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DINING: Restaurant refills brighten landscape

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Dining - A&E

There are few things sadder than the signage of out-of-business restaurants. The longer the remnants stick around, the more the building and its environs take on the “loser” stigma. And the harder it is to recover.

Which is why, this month, I’m limiting my reviews to restaurants that have filled in where others failed or moved on. Ideally, they quickly wipe out the memory of past tenants.

Let’s see how that plays out in practice.

First up, New Orleans on the Avenue (543 Indiana Ave., 632-4099), which is taking up the two-level digs of Zing, remembered for its sharing plates and terrible signage.

Our visit to the newcomer revealed a good-if-not-yet-as-exciting-as-it-could-be place. A plate of Fried Boudin Balls ($8.50), a trio of crispy sausage orbs served with barbecue sauce proved a promising start.
 

Dining If you can’t make up your mind, the Taste of New Orleans is the way to go. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

In an effort to maximize my entrée sampling, I picked the Taste of New Orleans, a sampler steeply priced at $16.95. (If a full plate of each of the three items on the plate costs less, why should small cups of each cost more?) The Jambalaya featured rice, chicken, shrimp, and hot and smoked sausage packed with peppers and onions in a smoky tomato sauce. The chicken and sausage gumbo was meaty and dense and the étouffée (which I didn’t realize until later was supposed to be a choice of shrimp or crawfish) took its flavor from the ingredients rather than excessive spicing.

My guest started with a bowl of the Seafood Gumbo ($12.50), in which the shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish weren’t exactly plentiful in an otherwise flavorful roux stock. And the basic Fried Catfish Po-Boy ($12) cried out for cocktail or remoulade sauce. A little more room and we might have tried the Banana Foster Bread Pudding in Caramel Rum Sauce or the Dump Cake.

Free parking, albeit limited, is a plus for those looking for a short escape from downtown proper. Service was friendly and attentive. And the atmosphere was surprisingly low-key. I hope New Orleans on the Avenue will develop a bit more atmosphere as it evolves.

A bit farther west, near Indiana University Hospital, DJ’s Hot Dog Co. (923 Indiana Ave., 423-8936) has moved into what used to be Hot Box Pizza (before it migrated downtown). Since this plaza already has more than its share of pizza providers, a decent dog hut would certainly be an upgrade.

D.J.’s does that a bit better. My visit included the signature 100 percent beef Chicago Dog ($3.79), buried but not lost in mustard, onion, bright neon relish, tomato, sport peppers, cucumbers, celery salt and an impossible-to-stay-balanced dill pickle.

Equally difficult to manage—and equally enjoyable—was an Atlanta Dog ($3.79) served with a soupy Cincy-style chili along with onions and shredded cheese. A regular combo, which includes a fountain drink and a smallish portion of crinkle-cut fries, adds $2.19 to the bill.

If you’re not in a dog mood, there’s more. D.J.’s also has Italian Beef sandwiches, burgers and Italian sausage.

Pluses beyond the food: D.J.’s is roomy, there’s free wi-fi (well, sort-of: The guy at the counter advised me to connect to Marco’s Pizza across the parking lot), and my table was cleaned off by an attentive staff member before I even got out the door.•

–Lou Harry

__________

First in a month-long series of visits to eateries that have recently moved into the digs of former eateries.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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