DINING: At 86th and Ditch, a revamped pearl among bistros

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Dining - A&E

Tucked away behind Half-Price Books and Donato’s Pizza in the space formerly occupied by Russia House, Pearl Bistro (1475 W. 86th St., 876-7990) has quietly earned a reputation in its first year as more than just another spot for ladies-who-lunch. Stressing locally grown produce, healthier oils and seasonal menu changes, its lunchtime vibe is casual and welcoming.

I’ll admit that the Kenny G music that greeted us upon entry (and played throughout our late-afternoon meal), led me to expect food more inoffensively bland. But my companion and I were pleasantly and repeatedly surprised by a menu that started with Shrimp and Grits ($8).

To be honest, it isn’t pretty. The three sizable shrimp encased like King Arthur’s sword in a lump of earth-toned, gravy-enhanced Wiesenberger grits isn’t likely to grace a magazine cover anytime soon. But the tastes partnered well together, providing a hearty Louisiana-influenced start.

Pearl Bistro offers a selection of sandwiches, including burgers, and salads for lunch. Or you can pick both from a slightly more limited menu—or pair either with a soup—as an $8.50 lunch special. That’s where we headed. The hamburger soup was somber-looking but substantial. Its partner, the Hawaiian Beef Sandwich, was more to our liking. Grilled slices of marinated New York strip steak were topped with pineapple, roasted red pepper and red onion chutney in a must-fork combo.

The Bistro Melt was equally pleasing, presenting sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers, roasted pablanos, tomato, red onion and both provolone and cheddar cheese on a ciabatta roll (I have to admit, though, that the ciabatta still hasn’t won me over, here or elsewhere). We paired it with a House Salad, accented nicely with sweet and spicy nuts.

No time for dessert, we thought.

But we reversed that decision quickly when we heard about the house-made Key Lime Pie. Subtler than most, it sent us off with a nicely tart taste to continue what was left of the work day.•

—Lou Harry


Third in a month-long series of 86th and Ditch dining reviews.


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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?