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DINING: On the canal, the Left Bank Cafe is all right

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Dining - A&E

Close enough to the waters of the Central Canal that it should consider opening a gondola drive-through, the Left Bank Café (310 W. Michigan St., 642-3305) makes up in taste and, for Indy, originality, what it lacks in visibility.

Truth is, it took us a couple of questionable U-turns before we figured out where we should park and which steps to take to get down to the canal-side eatery at the base of the new Cosmopolitan on the Canal apartments. (I’ll save you the trouble—just look for a meter spot on Michigan Street between Capitol and Indiana avenues and you’ll be fine.)
 

dining The French-accented Left Bank Café’s menu includes an Andouille Panini. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The separation from street traffic works to the eatery’s advantage. While there are some inside seats, the tables on the deck are the place to be. After dark, the spot is almost disturbingly peaceful. And when the paddleboats or aforementioned gondolas glide by, the French-inspired food somehow tastes even better.

We found the Left Bank Café after a Saturday evening of Indy Fringe shows (it’s open weekends until 10) and debriefed over a Baked Brie appetizer ($8.95), the highlight of which was the cherry-heavy fresh fruit compote.

The core of the menu consists largely of paninis, crepes and flatbreads. In the Andouille Sausage Panini ($8.95), the meat blended nicely with the red pepper dressing, Provolone and mustard. While not packed with sausage, it stayed on the good side of that fine line between subtle and stingy.

An Apple Leek Walnut Crepe ($7.95) was more ambitious and no less successful, denser than we expected—not in a bad way but in a maybe-I-didn’t-really-need-to-order-an-appetizer way. We were warned by our server—who seemed to have served surprised patrons in the past—that it would be delivered cold. No problem there. And having a taste for leeks certainly is a requisite: The crepe was filled with them.

Both sandwiches were served with unexciting chips. At a place this pleasant, you’d think there would be a more interesting choice than “regular or barbecue?” We didn’t have room for dessert, but a return visit just for the Chocolate Banana Crepes ($6.49) sounds like a good idea right about now.•

–Lou Harry
__________

First in a month-long series of reviews of new, downtown-ish restaurants.

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  • Will not be going back
    My husband and I were walking on the canal on a Saturday and decided to stop by for a pre-dinner snack. We were horrified by the service (or lack thereof I should say). We sat at a table outside for 10 minutes while the servers walked right by our table and failed to even make a simple greeting. Finally, I went inside to place our order and once again did not receive service even though several employees saw me standing there. After 25 minutes of being ignored we walked out. If you are going somewhere on the canal, head to Creation Cafe instead.
  • Unacceptable
    I have visited here three times in the hopes that my experience would improve. The first time the restaurant had only been open about a week so I chalked the deplorable service up to working out glitches. The second time we visited we factored the number of patrons into the fact that the service was still lacking. In this case, the third time is NOT a charm; we were there almost 10 minutes before we were greated and offered beverage; another 10 before our orders were actually taken; a good 30 minutes before we got our food which was far from warm and fresh; 15 minutes to receive our check after requesting it and still another 20 minutes after tendering payment to receive our change back. While the food is tasty and the idea is amazing (I work on the canal and was excited to have another eatery nearby) and the food tasty (though hardley ever served hot), I am sorely dissapointed that the service and attention to detail is so lacking. To be the only people in the place and it still takes over an hour to order, eat and leave, is beyond sad. Won't be back. PS - no bathroom??!!??
  • wonderful place
    My husband and I stop there when we come downtown to walk or ride or bikes around the canal. It is a wonderful place. The food was great and so was the service.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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