The airline fried chicken breast came nestled among grilled artichoke heart, sun-dried tomatoes and drizzled with hollandaise.
Brown sugar-glazed pork belly over candied apple collard greens and polenta. And for dessert, decadent brandied poached-pear banana nut bread came accented with rum sauce.
Chip Huckaby, executive chef at Hops & Fire Craft Tap House in Greenwood, chose some of his most enticing and daring dishes to be included in this year’s Devour Indy event. Attracting new diners to a restaurant can be a daunting challenge — so providing them with a taste, so to speak, is a big deal.
“It allows me to play a little bit, and get some items in front of people that they normally wouldn’t see,” Huckaby said. “It gives everyone a chance to get out and try out some new things without going too far out of the way.”
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For the next two weeks, local diners will have the chance to try food from some of the region’s best restaurants at a discounted price during Devour Indy. The event gathers a wide variety of eateries throughout Indianapolis to offer special three-course menus putting a spotlight on what they offer.
“The goal really is to showcase central Indiana as a culinary destination,” said Susan Decker, spokesperson for Devour Indy. “There are so many awards and accolades that the city, and regionally we’ve received. Other people are starting to understand how great the restaurant business is here in Indy.”
No special coupons are necessary, and though reservations are encouraged, anyone can stop into the bistros to take advantage of the deal.
The promotion is a concept of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, which supports the state’s hospitality industry. For the past 12 years, the association has planned twice-yearly events throughout the region.
The showcases were divided by areas of the city — Devour Downtown, Chow Down Midtown and Savor the Southside, to name a few. This year, organizers decided to band all the different parts of Indianapolis together into one cohesive extravaganza.
“We were the only city in the nation who was doing these one-off, separate restaurant weeks. It was taking a lot of resources and a lot of time. It turned out the city was having these restaurant weeks for more than a quarter of the year, and that was overwhelming to consumers,” Decker said. “Having one big piece helps folks locally, but also allows to really push and bring people from different markets to come experience Indianapolis.”
This year, 190 restaurants are participating, including 10 on the southside and Greenwood. Each one provides a multi-course dinner menu, with the single cost covering appetizers, entrees, desserts and sometimes drinks.
Certain eateries have also provided a lunch option.
The Indy Ice House has been a near-southside institution since 1983, know primarily for its breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
But in an effort to help spread its footprint beyond the neighborhoods around South Village and Garfield Park, Indy Ice House wanted to take part in some of the promotional events, such as Devour Downtown, that had been held in other parts of the city, said owner Mark Stahl.
“The problem was our location was one where we were too far south from downtown Indy, and too far north to be effective with the southside,” he said. “We want people to know us a little better, and this an opportunity to be involved in the bigger picture.”
With a tenderloin sandwich already famous with the locals, it made sense to include it in the showcase for the central Indiana region, Stahl said. Both the lunch and dinner specials will include the tenderloin sandwich. A fajita salad option is also available for lunch, while another specialty, the broasted fried chicken, is an alternate at dinner.
Appetizers, sides and drinks also are part of the deal.
“In our case, we wanted to put things out there that are uniquely ours, things we’ve added that will generate some interest,” Stahl said.
The event provides motivation to try some of the stars of Indianapolis’ burgeoning food scene. People who had never been to places such as Bluebeard in Fletcher Place, Cerulean downtown or Recess in the SoBro neighborhood can get a taste at a cheaper price than usual.
People can savor the porcini-crusted filet at the Columbia Club, eat the famed shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steak House or dive into the gourmet chicken and waffles at Thunderbird.
For Huckaby, it was the success that he noticed other restaurants having during these showcase weeks that motivated him to get involved.
Hops & Fire was founded as a way to bring some of the downtown taphouse atmosphere to the southside. The restaurant has more than 40 beers on tap, and a menu ranging from pulled pork barbecue nachos with beer cheese to bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free versions of its full menu add another spin, Huckaby said.
After opening in late 2015, they noticed that during weeks such as Devour Downtown, business took a decided dip.
“All of a sudden, nobody is at the restaurant. It’s Friday and Saturday, and nobody is there. It dawned on us when we found out about Devour Downtown that everybody was taking advantage of it,” Huckaby said. “If it’s that big of a deal, we might as well try to bring them down south.”
Hops & Fire’s special menu will feature a handful of dishes that Huckaby had been playing around with, outside of the normal offerings.
The Parmesan crumb-crusted bison filet was a chance to introduce diners to an unusual cut of meat. Monkfish is a versatile fish that allowed Huckaby to play with a wide array of tastes and presentations.
And then the poached pear banana nut bread is a treat that Huckaby couldn’t resist.
“That’s just me having fun in the bakery,” he said. “We’ll actually embed the entire pear into the nut bread. When you cut into it, that half of a pear will be looking right at you.”
Hops and Fire
Where: 1259 N. State Road 135, Greenwood
Cost: $35 per person
Menu: A four-course meal with entree choices
• Appetizer course: Brown sugar-glazed pork belly over candied apple collard greens and polenta
• Salad course: Shaved Brussels sprout and honey lime salad with roasted beets, feta and pomegranate seeds
• Entree course: Choice of Parmesan crumb-crusted bison filet, monkfish in papillote or crispy airline chicken breast with grilled artichoke heart, sun-dried tomatoes and hollandaise sauce. Served with Lyonnaise potato moons and roasted rainbow carrots
• Dessert: Brandied poached-pear banana nut bread with rum sauce
Indy Ice House
Where: 2352 S. West St., Indianapolis
Cost: Lunch $10, dinner $25 for two
Lunch: A breaded tenderloin with chips or fries or steak fajita salad, plus a 32-ounce Bill’s Lemonade
Dinner for two:
Choice of one appetizer
• Two breaded tenderloins with chips or fries or two broasted fried chicken dinners with two sides
• Two 32-ounce Bill’s Lemonades or two 16-ounce draft beers
Where: 920 U.S. 31 North, Greenwood
Cost: Lunch $20 for two, dinner $35 for two
Lunch for two: Select any two lunch entrees, two beverages (soda, coffee or tea) plus your choice of unlimited soup or salad
Dinner for two:
• Choose one appetizer: Bruschetta Carino, fried calamari or spinach and artichoke dip
• Choose two salads: House or Caesar
• Choose two entrees: Pasta carbonara, chicken picatta, harvest tortelloni, spaghetti and meatballs, garlic jalapeno tilapia or lemon rosemary chicken
• Choose two desserts: Raspberry tiramisu, tiramisu, chocolate cake, turtle cheesecake or New York cheesecake
Where: 4530 Southport Crossing Drive, Indianapolis
Cost: Lunch $15 for two, dinner $10 off dinner and drinks for two
Lunch: Choose any two items off of the lunch menu, with water, tea and soda included
• First course: Choose from one appetizer; two Caesar or Mixed Up & Tossed salads, or two cups of soup
• Second course: Any two entrees or large pizza with up to three toppings. Excludes build-your-own salads, lunch menu, kids and young adults menu, and any daily food specials
• Third course: Share a dessert or two drinks — pints of Thr3e Wise Men beer or glasses of house wine
Stone Creek Dining Company
Where: 911 N. State Road 135, Greenwood
Cost: $30 per person
• First course options: House salad or chicken and white bean chili
• Second course options: Basil pesto fettucine; sea scallops with parmesan risotto, wood-fired tomato jam and grilled asparagus; 6-ounce filet mignon with demi-glace, herb butter, chef’s vegetable, garlic mashed potatoes; kung pao salmon with Basmati rice, sautéed mushrooms, scallions, cashews and kung pao sauce
• Third course options: Cranberry and golden raisin bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and whiskey sauce; chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake
Other participating southside restaurants (menus not yet available): Bar Louie, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Stacked Pickle in Greenwood and Southport and Vito Provolone’s