Al fresco dining a la JW Marriott

This week has served as an eye-opening reminder of just how much cool stuff there is to see, do and experience right here in our own Indianapolis backyard. I, for one, am guilty of taking for granted the many attractions and scenic features our fair city has to offer. Well, let me tell you, I’ve spent the past several days trying to cram in quick visits to all the destination stops within White River State Park downtown, and I am worn out.

For those of you looking for a fun and affordable summer staycation, you seriously might want to consider booking into any of the diverse hotel options within Marriott Place. With a handful of Marriott-branded lodging options to consider and accommodations ranging from the budget-friendly Fairfield Inn to the super-luxe JW Marriott, you’re guaranteed a nice room at any price point. And best of all, you can walk across the street to everything in White River State Park, from museums, the canal and Victory Field to the Lawn and the Zoo — the gang’s all here! (And if you decide you need a lift, you can grab a $5 cab ride to just about anywhere you want to go downtown.)

JW Marriott Indianapolis

Because everyone knows I’m a foodie, let’s talk about food. More specifically, dinner at JW’s swanky Tavern on the Plaza. My group of 12 or so was seated among what seemed to be a high-profile, see-and-be-seen crowd. This place was hopping with young, trendy beautiful people sipping fancy martinis and acai drinks, many I’m assuming were on en route to the Ray LaMontagne concert just down the street at the Lawn. I wondered for a minute if I wasn’t too old to be hanging out here.

From what I can gather, the al fresco dining-only Tavern shares some of its short-list menu items with the indoor Osteria Pronto, but there are also selections exclusive to this eatery along the lines of gourmet sandwiches, a few flatbreads and grilled entrees. It’s a solid blend of Italian and American themed plates.

Tavern on the Plaza bruschetta

To kick off the meal, we shared several starters — a simple but beautifully presented bruschetta, an antipasti platter of sliced cured meats (with a delicious grilled artichoke that I selfishly bogarted before anyone else could lay claim to it), pizza margherita, and a mountain of crispy calamari. This isn’t your average calamari, though… the little pieces of squid were interspersed with deep-fried paper-thin slices of carrot and zucchini. I’m not a calamari fan, but I loved nibbling the veggie “chips.”

Tavern on the Plaza calamari

Then came the dinners. We’d preordered our entrees earlier in the day to speed things along. For hubby, I’d selected half of a roasted chicken with Asiago mashed potatoes, baby carrots and jus. (It was supposed to be served with roasted onions, which I wisely headed off at the pass.) Judging by the way he polished it off, it must have been good.

roasted chicken with Asiago mashed potatoes

My penne primavera proved a smart choice, and I like that you can order pasta here in either small or large serving sizes. Some of those pasta bowls restaurants bring out nowadays are big enough to swim in; the small portion (pictured here) was enough to fill me up without being ridiculous. The penne itself was nicely al dente with a flavorful pesto and studded with roasted veggies and peas. Just my speed.

pesto pasta primavera

Elsewhere around the table, the grilled salmon and fish of the day entrees looked tasty, as did the veggie skewers with meat, shrimp and chicken add-on possibilities.

shrimp and veggie skewers

Everyone was feeling pretty sated by this point, but we still somehow managed to find room for dessert. The mini molten chocolate cakes with a custard sauce and vanilla ice cream were good, but the tortelli is the dessert diners are really going to remember. The description’s a little misleading; the menu paints a mental picture of tortelli as an old-fashioned donut. I don’t know about you, but when you say “old-fashioned donut,” I tend to think of the yeasty glazed variety with a hole in the middle. These are more like Italian-style beignets; huge, deceptively light, puffy baseballs of deep-fried dough buried in a snowdrift of powdered sugar and squiggled with chocolate and raspberry sauces.

the tortelli

You HAVE to order these if you come here. That’s all there is to it.

For more info:

Tavern on the Plaza (JW Marriott) on Urbanspoon

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