Eat Random

The idea for this blog is to blog about everything I think about food and food culture. I'll tell you what I like to eat, where I like to eat it and if I thought it was good or if I thought it was crap. My thoughts about food could go anywhere. Hey if you don't like it go blog at

Random Dude Eats Random Food Indianapolis restaurants

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sauce Complaints (cont.)

Just a very quick little note from today's lunch experience.  I decided to go to Arby's (the fast food restaurant that wrongly believes it's somehow better than the others) because I forgot to bring my lunch today, and I had a giftcard to use.  I get the chicken bacon swiss combo which totals over 7 dollars, and when the lady at the window offers me sauce I asked for honey mustard.  She gave me ONE packet.  Only one.  I know I didn't get tenders, but if you're only going to give me one don't even bother offering.

Review: Hong Kong Cuisine

I have lamented on this blog before about how there was a lack of good takeout Chinese food in close proximity to where I live.  However, after my recent experience I have to change my tune a little bit.

Ever since I moved down here I've been searching for a place that was a good as First Wok in Muncie with little success.  Great Taste Chinese was close to my apartment, but after the last meal I had there lacked quality along with getting my order wrong in the first place I decided I wasn't going back.  Chinese buffets can be okay, but unless I drive down to Dragon House in Fishers or 8 Chinese Buffet in Castleton I'm not really a fan.  That left Hong Kong Cuisine.  It was a little bit farther to drive and get takeout, but at this point it was worth a shot.

It has been my experience that when it comes to takeout Chinese food that people tend to get almost the same thing every time.  I'm no different.  My preferred dish is the chicken with garlic sauce and that is exactly what I got.  I have to say up front that this is the best version of the dish I've had in recent memory.  All of the ingredients seemed really fresh.  The chicken was moist.  The vegetables, especially the broccoli, had that nice snap to it that I prefer.  The sauce had a very nice intense garlic flavor and an adequate amount of heat.  It wasn't so spicy that it would put off those with a more tame palette, but it was not at all bland or sugary.  Also, there was a nice mix of veggies and not an overwhelming abundance of fillers like onions or green peppers cough...Great Taste...cough.  The fried rice which can at times just be a throwaway side seemed much fresher and more natural in color than I have gotten from other Chinese places in the past.  It included juicy chunks of pork as well that were quite tasty.  The meal also came with an egg roll that was nicely crisp with good flavor and was complemented well with duck sauce.

We also decided to order an additional side of crab rangoons.  The portion that was given to us was quite large...probably enough to serve 3 or 4 people in reality.  Each one was quite large in size and came with the typical red sweet and sour dipping sauce.  I wouldn't call them exceptional, but I would say they were good for being the usual crab rangoons.  I'm still yet to get the dumplings...maybe next time.

Taste: 9/10  As far as good takeout goes I can't imagine getting a much better meal than this.  It was exactly what I wanted.  No more, no less.  The flavors and freshness were spot on.  This is going to be my new regular place for Chinese to go.  I have also heard good things about King Chef.  I'll have to make a trip there at some point to see how it compares.

Value: 9/10  The girlfriend and I got two combos (entree, fried rice and egg roll) and a separate order of crab rangoon for 15 bucks.  Considering how good the food was, and the fact that we both had enough left over to eat the next day I would have easily paid 20.

Hong Kong Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Devour Downtown

Devour Downtown is the twice yearly promotion that the restaurants in downtown Indy put on to draw people in for meals that might not otherwise come due to the cost being too high for their budget.  A lot of the restaurants offer a 3 course menu for 30 dollars during the promtion (some entree's alone at some of these restaurants can normally be north of 30 dollars).  I've said in the past I was going to out to eat at one of these establishments during this event, but thus far I have not made it out.  This time I'm serious though.  Here is the link to the Devour Downtown website.  What looks good to you?  Any recommendations for me?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dipping Sauce Shortage

If you ever watch Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN you're probably familiar with the phrase "Come on, man!" which is basically an expression of "What was that all about?" or "You can do better than that."  It is also the perfect phrase to describe how I feel most often when I see the amount of dipping sauce that comes with my order of chicken tenders or nuggets from a fast food restaurant.

There was once a day in a bygone era where the person manning the drive thru window put his or her hand haphazardly into the basket of nugget sauces and put such a plethora in your to go bag that you thought you may very well drown in sweet and sour sauce.  Those days, my friends, are long gone.  Now it seems that with a standard order of tenders or nuggets that come with a combo meal you are only allowed a paltry 2 sauces.  I don't know about all of you, but to me getting a good honey mustard or sweet and sour sauce is almost as enjoyable as getting the chicken.  I also like to dip my fries in said sauce.  I understand that restaurants are trying to make a profit and they are trying to trim fat like extra sauces that people won't use.  However, I'm not asking you to just give me 10 packets.  All I'm asking is that when you give me two sauces and I specifically request 1 or 2 more please don't insult me by asking me to pay 10 cents a piece for them.  Seeing as I'm the paying customer in the situation I don't think it's too out of the ordinary that you might throw me a bone on extra sauce if I go to the trouble to specifically ask for it.  Also, perhaps it's unfair for me to lump all places into this little rant since I don't know the policies of every fast food restaurant, but I know for a fact that BK and McDonald's are offenders.  To both of them I say COME ON MAN!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Road Trip and Pool Tournament Eating

One of my biggest passions in life is playing the game of pool.  Every year some of my buddies and I road trip to one of the biggest professional tournaments/meet ups for pool in the country.  The Derby City Classic.  It's held annually at the Horshoe Casino in Elizabeth, IN.  It's the biggest gathering of pool players anywhere.  The first thing you have to understand with pool is that I personally think it's very hard to focus and play well on an empty stomach.  You can't be hungry and get the level of focus the game requires when played at a high level.  That's why often on these trips and at these tournaments food is one of the biggest players.

It seems like every year people complain about the food available at the tournament.  To be honest with you they mostly have the right to.  They no people don't want to leave or don't have the time to leave so the prices are kept high while the meal quality deteriorates.  Do I want the mediocre pizza for 13 dollars for small portion?  Do I want the mediocre buffett for $30 plus? Do I want the steakhouse fare for the cost of a couple of limbs and my first born child?  None of the above please.  We truthfully do our best to bring food that is easily prepared and doesn't need heating.  Poptarts, sandwiches, etc.  It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, but unless you want to starve or go broke it isn't an option.  It's really too bad that the venue just tries to bleed dry everyone in attendance.  I know it's how the world works at every sporting or any other event ever, but that doesn't make it right.  Our bringing food strategy might make us the most nutrionally deprived we will be all year, but it's a small sacrifice to make for the love of the game.

P.S.:  We just got back from our trip yesterday after noon and the food was about what I expected.  I avoided it mostly because all of the options are so overpriced.  A sportsbar menu with the cheapest item at 12 or 13 dollars?  Get real.  It does seem like they are at least making an effort to improve the quality of some of the food.  For example they have gotten rid of the pizza place that made a lot of people sick last year and have upgraded their buffett by partnering with the Paula Deen brand.  Still at 27.99 for a buffett dinner I had to pass.  I stuck mostly to drinking free soft drinks and coffee in the casino and eating sandwiches and snack items we brought from home.  I did order chicken tenders one night.  It was a sizeable portion for only $4, but they were incredibly dry and underseasoned with only a tiny amount of accompanying dipping sauce.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jason's Deli Full Review

Jason's Deli is a relatively new restaurant on 82nd St. just West of Allisonville Rd.  At first glance the place looks just like another one of the many sandwich shops that has been popping up recently around the Indy area.  I have to say at first the idea of this didn't really excite me very much.  I am and have been a big hater of sandwich places like Subway, Jersey Mike's and Jimmy Johns for a long time.  I know I'll probably catch flak for that from some of you (especially regarding Jimmy Johns) but that's okay.  Basically it comes down to the fact that I don't like a lot of veggies or other toppings on my sandwiches, and at most places if you don't get that stuff the sandwich just doesn't deliver.  However, I have to say I don't think Jason's Deli falls into that same category.

The first thing I noticed was the size of the menu.  This place isn't just about cold sandwiches and subs.  They also serve po'boys, pasta, soup, potatoes, paninis, and salad (they actually have a large salad bar with a lot of organic items).  I was in the mood this particular day for something hot and something hearty.  I decided to with the pastrami melt po'boy.  This sandwich consisted of hot pastrami with swiss cheese and Russian dressing.  The sandwich costs $6.59 and is served with a healthy side of out-of-the-bag potato chips and a dill pickle spear.  With a fountain drink my total came to $9.24.

The first sandwich I got was the wrong order and looked awful
When I got there it was lunchtime on a Saturday and the place was quite busy.  The way it works here is you place your order up front and then walk down the line and pay at the end where you are handed a number.  Your order is then brought out to your table.  The reason I bring up this process is due to the fact that my order was thoroughly screwed up.  After I went through the above process and was dutifully sitting at  my table I notice an employee walking around the dining room with what looked to be my sandwich.  My friend and I were both  trying to flag her down, and there was some confusing do  to the fact that I was handed number 32 at the cash register when number 37 was written on my ticket.  Not a good start.  At this point I was quite hungry and ready to dig in.  As I looked down I first noted my sandwich had much less meat than the similar one my buddy ordered.  The next problem was that what little meat was on the sandwich was clearly pot roast and not pastrami and there was definitely no Russian dressing anywhere.  I looked at my ticket and the lady who took my order clearly wrote down what I ordered then crossed it out and wrote something entirely different for some reason that is unknown to me.  As much as I wanted to bitch and fly off at the handle I took my sandwich to a manager and my problem was addressed immediately and I had a new sandwich which was exactly what I ordered in less than 5 minutes.  I'm not a guy that needs free food if a mistake is made with my order.  I just want you to correct the problem quickly and that's exactly what occurred here.
The sandwich I ate, and the sandwich I should have received in the first place.
Now let's get on the substance of the meal.  When I finally got what I ordered the pastrami was a very healthy portion, and the bread of the roll was nice and crusty and in good proportion to the amount of meat.  The pastrami tasted very fresh, and had the great salty briny flavor I expect of it.  I don't know what method they use to prepare the meat or keep it warm, but the pastrami did have a nice crispiness to some of the edges.  The Russian dressing was indeed on the sandwich, but I could have used a little more of it.  I know they probably don't want the dressing to kill the flavor of the meat, but the salt flavor of the pastrami really would have been complimented by a little more tang from the dressing.  The pickle was good, but I didn't find it particularly outstanding.  They give you a lot of chips on the plate, but they're pretty standard and not worthy of comment.  I also enjoyed a small bowl of the free ice cream.  They have 3 flavors of soft serve: Chocolate, Vanilla and Chocolate/Vanilla swirl.  Nothing special, but hell  it was free.  Let's get on with the ratings.

Taste8/10  The quality of the pastrami was great and so was the bread.  I really enjoyed the meal.  If I could have gotten a little more tang from the dressing it would have been pushed from good to great territory.  I'm looking forward to going back to try some of the other menu items to see if they are up to the same level of quality in the ingredients.

Value8/10  First of all I'm not deducting points for service issues here due the fact that I think this place is pretty new and  I've only been there once so I have no idea if this is a pattern of behavior or an anomaly. Since I had to pay the check before I received the meal I have to say I  had a little sticker shock over the price of the meal (drink included) being $9.24.  That seemed like a lot to pay for lunch, but after I got the food and realized it was a big portion with good flavor I felt a lot better.  I think the pricing is competitive with similar restaurants.  Next time if I decide to get water instead of a pop that would drop almost 2 bucks off the total cost. Not bad at all  Ask yourself do you want a sandwich from Scrubway for 5 bucks, or a hot sandwich here with really good meat, bread, chips and pickle for a buck 60 more.  Jason's also has a To Go station if you want carryout. 
Here my friend illustrates the good portion of meat on the sandwich
96th Street Steakburgers on Urbanspoon

My Rating Scale

After reading the comment from Wibia (who has a pretty cool blog also btw) I thought it would be a good idea for me to go ahead and address the metrics that I use to rate the food I eat and review on this little corner of the web.  I have decided to go ahead and remove "randomness" as a rating and just throw little comments or asides into future reviews regarding this aspect.  As for taste and value and I think either one could be more than a little subjective.

What tastes good to me is most often times things that are hearty and rich and come in generous portions.  I can't think of a time at a restaurant where I've been upset that I recieved more food than I could eat.  I have particular proclivities towards seafood of all types, pizza, and Chinese food.  Most of all I like bold flavors and I'm not afraid to shy away from items that have spice or tang.  Other than that I guess figuring out why I liked or didn't like something is a reason to keep coming back here.

Value to me is basically the nexus of price, portion size, flavor and service.  On this blog value will always be graded on sliding scale comparing the meal/experience I had at a place compared to what I would expect to pay for a similar experience at another similar restaurant.  In other words a Chicken McNugget special from McDonald's might the get same good value grade that a good steak from Texas Roadhouse might get.  That doesn't necessarily mean that I think the two are similar in any way shape or form. 

I hope this explains what I'm trying to do a little bit and thanks for reading.

Blog Title/Concept

I wanted to take a minute to get a little feedback from what readers I do have as to my little food blog's overall concept and title.  I have to say I like the title even though it's a little wordy and I wouldn't be too excited about having to get the word out about a new web address.  One thing I am kind of on the fence about is the concept as it relates to reviews.  By including randomness in the reviews I was trying to create a little hook that could be used for humor and relate overall to the idea of the blog, but as I write more reviews I think the randomness rating seems more and more arbitrary and dumb.  I'm thinking of eliminating it all together and just having the randomness concept relate to my various musing about food, restaurants and what I like to eat.  What say you? 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quick Weekend Food Thoughts

Over the long weekend I had several food experiences and I'd like to share some quick thoughts about them with all 5 of you loyal readers out there.

-On Saturday I went to Jason's Deli which is a new place on 82nd West of Allisonville.  A full review will be coming shortly, but I'll just say that even with my predisposition to hate sub/sandwich places (I'm looking at you Jimmy Johns and Subway) this place kind of won me over.

-I tried to new crunchy whatever burrito from Taco Bell.  Not bad.  I didn't get a lot of heat from the "spicy" Dorito strips, but otherwise it was T-bell's basic meat/chese thing which I like.  And it was only a buck.

-Great Taste Chinese might be the worst takeout Chinese food in the Indy metro area.  It's in Fishers on Mundy Dr.  If you're wanting to get takeout Chinese in that area just go to Hong Kong Cusine trust me.  Usually I have a hard time distinguishing the difference between those places, but in this case in terms of freshness, taste, service and price Great Taste doesn't measure up.

Great Taste on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pizza Per Capita

I saw a interesting link in a post over at Serious Eats that I thought was worth a little quick commentary.  It was a link to a report published by the pizza trade magazine PMQ.  The report details all kinds of interesting data about pizza consumption but what I found most interesting was this map. On the map each individual state is colored coded to show how each ranks in the amount of pizzerias per capita.  If you were thinking that the red states on the map including places such as California were the biggest places to grab a pie you'd be dead wrong.  Red is the least amount of pizza restaurants per capita.  Green, including our humble state of Indiana ranks among the most.  I thought I had noticed a lot of new pizza places opening recently including many independent places and I guess that thought had some merit to it.  Here is a link to the whole PMQ report if you're interested.  You'll notice that independent places collectively have more market share than the big chains.  Encouraging to say the least.

Hat tip: Serious Eats Slice blog and PMQ Pizza Magazine.


Last night I had the opportunity to enjoy a good meal with coworkers at a locally popular but otherwise unknown restuarant called Charleston's.  The best way to describe the style of cusine is comfort food through and through.  There are no froo froo cucumber foams or watercress salads at this place.  It's hearty stick to your ribs fare in huge portions and makes no apologies for it.  The menu is on the smaller side, but it is focused and most of not all of the food seems to be made in house which is something you can't find at enough restaurants these days.  For my meal I decided to go with the chicken fried steak which comes with garlic mashed potatoes and sweet cooked carrots.  I also added a side of coleslaw since I'm a big fan.  I finished the meal off with their apple cobbler with walnuts and vanilla icecream.  Our table also decided to get an order of the shrimp done escargot style for an appetizer.  Let's go ahead and break down each of these components one by one.

Shrimp escargot-style appetizer:  This was one of the more unusal dishes I have ever eaten.  I've eaten shrimp in a lot of ways and I thought based on the menu description that I was just in for another shrip scampi-esque creation.  I was wrong.  Yes the basic flavor was there of the garlic and butter, but the shrimp were served in little holes in the dish in the garlic/butter mixture and covered in havarati cheese.  Seafood and cheese is usually an unpleasant combination.  However, in this case the cheese was mild enough to not kill the flavor of the shrimp that were cooked nicely.  In conclusion very good.

Chicken fried steak:  Overall a very solid offering for a main course.  I could tell it was fresh and hand breaded and fried to perfection.  It was a large portion with a lot of flavor.  It was topped with what the menu called a "black pepper chipoltle" gravy.  The gravy may have been the most delicious part of the meal.  It was your basic white gravy roux but mixed with spices and I'm guessing a little bit of sugar to give it the sweetness that I found so different and delicous.  The only negative comment I can make is that when my steak was hot right from the kitchen it wanted to slough off the breading when I cut into it.  Not that big of a deal and it had no impact on the taste or enjoyment of the dish.

Sides:  The garlic mashed potatoes (hidden in the picture under the steak) were very good.  I only had a couple problems.  The portion of mash that comes with the dish is Man vs Food worthy.  I'm not a guy who usually leaves food on the plate, but I could only take down about half of my potatoes.  They were the skin on variety and mashed to a good consistency, but they could have used some more garlic flavor an addition of the some of that great gravy that was on the steak.  The carrots were also tasty.  They were your basic carrots cut up and cooked in a light sweet glaze.  They were a nice compliment to the richness of the other items on my plate.  The one thing I ordered that absolutely broke my heart was the coleslaw.  Coleslaw is hands down one of my favorite sides to get with comfort food dishes, but Charleston's version of it was an incredible disappointment and borderline inedible.  The menu said it was creamy, and truthfully it was exactly the opposite.  It was more or less a bowl of chopped cabbage.  What flavor it did have was a very assertive onion flavor that was terrible and one that shouldn't be associated with good coleslaw.  I will not be ordering it next time

Dessert:  Normally I don't get dessert since I'm usually full from my meal and I'm not a big sweets guy to start off with anyway.  However, this time everyone at the table was raving about the desserts so I felt I had to indulge.  My dessert was the apple cobbler with vanilla icecream.  Everything about it was delicious.  It had just the right amount of sweetness and apple spices.  The walnuts provided a nice crunch and the ice cream was a great compliment to the hot cobbler.  It was very good, but next time I think I'll try the bread pudding since I've heard such good things.

Misc:  The service was very good considering we had a large party of 8.  Our food was out promptly with little confusion and my drink was refilled without asking.  Charleston's also has a full bar and selection of good beers on draft if you're so inclined.

Overall I think Charleston's is a great local restaurant with locations on 82nd street in Castleton and on Highway 37 in Carmel.  Let's do the ratings.

Taste:  9/10  I know it's only coleslaw, but if Charleston's is doing comfort food they need to get that right.  Worthy of a full point deduction.
Value:  8/10  It's a little bit more pricey than your average fast casual restaurant, but it's not that much more expensive and the food is of such a higher quality it can barely be considered in the same league.
Randomness:  7/10  Charleston's is pretty well known locally so it can't really be considered off the beaten path, but it hardly qualifies as a big chain on a national level.  Also, it is quite dark on the inside and has gaslights which I find pretty random in 2011.

Charleston's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bacon Bacon Bacon Bacon BACON!!!

Over the last couple of years you'd be hard pressed to find anything more trendy in the food world than bacon.  Sure cupcakes have had a good run because..well hell who doesn't like cupcakes?  However, to me that trend just isn't destined to have the same staying power as that fatty salty porky delicious food of the gods.  Why, you ask?  It's because a cupcake is and is always going to be basically a dessert which has limited appeal.  Bacon, on the other hand, can be used in damn near every way imaginable.  At breakfast it can be fried and act as a protein all of its own.  It can be used as a condiment or flavoring agent such as on top of the cheeseburger or cut up small and put into greenbeans or a salad.  And yes, one can even candy it and have it serve adequately in a dessert.  It's true that in some cases the trend may have gotten a little out of hand (Jones Bacon Soda), but that's only because it is such a versitile and loved food item.  With bacon the plate is no longer the limit.

(photos courtesy, and

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ring The King!

If you grew up in Indiana (specifically central Indiana) or have lived here for any period of time you know that when it comes to really good pizza there is only one choice and that is Pizza King.  I have read several articles abotu pizza here in the Hoosier state, and it seems they usually gloss over the good to the very edge pizza that is closest to our hearts.  Sure, there are sexier choices out there.  In Bloomington it's all about Aver's and Mother Bears.  Around Indy the upscale Pizzology is all the rage.  But the thing that Pizza King has that the other's don't is not only great pizza but the nostalgia to go with it. 

When you walk into a Pizza King the first thing that always gets me is how the place looks exactly no different than it did 30 years ago when pizza joints were really starting to hit their stride.  The jukebox.  The Pacman game.  The old worn red booths.  The employees wearing the cheap truck hats with the Pizza King logo.  I could have walked in in 1983 and got the same vibe.  Pizza King is something that a lot of people love and they have a if it ain't broke don't fix it mentality.  That goes for the food as well.

Last night I ate there with my girlfriend and her family in her small hometown of Alexandria.  We all split a 16" Royal Feast and an order of (purposely) underdone breadsticks.  First of all the breadsticks are the best anywhere.  They are soft and served coated in a buttery herb topping and come with a delicious cheese sauce.  The Royal Feast is where the King really hits its stride.  Toppings all the way out to the edge that include fresh ground sausage (not the premade little balls at other pizza places), mushrooms, finely chopped onion, greenpepper and cheese.  The flavors all work so well together and the crust is thin, but it has a softness to it that makes it delicious instead of like putting toppings on a Ritz. 

Taste: 10/10 I'd rather have this pizza than almost any other.
Value:  7/10  The cost of this pizza is definitely more expensive than every other place.  The cost is the only reason I don't get it every time I want pizza.  The good news is that I still consider it a fairly good value since the taste and ingredients are so good.  If you can afford it go for it.

Randomness:  8/10  Pretty random for anybody not from Indiana.  If you were coming from somewhere else and were looking for a place to eat pizza based on looks alone Pizza King is probably the last place you would choose.  Also, in some places Pizza King is called Sir Pizza.  Places with 2 names earn automatic random points.

Locations are all over Indiana.  Check out Pizza King Indiana for location or other info.