By Kris Turner
Duck confit and waffles, Brussels sprout pizza, beet-cured wild salmon — you can have all of these meals within a pedicab ride from Monument Circle. In fact you should. Go ahead; make a day of it. Take in all of the on-the-edge food Indy has to offer. When you’re done, though, check out a few of these local places that are doing some of the simplest food really, really well.
8017 S. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46217
To be honest, I’ve never liked steak sandwiches. Time after time, I’ve been burned by the promise of tender, flavorful, hand-held steak only to wish I had left my money in my wallet and chewed on it instead. I had entertained the thought that maybe this is a food that just shouldn’t be. A sandwich doomed from its inception by cost-constraints and A-1 sauce.
Enter Schneider’s Pub–strip-center pub on the Indy’s southside. The beer is mostly domestic, the customers fiercely loyal, and the steak sandwich back and as good as ever. After a long hiatus from the menu, the neighborbood Pub decided to bring the old standard back.
Lightly buttered and toasted sourdough bread sets this sandwich apart from its county fair cousins right away. The bread holds its own against grilled onions, melted Swiss cheese, and the juices from the thin sliced sirloin. Schneider’s kitchen has landed on the marinade sweet spot. The steak is incredibly tender with a flavorful background that doesn’t drown out the taste of quality meat. Of the four steak sandwiches (yes, four) I’ve had, I’ve yet to find one piece of gristle or chewy fat. Once I’ve polished off the home fried potato chips and pickle spear, there’s nary a crumb left on the plate. At $6.85 a plate, Schneider’s Pub is maintaining the pub food tradition providing well-prepared, simple food at a more than reasonable price.
Circle City Sweets
222 E Market St #50
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company
647 Virginia Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46203
I’ve been at war with breakfast for some time now. I rarely eat it and, when I plan to, I don’t want it any earlier than 10:30 a.m. For me, true breakfast is typically all-American, all-the-way. Bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, grits and more biscuits, all jammed onto one plate chock full of all the fat and calories one needs to sustain a late morning nap. Unfortunately, there’s just no place for my style of breakfast in the everyday life of even a marginally functioning human.
Thankfully, my treaty with breakfast was drafted and signed about a year ago when I ordered my first ham and cheese croissant at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company in Indy’s Fletcher Place neighborhood. Flaky and buttery, layered with Swiss cheese and thinly sliced ham, a portable pillow of savory victory in my long campaign to find early morning equilibrium. The ham and cheese is so well incorporated into the pastry, I can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins. A light crunch, salty ham, and creamy Swiss are locked into a group hug of all the things breakfast traditionalists love without the need for a belt adjustment.
When I asked about the croissant, owner Doug Listey, a long time area resident, gave the nod to Cindy Hawkins at Circle City Sweets. Cindy makes all of the pastries sold at Calvin Fletcher’s at her City Market location and, if the croissant is any indication, I’m going to need to try them all. The partnership between this local, not-for-profit coffee shop and the home grown bakery is a perfect marriage of two businesses creating simple food and drink with top notch ingredients and deliberate attention to quality.
Main St. Grill
200 S. Emerson Ave.
Greenwood, IN 46143
Chicken sandwiches are in a strange category where the chain, fast-food version regularly beats out the local, small business offering. An oft-neglected dish that is usually best served through your car window (except on Sundays), Buffalo chicken sandwiches require a double down bet that your meal will not be a flavorless frozen clump and/or a drippy bun-defying mess.
I’ve been burned on this sandwich at least 800 times. I’ve suffered bright orange circle patties and slippery dunked filets on buns that disintegrate at the mere mention of moisture, all in hopes of finding a place that could make this concept work. Who would think that a sports bar, just a stone’s throw from the interstate, would finally get it right?
Served simply on a white plate under a Blue Moon neon light, Main St. Grill’s sandwich delivers where so many others simply do not. A fresh chicken breast, hand breaded and fried, lightly coated in a Tabasco Buffalo sauce with melted pepper jack on top. It is neither under nor over sauced, just spicy enough to encourage regular sips of your Miller Lite or Sun King (they offer both and more) and laid on a split-top bun that manages to be substantial but not trendy (read “pretzel”). The breading is light but does tend to accumulate on the edges to give that salty crunch that has made fried chicken the king of comfort food. Side offerings are standard fare. I usually go for cottage cheese for a cooling effect but the Jamaican cole slaw is house made and quite tasty.
Certainly, there are many exciting and fresh offerings in Indy’s burgeoning food scene; but if you’re craving simple, high quality, affordable and comforting food, you can find plenty of options on all sides of town. What are the foodies missing out on in your neighborhood?
Let us know.
Follow Kris Turner on Twitter @SPEDKturner.