Smokehouse on Shelby, Fountain Square (Indianapolis)

Fountain Square is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Indy.  Over the last few years, it’s has undergone an amazing transformation, and is now a bustling area with restaurants, pubs, duckpin bowling, swing dancing, live music, and much more.

It’s always a good place to take friends who are visiting from out of town, which was the case for us Friday night.  We choose the Smokehouse on Shelby partly because we’d been there before and enjoyed the food, and party because it’s in the same building as Duckpin Bowling, one of the unique things in Indy that we wanted to introduce to our friends.

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Smokehouse on Shelby is a BBQ restaurant, but they have a few other things on the menu.  They advertised a hand breaded tenderloin, but, frankly, I was skeptical.  I’ve been to a few restaurants where they advertise a hand breaded tenderloin, and end up with a fritter.  I asked our waitress about it, and she told me they do all the breading and pounding in house, so I decided to give it a try.

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This is a pretty darn good sandwich!  It’s decent sized without being overwhelming, and the breading is tasty and crisp.  The meat is tasty, but it wasn’t as tender as some tenderloins I’ve had.  And, the price is right…you get a sandwich and TWO sides (I chose fries and cole slaw) for 7.99.  That’s a bargain!  I’m going to give it 3.5 out of 5 bites.  It’s above average but falls short of stellar.

For her dinner, Holly chose the pulled pork sandwich, also served with two sides plus fried biscuits and apple butter.  For her sides, she chose the steamed vegetable du jour and seasoned & roasted Fuji apples, which are customer favorite.  I kid you not; there was enough food for three meals on the plate they brought out to her!  We had plenty of leftovers to take back home!  And for the price of $10.99, you can’t go wrong with this smokehouse classic.  Holly highly recommends the raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce.  This one may be a bit too spicy for some, so a close second would be the horseradish barbecue sauce – all of the flavor with not as much heat.

I want to give a shout out to the staff at Smokehouse on Shelby.  Holly made reservations because we had a larger group, and from the reservation process to the service before, during, and after the meal, everything was stellar.  We’ll certainly return soon!

Smokehouse on Shelby is located right on the fountain in Fountain Square.  You can also find them online at http://www.fountainsquareindy.com/smokehouse/.

Guest review: Corky’s restaurant, Danville, Indiana

Corkey’s Fabulous 50’s Restaurant

Danville, Indiana

http://corkeysrestaurant.com

When it comes to my dining experiences, there are few things I enjoy more than the playing of 50’s music in the background and, I’ll admit it, a good ole’ fashioned waitress who calls me “honey” and sounds like she means it.

I received both in abundance during a recent visit to Corkey’s Fabulous 50’s Restaurant, a 50’s themed casual diner in Danville, Indiana located at 745 E. Main Street right next to Pence Automotive. Located within a few blocks of both downtown Danville and the nearby Hendricks Regional Health, Corkey’s Fabulous 50’s Restaurant opened up about a year ago in one of those non-descript buildings where you struggle to remember what it used to be but think to yourself “This is perfect for an old diner.”

I’d also been looking for the perfect opportunity to write a guest column for my good buddy Rick Garrett’s “Tenderloin Connoisseur” blog, and as I was driving up to visit a relative in the nearby Hendricks Regional Health it occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to relax a bit before a hospital visit, check out Corkey’s, and finally snag that long desired guest column.

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When you enter Corkey’s, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a 50’s themed restaurant with checkboard linoleum flooring, the obligatory jukebox, a life-sized Marilyn Monroe figurine and constantly playing 50’s music at an easy to the ears volume that allows you to appreciate the music while still having conversations.

The waitresses, at least on this occasion, weren’t quite decked out in your traditional 50’s garb but definitely had a retro vibe with blue jeans and plaid tops and a 50’s style “come on in” attitude that instantly made me feel welcome even as a city boy in this small town just to the west of Indianapolis.

Of course, I was really here to sample the tenderloin sandwich and, much to my delight, it just so happened to be on special during my visit. The “juicy, pork tenderloin” comes standard with tomatoes, lettuce, and onion on a fresh bun with a pickle spear on the side. The special includes either french fries, a side salad or the soup of the day for $6.99. While I certainly don’t fancy myself a tenderloin expert like Rick Garrett, I had no problem choosing breaded over grilled and had no problem determining that this abundant specimen of a sandwich was “really” hand-breaded.

I’m a bit of a purist and opted to order my sandwich plain and with fries on the side along with my customary unsweetened iced tea. My iced tea arrived quickly and I settled in to enjoy the ambience and my newspaper until my food arrived.

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When the sandwich arrived, I looked at it and went “WOW!” It was a far more substantial sandwich than expected with the tenderloin clearly overwhelming what is best described as a fairly basic poppy seed styled sandwich bun.

Unfortunately, this is where the “WOW!” factor really ended. While the sandwich is a better than average sandwich, the taste doesn’t quite match up to the presentation. The meat was thick but not, in fact, particularly juicy and the breading, which had a kind of southern style cornmeal taste to it, lacked the zesty flavor that I value from a truly fantastic tenderloin sandwich. The best word that I can think of to describe the sandwich is “bland.” The meat was surprisingly bland and the run-of-the-mill bun only added to the blandness.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the sandwich, but not nearly as much as I was hoping as it arrived at my table and I looked at its beautiful presentation. I’d easily give it 3 out of 5 bites. The french fries on the side were lightly seasoned and tasty. As a meal combo, the tenderloin sandwich and fries was more than enough for this hearty appetite and I found myself completely unable to even contemplate dessert options that include everything from hand dipped ice cream (at only $.99 a scoop!) to shakes, floats and your expected 50’s diner fare.

The service was for the most part stellar, attentive without being invasive. It was a joy to look around and see that the waitresses clearly took time to talk “to” their customers and not “at” them. It was clear that more than a few diners were Corkey’s regulars, and the rapport between the servers and the customers appeared to be quite genuine, light-hearted and caring. The only slight “glitch” came in needing to ask for an iced tea refill, something that should never have to happen when a restaurant advertises free refills and the server has visited my table multiple times.

Fortunately, the server was readily available and offered me a “to go” cup so I could have an icedtea with me as I readied myself for another hospital visit.

As a consumer in a wheelchair, I do always consider the “accessibility” issue when choosing my dining establishments. While Corkey’s has marked off a couple of parking spots that are clearly designed to be “accessible,” it is worth noting that they are not appropriately marked as disabledvparking and I could easily see them being taken by customers without disabilities. Entering thevrestaurant is a breeze, however, with two easy to maneuver front entry doors and a wide openvconcept restaurant that easily allows for adapting a dining experience when needed. Because thevservers were so incredibly friendly, I can easily see them offering assistance should a diner with avdisability require it.

The big questions I always ask myself as I leave a restaurant is “Will I go back?” and “Will Ivhave this meal again?”

Yes and no.

I will definitely go back to Corkey’s Fabulous 50’s Restaurant. For less than $10, I enjoyedvgood food, terrific service and a fun and casual atmosphere. Corkey’s is easily worth a trip out of Indianapolis to enjoy the day in the delightful community of Danville, Indiana. If you’re there all day, you can enjoy Corkey’s for lunch then head into downtown Danville to enjoy the beloved Mayberry Cafe for dinner. That’s what I would call the absolutely perfect day.

Corkey’s offers a rather delightful menu ranging from your usual 50’s diner fare to such southern comfort favorites as country fried steak, beef manhattan, meatloaf and more. The next time around, I’ll probably try myself a burger or I may even go all out and check out the meatloaf.

The Friendly Tavern, Zionsville, Indiana

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We’d heard for years about The Friendly Tavern in Zionsville, and how legendary their tenderloins were, but our schedule hadn’t permitted us to stop in, until this past weekend.

We were playing at the Zionsville Farmers Market (a very fine market, worth the drive up there), and decided to take advantage of being in the area and have lunch at the Friendly.

The Friendly is on the main shopping street of downtown Zionsville, and, from the outside, looks rather small, like a neighborhood tavern.

Upon entering, however, this place is huge!  Two separate dining areas, lots of nice, dark wood, and very homey feeling.

We got there just as they opened, and there was only one or two other parties dining.  However, by the time we finished with our lunch, the place was hopping.

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Of course, I ordered their hand breaded tenderloin, and, as everyone else has said….it was just fantastic!  The breading was nice, light, and crunchy.  The meat itself tasted fresh, was moist, and seasoned just right.  The bun was nicely toasted, and the sandwich was served dressed as I requested.  This one is certainly a 5 out of 5 bites.

I chose fries as my side, and they were good.  Not the best I’ve ever had, but I’d say better than average.

For her meal, Holly chose a side salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing, and an order of their Apple BBQ chicken wings.  Now, don’t let the price scare you off.  An order will set you back $10.99.  BUT…she got enough wings in her order to have a satisfying lunch and take leftovers home for BOTH of us to have dinner that night, along with some fresh grilled sweet corn we scored from the farmers market!  Holly says she typically doesn’t care for breaded wings because it tends to distract from the meat.  But these were very fine indeed!

The Friendly Tavern is located at 290 S Main Street in Zionsville, Indiana.  I was unable to locate a website for them; however, they do have a Facebook page.

Wolfie’s Grill, Carmel, Indiana

ImageWolfies Grill is a locally owned bar/grill/restaurant with 3 locations:  Noblesville, Fishers, and Carmel.  The Carmel location opened a couple of years ago, and it’s pretty close to where we live,  and we’ve been wanting to try it ever since,  We finally had the chance last week.

Located in one of the several strip mall type buildings near 116th and Keystone, it’s very attractive from the outside…and it’s MUCH larger on the inside than it looks from the outside.  It’s another restaurant that’s done in an outdoorsy motif.  Very tastefully done, it’s warm and welcoming from the moment you step through the door.

We visited at 5:30 PM on a Thursday night, so we were prepared to wait…..but Wolfies was virtually empty.  No other parties seated in the dining room, and 2 or 3 folks at the bar, that was it. 

The hostess greeted us warmly and showed us to our seat, and the waitress took our drink order and left our menus with us.  Upon perusing the menu, I saw they offer a hand breaded tenderloin, so I decided to give it a chance.

ImageThe sandwich looks really good!  It’s obviously not a fritter, but a TRUE tenderloin.

However, I wish it had tasted as good as it looked.  Don’t get me wrong…this wasn’t a BAD sandwich…it just wasn’t a terribly GOOD sandwich.  The breading was crispy, yes, but it had no seasoning or flavor to speak of.  The same can be said about the meat.  It appeared to be fresh, but very bland.

The sandwich was served as I requested, and I appreciated the server’s attention to detail on that.

I’ll give Wolfies breaded tenderloin sandwich a 2.5 out of 5 bites….just average.

For my side, I chose the hand-made chips, and I’ll say those were simply outstanding!  Seasoned will with a nice kick to them, I wouldn’t hesitate to order them again.

For her meal, Holly ordered the Fiesta Fish Wrap – cooked tilapia filets wrapped in a wheat tortilla with tortilla strips, chipotle mayo, corn salsa, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce.  The wrap comes with a side of tortilla chips and salsa, which she opted to keep as her side.  There are different sides available for an upcharge, but since “Fiesta” was the theme, the chips and salsa seemed fitting.  Holly is sorry to report that her meal was simply average as well.  The most disappointing part was that there didn’t seem to be much fish on the wrap.  It tasted okay, but it wasn’t outstanding.  And the chips and salsa were simply average.  In fact, the salsa obviously came from a jar or can, which, in Holly’s opinion is simply a notch below average.

We opted for dessert when the waitress mentioned they had blackberry cobbler.  It was….like both of our meals, just average.  At 6 bucks for what we perceived to be a VERY small portion, we won’t be ordering that again.

Generally, the service was good, but, after our meal, when the server dropped off our check, she just disappeared.  It took her what seemed like forever to return.  Not a very good end to a just average experience.

All that said, since Wolfies is a locally owned restaurant, we are willing to give them one more chance and see if things improve.

Wolfies is located at 116th and Keystone, in the Merchant’s Square area.  You can find them online at http://www.wolfiesgrill.com 

Mulligan’s, Muncie, Indiana

ImageI’d heard of Mulligan’s restaurant, at the Crestview Golf Course in Muncie, for many years but never had the opportunity to stop in there.  That all changed this week!

I was meeting with 4 other tenderloin connoisseurs to chat about tenderloins, and also an upcoming exhibit at the Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie that highlights the things that make East Central Indiana unique.

I must admit that I had some pre-conceived notions about Mulligans.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a pretentious restaurant.  And, honestly, that was what I assumed about Mulligan’s.

I was quite pleasantly surprised.  It wasn’t pretentious at all.  As a matter of fact, I’d call it warm and cozy.  It’s nicely decorated and quite inviting.  We were off to a good start.

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All 5 of us ordered the breaded tenderloin sandwich.  It was interesting to see how different folks dress their tenderloins.  I, of course take mayo, ketchup and onion.  Some like everything on it, some like it more plain.  But….to all of us, there’s no WRONG way to eat a tenderloin.

The sandwich was pretty darn good.  The meat was tender and moist; however, I will say that it was pounded out a little thinner than is my personal preference.  But the taste was very good indeed.

The breading was good, but not great.  I think it could’ve stood a little additional seasoning.  The texture of the breading was fine, but the taste wasn’t there for me.  Instead of complimenting the taste of the meat, it was just kind of “there”.  With just a little work on the breading, this could be a very good sandwich.

The sandwich was served dressed as I requested.  The bun was pretty much standard, nothing special about it.

I’m going to give Mulligan’s breaded tenderloin a 3.5 out of 5 bites.  It’s above average, but not top of the line.  With just a little work on the breading, it could be a VERY good sandwich.

I MUST say word about our server, whose name, sadly, I neglected to get.  Here were 5 guys gathered around the table, taking notes, talking, sharing, and laughing….and she did a GREAT job of making sure that our drinks were topped off, our food was promptly served, and our bill was delivered promptly without being intrusive.  We were able to carry on our conversation and business without interruption…a job well done!

Mulligan’s is located at 3325 S Walnut in Muncie.  They’re on the web at http://www.mulligansclubhousegrill.com/.

The Great American Grill at American Legion Post 119, Greenfield, Indiana.

Being a food reviewer is always a gamble.  You walk into a place that you think will be stellar experience, and you walk out disappointed, and sometimes think a place will be average, and you’ll walk out saying to yourself, “WOW”.

That’s what happened to us earlier this week.  We had some business to attend to with the American Legion Post in Greenfield, so we decided to eat in the café, which is located in the same building as the Legion.

The Great American Grill is a small, home town diner, nicely decorated with photos and memorabilia of our veterans, with a TV tuned to a local channel in the corner.  There’s a jukebox, and the place is absolutely squeaky clean.  That was my first impression…just how nice, neat, and clean this place was.

When we arrived, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get for dinner….frankly, my experience in places like this was that tenderloins are often premade, frozen fritters.  But when I saw they offered their tenderloin in breaded OR grilled, (which is always a good sign) I decided to take a chance.

And, boy howdy, I am glad I did.  Let me tell you, folks, this is one outstanding sandwich.  As I learned later, it’s hand cut daily and hand breaded.  This is a nice sized sandwich without being overwhelming.  The meat is nice and thick (actually…it’s not uniform…due to the hand pounding and hand cut…and that’s a BIG plus for me) and it’s moist and tasty.  The breading is simply fantastic!  I neglected to ask what their breading consists of, but it’s among the best I’ve ever had.  Nice and crunchy, but it’s not so thick as to detract from the taste and texture of the meat.

There’s nice attention to detail here, the sandwich was served EXACTLY as I ordered, which isn’t always the case.  The service was attentive and friendly, and the price was right – sandwich and chips for $6.95.  This sandwich is 5 out of 5 bites, no doubt about it.

For her meal, Holly chose the pulled pork bbq sandwich – also served with chips for $4.95.  This is an ample sandwich.  For the money, if you’re hungry, you can’t beat the price.  She felt they kind of skimped on the chips, and the meat was absolutely swimming in sauce…not her preference, but again, for the bottom line value of this meal, it was a winner.

The American Legion is located at 275 Center Street in Greenfield, Indiana.  The entire building is non-smoking, and the café is open from 11AM-7PM, Monday through Saturday.

Guest Review…The Mill House, Jasper, Indiana

Recently, the Tenderloin Connoisseur put a call out to his friends to visit one of their local restaurants and try its version of a tenderloin and report back.  I meant to take up this challenge earlier, but other events in our life seemed to get in the way.  However, this past week my wife, Wendi, and I decided to have an evening out and visited The Mill House in Jasper, IN. 

After being promptly seated and presented menus, we placed our order for our drinks and perused the menu.  The menu has several Americana dishes that can satisfy the appetites of most patrons.  They also have nightly specials that even include a Kids Pizza night and a Pizza bar night.  On their menu, there are three options for a tenderloin sandwich.  All three options can be made breaded or grilled.  The regular tenderloin comes topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  The Mill House comes with Cheese, bacon, and sautéed onions.  The third choice is the Buffalo Style.  The Buffalo Style comes with buffalo sauce, pepper jack cheese, and ranch.  All options come with waffle fries.  You can substitute onion straws or add the soup and bread bar for an extra fee.
As usual, I chose the Buffalo Style tenderloin, breaded, but substitute mayo for ranch. Also, I upgraded the waffle fries to cheese waffle fries.  I had a sweet tea to wash it down with.  It arrived promptly just as I had order.  The sandwich was definitely not your meat processed fritter.  It did have the appearance of being hand cut (as advertised).  The tenderloin was about twice the size of the toasted bun.  Three slices of pepper jack cheese covered it.  Although, it had some size to it, it also had a nice thickness that prevented it from being dried out.  Even with it being Buffalo style, it wasn’t swimming in the sauce like many wings do.  In fact, you don’t realize the sauce is even on it, until you start eating it.  However, after a few bites, your mouth is heats up.  I also received a good portion of cheese fries with it.  Although in the past, I have received smaller portions. The fries were covered in multiple cheeses and sprinkled with bacon.  They too come with ranch, but I just used the supplied Heinz ketchup.  I give this a 4 out of 5 rating, as it did get crispy around one of the edges.
Wendi chose the chicken parmesan pasta.  She received a generous helping.  She reported that it was just the way she liked it, but was just a little too much for her to finish.   
Service here is typically a 4 out of 5 rating as well.  This evening was no exception.  At our time of dining, they were not very busy.  But as seen in the parking lot, which is across the street, the crowd had started coming in. 
The Mill House is located on the corner of 14th and Mill Street in Jasper.  The two story building has two entrances.  The entrance on Mill Street is for the bar area.  The entrance from 14th Street is to the family and group dining.  Family dining is one the first floor while the upstairs can be reserved for groups.
Many thanks to Matt and Wendi Osgatharp for doing this guest review.  Would YOU like to do a review?  Drop me a note and let’s make it happen! :)