Monday, September 13, 2010

Quick Trip to Cincinnati Part 2: Ikea Restaurant

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the awesomeness of Ikea. The closest one to me in Indy is the Cincinnati location. One of many great things about Ikea is its restaurant. Yes, its restaurant. The food is cheap (like, really cheap!) and tasty!

Here's the cafeteria food line. They are geniuses: Cakes first!

The superbly designed food cart. My husband and I managed to fill ours completely.

Just *some* of our meal:

Ikea's famous Swedish meatballs, lingonberry sauce, and mashed potatoes for the husband. Vegetable penne for me. Fries and salad on the side. Plus cake. All good!

My penne was definitely not al dente (it was very, very cooked!) but the flavor was pretty decent. I got dill, which isn't surprising given the Swedish influence.

The salad:

A close up of our cake:

English toffee, hazelnuts, a thick cream. Delicious.

Overall, really a great value. Our total bill was about $20.

Ikea keeps their prices down by having everyone bus their own tables. So you take your tray and put it on these huge rolling carts at the end of your meal. A small price to pay for a pretty great meal!

A 4/5 from me!

Ikea on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quick Trip to Cincinnati Part 1: Ikea Store

For those of you who know what Ikea is, you understand the joy of driving ONLY 1 1/2 hours to get to one. I have a friend who has never been to one and has no idea how wonderful the experience. Ikea is a furniture and home goods store that is predicated on interesting and appealing design, superb functionality, and very affordable pricing. Many of their items can be customized and they offer design centers where you can put together kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, whatever. The key, again, is design (style), intuitive, useful functionality, and low pricing.

Ikea originates in Sweden and so you can also buy various Scandinavian items (including interesting food items!). There's also a restaurant in all Ikea's that serves traditional Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. Super cheap, too. More on that in Part 2 of this post.

You're interested. I know you are.

Here's the iconic yellow and blue storefront:

My husband and I love this console for our living room.  It's called the "Hemnes" series and is super-customizable so it can be shorter or longer to fit your wall. This entire piece, as shown, was just over $1000! The deal with Ikea stuff, though, is that you have to put it together yourself.  That's how they keep prices down. If you're handy, that's a great thing, if not, you do what my husband and I do: call a handyman.

Frames for sale! Pottery Barn look, Wal Mart prices.

This is one of the many kitchen designs they'd already spec'd out in the store. You can customize everything. They have several different designs in the store so you can get ideas. Everything from french traditional to super chromed-out modern.  I loved this kitchen. 

You want different legs on that? Sure! You can have them!

The Ikea in Cincinnati is located in West Chester, right outside of Cincinnati.

In Part 2 of this post, I'll be telling you about the amazing (and cheap!) food we had in Ikea restaurant. Part 3 of this series on our trip to Cincinnati will feature the best grocery store in the Midwest: Jungle Jim's!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant

Here I go again with another chain restaurant. I'd been to Abuelo's a few years ago a couple times when I worked in Carmel, IN, and remembered it being pretty good. So, I thought I'd give it another go, as I am still looking for my favorite Mexican place in the Indy area.

Abuelo's is located right in the Lowe's plaza (there's also a Fox and Hound) at 14480 Lowe's Way in Carmel, IN. It's the exit for 146th St. if you're heading up Keystone Ave.


Abuelo's is surprisingly nice inside. It's the same caliber as a Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang's. You can find tables and booths inside.
This is a picture of a central 'square' in the restaurant.

 There are some really interesting wall murals going along one whole wall.


Our waiter, Tom, was really pleasant. He was helpful with his recommendations, was attentive but not obtrusive, and made us feel comfortable when we wanted to split a huge dish (which can be a problem at some places). All in all, very good.


Mojitos were on special the night we were there (Wednesday) for $3 each so my husband and I both ordered one:

I have to say, they were pretty terrible. Way, way too sweet, no mint, barely any lime (despite the fact that there were three fresh wedges in my glass--I think the extreme sweetness overpowered anything else), and probably three drops of rum. Bad, bad, bad. I couldn't even get mine halfway finished.

We ordered a guacamole appetizer:

It was very salty...and that's about it. There was a bit of onion and tomato in it, but definitely not good guac. I wouldn't order it again.

For our dinner, we ordered the dish called the Monterrey. It's GIGANTIC. It has six items, I had two, my husband had four. It also comes with two sides, we chose the papas con bravas (Abuelo's version of Mexican-inspired mashed potatoes, and refried beans)

Here's the part of the plate I ate:

That was a spinach enchilada and an avocado enchilada. The avocado enchilada had the guacamole that they serve as appetizers as the filling. Both were covered with a cream sauce. They were decent. Mainly salt. The spinach was studded with a few kernels of corn and did taste better than the avocado one. I liked that the spinach was not completely overcooked and grey. It was still bright green and spinach-y.

I love the papas con bravas. It's garlic-y, has onions, is blended with cheese. Yum.

My husband thought the pieces he had were decent, too. Nothing special, but not inedible.


Our meal was pretty reasonable. We ended up paying $34.00 with tip for the two of us. Not bad for a meal with 2 mojitos, an appetizer, and a main course.


All in all, unremarkable. A 3 out of 5 mainly bolstered by the pleasant service and the nice interior. The food was not remarkable and I don't love the papas con bravas enough to go back just for that. So, this will likely have been my last trip to Abuelo's.

Abuelo's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perk Up Cafe

A friend and I were meeting this week to discuss a book, discuss blogging, and to just chat. Therefore, we needed a place that was quiet, convenient, and offered light fare and drinks. I chose Perk Up Cafe for our meeting and it ended up being exactly what we needed. Check out their website at: Perk Up Cafe.

Perk Up is located right off the Monon in Broad Ripple on Cornell Ave. It's a couple houses down from La Piedad and right around the corner from Rene's Bakery. It's always very peaceful and it feels nicely removed for the sometimes craziness of the main Broad Ripple roads.


Perk Up is really nicely done. Very comfortable, cozy, and clean:

There's also a really nice deck that wraps around the building and faces the Monon:


You head up to the counter if you need coffee, snacks, or sandwiches at Perk Up:

The owner, Kim, and the young lady who served me later in the day (we were there almost four hours) were both very pleasant and had great energy and passion. If you order a sandwich, they bring the plate out to you with a smile.


I ordered a veggie panini with grapes on the side (other choices were chips or cottage cheese) for lunch:

I thought it was really nicely done. It had avocado, fresh veggies, and cheese. It was tasty and a perfect portion-size for me. The bread was crisp, the cheese melt-y, and the veggies flavorful. I would order it again.

Later, I ordered a chai/coffee drink called "The Dirty Hippie." It was described as a chai with a shot of espresso in it. I've never had a drink like that, but I was assured it was one of the most popular drinks. I actually liked it.


I'm not going to lie. The prices at Perk Up are a little high. My sandwich was about $7.75 and my drink was $5.22 with tax (all specialty drinks are $4.79 before tax). You can get any size for that $5.22  (small, medium, or large).


I love the location and the the ambiance of Perk Up. The food was better than good. If the prices weren't so high, I'm sure it would be a weekly destination. As it is, I'll probably make my way there about once a month. I would give it a 4 out of 5.

Perk Up on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 13, 2010

Devour Downtown 2010: Dunaway's Palazzo Ossigeno

For our second Devour Downtown foray for the summer 2010 season, my husband and I chose Dunaway's Palazzo Ossigeno.  It has one of the most expensive regular menus I've seen in Indy, so the $30 per person special event pricing made it more enticing. Unfortunately, I did not take my camera, so I don't have pictures for you, but I felt I had to write about this experience.


The rooftop on this place is fantastic, and while the inside has some charming spots, the building is starting to look worse for the wear. There are water stains, and buckling dry wall areas. I even noticed dust and accumulated spider webs on the walls. I have to admit, for a restaurant of this price range, I expected a little nicer. Granted, we were sitting on the second floor which seemed to be a little more "cafeteria-like" than other parts of the restaurant.


The service actually started out pretty well, but after about the third course, things started to go really weird. For one, the young lady that was serving us started complaining (loudly!) about the other patrons of the restaurant to the people in the booth next to us. She said something like, "It's like this is some people's first visit to a restaurant" and lots of other not-so-flattering things. I understand getting peeved off and having crappy experiences, but your job is to be a waitress. AND Dunaway's is supposed to be a nice place, you should not be dogging the restaurant guests to other tables! Bad, bad, bad. After that, she just seemed frazzled and distracted. It was very awkward.


I loved most of what I had (caprese salad, house salad, and goat cheese manicotti), but I didn't like the blueberry crisp. Interestingly, at the beginning of the evening, the waitress told us it was warm with a scoop of vanilla gelato on top. When we got it was room temperature, with a sea of melted white foamy stuff on top. When we asked the waitress what that was (even though I would bet my house it was melted vanilla gelato), she said, "Uhmmm, uh, that's, uh, creme anglais." I'm sorry, but I know what creme anglais looks like and tastes like and for a good cook, creme anglais in not the most difficult thing to make. That was NOT creme anglais. The chef even came out to ask us about it. I explained it tasted off. He said he was surprised cause everyone else raved about them. However, he sent out two pistachio creme brulees.  That was nice and they were awesome.

Another not so happy thing: The waitress asked if we wanted any coffee with our dessert, so I asked for a decaf coffee. It came with no spoon and no cream. When I asked for it, she said, with a look of near-despair on her face, "Yeah, but I'll have to go downstairs to get it." Okay. Fine. Go downstairs to get it. It did finally come, but I thought that was odd. At this point, I'm feeling more like I'm at some bad diner rather than a fine dining establishment.


Even with Devour Downtown pricing, we ended up paying $103 (including tip) for our dinner. Granted, I had a $12 cocktail and my husband had a $10 glass of wine. Based on the service, I wouldn't say this was reasonable at all.

Verdict: Never again. I actually attempted to go to Dunaway's for Devour Downtown last year as well. There were 6 of us and we treated poorly. It was as if they were humoring the Devour Downtown guests and didn't really care about them. I don't like giving scathing reviews, but Dunaway's deserves no better.

Dunaway's Palazzo Ossigeno on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Devour Downtown 2010: Bella Vita Restaurant

I love the summer Devour Downtown event in Indianapolis. It gives me an opportunity to try restaurants I normally wouldn't for much less money than during the rest of the year. During this event, downtown restaurants offer special menus and pricing (such as 2-for-$30 and a 3-course-meal for $30 per person) so that patrons can try their restaurants. I've participated for at least the past three years. Check out the restaurants and menus being offered this year at the official website: Devour Downtown.

On the first day of the event this year, my husband and I went to Bella Vita. He had researched the menus and chose a location which had a variety of vegetarian options but was also a place we haven't been to yet. He chose Bella Vita which is located at Circle Center Mall in downtown Indianpolis. Here's the link to Bella Vita at Circle Center.


I found the decor and interior of Bella Vita to be very nice, plenty of tables and booth space, a large, clean open-fire oven and prep area, bubbling but unobtrusive water features, and soft lighting made for a lovely ambiance.


Unfortunately, on the Monday night that we attended, there were not many patrons, but it led to us getting plenty of attention. When we entered the restaurant, the hostess was very pleasant and seemed genuinely excited to see us. In years past, I have had the experience of not being treated that well when the staff finds we are at a restaurant for the Devour Downtown promotions. Thankfully, this was not the case at Bella Vita. The table service was great and we really felt taken care of.


Bella Vita, if you haven't guessed by now, is a finer Italian restaurant. The Devour Downtown menu provides three courses from a pre-set menu which can be seen here: an appetizer to share, an entree for each person, and a shared gelato dessert (it was either caramel or chocolate on the day we went).

Surprisingly, our meals also came with bread and flavored olive-oil and salads.

The appetizer we chose was the Bruschetta alla Bella:

There were originally five of those, but they so delicious I didn't think of taking a picture until there was only one left. The tomatoes were fresh, there was an ample amount of garlic and seasoning, and the bread was perfectly toasted. Sill soft, but crispy on the edges. DELISH.

For my entree, I ordered the Penne Meditteranean which featured penne with kalamata olives, pine nuts, tomatoes, feta, and spinach:

It was tasty and fresh, but a little tangy for me. I admit, I am not the biggest fan of feta so that's more an issue with me, not the dish. It was well-prepared and the pasta was perfectly al dente.

My husband ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana:

I am not going to lie: I ate half of my husband's dinner. I loved this dish. The sauce was lovely, the eggplant well-made, not overly fried or greasy, and as you can see, there's enough cheese for a batallion of mice. My cousin has a rule about cheese: "If you don't put enough cheese, no one will like you." Bella Vita did not break that rule!

The eggplant parm also came with a side, and while I can't remember all of them, we ordered the garlic mashed potatoes that were sublime. I am sorry I didn't have more. I could only manage a couple bites 'cause I was too busy demolishing my husband's dinner.

The gelato we had for dessert (caramel) was good, not great, but not bad. My husband ate most of it so he may have a different opinion!


The pricing for our meal for 2 for $30, but my husband got wine, I got a diet soda, and with tip, we ended up paying about $56.  I enjoyed everything and Bella Vita seemed a little nicer than the norm, so I thought it was fair.


A win. I was pleased and will definitely keep them in mind for future downtown dinners. I would give them a 4 out of 5.

Bella Vita Ristorante at Circle Centre on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stir Crazy Restaurant

I generally make it a point to avoid chain restaurants at all costs. I will make an exception now and again for the sake of expediency or if it comes recommended by someone whose food tastes I trust. Stir Crazy, located at Castleton Mall in Indianapolis fell in to the latter category. Stir Crazy reminded me a lot of P.F Chang's, except they seemed a little less high brow, a little more casual. Stir Crazy differs from P.F. Chang's in that they offer a "make-your-own-stir-fry bar."


Here are a couple (dark) pictures of the interior:

As you can see, there's lots of black and red, it's a large space with plenty of tables and booths, and a large bar in the front of the restaurant. All in all, it's nice, not spectacular, probably not where you'd want to propose or have a special dinner, but nice.


Our server was very pleasant, very attentive, and gave us good tips on what to eat. We had two kids at the table, and before they even arrived, made sure there were crayons and a color-able table mat available. It was a good touch.


I ordered from their "Right Portion and Price" menu which offers scaled-down sizes of several of their entrees with a fried spring roll. I got the Buddha's Teriyaki Bowl with brown rice. It's a mixture of vegetables in a teriyaki sauce.

I was surprised at how good this was. Lots of veggies, well-seasoned, very fresh-tasting. I did not expect food this quality. I finished the whole plate!

I like my food spicy, so I asked if there was any hot sauce available. I got this:

It had sriracha, chili-garlic sauce, and Chinese mustard. I loved that they had this available. Well done, Stir Crazy!

I had a really nice drink to go with my meal, a mango spritzer (non-alcoholic):

My husband ordered from the "all-you-can-eat" stir-fry bar and was also very pleased with his dish:

My husband's drink, a strawberry lemonade, had promise but was way too sweet. Once he had seltzer added to it, it was much better:


I felt the pricing was more than fair (although you might say the drinks were kind of expensive, but I felt they were in line with other places). Here's the receipt from our visit and you can see for yourself:


It was an experience that exceeded my expectations and that is always a plus for me. I'd go back, even if it is a chain. The food was good, the service was good, the prices were good. 'Nuff said!

Stir Crazy on Urbanspoon