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

 

 

 

Hard Rock Cafe, Indianapolis

indianapolis01

I’d been to one Hard Rock Cafe’ before…Myrtle Beach, maybe?  And I don’t remember much about it.  Had it been a terribly good or bad experience I’m sure it would have stood out, but it didn’t make enough of an impression on me that I either sought another one out, or sought to avoid one.

Some friends of ours…Point of View Comedy….were performing at the Indianapolis Hard Rock last night, and we decided to go have dinner and support them.

Most of you probably are aware of the Hard Rock….it’s a Rock and Roll themed restaurant, with posters, guitars, albums, and more.  If you’re into music, it’s a pretty cool place to go just wander around and look at the displays.

I’d not intended getting a tenderloin, as they don’t have one on their menu.  However, each location offers a “Local Legend” burger, and I asked what it was….it was a breaded tenderloin!  What better local legend for Indiana than a breaded tenderloin?

Of course, it’s what I ordered.

HardRockTenderloin

About the best thing I can say about this sandwich is that it wasn’t a fritter.  It was fairly thick, but both the meat and the breading were pretty bland.  Don’t get me wrong….it just wasn’t good, either.  It was filling, and it wasn’t a fritter…that’s pretty much all I can say about it.  I’m going to give it a 2 out of 5 bites…below average.

For her dinner, Holly had the Cobb salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  She said it was good, but that she could have made it at home for half the price, and it would have been just as good.

As a whole, I found the food to be mediocre and overpriced.  But, I realize that a lot of folks really DO like the Hard Rock.  It’s just not my personal taste in a restaurant.

JT’s Grille, Indianapolis

JT’s Grille is a place we had heard about, but had never had a chance to visit before now.

Housed in what appears to be an old Waffle House, this place is about as far from a Waffle House as one can get.  Part neighborhood bar, part restaurant, it all works and works together well.

The walls are nicely decorated with art from local artists, which is a nice touch, and the color combinations in the restaurant….something I seldom notice…are warm and pleasing.  I felt right at home from the moment I stepped foot into JT’s.

The menu has a nice selection of burgers, sandwiches, and full meals.  They apparently do a booming breakfast business, also, but I didn’t get a chance to check the breakfast menu.

When I saw their hand breaded tenderloin on the menu, I knew what I was going to order!

 

 

 

As you can see from the photo, this thing is HUGE.  I was stunned at how large it was for the price ($8.95 with a side), and that doesn’t happen to me very often.

Often, bigger is not better, but that’s not the case here.  Let me tell you, folks, this is one stellar tenderloin, one of the best in town.  The breading is light and crispy, and stayed very crispy through the life of the sandwich.  The meat?  I can’t say enough about it.  Nice, moist and tender, this is certainly tenderloin hall of fame material.

The sandwich was served dressed exactly as I requested, the bun was nicely toasted, the whole sandwich was certainly a 5 out of 5 bites.

For her dinner, Holly chose a grilled pork chop, which came highly recommended by the server – and for good reason:  it’s simply fantastic!  Moist and flavorful, you can’t go wrong if you order this as your entrée!  This particular offering includes soup or salad and choice of side for $10.95.  She got a side salad before the meal and went with JT’s special white cheddar and caramelized onion mashed potatoes!  As good as it sounds (if you like that kind of thing…and Holly does!) she says that this side left a lot to be desired.  The potatoes were neither cheesy nor oniony…they were actually quite plain.  She indicated that she would definitely order the pork chop again, but she would choose a different side next time.

JT’s Grille is located at 2210 E 54th Street in Indianapolis, just off of Keystone.  You can find them online at www.jtsgrille.com, and they also have a Facebook page.

The Pawn Shop, Indianapolis.

The Pawn Shop pub has been on my list to try for quite some time now, recommended by friends.  The holiday season has been quite busy for us, but things are slowing down now, and it’s time to get the reviews rolling again!

Those of you who have been around Indy for a while might remember the Pawn Shop from when it was up on College Avenue…I believe it was where Binkley’s is presently located.  I had visited there once or twice, but that’s been 20 or more years ago, and I honestly don’t remember much about it.

Located on 54th, just West of Keystone, the Pawn Shop is located in an old fast food restaurant building, but upon stepping inside, it has the feel of a bar that has been there forever.  They obviously have a lot of regulars, at lunchtime the majority of folks coming in were greeted by name.  Although we had never been there before, the atmosphere was welcoming.

 

I knew from the start that I wanted to try the tenderloin.  As we perused the menu, the server told us that the special of the day was 1/2 tenderloin and beer cheese soup, which was what Holly elected to try….more about that later.  I chose the full tenderloin.

The sandwich itself?  One word comes to mind…sublime.  This was a darn near perfect tenderloin.  The meat was moist and tasty, and the breading was the perfect compliment to the meat.  Nice and crispy, and it stayed that way for the life of the sandwich….no getting soggy for this one!  The bun was nicely toasted, and the sandwich was dressed exactly as I requested it to be.  This is, from first bite to last, a 5 out of 5 bite tenderloin.  You won’t be disappointed if you order this hand breaded delight!  It sells for $6.75, and, apparently, that includes chips.

I WISH I could say the rest of our experience was just as good….but, it’s time for the other shoe to drop.  I ordered the breaded tenderloin with fries, and I got the tenderloin with chips…and they appeared to be the crumbs out of the bottom of the chip bag.  Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m not really a picky diner, but I DO expect to get what I ordered.  That lack of attention to detail could cost them a repeat visit from some folks.  On top of that, after we finished our soft drinks, we were never offered a refill.

Holly’s Beer Cheese Soup was mediocre, at best.  It was as if someone took a can of cheez whiz, tossed a couple of potato chunks in, and heated it up.  There was no hint of beer in it…none whatsoever.

To wrap this up, there is no doubt that the tenderloin is a 5 out of 5….certainly worth driving across town for!  And, hopefully….your service experience will be better than ours.

The Pawn Shop is located at 2222 E 54th Street in Indianapolis.  Their website is http://www.pawnshoppub.com

Plumps Last Shot, Indianapolis (Broad Ripple)

If you’re from Indiana, you’ve no doubt heard of Bobby Plump.  If you’re from the southern part of the state, he’s an icon, if you’re from the Muncie area he’s a villan.  Either way, he’s an important part of Indiana basketball history…and, I suspect, always will be.

He’s not the first local sports hero in any town to open up a bar or restaurant, but, these days, it seems most sports heroes lend their name to a chain rather than opening something special.

Plump’s Last Shot is, indeed, something special.  Set in Broad Ripple Village, on the Monon Trail, it offers ample outside dining as well as an inside dining area.  We chose to eat outside, as it was a beautiful spring evening, and enjoyed watching the walkers, runners, and cyclists going up and down the Monon trail.

Plump’s goes out of it’s way to make folks feel at home….which fits.  Bobby Plump is from the tiny town of Milan, Indiana, and everything about this restaurant is small town, right down to the water dishes provided for those who might want to bring their dogs to the patio with them.

Plump’s Last Shot menu is full of pretty typical pub fare, with a few surprises thrown in.  Holly chose a Buffalo Chicken Wrap, which was excellent…after getting over the initial surprise at just how HOT it was…and, I, of course, chose the breaded tenderloin sandwich.

Plump’s offers a hand cut, fresh tenderloin prepared 3 ways.  Grilled, Breaded, or Blackened…which is the first time I recall seeing a Blackened Tenderloin.

The breaded option is big, but not so big as to be overwhelming, which is just the way I like it.  The breading itself was tasty and had a really interesting “crunch” to it.  As far as texture, it was certainly a 5 out of 5.  The taste of the breading was a bit less stellar, but it was still VERY good and well above average.

The meat itself was also excellent…moist and tender, and the tenderness of the meat combined with the crunch of the breading made for an outstanding combination.

The bun and attention to detail was lacking a bit.  The bun was fine, but it appeared they had only made a very token attempt at toasting it, so that knocks a few points off.  And, the sandwich was not served dressed as I ordered it, and this lack of attention also decreases the score just a bit.

I must say a word about those onion rings.  That one word is WOW.  Do yourself a favor….get the onion rings.

Overall, I’m giving the Plump’s Last Shot breaded tenderloin sandwich a 4 out of 5 bites.  It’s well above average and certainly worth a repeat visit from me.  A little more attention to detail would bring the score up even more.

The sandwich sells for $6.95, and includes chips.  Fries or Onion Rings will set you back $1-$1.50 more.

Plump’s Last Shot is located at 6416 Cornell Avenue in Indianapolis.

Claude and Annie’s, Fishers, Indiana

Claude and Annie’s is a pub/restaurant that has 4 locations around Indianapolis.  I’d visited Claude and Annie’s several times before, for music and other events, but I’d never sampled their tenderloin, as they were usually late night visits where I opted for desert while listening to the music.

This week found us at Claude and Annie’s on the north side for a music event, and we decided to go early and have dinner.

Claude and Annie’s on the northside is a HUGE place, but it doesn’t show it from the outside.  From the outside, it looks like a typical, small, strip mall pub.  Once you enter, you’ll see a large pool and game room, two dining rooms, a nicely appointed bar and a nice stage area.   They feature live entertainment, including karaoke, bands,  an open stage,  jam session, and poker tourney.  Unlike several northside pubs I’ve visited,  the atmosphere is very down home and friendly.  The service is the same way…our server greeted us in a friendly manner, and was attentive without hovering over us.

I was their to sample their breaded tenderloin, of course.  I noticed that on the menu they offer the option of a second bun with this sandwich so you can share it…and unless you’ve got a VERY hearty appetite, this is probably a good idea, as you can see!

Now, my thought is that bigger is NOT always better…sometimes, quality drops when size increases, but this is certainly not the case with Claude and Annie’s.  The breading was very tasty and crisp, and bit more flaky than many tenderloins I’ve sampled.  I liked this particular breading quite a lot….certainly better than the standard breading that most restaurants use on their tenderloins.

The mean was nice and moist.  It wasn’t quite as tender as some I’d sampled, but still it was above average and VERY tasty.  I did, however, encounter a piece of gristle in the meat, which will drop the rating a bit.  I realize that not every tenderloin will have this piece in it, but mine did, and this is the one being reviewed.

The sandwich was served promptly and  the condiments were brought exactly as ordered, and there were plenty of them.  A detail that some restaurants seem to forget…kudos to them for being so attentive!

Claude and Annie’s breaded tenderloin is a bargain.  It sells for $6.99, and that includes chips.  For $1-$2 more, you can substitute various side items.  I chose the onion chips, and they were OUTSTANDING.  If you’re an onion lover, I highly recommend them as a side.

If I didn’t get a piece of gristle, and if the meat had been a touch more tender, this tenderloin would certainly get a 5 out of 5.  However,  those two things will drop my rating to a 4.2 out of 5.  It’s well above average an well worth the trip to the north side to get it.
Claude and Annie’s is located at the corner of 141st and State Road 37 in Fishers.  You can visit their website here.

Bourbon Street Distillery, Indianapolis

Bourbon Street is one of those places that I occasionally drive by and think to myself  “I need to try this place…”, but it seems that each time I’m on a schedule to get somewhere.

A friend recommend their tenderloin, so I made a point to stop here on my way to a downtown music gig.

The night we visited was a cold, snowy night, and also a federal holiday, so downtown was almost deserted, but Bourbon Street was hopping with a steady stream of customers in and out.  It was obvious  that they have a very loyal following, because the staff seemed to know most of the customers by name.

Their menu has a definite cajun influence, with a number of blackened dishes on the menu.  The menu is quite varied, with everything from seafood to steaks to typical bar fare.

Bourbon Street has a 1/2 pound, hand breaded tenderloin. I  suspect that this might be the most generous 1/2 pound of meat in the business.  A quite ample serving indeed!

The meat itself was simply over the top good.  Nice, moist, and tender, and the flavor of the meat was among the most I’ve ever had.  And although the meat was pounded thin, it wasn’t paper thin.  It was the perfect thickness to get the texture of the meat in every bite.

And the breading was just as good as the meat itself, if not better.  REALLY nice and crispy, yet not overdone.  I detected just a hint of cornmeal in the breading, which only added to the already outstanding flavor.

So, the breaded tenderloin itself was certainly a 5 out of 5.  However, in this case, there were a couple of things that detract from the sandwich as a whole.

First, notice the bun.  They smash their buns, and apparently on every sandwich.  I realize this might work for some people, but for me, it didn’t.  The smashed bun became soggy pretty quick, and soggy buns are a no-no for this guy.  About halfway through the sandwich, I discarded the bun and finished the meat alone.

Secondly, the condiments were lacking.  I ordered onion for my sandwich, and got two very small rings, and one of them was quite wilted.  This lack of attention to detail is what will keep many customers from coming back.

And, thirdly, another lack of attention to detail.  Bourbon Street’s breaded tenderloin sells for $8.25, and that includes your choice of french fries or what they call  “hot chips”…their version of home made potato chips.  I thought those sounded awfully good, and opted for them, but was served french fries instead.

So, although I’m giving the meat/breading itself a 5 out of 5, the lack of attention to detail brings the sandwich as a whole down to a 4.  Add to that a borderline rude waitress during the first half of our meal,  the score for the experience as a whole drops to a 3.5 out of 5.

All that said, this restaurant has some really shining bright spots.  Holly chose a steak special and I do believe it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever tasted.  And, their dessert featured sugar cream pie.  That’s a rarity and I was VERY glad to see it on a menu.

Bourbon Street Distillery is located at 361 Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.  It is a 21 and over, smoking restaurant.