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DINING: A Taste sensation in 'gourmet ghetto'

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Dining - A&E

After last week’s trek to Barley Island in Broad Ripple, we slid several blocks south on College Avenue—an area local restaurateur Neal Brown has dubbed the “gourmet ghetto”—to the much-praised Taste Café and Marketplace.

Launched in 2004 as a hole-in-the-wall breakfast/lunch spot, Taste (5164 N. College Ave., 925-2233) has since expanded both its footprint and its food, adding dinner a few nights a week in its newly enlarged space.

Topped with fresh strawberries and a touch of syrup, Taste’s Belgian Waffle was fluffily delicious. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Since I’d heard so much buzz about the breakfast, we stuck with the tried and true. The morning menu was more basic than I expected: bagels and fixings, a handful of egg dishes and a couple of standards like oatmeal ($6.95) and biscuits and gravy ($5.95). Diners order and pay at the counter, help themselves to coffee ($1.75), grab a table, and wait for their meal to arrive.

Ours started with a Southwest Burrito ($7.25), a delightful concoction that delivered a surprisingly flavorful punch. You know breakfast burritos have hit the mainstream when they’re available at McDonald’s, but Taste’s version is anything but ordinary. Sure, the scrambled eggs and potatoes are fairly standard. But how about chunks of hot chorizo sausage, pepper jack cheese, avocado and black beans? Ronald doesn’t even come close. Served with house-made salsa, this generously portioned burrito would satisfy at any time of day.

While I devoured that, my friend all but inhaled her Belgian Waffle ($6.95), which was topped with a mound of sliced strawberries. The waffle was deliciously fluffy, a nice contrast to the slightly under-ripe fruit. And the miniature carafe of syrup provided just enough sweetness to tie everything together. Our only complaint: the sausage patties ($2) she ordered on the side were a little bland for her liking—and for Taste’s reputation.

Somehow overlooking the bakery case packed with goodies like bread pudding and hummingbird cake, we filled out the meal with what amounted to a mini version of Taste’s C.B. & G. meal ($5.95): a cheddar biscuit (50 cents) and dish of gravy ($2.50). What’s not to like?

I broke apart the cheesy biscuit—crunchy on the outside, heavenly moist on the inside—covered it with the creamy sausage gravy and made sure there was no room for dessert. Because dessert with breakfast—that would have been decadent, right?•

—Andrea Muirragui Davis

__________

Third in our month-long series of reviews of College Avenue eateries.

 

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  • IBJ Dining
    As editor of IBJ's A&E Etc. section, allow me to chime in with a few basic tenets of IBJ restaurant reviewing, which is a
    core element or our arts and entertainment coverage. I hope this helps answer some of your questions:

    --Our goal is to experience a restaurant as an average customer would. As such, we never announce our presence as reviewers
    nor do we accept comp meals for review. Because of the
    nature of our publication, we tend toward lunch reviews although we do make exceptions. The notion that we would review
    a restaurant without actually dining there is just silly.

    --Occasionally we will make reference to a restaurant's history or that of its location or chef, but unless we need some
    clarification of our experience, we do not interview the parties involved. We leave that to our reporters should a separate
    news story arise.

    --We avoid daily specials so that there's a better chance that whatever we write about will be available when the review
    is published. We try to avoid desserts that aren't made in-house.

    --After the piece is written, we send a photographer,who has no knowledge of our reaction to the food.

    --We try -- and usually succeed -- in publishing a review within two weeks of visiting the restaurant.

    --We do not limit ourselves to new restaurants, seeing value, too, in revisiting established restaurants and shining
    light on lesser-known ones.

    --We offer honest reactions to our dining experiences and make a strong effort to present them in fresh, engaging, fair
    ways.

    --We welcome responses to our reviews as letters to the editor, as postings here at www.ibj.com, or as not-for-publication
    notes. We prefer these to phone calls since it's
    easier to share your written thoughts with our staff and/or readers.

    I'm happy to answer other questions.

    Thanks for reading,

    Lou Harry
    Arts & Entertainment Editor
    Indianapolis Business Journal
    lharry@ibj.com

  • Typical
    This is actually pretty typical of the restaurant "reviews" which appear in the IBJ and other local publications. The writer makes one visit to a restaurant, often with a friend and often for lunch, each of them orders a couple of items, then the writer posts a "review." No futher visits are made to taste other dishes or evaluate the consistency of the preparation or the service. And readers often accept these "reviews" as a genuine reflection of the restaurant itself. It's really unfair to the restaurants (and diners) in the area.
  • Agree and Disagree
    I also found the review to be sparse. There was very little variation in the dishes sampled and the descriptions seemed bland. By the end of the review, I couldn't tell whether the author of the piece liked or disliked the review. Very lukewarm. On the other hand, I am familiar with the Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley, and I can tell you that in that part of the world, the phrase is high praise as Kermit Lynch, Alice Waters and her many disciples offer culinary delights too broad to discuss here. I rather like the use of the borrowed term here. It does, as Mr. Brown points out, indicate a concentration of some of the most creative, and best foods found around town, and in a chain driven market such as Indy, I would be proud to call myself a foodie that lives in the Gourmet Ghetto. IMO. Taste, keep up the good work. Ms. Davis, sharpen yours.
  • you sure you ate here?
    I'd like to bolster my fellow Taste colleague's comments that, indeed, the passion Marc and Diedra have invested into their restaurant has spilled into the neighborhood -- not only in our dedicated patrons but also in renewing and bringing flavor (tangibly, metaphorically, whatever) to the area.

    I would also like to include, however, that I question the integrity of reporting and wonder if Ms Davis has indeed dined at Taste. Perhaps she left off at Barley Island. To say options are minimal and "more basic than I expected" is to also ignore the entire left side of the menu board with "today's specials" listed (somewhere around 10-20 additional items to the standard menu items offered daily). If Ms Davis had stopped by the windows and glanced into the kitchen, I think she'd find the operation and the culinary outcome a little stronger than "basic" (unless she handmakes all of the sauces in her pantry, pickles all of her cucumbers and peppers, and daily develops rotating flavor combinations based on items at hand and seasonal ingredients... if this is the case, I certainly digress).

    Finally, nowhere mentioned are owners Marc's and Diedra's names, suggesting no attempt at contact or perhaps an attempt to fly under their radar; indicating to me a very "basic" fallacy in reporting.
    • Taste - It's About the Food
      A native MKNA resident and server at Taste, this is the first time I have heard the location of our restaurant referred to as the "Gourmet Ghetto." Similar to other readers, I initially paused at the widely perceived etymological connotations and social implications of the term "ghetto." However, after consideration of all the word's derivations, I find Brown's phrase not only clever, but an encapsulation of the successful work that Deidre Henry and Marc Urwand have been doing and continue to do in this area. It speaks to the contribution their talents and vision have made to not only 52nd and Colllege, but Indianapolis dining in general. The packed weekend brunches and steady score of regulars (who we very much appreciate! thank you!) are a testament to the fact that, location aside - breakfast, lunch, or dinner - it's about the food.
    • The Gourmet Ghetto
      As a resident of the area that Neal has coined, "The Gourmet Ghetto", I actually find the phrase rather charming. I feel it gives the area an identity. I have never felt that this identity was negative, but rather very positive. If anything it says that the area has great dining options without pretentious attitudes that come with other areas.

      Since hearing the phrase a few months ago I have used it several times to describe my neighborhood. Never has it been met with anything but a positive response. My friends, upon hearing it, completely understand the meaning that Neal intended.

      Neal, please don't stop using the phrase!

      I hope it encourages more non-pretentious dining options to pop up.
    • The Real definition of Ghetto.
      The word Ghetto originated in Venice and was an area where the Italian Jews lived. The "Myth" is that it "HAS" to be a slum. Not true. Ghetto is derived from the word Borgetto, or "small borough". I would fully expect the Urban Dictionary to give the definition that Disappointed chose to site. UrbanDictionary.com also gives the definition of "Neal" as: 1. Naturally born genius; prodigy. 2. Perfection 3. The most eminent, pure, intelligent, gifted form of the human mind and being. (Look it up!) So, this is obviously not the most credible source to cite on such matters. With all of that aside, it was never my intent to offend anyone when I refer to the area as The Gourmet Ghetto. My meaning simply implies that it is an area with a rich, and diverse minority group; independent restaurants. After all, it is much closer to the real definition of the word ghetto. Since some of you think it matters, I live at 30th & Delaware, next to a great little soul food restaurant called "Untie Your Apron". My wife, children and I have lived here in our REAL ghetto for three years.
    • definition of Ghetto
      As a noun from the Urban Dictionary "an impoverished, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime" 52nd & College is not a Ghetto neighborhood. The Taste Marketplace and Cafe is an upscale restaurant serving the diner with fresh, wholesome, delicious food. It would be interesting to know where this author and Mr. Brown reside or if they are familiar with any dictionary and its definitions.
    • Ghetto?
      Taste has long been one of my favorites. The owners, husband/wife Mark and Deidra (sp?), are as hospitable as the food is delicious. It is gourmet...but it's hardly a ghetto. After all, it is Meridian Kessler and Meridian Kessler rocks!
    • actually....
      I live in that neighborhood, and while I love and patronize the thriving and increasingly upscale businesses, I also regularly pick up empty bottles of cheap booze from not just the alley, but also the sidewalk in front of my house. I have noticed the booze brands becoming slightly more upscale in recent years, however. I don't think I live in a true ghetto, but "well-to-do" is a stretch.
    • almost...
      Actually, Atlas grocery was up at 54th and College... perhaps a less "ghetto" intersection.
    • In the Ghetto, Ghetto
      Cranky-- Anywhere within a handful of blocks from Double 8 Foods can be considered the GHETTO.
    • way to promote myths
      Clearly neither the author nor Mr. Brown are from the neighborhood. I resent this promotion of a myth. When you use these cliches to describe an area, it only serves to mislead others who are new to our city.
      52 & College has always been a stable corner patronized by well-to-do neighbors. This is where Atlas grocery was located. This is why TASTE, which has always been upscale since the day it opened its doors has thrived. There is nothing "ghetto" about this block.

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