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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. Kent's done a good job of putting together some good guests, intelligence and irreverence without the inane chatter of the other two shows. JMV is unlistenable, mostly because he doesn't do his homework and depends on non-sports stuff to keep HIM interested. Query and Shultz is a bit better, but lack of prep in their show certainly is evident. Sterling obviously workes harder than the other shows. We shall see if there is any way for a third signal with very little successful recent history to make it. I always say you have to give a show two years to grow into what it will become...

  2. Lafayette Square, Washington Square should be turned into office parks with office buildings, conversion, no access to the public at all. They should not be shopping malls and should be under tight security and used for professional offices instead of havens for crime. Their only useage is to do this or tear them down and replace them with high rise office parks with secured parking lots so that the crime in the areas is not allowed in. These are prime properties, but must be reused for other uses, professional office conversions with no loitering and no shopping makes sense, otherwise they have become hangouts long ago for gangs, groups of people who have no intent of spending money, and are only there for trouble and possibly crime, shoplifting, etc. I worked summers at SuperX Drugs in Lafayette Square in the 1970s and even then the shrinkage from shoplifting was 10-15 percent. No sense having shopping malls in these areas, they earn no revenue, attract crime, and are a blight on the city. All malls that are not of use should be repurposed or torn down by the city, condemned. One possibility would be to repourpose them as inside college campuses or as community centers, but then again, if the community is high crime, why bother.

  3. Straight No Chaser

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  5. Gary, I'm in complete agreement. The private entity should be required to pay IPL, and, if City parking meters are involved, the parking meter company. I was just pointing out how the poorly-structured parking meter deal affected the car share deal.

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