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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: TATA Cuban Cafe

I have been chastised from time to time on this blog for not going to enough places that are anywhere but the North side of town.  Whether it's bad or not is debatable, but it is true that I usually don't do a lot of driving to go eat somewhere unless I've heard it's something exceptional or if my regular travels take me that way.  Last weekend I was in downtown Indy for a friend's  wedding so I decided to step out of the box a little and find something interesting to eat.

The Girlfriend and I were staying at the Hilton just off of Monument Circle, and while we were lucky enough to get an early check in we hadn't really had time that morning to really eat much for breakfast or lunch.  We knew that if we didn't eat we'd be pretty hungry before food was served at the reception.  I had run some ideas by The Girlfriend, but neither her nor I were really feeling any of the close by options (pizza etc).  Also, being that the heat was quite oppressive and we were dressed in nice clothes we didn't want to have to walk too far just to get food.  Just about the time we had resigned ourselves to starving until the reception I decided to take a short walk to hotel parking garage to get our mini-umbrella in case of a pop-up shower.  On my journey I spied TATA Cuban Cafe right across from the parking garage on Market St and knew I had to stop in.

From the outside it looked quite dark and I was a little unsure of whether or not they were still open for the day, but I decided to head on in anyway and I was pleasantly surprised.  The inside of the restaurant was small but comfortable and elegant.  Had circumstances been different I would have suggested we dine in, but given the circumstances I told the nice lady at the counter my order would be to go.  Being that this was, in my estimation, a pretty authentic Cuban restaurant I immediately searched for the Cuban sandwich on the menu.  Sure enough it was the first item listed.  I quickly made up my mind to go with the classic combination of roast pork, ham, pickles and mustard pressed between to pieces of hearty bread. 

I stood there waiting on the counter for longer than I expected for my sandwich to come out, but I saw that there was a lot of tlc being put into my single sandwich.  Each layer was carefully constructed and the ham was freshly charred ever so slightly on the flat top.  Maybe it was just the heat, but I could have swore my mouth was literally watering when I saw that bad boy go into the sandwich press.  It was politely boxed up for me with 2 Diet Cokes to wash it down and I walked it back to our room to enjoy.

Maybe The Girlfriend should be a professional hand model.
I was a little worried at first that the sandwich itself  cost over 8 dollars without any sides included.  However, when I opened up the box I realized that the size of the sandwich was more than enough for two people to have a nice lunch.  As you can see from the picture the sandwich is quite thin do to being pressed in the traditional style, but in my opinion it really intensifies all of the wonderful flavors of the sandwich just a little bit more.  All of the flavors and textures work in perfect balance.  The mustard livens up the pork products and the bread and butter pickles add just the perfect amount of sweetness.  In fact, The Girlfriend said that she usually doesn't enjoy pickles in any form on a sandwich but she enjoyed them in this case.  The bread was that great combo of crunchy and soft.  Delicious.  Hopefully I'll have a little more time to explore the rest of the menu on my next visit.
If you're thinking the sandwich looks small there is another 2 pieces underneath

Taste 8.5/10  Wonderful in it's simplicity.  If you've never had a Cuban sandwich before give this one a shot.  Also, if you work downtown and you haven't dropped in here for lunch you're missing out.
Value 7/10  With one sandwich and 2 cans of Diet Coke our total bill came to just over 12 dollars.  For a two person lunch that's pretty good in my opinion for such quality food.  If you're ordering for yourself 1 sandwich would probably be a little much in both quantity of food and price.

Tata Cuban Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wedding Reception Dinner Services

Just this last weekend The Girlfriend and I attended a wedding for two of our good friends. The ceremony and reception were both very nice, and without going into a lot of detail the food at the latter was quite good. I think part of the reason for that was the way the method they used for the food service. Too often at wedding receptions you stay at your table and are served a dry bland piece of chicken you'd rather not eat. In my opinion it's far better to do what are friends did and have a kind of tapas buffet instead. There was a nice mix of hearty proteins, vegetable items, starches and fruit. Also it forces the guests to get up out of their seats earlier and be a little more social. When you add in some adult beverages a good time was had by all. I want to end by saying congratulations again to the bride and groom.
P.S. Also, I wanted to issue my most sincere apologies for forgetting to get the bride and groom a wedding gift. Apparently I'm a total moron that can't remember to do simple things while having an entire week off of work. Anyway sorry guys and I'll be sending you something here shortly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sweet Treat/Product Review: Hershey's Air Delight candy bar

Oh yes the allure of the new product on the grocery store shelves.  Much like a Michael Bay film we are drawn to it despite every ounce of your being telling you how lame it probably is going to be once you try it/see it.  That's a pretty good summation of my experience with the Hershey's Air Delight candy bar.  Ever the ultimate impulse buy in the grocery checkout line I saw the words "new" and "Hershey's" and I was hooked.  Unfortunately the results were pretty much what I expected.

The stated premise of this candy bar is to provide a new light airy texture to the classic Hershey bar.  I maintain the real premise is to sell you more air and less chocolate for the same price, but let's focus on the taste and claims of the manufacturer for the moment.  As far as the taste goes it is probably the least exciting new product I've ever tried out.  It's just a damn Hershey bar that is porous on the inside.  No new flavors.  No different size.  Nothing.  The shape is different and the bar is thicker, but that's just to leave room for the air holes.  The taste is Hershey's milk chocolate.  No different.  If the point of difference is supposed to be the texture I have to say I didn't really get that either.  It's just porous chocolate.  It's not more crunchy or anything else.  Once you take a bite and can no longer see the bar there is absolutely no difference.  In fact if anything I find it less appealing.  The simplicity of a solid chocolate bar is something I enjoy.  Stick with what works.  I see no reason to mess with the classics. 

Normally I would stick the taste and value ratings down here, but I feel with just this simple candy bar those things really don't fit so I'll just say I won't be eating any more aerated chocolate.  It's just a marketing gimmick and not even a terribly good one.  However, I am still on the lookout for the new coconut Twix bar.  That sounds like a new candy bar I could actually get behind.  If you know a place that has some let me know.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Ever Expanding World Of Indy Food Blogs

When I started this blog last fall there were about 3 Indy food blogs I checked on the regular.  I was a little nervous when I started because others had been in the game so long I wondered if I could say anything that hadn't already been said.  With even just 3 blogs that I knew of was the Indy food blogosphere already over saturated?  I decided to go ahead and start writing anyway just for my own personal enjoyment.  I never thought anyone, outside of my friends really, would start reading anything I wrote.  It was much to my surprise that I actually got some positive response.  Since then it seems even more people have taken up the mantle of food blogger here in the Indy metro area.  In fact it seems like so many are popping up I have a hard time keeping track, though I try.  I think it's pertinent to ask the question again, how many food bloggers in one city is too many?

In my opinion I think the answer is that there can never be too many.  That is what makes blogging great.  Nobody is there to tell you that you can't.  Every person who writes brings a new style or perspective to whatever subject they're covering.  Even if some of the same hangouts or restaurants are covered by different bloggers it doesn't mean that the two reviews will look exactly alike.  While I try to boldly eat what no one has written about eating before, I think disagreements among writers makes for interesting reading as well.

I welcome all new food bloggers with open arms as long as they are having fun and doing it for the right reasons.  I myself read multiple blogs every day, and I'm guessing a lot of you do also.  Having readers is not a zero-sum-game.  I say take it all in.  After all if there are enough people writing blogs with new content then maybe there will be enough to read to avoid doing work entirely.  Cheers and happy eating.

P.S. Blogger is telling me the word "bloggers" is a misspelling.  Fail.

Steakhouse Review: Eddie Merlot's

If you've lived in the Indy area for any period of time you've probably heard of Eddie Merlot's.  It's a very small chain of steakhouses that started in Ft. Wayne, IN, and has developed a pretty good reputation here as well.  When The Girlfriend and I were looking for a good steakhouse not in the downtown area Eddie Merlot's seemed like a rather appropriate choice. 

The way I can best describe the dining experience at Eddie Merlot's is to say that it has the soul of a traditional old-time steakhouse and the appearance of a something a little more modern and comfortable.  Yes, the aged prime steaks, a la carte sides and impeccable service are still there, but gone are the dark atmosphere, lacquered  hardwoods and waiters that probably voted for Taft.  Men are always down for a steakhouse no matter the vibe, but by shrugging off some of  the old boys club atmosphere they are appealing to a female demographic as well. 

After we arrived for our 7 pm reservation we were seated promptly in the far right side dining room.  The room was quite open and bathed in light due to the entire side of the restaurant being a wall of windows.  Being that it was a nice clear evening and the sun had not yet gone down it was quite an enjoyable experience.  Our server was a relatively young woman who was prompt and polite without being at all snooty which I very much appreciated.  As she took our drink order I decided against taking out a loan to order some Louis XIII and simply had iced tea.  However, if you are into alcohol with dinner there is a large selection of wines, scotches and cocktails for your perusal. 

As we looked over the quite large (physically and item wise) menus we each had a couple pieces of  bread that was provided.  The bread was wonderfully crusty yet soft and the butter was nicely softened so it could be spread easily.  As our server returned we decided to forgo the appetizer and decided to go ahead and order our entrees and sides.  I ordered the regular 16 oz ribeye medium rare while The Girlfriend ordered the NY strip medium.  For our sides we were a little indecisive so we decided to go with one veg and one starch.  We ordered the parmesan truffle fries and the asparagus. 

Our steaks were absolutely delicious.  Undoubtedly one of the best pieces of meat I've had in my life.  The seasoning was simple and spot on.  The beef was tender and juicy.  The color on the inside looked a little past the medium rare that I had ordered, but if the flavor and juiciness were there (which they were) I saw no reason to send the steak back for color alone. Regarding the side dishes, the parmesan truffle fries were not only the best fries I've ever had, but perhaps maybe one of the best things I've ever eaten.  They were twice fried and wonderfully crispy.  The parmesan and truffle flavors really came through and were the perfect compliment.  The portion they give you is a quite large, and we ate more of it than 2 people probably should have.  I make no apologies for that.  It was simply that good.  The asparagus on the other hand was disappointing.  It didn't taste bad.  Actually it was properly cooked and seasoned and tasted quite good, but in the end it was just asparagus.  Honestly, it wasn't that much different than what The Girlfriend makes here at home.  I was expecting some hollandaise or something to punch it up a bit.  For dessert, even though we were quite full, we decided to split a piece of cheesecake.  The cheesecake tasted fresh and seemed like it was made in house instead of shipped in.  The coulis and fresh fruit on the plate were a nice compliment. 

All in all I have to say it was a pretty fantastic meal, but it isn't one of those places I'll find myself rushing back to really soon.  For people like us it is a good for a special occasion, but simply too expensive to make it into regular rotation.  For our next special occasion we'll probably try to explore someplace new.  Let's get to the ratings.

Taste  9.5/10  Everything was at peak performance here aside from a couple barely significant issues.
Value  5/10  This is the sticking point for me.  I know to some people money is no object when it comes to having dinner out.  Those are the folks that EM's is catering to.  They have no qualms about overpricing things on their menu.  The value is not fantastic, but that isn't the primary selling point here.  Just know it's expensive going in, and if that isn't for you consider something else.

Eddie Merlot's on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 11, 2011

Curing the No Top Chef Blues

Seeing as my flip flops melted to the asphalt in the parking lot of my apartment complex when I took the dog out earlier today it's hard not to notice that Summer is here.  Along with thunderstorms, oppressive heat, and humidity we all know that Summer also brings a serious lack of good television.  My favorite shows like How I Met Your Mother and Parks And Recreation are in reruns and the best food competition show on TV, Top Chef, is on hiatus, but cable food shows are usually airing new episodes so typically it's not a bad place to go for a TV fix.  However, I've noticed something else this year.  The shows on Food Network are harder to watch than a Rosie O'Donnell sex tape. 

I know I've ranted on here before about various crappy shows on FN, but that was before they brought out television atrocities like Tough Cookies or Extreme Chef .  Tough Cookies is just another "reality show set in dessert shop run by a family in New Jersey" concept or as most of the world would call it "Cake Boss With Cookies Instead of Cakes Or Some Shit".  Aside from being unwatchable it's a pathetic attempt to capitalize on the already waning popularity of a show on a different network.  Extreme Chef is similarly stupid.  It's another chef competition show that some moron thought they would make better by throwing in twists every 10 seconds. I mean they are having the chefs pull such lame stunts as cooking on the engine of a muscle car.  The reason Top Chef works isn't because all of the zany twists and challenges.  It works because they have (mostly) talented chefs adapting to clever, sometime subtle, twists to produce great food.  With all this garbage you may be thinking there is no where to turn for some interesting Summer food programming.  You'd be wrong.

Master Chef is a program that debuted last Summer as an American adaptation of a British and Australian cooking competition series featuring talented amateur cooks.  It's currently in its second season, and I find it quite captivating.  The three judges are Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliott, and Joe Bastianch. These are three guys with pretty heavyweight (in Graham's case literally) chops.  Even if you think Ramsay is an a-hole, when you watch Master Chef you realize he's  a different person than the character he tends to portray on other shows such as Hell's Kitchen.  On Master Chef the food seems to be of high quality.  The competitors are interesting.  The challenges and format are unique without being too gimmicky, and the judges are neither afraid to give praise or criticism when deserved.  Also, it's on twice a week in prime time. It works to fill  two gaps in your TV lineup.  Hooray!  If you're like me and can't stand to hear "culinary point of view" on Food Network Star one more time give Master Chef a shot.  If you don't like it come on here, and tell me how wrong I am in the comments. I'll go all Ramsay on you and call you a stupid donkey, but hey it's worth a shot.  Happy viewing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

BBQ Review: Bender's BBQ Pit

 NOTE: Bender's BBQ Pit is closed as of September 2011

I'm not the sort of guy that goes out to lunch very often. Most of the time I bring my lunch, however mediocre it may be, to cut costs from my personal budget.  Also, while my office is in a very high traffic area it is an area dominated by typical fast food places.  Not that I have any problem with that, but it does get old.  That is why I was so happy to hear about a new independent takeout BBQ place that opened up just North of where I work on 96th and Masters next to the Blue Crew.  That place is Bender's BBQ Pit.

According to IndianapolisEater at Would I Buy It Again it has been open for over a month now, but it is tucked into the strip mall in such a way that I didn't even notice it despite the fact that I drive by there twice a day.  It was a good thing I found out about it though because it makes a perfect candidate for a review on this blog.  When I walked in I noticed two things immediately.  First thing I noticed was the smell.  The smell of sweet bbq smoke hung in the air so I knew right then they were at least doing something right (Don't oven roast something and tell me it's bbq dammit!).  Secondly, I noticed that this is a business just getting off the grand and the interior was spartan.  The drinks are served in cans since the soda fountain is not yet set up, and the menu is written on two whiteboards.  Personally, I love that about a bbq joint.  BBQ is the people's food.  Nothing about a bbq restaurant needs to impress you except the food.

As far as the food goes I decided to go with the day's special...a pulled pork sandwich (personal fave), 1 side and a drink for $6.  I was given 3 sauce options:  sweet, mild, and hot.  Normally I go for the middle level, but that day I decided on sweet and I was glad I did.  It was definitely made in house and was not cloying like some sweet sauces could be.  Perfect compliment to the meat. As far as the meat goes I will blatantly rip off Lucky Charms and call it magically delicious.  It was moist, well flavored by the smoke, had a nice texture (not chopped or shredded), and had those wonderful pink "smoke ring" and charred bits included.  The size of this sandwich was also larger than I was expecting.  Quite a lunch.  The coleslaw was quite good as well.  Nothing mind blowing, but it was exactly what I want in a coleslaw.  Nothing weird just do it right.

I really only have one minor minor complaint and it really had nothing to do with the food or service.  When my sandwich and coleslaw were boxed up they were put into one container with two parts.  As I took my sandwich back to the office the dressing from the slaw sloshed around quite a bit.  A lot of it ended up in the sandwich compartment and in the bag.  This made the bottom of the bun quite soggy so I had to eat it with my spork.  I was okay with that and personally I love the bbq pork/coleslaw flavor combo, but some others may not.  My suggestion would be a separate container with lid for the coleslaw.

Taste 8.5/10 It's bad news that this place opened up so close to my office.  I'll probably be going in there waaay more than I probably should.  There will be no regrets with I'm chowing down on smoked portions of Babe or Wilbur though.
Value 10/10  Only 6 bucks for a big pulled pork sandwich, healthy portion of coleslaw and a drink? Yes please!  I don't know if that special will always be there, but damn it's hard to beat.  They also have a 10 for 5 Groupon out right now if you're interested.

Bender's BBQ Pit on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Burger King's New Chicken Tenders Review: Setting New Parameters In Suck

Sorry I have been lazy on the posting around here lately, but I've been busy at home with the new dog and the recent holiday weekend.  Luckily I should have a couple of new posts forthcoming soon.  However, I did want to let you all be aware of something I tried over the weekend, the new chicken tenders from Burger King.

This image from
If you weren't already aware a few months ago BK decided to start trying to rebrand itself and consequently that meant changing up some of their menu items.  One of the first things changed were their chicken tenders (which are really more like nuggets but I digress).  Working at the Indiana Memorial Union during college I ate a lot of BK since it was in the Union and close by.  Subsequently I ate a lot of their old style chicken nuggets.  Now don't get me wrong they were a little strange since they were crown shaped which obviously made them a little kiddish, but overall I thought they were fairly tasty.  The new ones I had over the weekend, however, were just damn awful.  There's really no other was to put it.  I apologize for not taking pictures, but I didn't originally intend to review them. The funky shapes have been eliminated to appeal to a "more adult audience" I guess, but the new style of breading reminded me of the worst frozen out of the bag chicken nuggets I've ever had.  The taste was horrendous as well.  They were dry, tough, flavorless and tasted like the restaurant had run out of actual product and just pulled leftover Tyson nuggets out of the freezer.  I'd rather munch out of my Pomeranian's dinner bowl than eat these again.

Taste 0/10  If I could give negatives I would.  BK was never high on my list for non-breakfast foods, and I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon.
Value 0/10  I didn't actually buy these for myself so I don't know how much they cost, but based on how horrible they tasted I'm giving them a zero here unless they pay you to eat them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Drink Review: Diet Mt Dew Supernova

There are some things that I enjoy that I know aren't "good for you" or "healthy", but dammit I love them and the only way you're going to get me to stop enjoying them is by prying them out of my cold dead hands.  Yes, I'm a fan of firearms also but this blog is actually about diet soda.  I'm sure at some point the nanny state may legislate away our freedom in both of these respects, but for now I have the freedom to try and hate on every new diet soda flavor out there including Diet Mt Dew Supernova.

First of all I want to say that if I'm talking about diet pop my first choice is always Diet Coke.  It was the flavor I was raised on, and I prefer it over any other flavor of pop either diet or regular.  If I'm not drinking Diet Coke then it's usually a toss up between Diet Sundrop, Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Mt Dew.  When I saw this new flavor of Diet Dew sitting the work vending machine the other day my desire for a new experience overwhelmed my craving for something I knew to be satisfying.  After all Mt Dew Supernova had a weird purplish tint and claimed to have flavors of melon and strawberry.  What could go wrong?

Answer:  Everything.  This is the single worst tasting beverage I have tasted in 27 years of life on this planet.  The first indication should have been the damn color.  If it tastes like strawberry and melon why is it purple?  Now I know there is nothing at all resembling real fruit or fruit juices in the beverage, but come on man purple?  Really?  As far as the taste itself I couldn't even begin to make out the strawberry or any other fruit flavor.  To be honest it just tasted like disgusting cough syrup.  I couldn't even begin to finish the whole bottle.  What a failed experiment.  The only time I might even consider using this for something is if I was making a Flaming Moe/Homer.  Take my advice and stay far far away.  Ok enough ranting.  I'm going to go find the nice cold refreshment of a fountain Diet Coke. 

Also, everyone have a good 4th of July holiday and remember to celebrate the birth of your country by blowing up a small part of it (Simpsons reference 2!!)  Hopefully you will all also get to enjoy a cliched red, white and blue themed dessert at your respective cookouts.  Have a good weekend!