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

 

 

 

Lord Ashley’s Pub and Eatery, Indianapolis

lord-ashley-s

Lord Ashley’s Pub and Eatery, located on the East side of Indianapolis at Pendleton Pike and Oaklandon Road, is a family friendly, non­ smoking pub. This is my favorite type of pub, and it’s always a treat for me to see families eating and laughing together in an atmosphere like this.

Located in an unassuming strip mall, it’s nicely appointed with a lot of dark wood on the inside. There are a LOT of TV’s playing mostly sports and news stations, but the sound is turned down low so one doesn’t have an issue carrying on a conversation in a normal speaking voice, another big plus.

We arrived shortly before 5PM on a Friday night, on our way to a show in nearby Fortville, Indiana. Although it was the dinner hour, and they were pretty busy, service was prompt and friendly.

The menu has a LOT of choices on it, from salads to steak to sandwiches and more. I’d been told my buddy Dick Davis that they had a pretty good tenderloin here, so I already had my mind made up.

I had a rather interesting interaction with our waitress. I asked “How is your breaded tenderloin” and she responded “It’s big!!!”. We had a nice conversation about how I really didn’t care if it was big or not, I was more concerned with whether it was good or not. That’s one of my pet peeves…restaurants bragging about portion size, rather than the quality of their food.

Ashleys Loin

That said, when she brought it out my first thought was “This looks good!” Even though it’s pounded out thinner than I normally prefer, for this particular sandwich, it works well. The breading is really good….nice and crispy with just the right amount of seasoning. The meat itself, not QUITE as moist as some I’ve had recently….maybe because of the thinness it was pounded to, but, still, it was VERY tasty.

The sandwich was served dressed as I requested, and the bun was nicely toasted. I’m going to give Lord Ashley’s breaded tenderloin a 4 out of 5 bites…well above average and certainly worth getting. It is served with a side of homemade chips, and, let me tell you, they were FANTASTIC. Although you can get fries or rings for an upcharge, I highly recommend these chips.

For her dinner, Holly chose the tempura batter breaded fish sandwich. The portion size was enormous, and could easily have been divided into two small sandwiches. The fish was light and flaky. She chose the homemade chips for her side as well, and really enjoyed them.

Lord Ashley’s is located at Pendleton Pike and Oaklandon Road in Indy. You can find them online at: http://www.lordashleyseatery.com/

Syd’s, Noblesville, Indiana

SYd's Sign

Although most locals just call it “Syd’s”, the true name is “Syd’s Fine Food and Spirits”.

Sitting on the courthouse square in Noblesville, Indiana, Syd’s is part bar, part restaurant, and full of history.  The front is a typical small town/neighborhood bar, complete with shuffleboard, lots of neon, and televisions turned to sports, and the back room is a family dining area.

I’d been to Syd’s (and reviewed it) a number of years ago, but I’d heard the ownership is different now, so we decided to give them a try on one of the rare occasions we actually go out for lunch.

The menu is pretty typical pub fare…burgers, pizza, a steak or two, nachos, and a surprise or two thrown in.  They also have a “light” menu section, which seems to be half sandwich and soup or salad combinations.

Of course, I was there to try their hand breaded tenderloin.  As you can tell, this tenderloin is pounded out quite large, which means very thin.  Those of you who are regular readers know that this isn’t my preference of tenderloin.  I prefer a thicker, less pounded out piece of meat.

Syd's loin

In addition to being pounded out very thin, I could hardly detect any seasoning at all. The meat (and seasoning) wasn’t BAD, mind you, it was just bland.  The texture was fine (or, as fine as could be with it so thin), but the taste just wasn’t there.

There were hits and misses with this sandwich.  Hits:  Hand breaded, fresh, toasted bun, dressed as requested.  Misses:  Bland and far too thin.  Overall, I’m going to give it a 3.  Again, it’s not had….it just doesn’t rise above average in score…especially at 9 bucks and a little change for the sandwich and a side.

For her lunch, Holly had one of the light options – a half turkey sandwich and side salad.  She said the turkey was moist and tender, as well as smoked, which was a nice surprise.  The side salad was very basic.  They have several light dressing options.

Syd’s is located on the Courthouse Square in Noblesville, Indiana.  You can find them online at www.sydsfinefood.com

 

 

Glory Days Restaurant, Clay City, Indiana

We were in western Indiana to do a 5k, and I knew that I wanted to try a tenderloin in the area.

My friend and cousin Casey Winningham had recently been to the Glory Days restaurant in Clay  City, Indiana, and since that was just a few miles from the event, we thought it would be a nice way to recover.

Clay City bills itself as the “Mayberry of the Midwest” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s a small town with a business district surrounded by farmland. There are a few restaurants, and antique shop or two, a couple of gas stations, and so on.

Glory Days exterior clay city indianaUpon pulling up to Glory Days restaurant, the first thing we saw was a huge mural on the side of the building, and an old police car, quite similar to the Mayberry Squad Car parked outside.

Upon entering, we were almost overwhelmed, in a good way. It’s quite like a living museum.  There is stuff all over the place. Old barber shop posters, board games, memories from the oldhigh school, and much, much more. None of it matches, and it’s all just kind of stuck here and there, wherever there was an empty space, but it makes for a very pleasant visit.

Glory Days inside

They have a large menu, with sandwiches, a steak or two, appetizers, and more. We seldom get appetizers, but we decided to splurge this day, and got a small order of wings, and, let me tell you, they were outstanding! Crisp and meaty and the sauce had a nice “zing” to it. I highly recommend them!

I looked at the menu for a breaded tenderloin, and didn’t see one, although I saw a grilled one. I asked our capable waitress, and she said “It’s called The Chopper” and pointed it out to me.

IMG_20160521_131756_234Except…it’s not “really a tenderloin”. It’s a breaded pork chop. Granted…they DO point that out on the menu, but it’s not quite the same thing. By the way, if you want a further explanation, here’s a link: http://www.thekitchn.com/a­complete­guide­to­pork­chops­meat­basics­208638

Since it’s not a real breaded tenderloin, but a breaded pork chop, I’m not going to rate it on my normal scale. What I WILL say is that it was very tasty. The meat was tender and moist, and I liked the favor of the breading quite a lot, and it did stay crisp throughout the life of the sandwich. I would not hesitate to order it again!

For her lunch, Holly ordered a bacon cheeseburger – and reports that it was very good. The highlight of her meal was the generous serving of homemade potato chips. What a treat!

I’ve got to say, this meal was a bargain. We got an appetizer to share, sandwiches with sides, and we each had a piece of sugar cream pie (which was absolutely amazing!!) for dessert, and our total bill was just a shade over 25 bucks before the tip. I highly recommend a visit here.

Glory Days is located at 802 Main Street in Clay City Indiana. I was unable to locate a website for the restaurant.

Grand Junction Brewery, Westfield, Indiana

GJ sign

Grand Junction Brewing Company is a fairly new addition to Westfield. Formed in 2014, the name Grand Junction comes from the Midlands and Monon railroads that ran through Westfield, Indiana. If a restaurant gets part of its history from trains, you KNOW I’m going to want to visit.

Located in an older building in the heard of “old” Westfield, it’s quite a bit larger than it appears on the outside. It’s long and deep, and the building itself is just bursting with local history, no only in the building itself, but in the photographs and items on display they appear to have been loaned by the Westfield Historical Society.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this is an all ­ages restaurant! It was nice to see families with kids enjoying a night out. Kudos to Grand Junction for finding a way to make this work!

We arrived about shortly before 5PM on a Friday night, and our server was quick to tell us that she was the only server in the entire restaurant, and she’d keep up as best she could. I realize staffing a restaurant must be a nightmare, but I would think that at prime dinner hours a restaurant could make sure there was adequate staffing at a time like this. I WILL say some servers did come on staff later, but service never was what I would call prompt.

The menu is pretty large, with a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, and signature items on it.

Most, if not all, of their food is advertised as locally sourced, a concept that my wife and I are HUGE fans of, again, kudos to them for keeping it local!

I’d been told about their hand breaded tenderloin, and that was what I was there to sample. The menu says it’s locally sourced and tenderized.

Grand Junction Brewery

Upon arriving, I immediately saw a couple of issues with the sandwich. First, it was extremely greasy. Grease was literally glistening on the top of the sandwich, and it soaked into the bun, making the bun a bit “mushy”. Secondly, I asked for onion with my sandwich, and, as you can see, they weren’t exactly generous with the onion.

Upon eating the sandwich, it appeared there was only a tiny bit of effort that went into tenderizing it…and the breading was quite bland (and starting to get soggy from the grease). It wasn’t until a bit later when I was trying to describe the taste and texture of the sandwich that it came to me….it tasted, and the texture, was like a pork chop coated with Shake and Bake mix.

Sad to say, I’m only going to give this sandwich a 2 out of 5…I’d not order it again.

There WERE some very bright spots in our meal. For her dinner, Holly ordered a side salad and appetizer for her entrée. The salad did not come out with croutons on the side as she requested, but luckily it was not a huge deal to take them off the top. For her entrée she chose the Mahi Mahi Tacos and they were reportedly outstanding! They have a tropical sriracha sauce that sets them apart.

We chose to have dessert this night. My wife ordered Key Lime Pie and she reported it to be delicious­ rich and creamy with a dollop of fresh cream and a fresh lime garnish. They had a special chocolate cake on the menu this particular night and I decided to give it a try, and it was absolutely fantastic, and a VERY generous serving. I had 1/2 of my piece and saved the rest for breakfast the next day. (Hey…..I’m an adult. I can have cake for breakfast if I want to).

Although our experience, both in service and food was a mixed bag, I certainly would give them another try.

Grand Junction Brewery is located at 110 S Union Street in Westfield, Indiana. You can find them online at http://www.grandjunctionbreweing.com

The Mug Greenfield Indiana

The Mug outsdieThe Mug in Greenfield has glowing reviews (for the most part) and has been recommended to me numerous times as having the best Breaded Tenderloin in the state.  Holly and I found ourselves headed to Knightstown, Indiana where I was doing a benefit show at the Historic Hoosier Gym, so we took advantage of the situation to make a stop in Greenfield and give The Mug a try.

One of the challenges in writing about food is to maintain impartiality.  I might like the business and what they do, I might know the owners personally, but in the end, it comes down to two things: how was the food and how was the experience.  That being said, The Mug sources most of their food locally, and that’s a huge point in their favor.  They’re a local business, not a chain, and that’s another point in their favor. Unfortunately, The Mug falls far short in several other areas.

We arrived, and our server asked us if we’d ever been there before, which we responded we had not.  She took a few moments to explain the menu to us, taking pride in the fact that the food was locally sourced, and we appreciated that.

My mind was already made up; I was going for the breaded tenderloin.  While Holly was choosing her meal, I observed an interaction that was unsettling to me. A diner went up to the counter and asked for silverware (plastic ware, actually, no big deal).  However, I observed an employee get the utensils, drop them on the floor, pick them up, and hand them to the customer.  Yes, they were wrapped, but in my mind, this is absolutely inexcusable.  I’m no clean freak, but I found it quite disturbing and made me wonder what other unsanitary practices they have.

Holly decided on her meal, (more about this later) and we saw these wonderful, hand-cut fries being served.  We asked if fries came with a sandwich, and our server told us we could order a combo and get fries or apple slices and a drink. Unfortunately, if you order a combo, as we found out, the hand cut fries are NOT the fries you get. If you order a combo, you get frozen out of the bag fries – which was a huge disappointment.  In our server’s defense, the menu *does* list both kinds of fries as side offerings, and it does list the French Fries (not the hand cut fries) as the fries you get with your combo, but I gotta tell ya…for our first visit there, and the server KNOWING it was our first visit there, this seemed very confusing and a bit deceptive.  Just a few more seconds of explanation on the server’s part could have eliminated the confusion, and we would have known exactly what to expect.  But alas, that did not happen.

Mug loinSo, how was the tenderloin? It LOOKS good, but, actually, it’s pretty substandard.  The breading is quite heavy with cornmeal, and it overpowered the taste of everything else in the sandwich, even the meat.  The meat, wasn’t what I would call “bad”, but it was not as tender or moist as I expected.  I also encountered two pieces of gristle in the meat, which, for me, further detracted from the experience.  For a hand-breaded tenderloin, I’m going to give it a 2 out of 5 bites, a bit below average.

For her dinner, Holly chose a burger…but not just any burger – a burger she couldn’t refuse!  It should be noted that, by choice, Holly does not eat a lot of red meat.  Most often, she prefers chicken, fish, or even a vegetarian dish.  So when she chooses to eat beef, it’s a special treat.  The burger she chose was the Jalapeno Cream Cheese Bacon Burger.  It was an amazing looking offering.  She did not know it when she ordered it, but the jalapeno cream cheese part of the burger comes from two jalapeno poppers on the top of the burger below the crowning bun.  Inherently, this is not a bad thing at all…except for one, major issue:  the poppers tasted freezer burned.  This one detail was enough to make the entire sandwich fall short of being edible.  Add that to the fact that her combo did not include the fresh cut fries she was expecting – and this made for a quite disappointing meal.

The Mug does some things pretty well, I believe, and it’s always possible that we hit them on an off day.  However, as it stands, it’s a place I would meet friends if they wanted to meet, but would not make a special trip to eat there.
The Mug is located at 117 Apple Street in Greenfield, Indiana.  Their website is www.themug.com

 

 

Sgt Pepper’s Chicken, Martinsville, Indiana

Peppers outside

Holly and I found ourselves scheduled to be in Martinsville, Indiana, where she was judging a middle school talent contest, and I wanted to try a tenderloin in a town I’d never had one in.

I asked the folks at the Pursuing Pork Tenderloins group on Facebook who had a good tenderloin in Martinsville, and two were recommended….Indy’s Family Restaurant and Sgt. Pepper’s Chicken.

Indy’s Family Restaurant was my first choice, because it sounded like it would be a good place to set and relax before the competition. Upon arriving, we found out it was a breakfast and lunch restaurant only, so off to Sgt. Pepper’s we went.

From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. Set in an unassuming, out of the way strip mall, it’s not too far off of State Road 37 and easy to get to.

Actually, from the inside, it doesn’t look like much, either. I suspect the building has been something else in a former life. You walk up to the counter, order your food, and then they call out your name when it’s ready.

Sgt. Pepper’s serves its food one way….fried. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Peppers loinI chose the hand breaded tenderloin. This is a VERY good tenderloin! It was the right size for me…not so large to be overwhelming, yet large enough to be a very hearty meal.

The breading was VERY tasty, but, I do think it could’ve used a bit more seasoning. Oddly, being named Sgt. Pepper’s, I think it could have used some more pepper. Still, it was tasty. The meat was very flavorful and tender. The bun was pretty much a standard bun, and they gave me plenty of onion for my sandwich…kudos to them for not being stingy!

I think with just a bit more seasoning, it certainly could have been outstanding. As it was, I’d give it 4.5 out of 5 bites. WELL above average and certainly worth getting.

For my side, I chose the fried potatoes, and they were simply outstanding. When we return, they certainly will be my go to side order. As an added bonus, this sandwich is a bargain…7.69 and that includes your choice of a side.

For her dinner, Holly chose the fried chicken, which is what they are known for. She reported it to be very tasty, albeit a bit salty for her taste. The homemade potato chips hit a home run with Holly! And they give you enough of a serving of chips that you can have some with your meal, and have plenty of leftovers for later.

Sgt. Pepper’s Chicken is located at 2028 Burton Lane in Martinsville, Indiana.

Their website is http://www.sgtpeppers.net/