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DINING: Ember attempts Cultural Trail culinary spark

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Dining - A&E

The Cultural Trail gained another dining stop with the transformation of a former chain pizza shop—which nobody but locals were likely to have even noticed was there—into Ember Urban Eatery (435 Virginia Ave., 340-1868). And while our visits didn’t turn up anything particularly inventive or outstanding, we did find an inviting, friendly place that’s a welcome addition to a neighborhood that’s becoming increasingly dining-radar worthy.
 

aedining-apb-ember02-15col.jpg Italian Beef, smothered (in a good way) in spicy giardiniera, is a highlight. Parking is also a plus. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

A bit of backstory: Condo sellers Rob and Shelly Ordendahl spotted the space when trying to sell space in the Villaggio at Page Pointe at Virginia and East streets. Now—thanks to restaurateur Tom Main—they have a place to feed the people they formerly helped house.

An intimate 60-seater anchored in American fare, Ember (or maybe it will be known as Ember Urban—only time will tell) keeps its lunch offerings fairly tightly in the $8.50-$9 range for sandwiches plus a side. The most a dinner entrée will set you back is $16.50.

Urban Wings ($9) promised a dozen “made our way,” which means smoked with pull-right-off-the-bone tenderness. Wandering Chili ($4/$6) tipped toward the Cincinnati style of seasoning over spiciness. The Italian Beef sandwich ($9) offered well-seasoned and tender meat in a mass of giardiniera. If you aren’t a fan of those Windy City pickled veggies, explore other parts of the menu.

The lunch portion of Pasta Arrabbiata ($9) was a stated favorite of our waitress. After trying it, I can see the pleasures in the subtle mix of mezzi rigatoni, a slightly spicy red sauce and fresh parmesan. But those pleasures bordered on the forgettably simple. It would have been better appreciated as a side to something stronger.

While it doesn’t have the creative cache of nearby newcomers Rook or Bluebeard, Ember Urban Eatery does have a stop-in-for-a-bite appeal—as well as a parking lot—that could be kindled into staying power.•

—Lou Harry

__________

First in a month of theme-free restaurant reviews.

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  • Parking shmarking
    Missi R, I'm willing to venture that all your trips to "Chicago" to learn about Italian beef were waaaay out in the suburbs. Because you'd be hard pressed to find a parking lot to any of the fashionable restaurants in the city limits. Have you ever had to spend more than 2 minutes finding a parking space in Fletcher Place along Virginia Avenue? I haven't.
  • Italian Beef
    They need to take a field trip to Chicago to see what Italian Beef means. At least there is a parking lot. That is a definite plus for a downtown restaurant.
  • Italian Beef?
    Yikes. That "Italian Beef" pictured is likely to horrify Chicagoans.
  • What an unmemorable name
    Hope that awful name for the restaurant doesn't hold them back. Clunky, unmemorable, doesn't tell you anything about what to expect.

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  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

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  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

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