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, November 28, 2011

In My Own Back Yard Review: Courtney's Kitchen

"When another man's grass looks greener water your own yard." The songwriter who penned that line definitely wasn't talking about restaurants, but that doesn't mean I can't be a shameless hack who uses other people's prose for my own purposes.  What I'm talking about precisely is that fact that I've often lamented the fact that I've traveled all around the Indianapolis metro area to eat at various restaurants, but I far too often neglect some of the restaurants that are in my adopted home town of Noblesville.  I don't really have a good explanation for why that is.  Partly it is due to the fact that I try to seek out things I hear about from other people and in doing so I forget that there are some pretty cool places right near by.  What is the first place on my Noblesville eating adventure? It's a little place just off the Noblesville downtown square called Courtney's Kitchen.

This photo courtesy of Urbanspoon
The Girlfriend and I arrived early on a Saturday night for dinner at Courtney's, and when we arrived the small restaurant was empty but filled up quickly after we sat down.  A good sign for sure.  While the outside of the restaurant looks rather unspectacular the inside was warm, comforting, and nicely decorated with black and white photos of people and sights from around the town.  Courtney's is a family run business and the message is conveyed nicely.  The menu is simple and consists mainly American comfort food classics and a variety of sandwiches.  In fact, a banner at the front of the restaurant proclaims the excellence of their breaded tenderloin sandwich.  I decided to put that claim to the test.

While the breaded tenderloin may very well be the state sandwich when you order one at a restaurant I've come to find out that you can never be exactly sure what you're going to get.  Fresh? Frozen? Thick? Pounded thin? Heavy breading? Light breading? Panko??? Any of the preceding can have their merits, but truth be told each Hoosier has their own preference.  I tend to prefer fresh hand-breaded tenderloins in their non-pounded-thin form. I usually always get pickles, sometimes mustard, sometimes mayo.  On this particular night I decided to go with pickles and mayo, but unfortunately my sandwich arrived with mustard instead.  I'll give the waitress a pass here due the fact that I enjoy mustard as well, but still it was somewhat frustrating.  This particular tenderloin comes pounded thin and is almost the size of the plate. Not my preferred style, but the flavor was still really good.  The meat was juicy, the breading wasn't too thick, and you could tell it was fresh and hand pounded and breaded before being fried.  A winner in my book.  The sandwich is normally served with chips but I upgraded to fries for an upcharge.  I was glad I did because the fries were fresh cut, nicely fried, and seasoned wonderfully.  While I wish places would just scrap the chips and include fries in the price I didn't mind it here because Courtney's is actually a place doing exceptional fries.  Not enough places do that. 

The Girlfriend got the special that was the pan fried chicken that was served with veg, mashed potatoes, and a dinner roll.  The pan fried chicken was juicy and nicely seasoned, but I think we were a little surprised it was served as chicken cutlets rather than actual on-the-bone chicken.  The gravy on the mash had a little bit more of a peppery kick than most. I really really enjoyed it, but The Girlfriend was less than thrilled. Personally, I thought it was something that sat it apart from other cream gravies.  The Girlfriend was also a little disappointed that she was served green beans as her veg when she ordered corn.  Other than those couple little quirks service was friendly and fairly good.  We thought about trying some of their homemade ice cream or pie, but we were really both too full to be able to eat it.  If you've had the dessert at Courtney's please leave a comment.

The more I eat out in Noblesville the dumber I feel for ignoring a lot of these places for so long in favor of places a more considerable distance away.  Noblesville may not have a ton of non-chain choices, but what is there that I have discovered so far has been on point.  I'm going to make sure there are more of these reviews to come in the future.

Taste 9/10 If I peg my ideal breaded tenderloin sandwich as a perfect 10/10 this was easily every bit of a 9. It was a different variety than what I normally like, and it didn't come with the exact toppings I requested and it still won me over.  That's hard to do.  Also, don't forget the fries were excellent.  Why are more small places not making their own fries.  It's such a huge positive difference from other places.  It sets the restaurant apart in a great way.

Value 8/10 The Girlfriend and I both ate dinner (a lot of food here) with sodas for $23 dollars before tip.  The upcharge on the fries and cost of the sodas drove up the ticket a little bit.  All in all you can't complain about bang for your buck here though.

Courtney's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Revisit: Charleston's

There are a lot of things in life that tend not to live up to the hype: the BCS, SEC football, that last Superman movie, the Boston Redsox in 2011, the Segway, more or less everything you can buy on late night television for $19.95, Obama, pretty much every winner of American Idol, anything involving Star Wars that isn't the original cuts of the first three films....and Hugh Jackman.  After I ate at Charleston's the first time I felt like putting it on this list.  It came across as one of those kind of places that seemed like it should be better than it actually was.  Even though the unpalatable coleslaw stuck out in my mind from my last visit I was excited for another go round.

When I walked in the front door at Charleston's my dinner decision was more or less made for me.  I knew from the smell that Charleston's was cook food over a wood flame, and when I saw the wood fire grilled pork chops on the menu that's what I had to go for.  It was 2 chops served with sides of garlic mashed potatoes and bbq beans.  The first thing I noticed when my food arrived was that Charleston's is not a place that skimps on the portions.  Both pork chops were rather healthy in size and the amount of garlic mash on my plate was nothing short of gargantuan. The portion of beans was adequate but seemed small by comparison.  The second thing I noticed was that the pork chops had beautiful caramelized color and grill marks.  The mere appearance screamed delicious before I even took bite one. 

As for how things actually tasted that is a little more of a complex answer.  I thought the flavor of the chops was really really good.  The wood fire grill wasn't just a gimmick here.  The meat was tender, juicy, and cooked just right.  Also, the smoky flavor really came across strongly.  While I appreciated that, but I almost felt it could have used a sweet element as a complement.  Maybe that's just a personal preference, but I felt that a glaze or even a sauce would have really elevated these from really good to the level of something special.  The garlic mash was absolutely dead on.  The texture wasn't too smooth and the garlic flavor was present without being overwhelming.  The bbq beans were a little bit of a curve ball.  Based on the description I was expecting a flavor profile similar to sweet baked beans and instead this was more chili-like.  I actually appreciated it quite a bit.  For dessert, despite it being more of a Summer dish, I decided to go with the keylime pie.  It was fantastic.  The perfect mix of subtle sweetness and just a hint of sour from the limes.  It also didn't hurt itself by being topped with a healthy amount of fresh real whipped cream.

Taste 8.5/10 While there may have been ways that my dish could have been adjusted to improve it according to my person preferences, but it's hard to argue that the execution of the food was anything less than superb. The perfect flavors for a cool fall night. 

Value 8.5/10 When you go to Charleston's you have to realize that it isn't the type of place where you can get a 2 meals for $20 deal.  With dessert my meal was over the 20 dollar mark, but I definitely felt that it was worth every penny in terms of the amount and quality of food that was served. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Weekend Food Preview

Well thankfully another weekend is just around the corner.  That means a few things for yours truly.  First of all The Girlfriend and I are going to a party tomorrow night which should be a good time. If anybody has any good fall party food or drinks feel free to post them in the comments.  Also, speaking of the arrival of fall and colder weather I'm starting to get more cravings for comfort/bar food.  I don't know that's just how my brain works.  I think for dinner this weekend we might take a trip over to the Carmel Arts and Design District and find something that fits that mold.  If you have recommendations let me know.  Also, I just wanted to make this a little open thread of sorts for anything you want to talk about in regards to what you're eating, cooking, or restaurant recommendations.  Have a good weekend.  Happy eatings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Food TV: Next Iron Chef Superchef Battle

It's likely that if you are reading this blog that you are also someone who watches a fair amount of Food Network.  I know I do.  Sometimes I'll even watch shows on Food Network that are so crappy I can't believe they aren't part of the NBC primetime lineup.  I mean can somebody give Whitney Cummings a cooking show already?  In any case, the most recent phenomenon I've been sucked into is this years edition of Next Iron Chef. 

I've written before about how I believe, that despite Alton Brown's presence, Iron Chef America is a poor imitation of a wonderfully quirky Japanese cooking competition show from the 90s.  The American version uses "secret ingredients" that are far too boring (How will these chefs ever use a crazy wacky ingredient like CORN in a series of dishes???? They aren't superheroes!) and has "Iron Chefs" that I don't find that interesting.  Food Network must have realized some of these problems and addressed them by bringing some new life into the show by having a competition series where the winner would join the cast.  This is all well and good, but after the first 2 or 3 seasons of Next Iron Chef someone must have realized that no one knows any of these alleged "superior" chefs.  Food Network's solution was to have this season of NIC be comprised of competitors that all have a built in audience either from appearances on their own Food Network shows or other high profile cooking competitions such as Top Chef.

So far I have to say it's successful.  Food Network viewers already know a lot of the backstories/resumes of the competitors and likely have a rooting interest.  I also know that a lot of the people on this show have more going for them than just "I've been on Food Network".  There are no Rachel Rays or Guy "The Bold Bad Boy" Fieris here. Instead we get Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelson, and Michael Chiarello just to name a few.  These muthas can cook.  Food Network has also gone to an hour format instead of 90 minutes which makes for better pacing.  Also of note is the fact that each episode consists of 2 challenges.  Instead of a reward challenge and an elimination challenge this format has the 2 worst dishes in the first round going to a 30 minute elimination cook-off.  I find that much more compelling.  It's also on every Sunday night so it's a good little bit of escapist television that us battle weary Colts fans are looking for after watching our weekly butt kicking.

Image of NIC cast courtsey of

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sweet Treat Review: Nestle's Milk Chocolate Bar

I said the terms "milk chocolate" and "chocolate bar" to you your first thought would probably be Hershey's.  Sure, we're all aware that other chocolate and candy companies exist, but when you are talking about a pure chocolate candy bar with not other elements a lot of people may not even know that the Nestle company even produces such a product.  After all it's not something that you see frequently on store shelves here in Indiana.  It's not part of the "chocolate zeigeist" if such a douchey phrase actually existed.  When I saw the Nestle Milk Chocolate bar for sale at the local Dollar Tree of all places I selflessly decided to try it out for your benefit and report to you my findings.

So what did I find out?  I found out that it's pretty much a Nestle Crunch without the puffed rice to add the crunch.  I thought in comparison to a Hershey bar that the Nestle bar was maybe slightly less sweet, but that's really only splitting hairs.  They both taste like milk chocolate and they were both darn good.  I'm so used to Hershey bars thought it was a little strange for me to not have the bar segmented into little rectangles that could be broken off.  I think I prefer it that way as would any OCD chocolate connoisseur. 

Taste 5/10 Just average here.  Nothing to make me change my brand allegiance.  I much prefer Nestle's Baby Ruth to their regular chocolate bar.

Value N/A

P.S. Apologies for torn packaging in the picture.  The Girlfriend tried part of it before it dawned on me to take a picture.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Good Breakfast Isn't Hard to Find: Rosie's Place Review

"Yes. It's homemade."  Those are the words that are printed on the backs of the some of the shirts that the waitstaff at Rosie's Place in Noblesville.  In today's world that is undoubtedly a bold statement.  Far too many restaurants, chain and local, use frozen, pre-made, and pre-packaged ingredients.  Though we lament this fact it does leave an opening for restaurants like Rosie's Place to use their homemade items as a selling point.  The question is do they live up to their own words?  After my breakfast today I believe that answer is yes. 

Rosie's Place is a breakfast, lunch, and bakery spot located right on the town square area of downtown Noblesville.  Before we even set foot inside the restaurant The Girlfriend and I both commented on how nice the downtown area of Noblesville is and lamented the fact that we don't venture there for lunch/dinner as much as we should.  When we finally stepped inside of Rosie's we noticed immediately what a warm and inviting feel the restaurant has.  It's small enough to feel cozy, but not so small it's hard to get a table or move around.  Also, I don't know much about interior design, but I think most people would agree that the hardwood floors and semi-distressed looking brick walls were a nice touch.  Additionally, before you're seated at Rosie's you get to check out all of their delightful homemade baked goods near the cash register which always gets my mouth watering.  We were greeted warmly by the staff, and seated promptly.  This is a big plus in my book considering how crazy places like this can get on Sunday for breakfast.

After we were seated the first thing I noticed was that the menu we were given was imprinted with Fall 2011.  It was a nice touch to know that even a small cafe like this cares about being seasonal.  After looking over my options I decided I was in a "savory breakfast" mood and decided to go with a bacon, mushroom, and cheddar omelet with a biscuit and their country potatoes on the side.  The Girlfriend went with the biscuits and gravy.  When out food arrived I noticed quite a few pleasant surprises.  First of all I have said before how biscuits can make or break a breakfast place for me, and seeing as how Rosie's is also a bakery they had more at stake here than most.  Rosie's won the day though because the biscuit was just great.  It was light and fluffy yet substantial enough not to crumble.  If I had any slight criticism it might be that my biscuit may have been sitting around for a bit before it was served, but the taste was not affect by this since I found it to be delicious.  Rosie's even went the extra mile here of bringing me homemade strawberry preserves when I asked for jelly instead of just bringing me crappy Smucker's packets.  Major cool points. ::makes salute motion:: The omelet was equally delicious and I could tell that I was getting fresh mushrooms and fresh real cheddar cheese.  One forgets how much this adds to a dish after having subpar canned mushrooms and pre-packaged shredded cheese on so many occasions.  The bacon was perfectly cooked and plentiful.  Also, I want to give big props to Rosie's for actually using fresh diced red potatoes as their country potatoes instead of the same old boring frozen homefries.  One note though is that my potatoes were slightly under-seasoned. They were begging for some more salt and pepper and perhaps they could have been just slightly crispier.  The Girlfriend was equally pleased with her B&G.  I gave it a little taste and I have to agree.  The sausage gravy was the perfect consistency and the flavor was spot on.  We both left the table satisfied as well as full.

Taste 9.5/10 Just a fantastic restaurant experience overall.  I love finding places like this.  I'm excited to go back and give their pancakes, baked goods, and eggs benedict a shot. This is a Noblesville gem.  Don't sleep on it if you live in the Northern suburbs. Also, how does Rosie's ultimately stand up to their claim of "Yes. It's homemade"? I'm pretty sure the only think not made in-house was the butter for my biscuit.  'Nuff said.

Value 9/10 Without including drinks (coffe and soda) our ticket would have been around 13 or 14 dollars.  I know some people may ask how is that a good value since I can make breakfast at home?  My answer is that unless you're spending a ton of time and have some great recipe's you aren't doing what Rosie's is doing. You're getting a lot in terms of food and dining experience here for a reasonable price.

Rosie's Place on Urbanspoon

P.S. If anyone has been to Rosie's and had the pies or baked goods leave a comment.  I'm thinking of getting a pie from a specialty bake shop for Thanksgiving, but I haven't decided where from yet.

Interior pictures courtesy urbanspoon and google.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Beverage Review: Mt. Dew Game Fuel Modern Warfare 3 Edition

UAV online!  If you're as big of a nerd as I am, or if you watch G4 on occasion you might know that next Tuesday is the launch date for one of the tentpoles of the video game industry, the Call of Duty series, specifically Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3.  While I am freakin' psyched I realize that this is not a technology or video game blog so I'll just go ahead and assume most of you don't rat's. What might interest you, however, is that the video game company is sponsoring a product tie-in. Moutain Dew, the lifeblood of gamers everywhere, is producing a limited-time flavor called Moutain Dew Game Fuel Tropical.

This is certainly not the first go around with videogame/softdrink cross-promotion.  Moutain Dew itself has had success in the past with "game fuel" flavors produced for the release of games in the Halo franchise as well as World of Warcraft.  Speaking from personal experience the WoW Game Fuel cherry flavor had a very pleasant citrus taste I preferred over other Moutain Dew varieties.  When I saw the new Modern Warfare Game Fuel I had to see how the new product stacked up.

photo courtesy
The first thought that ran through my head when I picked up the new Dew was the terrible experience I had with the last Mountain Dew product I reviewed on this blog.  What a freakin' trainwreck.  The new Dew wouldn't have to go far to do better than that.  On first glance I noticed this new Dew was green like regular Dew, but slightly darker in color similar to the Distortion flavor they offered a while back.  Once I tasted it I have to say the "new flavor" was a bit hard to place.  I could tell it wasn't the same formula a regular Dew, but the difference was more subtle than I expected.  There was a hint of lime that  I found enjoyable though. If we're being honest most the flavor really isn't the point here is it?  Hell no!  If you're sucking down green soda called "game fuel" it's because you want the caffeine charge required to stay up all night laying waste to hordes of foul mouthed 12 year olds in online simulated combat! Okay, typing that out made it sound more lame than I had intended.  Nonetheless, the point is that Game Fuel has all the caffeine you need (121 mg) to stay up all night occupying your mom's basement and having a blast fake shooting fake people on the internet.

UPDATE: I was in the gas station today, and I saw that they are indeed selling the cherry citrus flavored Game Fuel.  I bought one, and I can confirm it's still money.  Pick one up.  Don't sleep on it.

Taste 6/10 I found the flavor nice, but almost too subtle.  The cherry citrus WoW Game Fuel from a couple years ago was more enjoyable by quite a bit.

Value N/A It costs the same as every other bottle of pop.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Admit I'm Late to the Food Truck Party: Scratch Truck Review

Better late than never could easily be a cliched phrase I shout happily after the hapless Indianapolis Colts fire head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.  However, since (unfortunately) that day is yet to come I'm compelled to use it when I describe finally paying a visit to one of the vendors on the Indianapolis food truck scene, Scratch Truck.

In case you've been living under a culinary rock for that last 3 years or so food trucks are basically mobile food vendors that have the goal of serving high quality cuisine at various points around the city using social media to get the word out about their menus and locations.  Scratch Truck describes their culinary point of view as being "modern mobile comfort food".  More generally food trucks often boast of making cuisine superior than what is available at many restaurants.  On this point I have to confess I was rather skeptical for a couple of reasons. 1. Food trucks, for better or worse, are a food trend which has a tendency to put me off because these kinds of things sometimes live off their own hype rather than substance. And 2. Being that I live in the northern suburbs of the city and work in Castleton, I haven't had many opportunities to visit a food truck and taste for myself. Their strategy is usually more focused on areas with higher foot traffic like downtown and Broadripple.  Fortunately, for me I saw on the tweeters that Scratch Truck was going to be set up near my office in Castleton, and I decided I had to treat myself to a special birthday lunch.

Photo courtesy
As I walked up the first thing I did was examine the menu and the truck itself.  The truck was visually eye catching and looked in every way professional.  The menu was posted on whiteboards which indicates that they change it up based on what they have that is fresh and available.  I've read other reviews on the internets about Scratch's chicken cone so I decided to go for something a little bit different.  The Scratch Burger was described as a "1/3 lb custom ground burger, bacon marmalade, arugula, and gorgonzola cheese served on a fresh, soft, toasted roll". (Ron Swanson voice) That sounded delcious!  For an extra charge I decided to pair it with their poutine fries.  The poutine fries were hand cut, twice fried french fries topped with chicken gravy, fresh mozzarella cheese, and herbs. 

After I placed my order I was asked how I preferred my burger to be cooked.  I gave my answer as "medium", but seeing as how often my "medium" burgers come out more like "well done" at Indy restaurants I was tempted to roll my eyes.  However, when my burger arrived I was pleasantly surprised that my burger was cooked perfectly as I requested.  Not only was my burger cooked perfectly I have to say this gets the honor as my favorite burger in the Indy area.  The portion was ample.  The meat was perfectly seasoned.  The bacon marmalade added an element of saltiness and sweetness that I've never experienced on a burger before.  The gorgonzola was evident and blended in perfect harmony with the arugula and marmalade.  I was impressed by how much these normally very assertive flavors were used so subtly here.  You were able to taste each one individually without being overwhelmed by any single element.  That's my benchmark for great food.  This burger required no additional condiments, a rarity among burgers and another sign of excellence. 

The poutine fries were also incredibly decadent and delicious.  The gravy was not too thick or thin.  The fries were perfectly cooked. The herbs added flavor.  However, what really brought this dish home was the one thing that poutine purists would probably dispute, the fresh mozzarella.  While they may not have been cheese curds these mozzarella pieces were fresh, soft, flavorful and melted just enough by the heat of the gravy and fries to ooze just perfectly over each bite.   My only regret is that the gravy and cheese kind of took away from the crispiness of the fries a little bit.  However, this is not a complaint or criticism.  This is how poutine should be. Personally, I think regular crispy fries are more my bag baby (Hooray dated pop culture references!).  Even if you feel the same way I would still encourage you to try the poutine fries.  They are one of those really good "food experiences".   Let's get to the ratings and put a bow on this bad boy.

Taste 10/10 Absolutely everything I want in a burger and nothing I don't. Delcious fries.  Of course I can't speak about every food truck in the city, but Scratch Truck has set the bar high.  My preconceptions about what type of food I could get from a mobile vendor have been blown away. I hope they bring their business back up to my neck of the woods sooner rather than later.

Value 8/10 This is the part of the review where it starts to get a little tricky.  Normally if I went somewhere and paid $12.81 for a burger, fries, and a Diet Coke I would probably be pretty livid.  That's a fairly big pricetag for lunch and for a burger in general.  The difference?  This is no "burger in general".  This is a one bada$$ meal the whole way around.  At a more "premium" price such as this I couldn't eat it all the time, but at least when I do there is no doubt I'm getting a "premium" product.

Scratchtruck (Mobile Food) on Urbanspoon