DINING: Ambassador bar gets Mexican makeover

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Dining - A&E
Diabla Quesadilla at Azul The menu isn’t original, but the execution excels at Azul. Above, the Diabla Quesadilla for $8. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

What surprised me on my first visit to Azul Mexican and American Bar & Grill (43 E. Ninth St., 602-2279)—which recently morphed out of what was the Bar at the Ambassador—wasn’t the south-of-the-border menu. Nor the minor changes in décor.

No, the biggest surprise was that the menu seemed so, well, standard. Tacos? Check. Fajitas? Check. Quesadillas? Check. Calamari? … OK, so there were a few small surprises.

But, on paper, the Azul offerings weren’t that different from that of a chain Mexican eatery—which led me to a longer-than-usual delay in ordering. Usually, in a locally owned joint, there’s some indication of what an eatery is pushing or is particularly proud of. Not here.

The next, happier, surprise: Much of what was sampled on two visits exceeded expectations. While dramatic twists and culinary leaps weren’t evident at Azul, a solid commitment to delivering a satisfying meal seems an integral part of the bar’s face-lift.

With a bowl of chips and some fresh and flavorful salsa already on the table, I was hoping to try a chip-free appetizer. Aforementioned calamari aside, there wasn’t much to pick from, so I went with the Guacamole ($5), which was chunky and densely good—and surrounded by another bowl of chips.

The Azul Enchilada ($7) had a nice sweet sauce, but was otherwise unmemorable. The Veggie Burrito ($8), where mushrooms seemed to muscle out just about everything else, was a disappointment. But the Pollo Ranchero ($9) was terrific. Just as a quality supporting

actor can help a lead performer, a main dish can benefit from its sides. In this case, it was obvious some care went into preparing the creamy refried beans (with a bit of cheese melted on top), Mexican rice and refreshing mini salad/garnish option of lettuce and diced tomatoes. The chicken itself, dressed but not lost in a rich red sauce, was pounded to just the right thickness.

But the winner—and the choice I’d return for—came as another surprise.

To me, quesadillas are the spaghetti of the Mexican restaurant menu—something I have trouble rationalizing ordering because I know how cheaply and decently they can be made at home. I’ll make an exception, though, for Azul’s Diabla Quesadilla ($8), where a hot and crisp-from-the-grill flour tortilla didn’t just hold but became deliciously one with a finely chopped chorizo sausage and chicken mix.

I’ll take quality cooking over inventive menu writing any day.•


Third in a month-long series of looks at newer downtown eateries.


  • Azul is very good
    I'm a regular at Azul, and the food is always fresh and very good. The service is wonderful. When someone who can't spell or use correct English posts a trash comment no one should trust their judgement. Great joke Trai.
  • Apologizes to You, Lou
    Thanks for your reply Lou. My apologizes in the compted comment, it was intended as a joke. Glad your experience was more pleaseurable then ours. Maybe Monday at lunch is a bad time for them? I do enjoy your reviews, please keep up the great work.
  • accusation
    To the best of my knowledge, you didn't share either of those meals with me and have no idea what the quality of the food or the service was like on my visits.
    I welcome your comments here, whether they are similar to mine or not, but have to reply when an ethical accusation is made.
    FYI: IBJ pays for all review meals and these meals are not arranged with the restaurants we review. To accuse otherwise is libelous.
    Lou Harry
  • Disappointing
    They clearly must have compted you your meal, because there was absolutely nothing good to write about there. Bad Service, Wrong Food and there was No other people in there! 1.5 hours for lunch and all we ordered was Ice Waters (got no refills), 2 Chicken Salads and 1 Taco Salad, with chicken (no hamburger or sour cream) Got Hamburger and sour cream. Very Disappointed. Don't see them being around very long.
    • Great Mexican Food
      Great addition to downtown's Mexican restaurant scene. Azul's authentic margaritas make the food Caesar prepares that much better than his Biscuits Mexican Restaurant. Both are the real deal.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

    2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

    3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

    4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

    5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.