The Willard, Franklin, Indiana

willard-front

The Williard is one of those regionally famous places I’d never had a chance to try.

Located in an old hotel in historic Franklin, Indiana, it’s one of those places that fairly screams history.  Beautiful old woodwork, tile floors, a wonderful wooden staircase (that kind of leads to nowhere), it’s worth a visit just to wander around.  Yes, it’s a bit run down and worn around the edges, but that’s part of its charm.

It appears to be famous for 3 things…pizza, tenderloins, and wings.  They were one of the contestants at the Tenderloin Throwdown in Greensburg, Indiana earlier this year, so I’d had a chance to sample their tenderloin, but not to enjoy the whole experience.

We arrived at about 5PM on Saturday evening, and since it was such a lovely evening, we chose to sit outside.  If the weather is nice, it’s a great place to sit, dine, and watch the world go by.

The menu features pizza and wings above all else, it seems, but there is quite a few other choices on the menu.  Of course, I was there to try the breaded tenderloin.

willard-loin

This is really one fine tenderloin.  The meat is fresh, moist, and tender, and the flavor is spot on. It’s certainly one of the best I’ve had in a while.

The breading is also VERY tasty.  It’s quite tasty, and REALLY crisp.  The breading has a nice peppery taste to it.  I’m a fan of that peppery taste, so it rates very high on my list, but I realize that’s a matter of personal preference, so be aware if you are not a fan of pepper, this might not be one of your favorites,  It was, however, one of mine.  It gave a nice kick to the sandwich.

The sandwich was served dressed as I requested, with nice attention to detail.  In my book, this is certainly a 5 bite tenderloin. I would not hesitate to order it again.

For my side, I chose fries.  They were good, but fell short of outstanding.

For her dinner, Holly chose the sweet chili wings and a dinner salad.  For wings with “chili” in the name, they were quite mild – in fact, the flavor was rather bland.  Holly reports the wings themselves were meaty and tender, but that she would try a different sauce next time – one with more flavor.

In reading other reviews of The Williard, it appears they have some ongoing service issues, and our visit was no different.  It took over an hour to get our food, and we saw other parties who came in after us order, get their meal, and be finished before we got ours.  The food was outstanding and makes me want to return, but the service?  Not so much.
The Williard is located at 99 N Main Street in Franklin.  It appears their webpage is inactive, but they do have a Facebook page.

Peppy Grill, Indianapolis (Fountain Square)

peppy-sign

There are a few places in Indianapolis that have attained legendary status, and I believe that Peppy’s Grill is one of those.

Located in the Fountain Square area, it’s been an institution for as long as I can remember.  Back in the 80’s, I occasionally had to make an overnight run to Indianapolis for work, and Peppy’s was our go to place for a 3AM breakfast.  As good as the food was, the people watching at that time of the morning was just as good…perhaps better.

Peppy’s, and places like it, are forerunners of places like Denny’s and Waffle House  (two of my favorites), 24 hour a day diner type restaurants that serve good, cheap food,  None of it is gourmet, none of it is especially healthy, but, boy, is it satisfying.

Peppy’s has the magic that a diner SHOULD have.  I’d a little bit run down, it shows some wear and tear, but it also shows a special kind of magic  you can’t find anywhere else.

The menu is pretty basic…hamburgers and cheeseburgers (called cheeseburgs), grilled ham and cheese, a ribeye steak, biscuits and gravy, and such.  It also offers both a grilled and a breaded tenderloin.

I rather suspected this might be a fritter, but I decided to chance it anyway.  After all, we were at Peppy’s and I wanted the full experience.

peppy-loin

I’m happy to report that it’s not a fritter after all, but a true tenderloin.  It’s a solid piece of meat.

It’s pounded out thinner than I prefer, but the flavor was pretty good…not outstanding, but pretty tasty.  The meat I found to be just a bit on the dry side, but the breading was nice and crispy and stayed that way through the life of the sandwich.  The sandwich was nicely seasoned, and served dressed as I requested.

This isn’t a great sandwich, but it’s not bad either.  I’m going to give it a 3.5 out of 5 bites.  Although when we return I’ll likely order a cheeseburg, this certainly is a better sandwich than what a lot of restaurants pass off as a breaded tenderloin.

For my side, I chose the sour cream fries.   These are more like potato wedges with some sort of sour cream sauce on the side, and boy are they tasty!  I highly recommend these.
Holly chose the classic cheeseburg and sour cream fries.  The patty is preformed and a little on the dry side, but for the price, you can’t go wrong with this meal!

Peppy’s Grill is located at 1004 Virginia Avenue in Indy.  They don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or a website…which is part of their charm.

Squealer’s BBQ, Indianapolis (Castleton)

Friday night found us in Castleton, looking for a place to have dinner after we had ran some errands.  We knew that Squealers had opened a location there, and decided to give it a try.

castleton

I’d heard good things about their tenderloin.  We’d dined at the location near 86th and Zionsville Road before, but I’d never had their tenderloin.  We thought this would be a good chance to kill two birds with one stone…try the new location, and try the tenderloin.

The menu says “Voted Indy’s Best” and it took a little searching, but in 2013 Squealer’s won first place in the “Indy’s A List” breaded tenderloin category.

Let me say that I’m a little suspect of these “contests”.  There are a couple of places in town that are perennial winners that aren’t a tenderloin at all, but a pork fritter, so I always take such claims with a grain of salt.

Squealer's Loin

Turns out, this one was well deserved.  Although this tenderloin is a little thinner than I prefer, the flavor is remarkable.  The meat is tender and moist, and I really liked the breading.  It’s nice and crispy, and doesn’t get soggy during the life of the sandwich.  There’s just the slightest hint of some seasoning in the sandwich, but, honestly, this sandwich is so good on its own that it really doesn’t need any seasoning.  The bun was nicely toasted, and it was served dressed as requested.

Is this the best tenderloin in Indy?  I won’t go that far…but I WILL give it my 5 out of 5 bites rating.  There are some stellar tenderloins in Indy and I’d be hard pressed to pick an absolute favorite.  I’ll just say that this one belongs in the Indy hall of fame with the other 5 star rated tenderloins.

Of course, Squealer’s is a BBQ place.  For her dinner, Holly chose the pulled pork sandwich with a side of cole slaw, and it was incredibly good as well.  The sandwich was served as requested, with the sauce on the side (and our waitress offered the option, which was a very nice touch.)

We don’t always get dessert, but we decided to splurge this trip.  We opted for the peach cobbler, and it was outstanding.  We highly recommend it.

You can find Squealer’s online at www.squealersbarbeque.com  and they also are on Twitter and Facebook.

Whiskey Business, Indianapolis (Oaklandon)

Whiskey Outside

 

Whiskey Business is a sports bar on the East side of Indianapolis, in the community of Oaklandon.  We’ve driven by this place a number of times, on our way to shows at Ten West Center for the Arts in Fortville, but had never stopped in.  A friend said he had had a particularly good tenderloin here, so we decided to give it a try this Wednesday evening.

Whiskey Business certainly IS a sports bar!  There seem to be televisions EVERYWHERE!  For a person with ADD (like me) it’s either heaven or a nightmare.🙂  There’s a LOT to see.

They have a number of local beers available, and in a nice twist, many of their beer battered items are made with Sun King beer, made right here in Indianapolis.  I love a place that strives to use local products, that’s a big point in their favor.

They have quite an extensive appetizer and entrée menu, and there are some surprises, too.  The term gastropub is overused today, and I’m thankful that they don’t’ use it in their advertising (that I’ve seen), but they certainly fit that description.

Whiskey Loin

Of course, I wanted the hand breaded tenderloin.  I’m never quite sure what to expect when a tenderloin is advertised as hand breaded, as I’ve got a few that certainly were a perfectly round, processed fritter, but this was not the case with this one.  The breading was crisp and absolutely perfectly seasoned.  The meat was moist, tender, and flavorful.  Add to that a perfectly toasted, buttered bun, and condiments just as I requested, this was one of the best tenderloins I’ve had in quite some time.    As a matter of fact, I’m going to say it’s one of the best in Indy.  It’s a 5 out of 5 bites, no doubt in my mind.

For my side, I ordered fries for an upcharge, and was given the choice of hand cut fries or waffle fries.  I chose the hand cut fries, and they didn’t not disappoint.  Outstanding.

There were some service issues with our meal.  There was an extensive wait for our food.  Some folks ordered the same time we did, and had received their meals and finished them before we got ours.  In addition, for her dinner, Holly ordered grilled fish tacos, and got breaded fish tacos instead.  We were on a pretty tight schedule that night, so we didn’t really have time for her to return the meal for a redo, so she ate what she was given…and she reports them to be fantastic!  They are made with grouper, and served in flour tortillas with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. In addition, you get spicy refried beans, seasoned rice, and an avocado salad.  A whole lot of food for the $9.95 that you pay – and easily enough to make two, or even three meals out of it!

The mark of a good restaurant is when they realize they made a mistake and correct it.  Our waitress (whose name I neglected to get) without us even asking told us she was so sorry for the delay in getting our meals, and made sure to set it right with us.  I’d say she went WAY above and beyond in customer service.  THAT, my friends, is the mark of a business that cares about their customers and wants them to come back.  That act earned our repeat business.


Whiskey Business is located at 11915 Pendleton Pike in Indianapolis.  You can find them online at:  http://www.whiskeybiz.com/  and they also have a Facebook page.

33 Brick Street, French Lick, Indiana

We were down in Southern Indiana, where I was speaking to an Optimist Club gathering, and took advantage of being down there to visit our dear friends in the area, Matt and Wendi.

I was looking for a tenderloin in the area, and Matt is also a fan of tenderloins, so off we went to the town of French Lick.

I’d not been to French Lick in 25 years, possibly more. My memories of French Lick were that it was a dying town. I remember it being rather run down, and there just wasn’t much going on down there.

All that has changed now. A new casino/resort has brought lots of tourists to town, and the West Baden Resort has been remodeled and re­opened, and it is spectacular! Add to that The French Lick Railway, it’s become quite the southern Indiana destination.

Downtown French Lick was hopping on this Saturday night! A mix of bars, restaurants, and small shops, it’s retained its historical feel and is a very fun place to wander around. I certainly see us visiting again soon and spending more time there.

outside-of-restaurant

For our dinner, we visited 33 Brick Street in downtown French Lick. 33 Brick Street is part pub, part family friendly restaurant. It’s nicely decorated with local photos, some Larry Bird items, and more. The decor is pleasantly busy without being overwhelming.

Brick Street Loin

Of course, I was there to try the tenderloin. This was an interesting sandwich. As is my custom, I cut a little corner off to try it without the bun or dressings, and my wife and I both agreed that the breading was quite tasty, but the meat was also very dry. Interestingly enough, this only affected part of the sandwich. The rest of it was nice and moist. The breading was REALLY tasty, nicely seasoned and crispy throughout the life of the sandwich. The sandwich was dressed as I requested. In an interesting twist, it’s served on a Kaiser bun. I wasn’t sure how I’d like that, but it really added a lot to the overall texture and taste of the sandwich.

I’m a little torn on how to rate this sandwich, because the section that was dry certainly detracts from the score. I’m going to give it a 3.5 out of 5 bites. It’s above average, and I’d try it again.

For her dinner, Holly chose the grilled fish tacos with a side of coleslaw. Holly reports the coleslaw to be outstanding – finely chopped cabbage and a wonderful dressing – not too creamy…just right! The tacos were okay, but not a lot of flavor to them. They were served with chopped lettuce and tomato – typical taco toppings, but with a little thought and creativity, and maybe a special sauce or Pico de Gallo of some kind, these tacos could easily be transported from the mundane to the magnificent.

33 Brick Street is located at 33 Brick Street in French Lick, Indiana. You can find them online at www.33brickstreet.com and they’re also on twitter and Facebook.

Guest Review: Hop Cat, Indianapolis (Broad Ripple)

We’ve got a guest review today by my pal and fellow comedian Lyndsay Curran.  You can read more about Lyndsay at the bottom of the review.

HopCat

Hop Cat is a restaurant chain that started in Grand Rapids, MI in 2008 and Their fun, lively atmosphere, and interesting food, and great selection of beer,  has enticed locals and  tourists   alike.

There are 12 Hop Cat’s in the MidWest area and Indianapolis is lucky to have one.

Hop Cat Broad Ripple was the first of its kind outside of Michigan and  has been in Indianapolis since  August of 2014; and  brought with it 131 of the best local, national, and international beers to the burgeoning Indy Craft Beer scene.  Broad Ripple has no lack of diverse bars and eateries, but it’s safe to say that Hop Cat has been a staple on the corner of Broad Ripple Avenue and College Avenue since opening.

 

I have lived in the Broad Ripple area for several years and have frequented Hop Cat on a number of occasions for beer and their famous “Crack Fries”­  and let me tell you they have never disappointed. However, I have never taken the time to delve into their menu beyond those fries..I mean really, what is better than fries?!?  Another bonus, they do allow children with a parent until 10pm but no kiddos after that.  Since I have a two year old, I appreciate the semi-family friendly vibe, and anytime I take Wyatt with me, he is treated with the same respect as the adult patrons.

Once you enter Hop Cat you quickly recognize that you are not in a typical bar.  The place is enormous with a hipster vibe and velvet paintings of Rock idols on the walls.  On a Tuesday night it was packed, loud, and full of young patrons waiting for the Vogue to open.  In other words, just my kind of place.  You have to understand that I LOVE bars of all types do to the intense amount of people watching.  Hop Cat does not disappoint.

 

 

 

Now onto the good stuff!  Our waiter was kind, attentive, and had an extensive knowledge of the beer list. After choosing our drinks, we settled on Vladimir Poutine “Crack Fries”.

 These are not your typical fries. Not only are they well seasoned and cooked to perfection,  They were covered in Wisconsin Cheese Curds, stout carmelized onions, bacon, spicy sausage grave, and, wait for it…..potato and cheese pierogies.  Yes, that just happened!  If you are drinking or hungover, these fries are your cure.  There is no need for ketchup with these beauties, but it’s an option if you must.

Since my fabulous date and I indulged in beer and fries we decided to share the “I Am the Pork Sandwich Who Knocks.”  The menu identifies the sandwich as a beer battered and pretzel encrusted pork tenderloin topped with topped with Swiss cheese, sesame citrus slaw,  lettuce, tomato, and haystack onions.  Served on a jumbo toasted English muffin and topped with a pickle spear.  It comes with…you guessed it, more crack fries.  (I could NOT have been happier.

HopCat Loin

The waiter asked for our tenderloin to be split in half and we each were given our own basket. This is customer service at it’s finest­ no awkward cutting of the sandwich at the table or discrepancy on portion size of those fabulous fries.  The sandwich was visually appealing;  the colors of the condiments really added appeal and freshness to the plate. The bun was a perfectly toasted English muffin,  the softness of the muffin with it’s  crispy edges really added a nice twist to the typical bun.  The breading had a nice crunch, was well seasoned with the beer pretzels, and the perfect amount of salt.  The pretzel breading was an enjoyable break from the traditional.

 The meat was thick and had a nice flavor, but was, unfortunately, slightly dry.

The description of the included toppings made my mouth water, but did not deliver in   reality. The swiss cheese was barely noticeable­–who wants to waste calories on something they can’t even taste?  The slaw was uneventful.  I was hoping for a great vinegar/citrus punch, but that never happened.  The haystack onions were unnecessary.  There was no need for the crunch of the crispy onions, as the tenderloin itself was cripsy and they didn’t add much flavor.

I give this a 2.5 yums on a scale of 5.  I liked it, but would pass it up for their mac and cheese and a side of crack fries.

The service was fantastic! I would like to give a WOO HOO to our waiter, he was quick, knowledgeable, and ensured our needs were met.  While I may not indulge in another  “I An the Pork Sandwich Who Knocks”, Hop Cat is clearly here to stay and I look forward to trying other menu items while getting my fill of fantastic beers and their WONDERFUL crack fries.

 

About Lyndsay:  

Lyndsay Curran is a single mother of one beautiful 2 year old living and eating her way through Indianapolis.  She spends her days educating future nurses at Marian University and her nights trying to wrangle a wild toddler.  Some nights you can find her roaming the Indy comedy scene as an amateur comedienne.  Being a lifelong Hoosier her love of tenderloins is deep and real. Please check out Lyndsay’s blog at http://www.wyattpatricksmom.wordpress.com  or you can follow her on twitter, @LyndsayH1

 

 

 

Merk’s Restaurant, Muncie, Indiana

Merk’s family dining is located at the Muncie airport, and is a relatively new addition to the area.

The Muncie airport has been home to a number of restaurants. Many years ago, there was one called the Kitty Hawk, and later, Vince’s Gallery. Both of these restaurants were fairly upscale dining, and seemed to have long, full runs at the airport.

The changing economic climate in Muncie has made the restaurant business tough. If you drive up and down McGalliard Road, the main East/West thoroughfare on the north side, you’ll find chain restaurant after chain restaurant, from fast food joints to places like Red Lobster, Chili’s, and more. These always seem to thrive for some reason, while smaller Mom and Pop places struggle to survive. That’s a subject better left for a separate blog post.

We’d heard about Merk’s, and because we were in town to play some music at Minnetrista,  decided to make this our lunch stop.

Merks

The decor is an interesting mix of 70’s and 80’s colors, and there seems to be a lot of neon. I wouldn’t call it “gaudy”, but they’ve certainly done well to establish their own identity in a building that was occupied by other restaurants, which is no easy task.

In reading previous reviews of the restaurant, it seems there have been some ongoing service issues here, and our visit was no different. We arrived a bit before noon, and two other couples were in line waiting to be seated ahead of us. We were all gathered in a somewhat cramped waiting area, and we waited…and waited, and waited some more. I was just about to suggest to Holly we go try somewhere else, when a young lady stuck her head around the corner and said “I’ll be right with you” and in a few minutes came and started seating us.

Honestly, I had expected the restaurant to be packed, because of the extended wait for a seat, but it wasn’t……there were only a few tables dining. It was an interesting moment in our visit.

Our first server (I’m not really sure who our server was, we had 3 different folks come and deliver food, take order, etc.) brought our menus and a drink. We perused the menu, and it appears that breakfast is king here. There are also a lot of sandwich options on the menu, a couple of steaks, and reviews I have read absolutely rave about their pizza.

I, of course, wanted to try the tenderloin. I asked the server if they hand bread their tenderloins, and she replied that they don’t do it in house ­ someone else does it. I asked it if it was a real tenderloin or a fritter, and she didn’t know, but to her credit, she asked, and I was told it was a real tenderloin, so I decided to give it a try.

Merks Loin

On the menu, it’s advertised as a “giant” tenderloin. I’m always suspect of that, because sometimes bigger isn’t always better. But, this isn’t really a giant tenderloin, it appears average sized, or maybe even a little smaller. It hangs off the bun, but not too much.

So, how was the taste?

It actually was better than I expected for a pre­made tenderloin. The breading was nice and crunchy and stayed that way throughout the life of the sandwich. It was indeed a real piece of meat, not a fritter, and the meat was tasty and moist. The breading was nicely seasoned, but just a touch salty. If a sandwich is too salt for me, its likely WAY too salty for everyone else, because I REALLY like salt.

I’m a little torn on how to rate this sandwich, but in the end I’m going to give it 3 out of 5 bites, it’s not bad. An added bonus is that the sandwich was served dressed as I requested, and the bun wan nicely toasted.

Unfortunately, the service issues continued throughout our meal. I ordered the fries with the sandwich for an upcharge, but got chips instead. In their defense, they didn’t charge me for the fries.

For her lunch, Holly chose the pulled pork platter – which included a sandwich, coleslaw and fries. She ordered this particular sandwich assuming that it would be meat and sauce mixed together. The menu didn’t really specify either way. It came out as a plain meat sandwich with a generous spoonful of sauce on top. Holly’s personal preference is that if the meat and sauce are presented separately, they should be served that way. It gives the diner the opportunity to taste the meat first and decide how much sauce, if any, is desired. That being said, enough of the meat didn’t have sauce so that she could taste it. The meat was moist, but not very flavorful. The sauce was a bit on the sweet side, and pretty bland. Offering an optional hot or mustard based sauce would be a welcomed addition. The platter of coleslaw and fries were very good.

The end of our meal was an interesting experience. A server brought our check, and we told her we’d like to have some dessert. I’m not sure she was expecting that, because it seemed she wanted to clear the table…maybe it was time for her to leave, or something, but it didn’t quite set well with me. I ordered sugar cream pie, Holly, ordered peach pie. Both were average.

After finishing our pie, there was an extended wait to try to get our check, and we finally had to flag another server down to get it.

That all said, I hope Merk’s will pay attention to the multiple reviews from customers pointing out service issues. With decent service, and good, solid, Midwestern food, I can see them doing quite well in Muncie.

Merk’s is located at the Muncie airport, North Walnut Street and Riggin Road in Muncie. Their website is http://www.merksfamilydining.com/