Does Indianapolis need another chain of burger joints?
That depends, I think, on your perspective.
If you are a food writer for an esteemed publication or a serious local foodie, you might well write off yet another player on the sandwich landscape as adding to the clutter.
But if you are a hungry visitor who pulled off of Interstate 465 to stay at a chain hotel and are drawn to the glow of Bagger Dave’s (8840 N. Michigan Road, 870-3531)—or if you are a resident of the dining black hole known as Pike Township—you may well celebrate the arrival of Dave’s first Indy location. It’s the first of what the Michigan-based company hopes will be many outposts here.
For the traveler, Bagger Dave’s makes a better burger than most highway-exit eateries. And it offers more than the food. Nearby Steak ’n Shake, for example, doesn’t have a bar, let alone one serving Indiana beers. The price point is reasonable. And the effort to localize with the aforementioned local brews—and large wall photos of Monument Circle and other Indy locations from years gone by—is honorable.
Over two visits, we dug into Fresh-cut Potato Fries with Sea Salt ($2.59/$4.59) and Dave’s Sweet Potato Chips with Sea Salt ($2.79/$4.89). On both trips, there were kitchen glitches, and in both cases management made things right without prompting. Once our food arrived as ordered, the fare was suitable for sharing but it was good enough to inspire a bit of selfishness.
The fries are available straight-up or “sloppy,” with toppings—most free—ordered from check-off sheets at the table. The chips, served bagged, as are the burgers (hence the restaurant name), are offered with a dish of sweet dipping sauce—either caramel, honey mustard or honey cinnamon.
The burgers can be ordered the same way as the fries, with a base sandwich ($5.19/beef, $5.79/turkey, $5.49/veggie black bean) supplementable with cheese (add 80 cents), sauces (try the Santa Fe Chipotle), and premium toppings a la fried egg, guacamole (add $1) and a range of freebies (fresh basil, sautéed mushrooms, pico de gallo, etc.).
Considering kicking in another $1.25 each for peanut butter or bacon. Then just try the Train Wreck Burger ($7.89) or the PB & J(alapenos) Burger with peanut butter, peppers and more.
All the burgers we tried proved above average. And we found satisfaction in the Tuna Melt (a very sensible $4.69) and Sloppy Dave’s BBQ ($4.49), a sloppy joe variation served on smartly toasted honey wheat bread. (I recommend a fork rather than decorating your lap with it.)
You could order dessert, but you’d be better off siding your meal with a Brown Cow or Boston Cooler Float ($3.99), both made with Bagger Dave’s Craft Soda. The drinks, sans ice cream, are also available separately in a four-drink Soda Sampler ($2.39).•
First in a month-long series of “possessive men” restaurants.