Monday, November 30, 2015


The space that was previously occupied by Taverna, an ill-fated restaurant near Boogie Burger on Broad Ripple Avenue (but nearer to Keystone) has turned into Luciana’s Mexican Cantina. I was intrigued. The place appeared busy from the parking lot. People were telling me it was good. A friend told me it was very comparable to La Hacienda. I was ready to check it out.

I met a group of friends there for a weeknight meal. The parking lot was nearly full and the restaurant was busy—not totally full, but doing a good business for just a few weeks open. I was looking through the menu thinking it does look similar to La Ha, but then I was thinking—don’t a lot of Mexican menus look very similar?

They brought out the usual chips and salsa. I would say this salsa had just a touch more heat than most standard salsas set on the table at Mexican restaurants and I liked it. It was maybe a little watery, but it tasted good. The chips were large and thin and just fine.

Anyhow, it was cold, and I was still trying to be remotely healthy, plus it’s one of my favorite things to get at La Ha, so I ordered the chicken soup ($7.25). Oh, and a Texas margarita (starting to sound more and more like La Ha huh?). The soup was very good, and very similar to what I get there. It’s a chicken broth base with a few tortilla chips in it, some rice, and hunks of chicken. It’s topped with some avocado, some pico de gallo and cheese. I really love this soup, especially when it starts getting cold. The broth is very rich and just a little spicy and I love the sort of creaminess you get a bit from the rice, and even more from the avocado and cheese. This is a comfort soup with a kick—a little heat from jalapeno and pico de gallo.

I had a little bite of a friend’s chicken fajitas and another friend’s “steak a la Mexicana.” Both were decent, even though they’re not typically the kinds of things I order. I feel like the meat tends to be a bit on the dry side with dishes like these. The steak was tasty—it had a real kick to it and I really enjoyed the sautéed onions. There were a fair amount of jalapenos in there too.

The margarita was very good—I love the Texas version here as well as at La Hacienda. It has triple sec added to it I think.  They are tasty. And large.

Our server was very nice and offered her suggestions. The food was good. Again, I don’t know that I have ever had spectacular Mexican food in Indy, but this place is really really solid. And since it’s about equidistant from our house as La Ha, we’ll probably be frequenting both. And so far, this place doesn’t have quite the wait that La Ha does. I know I don’t usually do such a comparison between two restaurants, but this place has so many similarities, it’s hard not to. I even saw some employees that I am pretty sure I’ve seen at La Ha, so I am thinking some people have left there to open Luciana’s.

So, if you like La Hacienda, you’re gonna like this place. Prices are comparable, it’s a little more spacious seating and currently, the crowds aren’t as bad. Who all has been there?

Luciana’s Mexican Cantina
1850 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indy 46220

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mississippi Belle - Revisit

My son’s BFF has moved out of state (very sad) and my son wanted to have a going away sleepover for him and his closest friends. It was very sweet. Anyway, he also wanted to serve his friend’s favorite foods, which as it turns out wasn’t chicken nuggets as we thought, but actually Mississippi Belle fried chicken. Score. So the kid has some good taste. (Also chocolate cake with chocolate icing and orange Fanta to drink—I made the cake and bought the soda).

Anyway, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up a golden opportunity to eat Mississippi Belle for dinner, healthy eating or no. I knew we needed A LOT of chicken legs for these boys, as that is the favorite piece for all of them. So I went in around lunchtime and asked if they could put together a special order to pick up at dinner for us that could include all those legs. They were very accommodating and let me pick exactly the pieces I wanted. Hubby and I tend to like thighs the best, and my in-laws (who were in town) like white meat. So we got just enough for everyone. We knew we also wanted mac and cheese and mashed potatoes, as well as some of the fried cornbread, so I asked if they have large versions of their sides (usually they just give individual sized portions). They told me just to tell them how many people we had and they would give us enough of each. I told them six even though we had eight, because four of the people were kids and I figured they’d be generous.

Holy moly, I couldn’t believe how much of each they gave us—basically they were 9 x 13” aluminum foil pans filled with each. It was enough to feed 15-20 I think. Anyhow, I love all of these things at Mississippi Belle—the chicken is so well seasoned and even after traveling, still tasted fresh and crisp. It’s exceedingly juicy, and my mother-in-law said even the breasts stayed that way (always a potential problem with fried chicken breasts).  It’s certainly some of the best fried chicken in Indy. I have said it many times, and having it again just confirmed it.

I also really like the mac and cheese. I can’t say what it is—it isn’t fancy or anything, and it still feels like some sort of (lighter in color) processed cheese being used, but it just hits the spot. There’s some pepper in there too. The mashed potatoes are straightforward too, but again, just taste really good. 

I also ordered some of the fried cabbage, which is sautéed in something yummy and seasoned well. And hey, it’s a vegetable right? So it must be healthy.

Anyhow, I just wanted to do a little revisit here because this place is just so good. They give you a ton of food for a reasonable price (cash only FYI) and if I’m getting fried chicken to go, this is the place. (Ok, with an occasional stop at Popeye’s, because that’s a weakness also). 

Mississippi Belle
2170 East 54th Street
Indy 46220

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

12 Chefs of Christmas Ticket Giveaway!

It's that time of year again! 12 Indy Chefs have been paired with 12 local Flat 12 seasonal beers to make a dish that will make you happy and give you a drink. This year's event will be on December 12th at the City Market.
Here's the pairings of Chefs with beer:

VIP Chef: Ty Wald from Spice Box/ Wassail Cycle
Ian Phillips from Three Carrots/Can't Catch Me Stout
George Turkette from Smoking Goose/Brandy Walk
Percy Romo from Mambo's Cheesesteak Grill/Koko B Ware
Paul Haveck from the Libertine/Snickerdoodle Blonde
Eli Laidlaw from Recess/Milk & Cookies
Ricky Hatfield from Peterson's/Juniper Spruce IPA
Craig Mariutto from Shoefly Pub/Grandpa's Glazed Ham
Alan Sternberg from Cerulean/Fireside Amber
Roger Hawkins from Circle City Soups/Chocolate Orange Porter
Cindy Hawkins from Circle City Sweets/Bourbon Ball Ride
Braedon Kellner from Tinker Street/Fruitcake

You can currently buy early bird tickets and save $25 (until November 21st). Tickets are currently $50 for designated drivers, $75 for regular admission and $100 for VIP. Tickets are available at You can also go there to learn more about the event and the chefs involved.

BUT I HAVE A PAIR OF TICKETS TO GIVE AWAY! If you want to be entered to win, leave a comment here telling me your favorite holiday food tradition/dish. I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow, Thursday the 20th around 3:00 ish. You will need to contact me within 2 hours to claim them or I will choose another winner (ideally you should leave your email address in your comment so I can reach you easily). If you don't win, you'll still have a few hours to get the discounted ticket prices online.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 16, 2015


Hubby and I are trying to get around to trying all the new places in town—there seems to be so many! So recently we had a night with nothing going on and decided to try Repeal.

Repeal is in Fountain Square in an old bank building—I love the interior of the place—it seems like so many places are going for that really sparse feel these days—it’s nice to go to a place with lots of character—a lot of warm wood everywhere, old tin ceiling tiles, and repurposed railings.  The people working there are friendly and generally knowledgeable about the menu. The restaurant backs up to a distillery where they are making spirits to be used in their cocktails.
The menu doesn’t seem to have a particular theme—I think they were going with a 1920s Prohibition theme (the era of the building) at first, but it seems to have morphed into just a regular kind of menu with some items that have a little bit of a throwback feel to them. We started with the beer cheese and fries ($8). This was not exactly what I was expecting. I think I was thinking of some sort of bowl of cheese to dip fries into, and this was actually a plate of fries drizzled with very hot beer cheese. It wasn’t bad really, the fries were decent battered fries and once the beer cheese wasn’t so dang hot, and you could actually taste it, it tasted good. But because it was spread over the fries, it cooled quickly and then was almost too cool. I would prefer something else to dip in there—I know homemade pretzels are everywhere, but man, they are tasty with beer cheese. And these fries, while they were good battered fries, I would guess they aren’t making them in house.

For our main dishes, we split the smoked pork plate ($16), the pimento cheese sandwich ($9 +$2 for bacon) and the Brussels sprouts side dish ($6). My favorite of them all was probably the pimento cheese sandwich. It was nicely toasted bread and was topped with some arugula and tomato as well as jowl bacon that we added.  I liked the arugula and tomato with it to give that hit of acid and to freshen it a bit. The pimento cheese spread was tasty—had a decent amount of kick to it, but not too much. Honestly though, while I would order the sandwich again for sure (I’m thinking it would make a great lunch), I think I would skip the jowl bacon on it. While it tastes good (there was more of it on the pork platter), I would prefer a crispier piece of bacon that isn’t as fatty on a sandwich. When you would bite into it, it often was hard to tear apart.

I did enjoy cutting bits of this same bacon on the pork platter and eating it with the other items that were there—the sausage and the pork belly. My favorite of the meats offered here (apparently they change up the cuts offered depending on the day) was the pork belly. It had the nice rich fattiness to it, but also a decent amount of the meatiness as well. All the meats had a nice smoky flavor as well. My absolute favorite thing about this otherwise fairly simple dish was the Carolina mustard sauce served with it. First of all, I love mustard BBQ sauce. Love it. But this one was really outstanding—it tasted extremely fresh and not at all thick and syrupy the way they can sometimes be—just a bright, well-seasoned mustardy kick with a nice touch of acid. I also liked the homemade pickles served on the side—it’s like they know me. Whenever I eat mustard sauce, I eat it with pickles. I just love that combination of flavors. I could pass on the sausage overall though, it was only ok, but the variety was nice.

The seasoning on the Brussels sprouts was really tasty—it had duck fat and white soy vinaigrette listed on the menu. The vinaigrette was really interesting and tasty and was a flavor that inspired me to try and duplicate it at home. The menu listed the sprouts as seared though, which wasn’t exactly true, they weren’t really very crunchy—there was a bit of sear on them, but not a lot. But the biggest problem here was that the sprouts weren’t really cooked enough. I really enjoyed the flavor of them, the smoky fat and the interesting vinaigrette, but I just wished the sprouts were a little more tender. Maybe steam them a bit first or something.

Our server was very helpful, and overall we really enjoyed the experience. I probably enjoyed the pimento cheese sandwich the best (although I loved that mustard sauce). I feel like there is some good potential here and I would like to return. The atmosphere is good and the restaurant was busy, but not so crazy that you couldn’t hear the person across the table from you. Who else has been and what have you had to eat?

630 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203