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The Tamale Place (And now, for something completely familiar)

StorefrontFamiliar but not ordinary. Sure, we’ve all eaten tamales over the years but chances are, they were the type that would fit in the palm pf your hand with a thin whisper of filling. Well, you’re in for a nice big treat. I was advised to try this swingin’ joint a couple weeks ago, so the wife and I went ahead and made it a quest. If ever I received some good advice, this was it. The store front is very unassuming (hint: it’s the one with the stripped awning) but much like the mild-mannered Bruce Banner who becomes the Might Hulk, you’ll find that once you get inside to see the inner workings, there is flurry of tamale activity.

The inside houses limited seating but look closely and see how much room they require to churn out their varied offerings. It becomes clear that in-house dining isn’t the focus. The real interest here is, of course, tamales and brother, the folks have brought their “A” game! As a little bonus, in case you aren’t a meat eater, there are at least four tamales from which to choose. All things considered, that ain’t bad. On the flipside, meat filled treats make up the remaining varieties. Check out the menu (you may need to visit their website for a better look)!

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Click on the photo to get to their website (neat, huh?). So great, now you know what your choices are but now comes the hard part. What do you choose? If I were you, I’d grab a half-dozen of your closest friends and assign marching orders. Everyone picks a different tamale and once tha’s done, sit down and make it a communal dinner (better yet, take them home, pop in your most loved El Santo movie and enjoy the mayhem while you munch). But hold it, just one tamale each? How is this a meal? If you remember the beginning of this post, I described the tamale of yore was slight of build with slightly less filling than was expected. Fear not, these bad daddies are way more robust than the aforementioned variety. Now to be reasonable, we all know that a certain amount of masa is necessary to make a tamale what it is. These cuties are no exception. I believe that the actual filling is more than ample and the amount of masa is appropriate for acommodating the amount of filling. That said, these dudes are indeed sizeable. And what goes with tamales (and everything else)? Salsa, of course. We tried the mild and the spicy variety and although they were both passable, I wouldn’t say that they were anything to write home about.

Now granted we have yet to try the lions share of yummies but from what we did try, it’s well worth another trip out. Say, if you happen to plan a visit yourself, can you pick us up a couple?

The Tamale Place 5226 Rockville Road, Indianapolis, IN 46224

317-248-9771

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: GREEN BELT WITH TWO STRIPES.

Hoaglin To Go (to my belly).

One of the most bestest things about Saturday mornings is breakfast, however, one of the most worstest is the dirty dishes. But wait, I just got paid. Why not go out for yummies instead? And what better place than, you guessed it, Hoaglin to go. Just take a look at the menu. I dare ya, I double-dog dare ya. It’s chock full of kicked up dishes without making too much of a show. Sure, you can get the usual bacon ‘n eggs but you didn’t come here for the usual. Dude, did you even look at the menu that I dared you about earlier? Ok, I’ll wait for you to go ahead and do it now……………..Times up. So, what sounds good? Most everything, right? Just like anything else in life, not every choice is a winner but the odds are stacked in your flavor (please tell me you caught that).

The (smoked) Salmon Benedict with Pommes Anna GratinPersonally, I have a couple of favorites that I tend to stick with. What are they you ask? Just have a look. This little cutie would be the Salmon Benedict with Pommes Anna Gratin (Cheesy taters). As you can see, there’s plenty of food to share but that ain’t gonna happen. Don’t reach towards my plate, don’t talk to me and don’t make eye contact until I’m done.

Now, while you’re savoring your breakfast, take the time to absorb some of your surroundings. Local artists’ works adorn the brightly colored walls and most, if not all, are ready for purchase.

You can surprise your sweetie with a nice wall hanging and some delicious to-go selections. What? You didn’t check out the tidbits in the glass case? Remember what I said about your surroundings? And to think that you might have walked out and not gotten at least a sweet treat and a coffee to go.

Ok, if this brief review has aroused your interest, stop reading and get down there for some kick-ass breakfast goodness.

 

 

 

 

 

Hoaglin To Go-448 Massachusetts Avenue  Indianapolis, IN 46204-317-423-0300

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: BLUE BELT WITH TWO STRIPES

Ripple Bagel & Deli. It doesn’t take an Einstein.

I prefer to avoid chain eateries but like the occasional bagel sammich. What to do? I head for Ripple Bagel & Deli. In my opinion, it’s way more hip than the “other place” and the choices of ingredient combinations are way more diverse. And what’s even better, they have at least eleven dedicated veggie sammiches from which to choose and fifteen bagel types! Math nerds, please feel free to calculate how many possible yummy combinations are available. Ready……….wait for it…….GO! For those of you who don’t care for the math, here’s a link to the menu.

My most recent choice was the “Weekapaug”, along with a giant pickle.

The Weekapaug

You’ll have to ask them just what the hell that actually means, but what it meant to me was a kick-ass lunch! What’s on it? Howz about a stack of spinach, cream cheese, smoked cheddar (mmmm, smoked cheddar), sprouts, lettuce and honey mustard. All of which is lovingly placed on something called a bialy (basically, it’s a chewy yeast roll, somewhat like a bagel.) Like most bagel sammiches, this is a messy undertaking, but the one thing that makes it a little more so is the fact that they steam their bagels in-house, which makes them very chewy. I’m not really sure how I feel about this, since I wind up using 30% more napkins and a possible shirt sleeve. Even so, this is no reason to stop trying all of the veggie combos.

Don’t feel like a bagel today? One of my chums went with a Chicago Style hot dog. Now, some folks have a different idea of what should go on a dog of this type, but essentially, your dog is “run through the garden” and celery salt added for that little extra something.

The Chicago Style Dog

Back in my meatier days, this style was just the best. I used to go to a little dog stand in NW Indiana and devour two with everything and wash it down with a big ol` grape drink.  Even if your favorite dog version is different, it’s likely you’ll still enjoy this one. Just take a good look and tell me what you think. If you can finish two of these babies, you’ll have my gastronomic respect. As soon as they offer a veggie-dog version, I’ll be first in line, but until then, I’ll just watch you stuff your mug.

Sweet Treats : )

After you’re done with the savory, go ahead and pick up a homemade sweet treat for the drive back to work (ugh).

If you want to support local business and still enjoy bagel fare, this is the place for you. They are, in most ways, superior to their competition with the brainy namesake. Go ahead, stop by for lunch and  see what your favorite is. Oh, and don’t forget the enormous pickle.

Ripple Bagel & Deli – 850 Broad Ripple Avenue  Indianapolis, IN 46220

317-257-8326

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: GREEN BELT, WITH TWO STRIPES

TATA Cuban Cafe`. If you try to order a taco, I’ll slug ya`

If you’re a fan of Latin food but the standard taco or burrito has lost its luster, perhaps it’s time you try a culinary trip to Cuba.  Are you doing some urban hiking downtown and need  to pull over for a break? Why not pass on the burger or sub and tuck into something a little more hearty and stick-to-your-ribish? Tata Cuban Cafe’ may be what you could use.

Just what is Cuban food like? In short: (from Wikipedia) Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor.  At TATA, that translates into plenty of the a fore mentioned hearty dishes. Many of which are accompanied by rice, beans and/or plantains.

Fried Yuca and Onion Rings

I had some friends along for the ride and we started out with a couple of  appetizers before settling

The dining room is colorful and cozy

into our lunch items. We chose the fried yucca and an order of onion rings to start, both of which were served with a mojo sauce. You can think of fried yucca as….wait for it….french fries. However, haven’t you had enough standard french fries to last you the rest of forever? If given the choice between the two, I’d take the yucca every time. Just look at those golden brown, thick cut little cuties.  Although traditional mojo sauce isn’t  thick enough to stick like ketchup would, dipping will give you enough taste to make it worth your  while.

The onion rings were not what I expected and were just average.The mojo helped ’em out, but it may be a while before I get them again. I’ll stick to the fried yucca for now.

Unfortunately, for a guy who steers clear of beef and pork, there aren’t many lunch menu items that I can enjoy, however, one of the folks who joined me was only too glad to order the traditional Cuban sammich. Now this guy is a particularly hearty individual who has a “wide” experience with food (do I have to spell it out?) From what he tells me, this is the BEST Cuban sammich he’s ever had. A ringing endorsement indeed!

The Veggie Cuban Sammich

I went for a veggie version of the Cuban sammich. When you take into consideration that Cuban food leans towards meaty goodness as the focus, the fact that they had a veggie version of anything was commendable. I can’t say that it was my favorite flavor combo, but it was indeed tasty enough.

All in all, Tata Cuban Cafe’ is a decent diversion. When faced with choosing between a host of national chain restaurants, it’s nice to know that there are a few cozy little mom-n-pop joints to frequent instead.

 

 

Tata Cuban Cafe’ – 137 West Market Street  Indianapolis, IN 46204 – 317-686-0855

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: GREEN BELT WITH TWO STRIPES

La Parada, Taco in the box.

La Parada. Small place, big taste.

Let’s face it, Mexican restaurants are ten centavos a dozen, no matter where in the country you reside.  However, it’s not always easy to find good Mexican food. Thankfully, I was curious enough to stop in and try La Parada, even though it had been less than a mile from my old casa since I’d lived there for years. Just imagine all of the yummy tidbits that I missed out on because I had made my decision not to visit based on outward appearances alone.

La Parada’s storefront isn’t something that would make you jam on the brakes in traffic, but sometimes ya gotta be a gambler and roll the dice once and awhile. Just like my early dating career (therapy wasn’t working).

Grab a seat and strap in.

Hopefully, you brought a friend, so go ahead and grab a booth before the joint fills up.

Given the size of the kitchen, you’ll be surprised once you open up the menu. How can they churn out so many different dishes without the cooks getting an elbow in the ribs all afternoon? It’s kooky talk, I tells ya! And yet, they crank out tasty plates all day long. While you’re reading the menu, the chips and salsa will keep you from passing out and may even pep ya up some. (Is salsa an energy “drink” of the ancient Aztecs? Of course not, bone head. Why would you even suggest that?)

Ahhhhhhhh, Chicken Soupy Goodness!!

A couple of my favorites here are the chicken soup (especially back when chicken was one of my staples.) They toss in two plump pieces of dark meat, (which to me is superior to white meat), veggies and white rice. The broth is flavorful enough on it’s own, but if you like a little extra punch, it also comes with a couple of lime wedges, (awesomeness in soup), chopped white onions, cilantro, (even more awesomeness in soup), and whole dried chilies. If you’re going to add the chilies, be sure your contacts won’t need any adjustment for awhile. To round out the experience, I like to go with the corn tortillas and a big ol` Mexican Coke. In case you aren’t familiar with the Mexican variety of Coke, just click on the link for a shot of knowledge. Don’t believe what you read? Ok, go ahead and order one. You’ll see.

Shrimp Tacos

Another favorite of mine is the shrimp tacos. Once again, corn tortillas are called in to yummy action, but this time they’re all crunchy n` stuff. Nothing too elaborate, but really, is that why you came here? For elaborate food? Believe me, this simple dish delivers. Squeeze on a couple of lime wedges, spoon on some of their homemade salsas, crank up a Mexican Wrestler movie from the 1960’s-70’s on your iPad, and you’re good to go (pssst, they also have wireless but ya gotta ask first)!

Still not enough food for one sitting? Ok, how about a nice ear of corn to go with your tacos? WAIT! I haven’t been very up-front with you about the corn suggestion. It’s not an “ordinary” ear. As you know, Mexican food is flavor-forward and they don’t (or shouldn’t EVER) do bland. In that spirit, the corn cob in question (an elote) is slathered with mayonnaise, rolled in Mexican cheese (most likely queso fresco), sprinkled with chili powder AND spritzed with lime juice! This bad mother-finger is a slam dunk, and if the corn were grilled first instead of boiled, we’d both be fat and drowsy on the stuff right now.

Ask for the Elote` (that’s the kicked-up corn)

So, how’s that for temptation? If this review is enough to get you in the door, you’ll find that this little gem is square, firm and fully packed with delicious Mexican people food goodness.

1638 East New York Street, Indianapolis, IN 46201 (317) 917-0095

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: GREEN BELT, WITH TWO STRIPES

Hopslam – Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

At last, my beer has come along…….. my sober days are over……..and life is like a song. Please tell me you know what that refers to. Anyway, it’s getting close to that time of year when Bells Brewing releases their LOOOOOONG awaited Hopslam Ale. This bad mother-swinger is a DOUBLE IPA that delivers the  goods in high order, however start saving now, because it’s only available from January to March (give or take a couple weeks). Yeah, you guessed it, this offering is on my top 10 list of favorite beers and since I’ve only ever had 10 different beers, they were kind of a shoe-in (kidding).  Hop-heads everywhere salivate at the mere mention of its arrival. Why? Well, let’s take a look at the write-up from the good folks at Bells:

Bell’s Hopslam Ale!! I’m so happy…..sniff…….

Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repertoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style

Now that you’ve read the description, be advised that this beer is NOT for the uninitiated. This guy is up in your face and WAY up into your business! The flavors are big and bold and should not be a “gateway” beer if you’re trying to break into the world of IPA beers. Go ahead, ask one of your beer-geek pals. There are much more subtle ways to get a feel for the taste of hops.

Before you head down to the highbrow liquor store, be prepared for the price tag. A six-pack will set you back $16-$18 American dollars. Now, we routinely pay at least $3.00 for lesser beers at the pub / club and never think twice about it, but since we’re made to pay the $3.00 per beer x6 all at one time, the total just seems more expensive than we’d like. Perception is everything but once you get a taste of this liquid lust, you’ll come to realize that it’s a bargain at twice the price.

In short, this beer is a real gem for those who are somewhat used to the robust flavor of hoppy beers. The grapefruit / malt flavor is up front where the action is and once combined with the high hoppitudes and supporting flavors, this one simply moves to the head of the class. If you’re leery about the strong flavors, ask one of your hophead buddies for a swig or two. But be prepared to get hooked!