Craft drafts

A friend brought Twenty Tap to my attention last week in a mass email when she announced she’s now hostessing there one night a week and we should all stop by and check it out. I was happy to get the chance to do so.

Twenty Tap in SoBro

Twenty Tap is the brainchild of Kevin Matalucci, of Broad Ripple Brewpub brewing fame, nesting down in the former home of Northside News at 54th and College. The guy has obviously put a lot of effort into putting a new face on the business via tall wood booths, spherical hanging light fixtures and walls dressed in earthy hues.

A girlfriend and I stopped in for dinner last night. My first impression was that Twenty Tap has a bit of a split personality— half restaurant and half pub. To the left is an open bar area with electronic darts; to the right, a family-friendly dining room. Everything looks fresh and clean, but I couldn’t help but think the place feels somehow unfinished. Perhaps some more art on the walls would help. Maybe, like a new apartment, it just needs a little time to develop a more lived-in feel. The dining room was fairly empty when we arrived just after 6 p.m., but steadily filled to capacity during the course of our stay.

In a nod to terroir, Twenty Tap distinguishes itself by serving 20 craft beers, all made within Indiana (like Tomlinson Tap Room). Always nice to see locavoracity in action. Beer choices are listed on a blackboard wall (this trend seems to be everywhere these days). I settled on a pint of Fort Wayne-based Mad Anthony kolsch, and my friend (a non-beer drinker) seemed happy with her Sun King Wee Mac. Our young server seemed pretty up to speed when we asked him for recommendations.

Twenty Tap beer list during our visit

The menu details gastropub-ish grub, with a few surprises. From what I keep hearing, the pressed Cuban sandwich (a tribute to the version formerly served at Northside News, I assume) is the thing to order, but I passed it up to try the mushroom Reuben instead. Saying she wasn’t all that hungry, my friend asked for the pimento mac and cheese, a $5 appetizer offering with optional bacon for an extra buck fifty. There’s also a handful of burgers, a few salads and a soup du jour. Three-bean salad sounded like an interesting side alternative to standard fries.

We settled in to enjoy our beers and everything was going fine until our server apparently fell off the face of the earth. People sitting next to us (who’d ordered long after we did) received their food, and my pint glass sat empty for long enough that we started to wonder where the heck our guy had disappeared to. Finally, our dinners arrived (reassuringly hot, thank goodness) and I was able to get a refill on my kolsch, so all’s well that ends well.

The macaroni was nicely cooked to al dente and the sauce had a subtly spicy pimento tang.

Twenty Tap’s pimento mac and cheese

My sandwich was ok, subbing strips of sliced mushroom for corned beef with all the other traditional Reuben accoutrement, but I must admit, I found myself wishing I’d gone with the word of mouth buzz and ordered the Cuban instead. The fries were crispy and lightly dusted with black pepper.

the mushroom reuben

Halfway through my meal, the server dropped off a tiny ramekin of house-made pickles. The cucumbers were sliced paper thin and the pickling liquid had a flavor note I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Cinnamon, perhaps?

Our house is situated east of Broad Ripple, so Twenty Tap probably won’t become a regular haunt for us, but if we lived in the neighborhood, I can see how it might be a steady stop. Especially since it’s kid-friendly. My husband often takes our three-year-old out to the “pub” to enjoy some daddy-son bonding time over a pint of beer and a glass of lemonade. (My son drinks the lemonade, just in case you were wondering…)

I can’t seem to find a Twenty Tap web site up and running yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Watch this space…

Twenty Tap on Urbanspoon

Killing time in Killarney

Last night was a rare “date night” for hubby and I. Mother-in-law watched the baby so we could escape for a few hours to enjoy dinner and drinks in nearby Killarney.

Killarney is about a 15- or 20-minute drive from hubby’s hometown in Millstreet, and we get over there at least once when we’re visiting to do some shopping or grab a quick meal. It is a tourist mecca with walkable streets full of tea shops, pubs, bed-and-breakfasts and souvenir stores selling all manner of things Irish. On the lookout for an Aran fisherman sweater, a bottle of Jameson whiskey, some Waterford crystal or a lucky shamrock? Killarney’s got you covered. There are also plenty of recreational and sightseeing opportunities nearby, including the Ring of Kerry and Ross Castle. If you’ve never been to Ireland and you’re at all nervous about being in a foreign country, Killarney is a comfortable place to get your feet wet.

Our dining options in Millstreet were few, consisting mainly of (fill-in-the-blank) and chips, an Indian place no one seems to ever have eaten at or know anything about, or run-of-the-mill pub grub. We thought we’d fare better for choices in Killarney. This being a freezing Sunday during low season and the dead of winter, it was not exactly hopping. We thought we’d take a nice romantic stroll through the quiet town, but it was cold as balls and we could only stand a quick jaunt before ducking into a pub for a warm-up.

A friend back home in Indy has always urged us to visit a Killarney pub owned by her cousin’s friend, but she couldn’t remember the name. The only hint we’d gotten from her was that the name was a number. The only place we could find fitting said description was “98,” a small establishment with (gasp) an Indianapolis Motor Speedway banner hanging from the ceiling. (We’d guessed correctly; this was the right spot.) The owner had been to Indy for the Formula 1 race several years ago, and brought back some memorabilia. Needless to say, it made me feel quite at home to see something from Indianapolis in a little pub in the middle of Ireland. It really is a small world. 

We stayed at 98 for a quick half-pint, but food was not in the cards there so we hit the streets again in search of dinner. After checking out the menus posted on several windows, we decided to go for another pub meal at a place called the Laurels. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and we eavesdropped on the French couples occupying the next table over as we waited for our meal. This is the kind of place hubby says he could happily while away a rainy afternoon with a newspaper and slow pint after pint of Guinness.

Again, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of modern Irish pub cuisine. I considered ordering Irish lamb stew or fish and chips, but the server recommended a potato cake dish that sounded intriguing. Hubby ordered some kind of chicken breast stuffed with Parma ham, goat cheese and pesto atop a pile of potatoes gratin and pronounced it tasty.

My potato cakes, on the other hand, were AWESOME. Two huge cakes of savory mashed potatoes generously flecked with bits of chicken, ham and green onion, lightly fried and topped with a creamy mushroom sauce. They were so rich and filling, I could only eat one, but it was delicious. I also got a nice little salad of mixed greens with diced peppers, more green onion and a zingy vinaigrette. (The decor was really too dark to get a decent photo, but I did the best I could.)

I would have loved to try a slice of the sinful-looking banana cream thingy the French girls were sharing next to us, but I just didn’t have the room. We rolled out of there full and happy, hightailed it through the cold  to the car and back home to our little man. All in all, a very enjoyable (if short!) date.

The Laurels –

The Laurels pub, Killarney

The Laurels pub, Killarney


Divine potato cakes and salad from The Laurels, Killarney

Divine potato cakes and salad from The Laurels, Killarney

I go, you go, we all go to Sligo

So hubby, baby and I arrived in Ireland today for a two-week stay. After a somewhat rocky start out of Indianapolis due to ice storms, we finally managed to arrive into Shannon Airport this morning after layovers in Detroit and Newark. The trip was long, but uneventful and we got in safe and sound, which is always the most important thing.

This being my sixth trip to Ireland, I’ve grown fairly familiar with some of the customs, culture and cuisine. I know what I like foodwise, and I know where to find it. As far as airport food goes, Shannon Airport has a pretty darn nice cafeteria breakfast, I must say. When we arrived at 5:30 a.m. local time with body clocks that had no idea what hour it really was, we decided breakfast sounded like a good idea. The airport cafeteria offers up a traditional Irish breakfast, a topic I’m sure I’ll cover in greater detail in a future entry, and my hubby can never pass it up if given the opportunity to partake. He loaded up on eggs, sausages, baked beans, fried tomatoes, toast, and I’m not sure what other artery-clogging goodies.

a traditional full Irish breakfast

a traditional full Irish breakfast

I’m a nervous flier. I rarely eat anything during a flight and usually don’t eat much before I get onboard either. With a nervous stomach like mine, I figure better safe than sorry. This means I’m often ravenous by the time I get to my final destination. When we land in Shannon, my first craving isn’t necessarily a standard Irish “fry” breakfast; instead, I seek out my favorite hazelnut yogurt. And, hello! Yoplait! Why,  oh why, can’t we get this stuff back in the states? With a scone, some juice and coffee, it’s darn near a perfect early morning meal.

After loading up, we headed northwest three hours to Sligo, where my hubby is going to be crashing (no pun intended) the Rally Ireland tomorrow to make some business contacts. Hubby didn’t paint a very appealing picture of Sligo, so my expectations were low. I’m ashamed to say I’d written it off as an industrial backwater sort of place before we’d even arrived. I must retract my words and say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised. 

For starters, our hotel is the most modern building I’ve been in anywhere in Ireland. The Glasshouse Hotel seems to pride itself on innovative architecture and outlandish color schemes, and it overlooks the rushing Garavogue River below. Our room is decorated in a neon orange decor, if that tells you anything. Not that this is bad, it’s really a very nice place, and the staff was great to accommodate us with an early check-in. 

After hubby lugged all the bags up to the room and we took a solid two-hour family nap, we were ready to go exploring. Sligo isn’t a huge town by any means, but it’s certainly well-appointed. We took a stroll through several pedestrian shopping streets and, realizing we hadn’t eaten anything since our Shannon Airport breakfast nearly 12 hours ago, suddenly realized we were hungry. 

For our first night back in hubby’s homeland, our first thought was to look for a traditional Irish pub dinner. However, a place called Bistro Bianconi proved intriguing. The handpainted rally-themed mural on the window was what initially drew us inside, but the enticing garlicky tomato aroma that hit us as soon as we walked in the door and huge wood-fired oven we spied were what convinced us to stay. Although they weren’t due to open for another half hour, the staff was more than accommodating and even let me enjoy a glass of delicious Valpolicella while we waited the requisite 30 minutes. 

Our son usually garners us a little extra attention, and the lovely servers made a much-appreciated effort to make sure we had plenty of room at our table for a high chair and the stroller. The menu was classic Italian, another pleasant surprise. This is the first time I’ve seen an Italian restaurant anywhere in Ireland, and I was hoping for the best. I’m thrilled to say Bistro Bianconi delivered the goods, and then some.

As soon as we were seated, our server dropped off a bread basket and a ramekin of garlic-marinated black and green olives that we couldn’t eat fast enough. We emptied that baby in record time and our server, bless her, offered us a refill of the addictive little orbs that we drained just as quickly. Hubby ordered up his first Guinness of the trip. For the meal, we split a Caprese salad – this being Ireland, I apologize, but I have never had a decent tomato here. I’m spoiled by those juicy, flavorful end-of-summer Indiana beefsteaks and nothing else compares. The mozzarella and the fresh basil were lovely. 

For our main course, we split a Bistro Bianconi specialty pizza – a thin crust version topped with cheese, thinly sliced little coins of ham, mushrooms and olives. Although the pie could have used a little more sauce in my humble opinion, (what can I say? I’m a sauce girl), the flavors were a delicious combination. The server told us that the restaurant has won awards in international pizza competitions and was voted best pizza in Ireland in 2006. 

She then tempted us with dessert. In a role reversal, I said no and hubby said yes. I conceded that I would eat a bite or two, and he went for for the first option the server recited – a chocolate fudge cake that turned out to be Chocolate Sex, Part II. This being Ireland and not America, we figured the serving would be smaller than we’ve grown to expect stateside. Nope. This was a full plate that took in a slab of sinfully rich chocolate cake slathered with hot fudge, a blossom of whipped cream and a scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side. Even the baby got to partake of a little bit of this chocolate nirvana. The doctor did say it was time to start introducing him to table foods…

We rolled out of there, full, tired and happy. I heartily recommend this place if you’re ever in Sligo. According to the brochure we picked up on the way out, there are also Bistro Bianconi locations in Galway and Dublin as well.  

I’d like to write more, but jet lag is overtaking me… much more material to come I’m sure in the next two weeks we’ll spend here in Ireland, then it’s on to Paris!!! For now, though, may the road always rise up to meet you.


The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo –

Bistro Bianconi –