Friday, July 22, 2011

Dispatches from Abroad, Part 1: Indianapolis Jones

So I was removed from my native habitat and compelled to venture fourth to Indianapolis, Indiana for some work stuff. I have actually been flitting about the country quite a bit the past couple of weeks, that is why you haven't heard much from me. Even though I usually keep the subject matter limited to my ramblings throughout Upstate America, I thought I might widen my horizons for a couple of posts.

Upon arriving in Indianapolis I inquired of several folks where they thought I should eat. I got pretty much the same response from several people, i.e. "Go to St. Elmo's, have the shrimp cocktail." From what I gathered St. Elmo Steak House is kind of an Indianapolis institution. Most natives describe the restaurant as hanging in limbo somewhere between tourist trap and legit steak house. I decided to give it a whirl.

The place has your standard "wood walls with pictures of famous people and other tchotckes to show you that we are a real, ol' timey steak house" vibe. Having been very emphatically urged to "try the shrimp cocktail" I decided to make it so. The "fiery cocktail sauce" is apparently one of St Elmo's main claims to fame.

The waiter gave me a little "have you ever been here before? you better be careful..." schpiel, but I shrugged it off as I have found that more often than not these warnings are warrantless and I am left disappointed. I got a goodly looking pile of shrimp with a dollop of fresh looking cocktail sauce served up in a cunning little ice bowl thing.

I forked up the top shrimp along with a hearty amount of sauce and popped it in my mouth. OK St Elmo, I like the cut of your jib. I apologize for questioning your fortitude. This particular cocktail sauce is absolutely laden with freshly grated horseradish. The sensation of each bite is something like snorting wasabi. I don't know that I have ever ingested that much horseradish in one sitting. It was nostril clearing and painful in a pleasantly refreshing sort of way. Thoroughly enjoyable. Here is my empty bowl to affirm my manliness, I left nary a drop of the fiery sauce behind.

Another recommendation for good eatin' that I had received was for Shapiro's Deli. Shapiro's started off in Indianapolis about a hundred years ago and now has a couple different locations in the area. Food is served cafeteria style, lunchroom trays and all. They are famous for their desserts (which actually looked very, very good) and their Reubens. I took their word for it and got a Reuben and a deviled egg.

I had no complaints about the Reuben, it was fairly standard issue. The deviled egg was a little weird, extremely sweet flavor most likely from a hearty douse of relish. Much more enjoyable was the experience of being served things like kosher dills and matzo balls by people with broad midwestern accents.

To wrap up my culinary tour of Indianapolis, I went to the temple of all which is good and holy.

Don't care if it is cliche, I actually really like White Castle. Anytime that I am in the vicinity of a location I make a point to visit. This time I veered from my standard order of good ol' cheeseburgers and got a couple with bacon and a couple jalapeño (also 20 chicken rings for 4.99!)

I was pleasantly surprised by the jalapeño sliders, they actually had a little spiciness to them.

Anyhow, I kind of liked Indianapolis. It had a certain charm that I can't quite explain and I appreciated the city planning. All of the roads seem to be 4 lanes and make sense. Not like our ancient New York cities (Albany I am looking at you) with their maniacal jumble of streets. If you ever make it out there I can now recommend that you go to St Elmo and try the shrimp cocktail...


  1. That's one of the things I miss about no longer living in the Midwest. Growing up in Michigan it seemed like there was a White Castle an every corner. Alas, there's nothing in the capital region quite like those delicious soggy squares of vaguely onion-flavored gastrointestinal delights.

  2. It's great being a Hoosier these days. Glad you got to visit our neck of the woods.

  3. Three fine representative picks, but the one you really should have had is the tenderloin sandwich. There is much about food of the northeast that I miss -- clam rolls, Michigans, real pizza -- but the Hoosier tenderloin is special.


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