Local anesthetic

Nothing around these parts really holds a candle to the authentic Irish pub. Americanized wannabe versions? Forget it. The closest thing I’ve found to the real deal here in Indianapolis would probably have to be the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, but the owner there is English, not Irish, and the two nationalities tend to get a little bent out of shape when you mistake one for the other.

In Ireland, stopping by the pub is the next best thing to parking your butt in your favorite recliner with a nice cold beer at the end of a long day. Maybe even better. The goal of the pub, short for “public house” FYI, is to provide a comfortable, cozy atmosphere not unlike an extension of your own living room where patrons can swing in for a pint, some food, and a chat with friends and neighbors. My Irish in-laws often speak of their “locals” with pride and affection, but it’s hard to find establishments that serve the same purpose stateside in the land of nameless, faceless fast food and soulless chain restaurants. Places where everybody knows your name are few and far between.

After countless visits, meals and drinks, I think hubby and I have established our own local here in Indy. It actually used to be the Broad Ripple Brew Pub; we had our first date there years ago and congregated with friends nearly every Sunday night (and usually at least one additional night each week). Proximity and fondness have since led us to Sahm’s Place, just east of Broad Ripple and within quick walking distance from our home.

Can’t remember exactly when we started to hang out at Sahm’s Place on a regular basis, but it had to have been several years ago when I was pregnant with our son. I was on bed rest for a good three months, and hubby started frequenting the joint. This arrangement worked well — hubby could get out for a break, still be right around the corner if needed, and grab a take-out for me on the way home. Once I was finally mobile again, I recall walking to Sahm’s when the weather broke in April. Heavily pregnant and trying desperately to kick-start my labor, I sat at the bar panting, trying to catch my breath and jealously watching hubby enjoy a beer.

Since those days, one or the other of us has visited Sahm’s probably once a week. It’s become hubby’s regular Wednesday night hang with the guys, we often take our three-year-old in for meals, and I have been known to stop in solo on occasion for dinner. It’s our go-to. They know us there. Heck, they seem to know everybody there. Last night, hardly a soul came in without receiving a personal greeting and hearty handshake. The servers are impressed by the toddler’s ordering abilities. How many little boys do you know can stop in somewhere and ask for “the usual,” knowing he’ll promptly receive a glass of sparkling water with a slice of cucumber? I love that.

Sahm’s Place is one of a handful of Sahm’s locations scattered around town. My cousin Jenny, who lives in Fishers, first turned me on to the franchise way back when. We would stop in the eatery at Allisonville and 116th, and it quickly became “our place.” She even ordered chicken salad sandwiches from there for my baby shower buffet. Sahm’s is cool like that. There’s something about it that feels very homey — definitely the food, but also the fact that it’s family-owned. It’s just the kind of all-around place you can hang out in to watch the game, bring your family for dinner, or meet a girlfriend for lunch or a glass of wine.

Sited in a small strip just in front of Kroger at 65th and Keystone, I almost feel like Sahm’s Place flies a little under the radar, although maybe that’s not accurate to say because it’s usually quite busy whenever we stop in. When you say Sahm’s, most Indy folks probably think of the original flagship Fishers location or the downtown spot, but Sahm’s Place more than holds its own.

view from the end of the bar at Sahm's Place

There is a full-service restaurant section, but we always sit on the bar side. The bar itself is partitioned off by half-walls, so we can still bring the little guy in with us to sit at one of the tables along the far wall. Although there are plenty of good old familiar domestic beer options, I like that Sahm’s puts an emphasis on local and regional craft beers as well. It’s one of the few places that hubby goes in and just asks for whatever they think he’ll like.

Foodwise, the wide-ranging Sahm’s menu covers all the bases for lunch and dinner. If you can’t find something to eat here, you’re just not trying. There’s a good selection of salads, each served with a slice of Sahm’s signature coffeecake for a little sweet treat bonus on the side. I often order the Southwest chicken salad, a huge bowl of fresh lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives and tortilla strips with a spicy grilled chicken breast atop. The double whammy of salsa ranch and creamy lime dressings on the side really make it, though. I could drink both of these out of the ramekins.

buffalo chicken sandwich with carrot curls and a Sun King Wee Mac

The hefty sandwich selections are more than filling, and that’s what we went for last night. I particularly like the buffalo chicken, the breaded tenderloin (this is Indiana, after all), and the spinach melt. On the side? Skip the fries and go for the carrot curls. Think potato chips made from carrot. Yum. Yum. Yum.

the ubiquitous Indiana pork tenderloin

There’s also pasta, stir fry and a handful of entrée items to consider. Sahm’s does a very respectable steak dinner at a good price — ask for your New York strip served Pittsburgh-style on a sizzling platter, and watch the heads turn as the meat wafts its way through the dining room to your table.

Sahm’s offers a number of specials and a Tuesday night pub quiz that’s worth checking out, best to show up early to grab a seat. Hold the phone — Sahm’s serves breakfast, too??? This is definitely something I need to explore…

For more information: 

Sahm’s Place


Sahm’s Place on Urbanspoon

Slow down, you eat too fast

During my White River State Park tour a couple weeks ago, I had one of those I-had-no-idea-this-was-here epiphanies, which was the discovery of the Wishard Slow Food Garden. This nifty urban community garden is situated just along the southwest bend in the downtown canal by the WRSP visitors center, and it is definitely worth paying some attention to.

Wishard Slow Food Garden in White River State Park

So what exactly is Slow Food, you might be wondering? In simplest terms, imagine the polar opposite of fast food — soul-satisfying, heartwarming dishes prepared using wholesome fresh (often organic and locally sourced) ingredients, prepared with love and respect for the origins from which they came. Slow Food doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cooked slowly, although sometimes it is, or that it takes a long time to serve and eat, although sometimes it does. The whole movement started in Italy several decades ago (where Slow Food isn’t a new or shocking concept, just an everyday way of life). Chefs, culinary bigwigs, food industry experts and people who just plain appreciate good quality meals have jumped on board with enthusiasm. Myself included.

Right here in Indianapolis, the 6,000-square-foot Slow Food Garden consists of five big plots, each planted with some of the most gorgeous produce I’ve seen anywhere in town. Now in its second year, the project is sponsored by Wishard Health (nice move!) and supported by a state grant. Laura Henderson, the brains and beauty behind the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market as well as founder of the Growing Places Indy organization, directs the operations of the garden from planting to harvest.

Duos food truck in White River State Park

Duos Food Truck is just one of the recipients that benefits from the Slow Food Garden, along with Pogue’s Run Green Grocer, Veggie Share and other local businesses. Duos co-owner and chef Becky Hostetter, a major Slow Food proponent, utilizes weekly yields from the garden as inspiration for the recipes she serves at Duos. Think deliciously fresh and healthy gourmet vegetable soups, salads, sandwiches and the like… today marked the third time I’ve eaten lunch at Duos, and food that was great to start with just keeps getting better with every visit. (Perhaps because Becky’s got so many great building blocks currently peaking at the Slow Food garden?)

For lunch today, I received a lovely sampler plate with tastes of Gunthorp Farms chicken salad, panzanella salad and a little slice of roasted portobello mushroom sandwich.

Duos lovely lunch sampler plate

In the chicken salad, Becky replaced the usual mayo with a pickly giardiniera dressing and small pieces of marinated veggies, a genius move considering temps are hovering around 90 degrees at the moment and I’m not sure how well mayonnaise would have held up. The dressing had a little spicy kick of some flavor I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

For the uninitiated, panzanella salad consists of toasty white bread cubes mixed with chopped vegetables, herbs and a tangy vinaigrette. Yummy. The chopped tomato and peppers tasted like Becky had literally just picked them out of the garden, cut them up and tossed them into the mix. Which I imagine is exactly what she did.

The portobello mushroom sandwich was great, too, a meaty roasted bite of mushroom atop more of that same crusty bread with a little bit of cheese and a roasted red pepper jam on top. I could have easily eaten a whole sandwich of this stuff; as it was served, I couldn’t help but think that it would have worked perfectly as an awesome hors d’oeuvre.

An intriguingly named Ligurian vegetable soup turned out to be a light brothy cup full of fresh vegetables, chopped roughly to maintain plenty of bite and texture. I spied potato, kale, fennel, onion and I’m not sure what else amid a sprinkling of melty cheese and a scattering of chopped basil that lent a bright summery note to the whole dish.

Ligurian vegetable soup

I finished my meal with a little dulce de leche cheesecake square, a luxuriously creamy filling with a hint of cinnamon, draped with a thick caramel sauce that oozed slowly down the sides. Heavenly. I was so excited, I literally inhaled this dessert as I was eating it and got a little choked. It was totally worth it.

dulce de leche cheesecake bar

Thanks to a newly announced collaboration between the Wishard Slow Food Garden, Duos and White River State Park, Slow Foodies can count on finding Becky and company serving lunch each Thursday from a parking spot right beside the garden. This is an ideal location that allows you to enjoy your lunch al fresco along the rock wall in the shade, or stroll down the steps to eat alongside the canal. And because Duos changes up its menu each week, it’s always a new experience. The only downside to this much variety is that now I’m going to be bugging Becky about when she’s planning to make those cheesecake bars again…

If you want to find out more about the Slow Food Garden, stop by on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. for community work-and-learn sessions each week now through August. I might just see you there.

For more info:





The first gig of 2009

Last weekend marked my first sorta-big solo catering job of the year — a bridal shower luncheon my friend Michelle was hosting for her husband’s niece. Does the idea of fixing lunch for 25 women intimidate you? Not me! Admittedly, the menu wasn’t terribly complicated and Michelle is a fairly easy-to-please audience, so I felt really comfortable with the whole gig from the beginning.

Thanks to Michelle’s creative flair, the decor was fabulous and budget-minded. She really has a knack for pulling together some wonderful stuff! The tables were set with simple rented china, glasses and flatware and capped off with blue tissue paper flower bouquets and cloth napkins tied with matching blue ribbon (the bride’s colors). It all looked very fresh and classy, and apart from a very minor hiccup with the rentals (they gave us forks and knives instead of forks and cake forks), all went very smoothly.

For the lunch itself, I prepared chicken salad on mini croissants, a generously filled cheese/crudite and dip platter, and a fresh seasonal fruit salad with a vanilla bean ginger syrup stirred in to kick it up a little bit. For dessert, Michelle assembled several cake stands full of white cupcakes with blue sugar-crusted frosting. Lovely!

Since the menu was fairly straightforward, I jazzed up the presentation with a few pretty garnishes – butterflies carved from apples, fanned strawberries and halved orange and lemon “flowers.” All in all, I was really pleased with the way everything came together in the end.

my luncheon buffet table

my luncheon buffet table

the fabulous vanilla bean/ginger syrup fruit salad

the fabulous vanilla bean/ginger syrup fruit salad

the cheese/crudite spread

the cheese/crudite spread

chicken salad croissants

chicken salad croissants

the cupcake cake stands

the cupcake cake stands

Michelle's fabulous table settings

Michelle's fabulous table settings