Saturday, July 12, 2014

Broad Ripple Brewpub

Broad Ripple Brewpub
842 East 65th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220
QISA (4444), Vegetarian-Friendly, $9-$14

Every summer for the last five years, I have celebrated my birthday by biking the full length of the Monon Trail round trip. The Monon Trail, for those of you outside Indianapolis, is a former train line, now a pedestrian/biking trail that stretches 18 miles south to north from the middle of downtown Indianapolis, past the state fairgrounds, through the trendy Broad Ripple neighborhood, up into the ritzier Carmel suburbs, eventually ending in an (as of now) undeveloped section of  Westfield. In total, the ride is about 35 miles.

I started this tradition in 2008 as I was approaching 40 and feeling old, paunchy, balding, and generally out of shape. I needed a goal, a milestone if you will that would prove to me that I was not over the hill, but rather simply extending its length. Maybe I couldn’t do anything about the balding, but by Jove (or some other outdated expression), I could at least temper the paunch, improve the stamina, increase the muscle mass…and then finish off the day with a birthday dinner at the Broad Ripple Brewpub.

And from such humble beginnings did my birthday tradition start.

I have since upped my game by biking the Hilly Hundred four times in the past five years. However, despite my successful completion of the two-day, 100-mile bike tour up and down the hills of southern Indiana, I still bike the Monon every year. And I still finish the day at the Broad Ripple Brewpub.

This year, due to lower back surgery in May, I have not been able to get on my bike. I will not be able to bike the Hilly Hundred. I may not even be able to bike the Monon Trail. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss out on the Broad Ripple Brewpub. Some things are sacrosanct.

What can I say? It’s my favorite restaurant in Indianapolis.

An Englishman and his Hoosier wife started the brewpub in Indianapolis 1990. The goal, as stated on their Website, was to, “recreate a typical English pub with its dark wood paneling, decorative tin ceiling, and cozy fire place.” What they created in fact was a family-friendly British-style pub with a progressive Midwest college town twist. And this is not easy to do.

To begin your dinner, try their artisanal hand-crafted beers, which are what you would expect from a good microbrewery. I typically go for the Lawnmower Pale Ale and Monon Porter, but I am planning on going back very soon to expand my palate to the ESB Extra Special Bitter, Wobbly Bob American Pale, Kolsch, Aussie Sumer…yes, this may take a while.

The menu offers a wide variety of standard carnivorous pub foods as well as their vegetarian redux cousins. Although I love the thick cut veggie chips and potato chips, I highly recommend starting off the meal with the Brewpub Nachos, a hearty mix of cheeses, sour cream, diced veggies, guacamole, and black beans on tri-colored corn chips. I have never been disappointed by it.

The most difficult part of your evening will be selecting your entrée. So many wonderful choices. I tend to go for their sandwiches, and I can personally recommend the Veggie Stromboli, Black Bean Burger, Baked Falafel, Nancy’s Nutty Burger, and Spinach Melt. The Spinach Melt, my wife’s personal favorite, is a creamy mix of spinach, sour cream, and jicama, grilled on sourdough bread, with Monterey jack cheese and tomato. It’s like a spinach dip sandwich with a mix of creamy and crunchy textures. My son’s have both fallen in love with the Drunken Ravioli, a spicy ravioli in a creamy tomato vodka sauce.

I was under-impressed by the Vegan Fish and Chips, which were too salty for my taste. The Vegan Dolmades look interesting, but I have not tried them yet. Yet.

If all of the above is too exotic for your tastes, they do of course have a variety of standard and specialty pizzas, including the Nutty Garden which contains fresh spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, walnuts, tomato sauce, and mozzarella and provolone cheeses. I have not tried this one yet, and I don’t know why. It’s like pizza wish fulfillment for me. Next time. Definitely next time.

Truth be told, the Broad Ripple Brewpub is not a sophisticated restaurant for delicate palates, nor does it try to be one. But their vegetarian food is hearty, tasty, well-made, and creative. And it goes great with my third porter.

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