My Warm-Weather Pizza Pick: Napolese

I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with the Patachou chain.  I hate the brusque service I almost invariably receive, the jarring proximity to other diners, and the inevitable volume of that proximity, which makes conversation difficult at best.  Normally dining for me needs to be a full experience, but I let it slide in the case of the Patachou restaurants because their food is just so darn tasty.  Napolese is no exception, and I keep going despite the long waits, loud dining room, and tepid service because it is the only place in Indianapolis where I know I can get that thin, yeasty, blistery pizza crust. IMG_0446

On my most recent visit, I had a quartino of Tienfenbrunner Pinot Bianco.  I loved the apple and citrus notes and crisp finish.  Napolese has a short but varied wine list which has never disappointed me.  This will not be the first time I’ve hunted down a bottle of something I drank there, and the list is priced to be drunk with pizza, albeit high-end pizza.  IMG_0445

My favorite starter is the baked goat cheese in a crock of tomato sauce.  It is served with slices of the pizza crust and reminds me exactly of the baked goat cheese everyone loves at Barcelona Tapas.  I realize that eating this dish right before I eat pizza is incredibly redundant, and I do not care one bit.  I dare you to try either this starter or the pizza and not order one the next time you visit.



The pie list at Napolese is long and interesting and includes such things as quail eggs and artichoke hearts and locally made Fleur de Terre.  I have SEEN these pizzas on other diners’ tables and they look great.  However, the first time I came to Napolese I ordered a classic Margherita, and I have never been able to order anything else.  I do not apologize.


Just look at it.  Now, go eat one. 

Tips:  If you live anywhere close, I’d highly advise getting your pizza to go, due to the tepid waitstaff and crowded dining area.  Please note that I hate criticizing AN ENTIRE CHAIN of restaurants based on bad service, but ambivalent servers seem to be something of a corporate policy with this empire.  I’ve probably visited 25 times and gotten a smile twice.

On the upside, because Napolese is in the Patachou family, you can order Patachou’s tomato artichoke soup there.  Honestly, the servers could probably beat me and I’d still go for this soup, and if I ever find out how to make it they’ll lose my brunch business forever.  995714_10153020441125434_1417688848_n

I have found that the best way to reheat leftover pizza from Napolese is to get a stone or pan to at least 400 degrees in the oven and THEN put the leftovers on the pan.  It crisps the bottom without overcooking the top and only takes a few minutes since the pizza is so thin.

http://Napolese on Urbanspoon


Mama Irma: Delicious Peruvian food in Fountain Square

Abby and I were downtown and wanted to go somewhere interesting for a lunch last week.  I felt like sushi, she felt like Thai food, and neither of us felt like eating in downtown proper, so we headed to Fountain Square.  I had a Groupon for Mama Irma and the menu sounded interesting, so we headed in.


The restaurant is tiny inside, maybe ten tables, and completely charming.  It has a nice sunny atmosphere for lunch but I’m willing to bet it would make a wonderful date night spot as well.  There was only one server for lunch but he handled the four busy tables with ease and recommended entrees and dessert for us.  I also am a sucker for salsa and bachata music, so that didn’t hurt.

Since I had originally felt like sushi, I looked at the seafood choices first.  There were quite a few warm dishes, but at the advice of the server I picked the mixed seafood ceviche and was totally blown away.  Shrimp and tilapia were marinated in a very bold lime juice and ginger blend and served with a wonderful creamy sauce that toned down the acidity of the ceviche nicely.  It was served with a slice of steamed potato, peruvian corn, and fried soy nuts.

Photo Oct 18, 12 30 06 PM

I would order this again in a heartbeat-it was the most interesting and refreshing thing I have eaten in a long time.  However, I’d recommend ordering rice or another side to accompany it.  As you can see, it’s basically a plate of fish.

Abby is a noodle fiend and had originally felt like Asian food so she ordered the Peruvian chicken “lo mein.”  It was beautiful and delicious.  I’m not really sure what was Peruvian about it, but it was a tasty plate of noodles, peppers, onions, and blackened chicken.  I stole a bite and then another bite.  Photo Oct 18, 12 30 17 PM

For dessert we split the Postre Mama Irma, “homemade upside down custard paired with a coffee-infused chocolate cake drizzled over with caramel sauce.”  Photo Oct 18, 1 02 04 PM (1)I won’t pretend to have tasted coffee or chocolate flavors, but the cake was oddly irresistible all the same.  It reminded me of a cold, less sweet tres leches cake and I loved it.

I will definitely be back to Mama Irma to try the other specialties.  I particularly have my eye on the purple corn custard.  This place is so charming and the food is so interesting that I think it would make a great spot for a date or a dinner spot for out-of-town guests.  But don’t wait for a special occasion to give it a try!

http://Mama Irma Peruvian on Urbanspoon

Getting Cultured in Fountain Square

I’ve been hearing a lot of good buzz about Cultured Swirl in Fountain Square lately.  Fountain Square is always an interesting place to walk around, but until recently lacked a good dessert destination, so I was excited to hear someone had finally pushed froyo south to the district.  Photo Oct 13, 5 58 30 PM

I’m not sure who opened the store, but it is certainly well planned and branded. The Virginia St. storefront is about as cute as can be, with white wainscotting, lots of sunlight, and big swings to sit on while you enjoy your dessert.  Everything is stamped with the Cultured Swirl logo, right down to the wooden spoons.  To say this shop is quaint is putting it very mildly.  Photo Oct 13, 6 00 40 PM

When I stopped in, there were 8 flavors on selection, including Vegan Vanilla.  The vegan vanilla tasted like absolutely nothing, because that is what frozen yogurt is when you take out the dairy.  So I don’t really blame them for the flavor being horrible so much as I blame them for trying to make froyo vegan to begin with.  That’s just dumb.

The other flavors were good- I picked tart peach and tart pomberry.  Normally I am not a fan of the tangy probiotic taste of yogurt and pick froyo that tastes like ice cream.  But this tart peach was really interesting and went perfectly with my decidedly-not-quaint tradition of sour gummi worms on frozen yogurt.  I just can’t resist!  If they’re on the topping bar, I’m eating them, period.

Photo Oct 13, 6 07 11 PM Phil went for a more mature Dutch Chocolate with caramel sauce, pecans, and blueberries.  The chocolate had a rich, creamy flavor that I enjoyed quite a bit.  We also both sampled and enjoyed the salted caramel flavor quite a bit.  Photo Oct 13, 6 08 40 PM

To be honest, the frozen yogurt at Cultured Swirl was nothing I would make a special trip to Fountain Square to eat, since I personally like my desserts full of dairy and chocolate and whatever GMOs are necessary to make them delicious.  But I’m thrilled to have somewhere to go when I happen to be in the area.  And indoor swings are the icing on the cake.Photo Oct 13, 6 06 59 PM

http://Cultured Swirl Organic Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Crepes in Indianapolis? La Paix has a way to go

I like crepes when they are good.  When they aren’t, I feel like someone put fruit in my omelette and it just weirds me out.  I decided to give La Paix at Keystone a try when they promoted via Groupon, but I was underimpressed overall with their crepes.

The atmosphere in the cafe is pretty dark and a little beat up, but certainly not dirty.  Still, we were glad to sit outside.

We tried 3 crepes.  One was a turkey, ham, mozzarella, and cranberry sauce.

Photo Jul 26, 11 46 18 AMPhoto Jul 26, 11 43 39 AM

One was a breakfast crepe with egg, cheddar, and baconPhoto Jul 26, 11 42 32 AM

The dessert crepe had bananas and Nutella.Photo Jul 26, 11 50 01 AM

All the fillings were generous in quanity and I had no complaint with the flavor.  My issue with the crepes here was the thickeness of the actual crepe-whether this was due to batter inconsistency or operator error, I don’t know.  But eating the crepes was a bit of a chore and they were a far cry from the delicate thin pastry I was hoping for.  I most likely won’t go back unless I’m desperate.

http://La Paix Cafe on Urbanspoon

Miyagi Sushi on 96th

Photo Aug 05, 2 58 46 PM

When it comes to Indianapolis sushi, I’m a bit of a tough customer because I’ve tried everything and I stick to my favorites.  We have no shortage of options in Indy, each with it’s own features and drawbacks, and people tend to be territorial about their destination of choice.  It’s a matter of personal preference and here are mine:

1.  Quality of food:  Obviously, needs to be high.

2.  Attitude:  I’m annoyed by super hip sushi places with tons of signature cocktails and angsty servers.  I’m annoyed by throngs of people I have to jockey with for seating. One particularly bad offender offers pommes frites.  I wouldn’t consider myself a stickler for authenticity, but really?

3.  Menu:  I prefer less sauces, cream cheese, jalapenos, etc.  I prefer more, you know, fish.

For these reasons, I have two favorite places in Indianapolis and one of those is Miyagi.  It’s located in an unappealing strip mall on 96th street, but the ambience inside is modern and interesting, but unpretentious.Photo May 16, 4 47 41 PM Photo Aug 05, 2 36 11 PM

I’ve been at least a dozen times and the staff are always friendly.  They make all my favorite standards, they carry fatty tuna, and they have groupons allll the time.  What else could I ask for?

Hamachi scallion roll Photo Aug 05, 2 58 33 PM


Photo May 16, 4 55 04 PMSpicy tuna, sadly of the pulverized-fish-and-spicy-sauce varietyPhoto Aug 05, 2 58 29 PM


Miyagi 2

I haven’t gotten any lately, but their fatty tuna is very good and their hot rock appetizers are completely delicious.  If you’re in the area, go give them a try.  I promise the interior is better than the exterior, and you don’t have to wear trendy clothes or have a reservation hours in advance.

http://Miyagi's on Urbanspoon

Heaven on Thursdays: Thai Taste in Castleton

I love Thai food, or at least the Thai food I have had. I’ll admit, though,  I get intimidated when I look at the menu and the names sound similar and the ingredients sound the same in every dish and I always just wind up ordering green curry.  But I’m not willing to order something different, spend $12 and have a meal I don’t like.  So green curry it is, time after time.

A Thai buffet is something I had never heard of and probably would have avoided even if I knew of one.  However, this one:  1.  Was recommended highly to me by my landlady 2.  Is only a buffet one night a week and 3.  Was too irresistible of a concept to ignore.  In Castleton right next to Penzey Spices AND Trader Joe’s (!!!), this is a tiny restaurant in a strip mall that fills up fast on Thursdays when they have the buffet.  The staff are very very friendly and the atmosphere is cozy.  Photo Sep 19, 7 07 45 PMPhoto Sep 12, 6 54 05 PM

As tantalizing as the idea of being able to eat ten Thai dishes plus unlimited spring rolls, lemongrass Tom Yum soup, and coconut milk pudding may sound, if the food quality is lacking, I would just rather not.  Happily, not only was the variety of dishes superb, but the quality and flavor were the best I have had in Indianapolis so far.  (This is limited to my previous haunts: Siam Square, Thai Kitchen, and Sawasdee.)    If I had to pick one dish of the 20 or so I sampled to eliminate, I would be hard-pressed.  The buffet was $12 or $13 and absolutely no fillers-this is all meat and vegetables in flavorful sauce.

Some selections:  Photo Sep 19, 7 10 00 PMPud Thai with chicken, Pud Kra Prow with chicken.  Photo Sep 19, 7 37 35 PMSquid with chili paste, Pud Kra Prow ground pork, and Pepper Beef

Photo Sep 12, 7 17 58 PMTom Yum with chicken, a favorite for it’s strong lemon grass flavor and mild heat.

Photo Sep 12, 7 06 45 PMMussels with chili paste, Stir Fried Beef with vegetables

I know I write all the time about places I like to eat but the proof is in the pudding with this one:  I have been back 3 times in the 2 weeks since I have known the wonders of Thai Taste (once for takeout and twice for the buffet) and have each time been blown away by how flavorful the food is and how packed with meat and vegetables it is for the price.  And hey, if you have to wait for a table you can always explore Penzey Spices next door!

Note:  The buffet is every Thursday night, but the first Thursday of each month is all vegetarian food!  Otherwise, most dishes have meat in them, although you could pick it out easily if your crowd is mixed with carnivores. Whatever night you go, be prepared to force yourself to stop eating.  It’s that good.

http://Thai Taste on Urbanspoon

La Parada: Great Mexican Close to Downtown

I love Mexican food, theoretically.  I have periodic cravings where I imagine myself chomping on delicious chips and downing margaritas and being happy.  Then I go and order something and I get a plate where the soupy bland beans plop out onto the plate and mix with rice that’s red but tastes like nothing and my taco makes me wish I had just gone to a tacqueria.  Like, every time.  So when Frequent Foodie Friend Christina told me La Parada was different, I was cynical.  My hopes had just…they’d been dashed so many times before.  I’m happy to report that she was once again correct-La Parada is different.  I now have a place for Mexican.

The restaurant is just east of downtown, near Flat 12 and Sun King breweries.  It is in a bright building on New York St but is little bit hard to spot because it sits in a strip mall behind the building it occupied until recently.  So keep those eyes open.  Also, the one flaw I found is that they serve beer and wine, but no liquor-so margaritas must be consumed before or after eating here.  I’d recommend after, because you want to be sober for this food.  The inside is cheery and full of bright, painted,carved-wood booths.

The salsa that comes to every table is quite delicious here.  I’m embarassingly spice intolerant, but this was perfect.  Photo Jul 24, 6 18 32 PM

Christina swore up and down we HAD to get the choriqueso dip and she was completely right.  Ignore the little islands of grease on a cask of salty, cheesy, sausagey goodness, this was the best queso I’ve had in a long time.  We cleaned the dish.  Photo Jul 24, 6 23 36 PM

I also tried a steak taco, just to see what the tacos were like because they were only $1.75.  As it turns out, I wouldn’t come back for the tacos.  Nothing was wrong with them, per se, but nothing was special either, and I have plenty of places I love for tacos.  You can’t argue with that amount of meat, though.Photo Jul 24, 6 29 39 PM

The other showstopper of the night was the carne asada platter with shrimp, which we split and did not finish.  The roast onions and peppers, the shrimp in a mild cheesey sauce, the soft flour tortillas, it was ALL great.  This was it!  This is exactly what I am looking for when I crave Mexican!  Photo Jul 24, 6 29 06 PM

I came back a few weeks later with my partner in crime, and guess what we ordered?  Photo Aug 09, 8 22 39 PMIt was just too good not to get again.  This time, for good measure, I tried the elotes, and they were the best I have had in Indianapolis.  I was in heaven.  Photo Aug 09, 8 21 08 PM

I am thrilled to have finally found a place in Indianapolis where I can scratch my Mexican food itch.  There are probably more that are decent like this, but La Parada is now my place.  These guys like it, too.  Photo Sep 14, 5 51 22 PMhttp://La Parada on Urbanspoon