Reach for the Sky City Café

For a Hoosierized taste of the Southwest within the gorgeous confines of the Eiteljorg Museum, Sky City Café makes a delicious and distinctive lunch destination. Especially during the summer when you can sit outside on the terrace to enjoy spectacular views of the canal and the Indianapolis skyline along with your soup and sandwich. (Is it just me, or does everything taste better when you can eat outside?)

the Eiteljorg Museum in White River State Park

Lunch at the café kicked off my recent three-day tour of White River State Park, and the meal got things off to a great start. I’d never eaten here before and was intrigued by the menu, heavy on Southwest-oriented offerings and even a few American Indian-influenced items to consider. This eatery’s got a unique foothold in the local market — if there’s another restaurant in town that features American Indian cuisine, I’m not familiar with it.

The casual bill of fare details a fairly vast list of cold and hot sandwiches, soups, salads, tacos and nachos highlighting Southwestern themed flavors and ingredients. If you’re craving salsa, chili peppers, guacamole and cilantro, Sky City Café’s got you covered.

Many in our group opted for the soup/half salad/half sandwich combo — your choice of two for $8.75. I was advised that the signature corn chowder was definitely worth a try, so I asked for a cup of that and half of a “Desert Gobbler,” a roasted turkey sandwich with pico de gallo, smoky gouda cheese and cilantro pesto on a sourdough boule.

My dad also ordered the soup and half of a chipotle shrimp po’ boy. Everything was delivered to our table freshly made and looking appetizing.

The soup had a nice corn essence, but I thought it could have used a little punch of something to really kick it up… chili powder? Jalapeno? I dunno. Can’t quite put my finger on what it needed to really take it over the top for me. My sandwich was hearty and savory. I’m a sucker for a good pesto, and the cilantro used here lends an unexpected but quite successful taste twist. (Note to self – might have to try to recreate this at home…)

Desert Gobbler with corn chowder

My dad’s sandwich was full of tender little fried shrimp topped with shredded lettuce and a drizzle of kicky chipotle lime mayo.

shrimp po boy with corn chowder

With our sandwich-soup combos, we also each received a big corn muffin, which seemed like a little overkill on the bread, but was certainly tasty. I didn’t finish the muffin, but crumbled some of it to float in my chowder for some texture and a nice double-hit of corn flavor.

Other Sky City Cafe temptations I’d like to try: the daily quesadilla special; the Sonoma vegetarian sandwich of fried red and green tomatoes with fresh cilantro and pepperjack cheese; the Tatanka buffalo burger with guacamole and pico de gallo on a toasted onion bun; and the Oregon Trail salad of chipotle molasses grilled chicken with dried cranberries and a quince vinaigrette. Excuse me while I grab a napkin; my mouth is watering.

I love the colorful interior décor of cafe – rich green walls with dark wood trim, and the tiny flowering cactus centerpieces were appropriate and adorable.

Sky City Cafe table decor

If you have time during your lunch hour, the Eiteljorg’s provocative Red/Black exhibit is definitely worth a walk through. (So is the rest of the museum, but you really need a full morning or afternoon to see it properly). The Red/Black display explores the shared history, interactions and cultural traditions of Native Americans and African Americans, and introduces some thought-provoking issues of race and identity. Don’t wait too long to see it; the exhibit only runs through August 7.

Sky City Café is open for lunch daily. For more information:

I wonder what the American Indian equivalent of “bon appetit” is…

Sky City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Garden variety

Nothing says summer like a just-picked vine-ripened tomato still warm from the sun, sliced, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with a little coarse salt and dressed up with a few leaves of fresh basil. To my palate, this simple pleasure tastes like sunshine on a plate.

Yesterday, I got my tomato plants into the garden and am crossing my fingers that they “take.” Each year around my birthday in March, I start getting antsy to get my hands dirty and get some seeds going. By the time the last frost date rolls around, my starts have usually gotten so big, they’re taking suicide leaps off the windowsill.

windowsill tomatoes

This year’s batch is a little leggy, but I think once they get outside for some fresh air, sun and rain, they’ll be just fine. My garden tomatoes have been hit or miss the past few years. The first year I planted them, they were GORGEOUS. Seriously, they were so pretty, my neighbor said they could have been used in a magazine layout. And they tasted great. The next year? The few late bloomers I was able to harvest didn’t have much flavor, I’m sad to say. Not sure what makes such a big difference in them year to year when I use the same starting methods and the same garden patch.

For my 2011 crop, I’ve got beefsteaks, cherry tomatoes and something called German tomatoes. One of my dad’s friends in Richmond got me hooked on those last year – he’d come across them somewhere and cultivated them in his own garden because they are a low-acid variation. They’re kind of strange to look at (they’re actually kind of ugly, truth be told), slightly bigger than Romas and almost square in shape. The first one I sliced into almost resembled salami inside, and I thought “Hm. Okaaaaaay…” My expectations weren’t high, and then I took a bite. For as weird as they look, these little gems pack a mighty punch of juicy summer tomato flavor. My dad and I went back several times for more, and I kept some of the seeds to try for myself this year. So far, so good. Can’t wait to see how they get along in my own backyard.

In addition to tomatoes, I have a ledge at the back of my driveway that has turned into a pretty kick-ass perennial herb garden. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and then some. One of my favorite things to do in season is to stroll out there, specially devoted herb scissors in hand, and cut a veritable bouquet of sprigs to use in my cooking. Not to brag, but I make a mean mixed-herb pesto.

the ledge o' herbs

Here’s what I’ve learned about herb gardening – oregano, parsley and chives grow like crazy without much attention. I love fresh dill and cilantro, but they’re really not worth the effort it takes to garner a small useable amount. Still trying to figure out what it is that keeps eating little holes in my basil.

So, plants are in. Now we wait. Bring on the Caprese.