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DINING: Winner's is a place to show

Winner's Circle Pub, Grille and OTB

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Dining - A&E

With the Super Bowl just a flip of the calendar away, our focus this month is on newer downtown restaurants. First up: Winner’s Circle Pub, Grille and OTB (20 N. Pennsylvania St, 656-7223).

Right out of the gate, it’s obvious that Hoosier Park’s addition to the downtown dining race is no dark horse. Rather than the dank cave of a venue that made the previous off-track-betting facility feel like a house of shame, Winner’s Circle features proud signage and large windows into the dining room. Inside, the staff is cheerful and, at least outside of the closed-door OTB, there’s no olfactory obviousness that this is a smoking facility.

The food on the grille side proved unexpectedly ambitious. A $10 Soup and Half Sandwich lunch featured a Salmon Cake Sandwich that looked like it was auditioning to be on the cover of Gourmet magazine rather than the daily racing form.
 

winner circle Winner at Winner’s Circle: Salmon Cake Sandwich and Potato Leek and Smoked Sausage Soup. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The tasty three-biter was narrowly beaten in the pleasure race by the Potato Leek & Smoked Sausage Soup, a creamy concoction with large slices of meat, and crunchy slivers of the titular onion cousin. (The menu states that all sandwiches come with a side of fries, coleslaw or sweet potato chips but apparently that doesn’t apply to this combo, where a pickle spear was all that rounded out the plate.)

I find it tough not to bet on Banana Cream Pie ($5.50), particularly when it is house-made. In the Winner’s Circle breed, a thin layer of graham crumbles were all that separated an ocean of banana cream from its bowl. Here, creativity won out over satisfaction: If I’d wanted pudding, I would have asked for it.

On a revisit (at which the waiter remembered my drink choice from days earlier), I found the Seafood and Andouille Sausage Flatbread Pizza ($10) to be far from

flat. In fact, it almost qualified as deep dish. The two toppings rarely shared space, though, making this feel more like different good pies rather than one outstanding one. Still, it was sizable enough to linger over if I’d had the time to place a bet on a race or two.

Also substantial was the Pork Tenderloin Strips ($11), a reasonably accomplished effort to apply the chicken strip principle to the breaded tenderloin. Looking like a plate of calamari that had been part of the doping scheme gone wild, the sizable pieces were aided by a house honey mustard dressing. The Wedge Burger ($10) was fine, but the meat and applewood smoked bacon lost the flavor race with the dominant blue cheese and roll.

Still, if I were a betting man (and, OK, I’m sometimes a betting man), I’d put down money on Winner’s Circle. It’s got the look and attitude of a winner, and, in its first efforts, succeeds in getting to the finish line—maybe not in front of the pack, but certainly in the race. Keep your binoculars trained on this one.•

– Lou Harry

__________

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

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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