Day #8Super Tortas    1002 N. Main St. Speedway, Indianapolis, IN.

Bob:  What's head cheese exactly?
Ian:  You don't want to know. 

We discovered this amazing establishment when we used Google maps streetview to just walk the streets in this area.  When we spotted the brightly painted orange building we knew right away we would have to add it to the list.  And when we checked out the Yelp reviews we put it right to the top!  This is a Mexican sandwich shop, nothing else besides some tacos are served here.

It's a tiny restaurant with perhaps 3-4 tables and a small elbow bar along the back wall.  The staff are all very friendly but fairly slight on the english.  No matter, because we all spotted the Super Torta Cubana and just asked for that with a big stupid grin on our faces.  Brad, since he does not eat bread, added a breakfast sandwich to his order (they are served all day long).

We each grabbed a Jarrito and waited in anticipation.  In the meantime we checked out the various sauces they had on the table.  One was a fantastic chipotle red sauce with a little kick.  The second was a verde of some sort, likely a tomatillo blend that was just bursting with fresh flavor.  They gave us a small dish of jalapenos on the side as well.

And then came the order.  The Super Torta Cubana is a big sandwich.  Not in breadth so much as depth.  It must have had 10 different layers to it, from weiners to head cheese to a chorizo-egg omlet.  The first bite was just unbelievably flavorful, each of us were wide-eyed and impressed.  They have a contest where if eat three of these you win $100.  I was feeling full at the halfway mark, and manage to get to 90% before quitting.  Bob and Ian both finished theirs.  Brad had a stack of bread leftover after finishing both of his sandwiches.
The Super Torta Cubana:

   Picture sourced from Yelp, since our pics did not turn out so well...

Brad's double sandwich order:

I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant (even though it was a little chilly inside - their heat had trouble keeping up).  We could not stop talking about it all the way back to the office.  We will definitely be back at some point.  I had never had a torta before - I had no idea what I was missing!


The Scale:
  Ian: Meal:9, Experience: 8  ("Chock-full of awesomeness!")
  Bryan:  Meal: 9, Experience:8.5
  Brad: Meal: 9, Experience: 7
  Bob: Meal: 9, Experience: 8.5

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Peppy Grill... not so peppy.

FCA Day #7Peppy Grill    1004 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203


"Hey man, got a dollah?  I'm homeless..."   Homeless man (seen in picture)

He went through single file, muttering "Hey man, got a dollah?  I'm homeless..." half-heartedly to each of us as we walked to Peppy Grill.  Now, I do not make a habit of giving people my money just because they ask for it, but even if I did, I live my life with a piece of plastic.  No cash in my wallet, so the guy was outta luck before luck even came into the equation.
After our 'urban encounter', we managed to squeeze ourselves into this little place that is Peppy Grill.  We sat at a little table in the small add-on section you see in the foreground of the picture, which was unfortunate because we did not get to experience the true nature of the original building. 

Our server was gracious and loved to chat us up...  all about the port chops.  He loved those pork chops so freakin much that we all ended up going for it.  I get the feeling he needed to move that meat.

As we waited for our food, I looked out the window and noticed some dude parallel park between a Lexus and a Camry.  He proceeded to back in, slam the Camry (apparently he uses the car behind him to tell him when he has to stop), then pull forward and slam the Lexus in the rear.  Then he simply got out of his car and walked into the building right next to his car!  Sitting next to me was a table full of Sherrif's officers who, of course, ignored the whole thing because they were eating lunch.  This is why I give props to Ian for driving his vehicle on these Fancy excursions!   We three owe him a debt of gratitude!

When our food was finally served (it took a while) I was a little underwhelmed.  Basic thin onion rings (frozen kind), a side of potato salad, and a single pork chop that looked like it needed a friend, especially for the $10 bucks I just paid for it.  The rings were not up to snuff; too greasy and soggy.  The potato salad was not bad, mustard style and fresh.  The pork chop, was exploding with flavor, perhaps too much flavor (aka salt).  I saw it as perhaps overseasoned, but the other guys seemed to appreciate that fact and gave it pretty high marks.

Bob, Ian, and Brad each had their chop served with breakfast.



I get the feeling that "plating" is not Peppy's specialty.  Everything had that appearance of a backyard get together with the neighborhood association - sparse and simple. Occasionally I would see this as a bonus, a nice change from the typically over-loaded plates of today's chain restaurants, but not this time.  This was basic fare that struggled to impress.  I just never got that "good feeling" when the plate was put in front of me.  Hard to explain, but I do not think I would return to Peppy Grill.  There are so many other places for us to get our fix.

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal: 7, Experience: 7
  Bryan:  Meal: 6.5, Experience: 7
  Brad: Meal: 8, Experience: 7
  Bob: Meal: 7, Experience: 7 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hey, can you steer me to a kickass sandwich?

FCA Day #6The Historic Steer-In    5130 E. 10th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46219

 "Today a big fat meatball sandwich just fell out of heaven... "  Bob

Bob seems to be our point man for finding great locations.  When he sent me the web link
to this restaurant I thought "It looks like a post office".   It's been around since the 50's in one form or another, and has seemingly kept its family owned feel all this time.  It had this classic genuine diner written all over it, and the staff treated us like we lived down the street.

Ian loves his reubens, kinda like I enjoy my onion rings.  It came with a nice portion of corned beef, leveled with sourkraut and topped with swiss - that's typical reuben fare.  Accompanied by a pickle and some potato chips, it was a little lackluster in its appearance, but the taste is what counts, and Ian was impressed in that area.

I decided on the Brisket Sandwich and was pleasantly surprised.  Served on sourdough, it had a very generous portion of brisket, which was VERY VERY tasty.  With sauteed onions and little of the Steer In's homemade horsey sauce, this was one of the best brisket sandwiches I have had in recent memory.  The horsey sauce was just awesome, burned the nasal cavities if you took too much so it gained my respect as the meal went on.  LOL.  I also used it to dip my fries in place of ketchup.  I also have to mention that as our server presented my meal she mentioned that another plate of fries was coming to me to supplement the half dozen that were on my plate.

Brad, still on his quest for low-carb eating, ordered two burgers minus the buns.  His first was the chili burger which had a surprisingly large amount of chili on top and was his favorite of the day, and second came the sunrise burger with bacon, cheddar and an egg over-easy.  

Bob wanted something a little "manly" and ordered up a meatball sandwich.  I must admit after seeing it I was kinda jealous.  The meatballs were large, seasoned and moist, nestled in a savory marinara and topped with a shitload of mozzarella.  All dropped into a perfectly toasted bun, I was drooling nearly as much as Bob.  Bob was heard throughout the afternoon repeatedly saying to anyone near him "I feel really good. Just really good!"

I would not say the Steer-In has something no one else has to offer, but what they do offer is pretty good diner fare through and through.  You get a great tasting meal at a good price (about 10 bucks incl drink).  I would definitely revisit, especially since there were several items on the menu that I wanted to try.  The main highlight for me was the homemade horsey sauce.  I'd love to have the recipe for that!

The Scale:
  Ian: Meal: 8, Experience: 8
  Bryan:  Meal: 8.5, Experience: 8
  Brad: Meal: 7, Experience: 8
  Bob: Meal: 9, Experience: 8