Category Archives: Southern Indiana

Pad-Thai at TanThai.

It’s worth fighting the bridges to get to TanThai

The news that Thai-Siam had closed after 25 years of dishing up Thai cuisine to Louisville-area diners came with more of a sense of nostalgia than loss, I’d say.

When it opened in 1989, I was beside myself with joy. Having discovered Thai cuisine in California way back in the day, I loved it so hard, and ached for it to make its way east. Continue reading

Black raspberry chip ice cream at the Comfy Cow.

Comfy Cow growing into a herd

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Once a popular ditty of the “Roaring Twenties,” this folk wisdom has grown into a simple truth.

Who doesn’t like ice cream? As Mary’s father used to say, even after an ample meal, “There is always room for ice cream.” And with Spring belatedly breaking after one of the most relentless Winters in recent memory, the signs of the season include, in addition to green buds, bright flowers and insane allergy-pollen levels, long lines of hungry supplicants forming around just about every ice-cream shop in town. Even the perennial ice cream trucks have brought their clangy rendition of “Camptown Races” back to the streets of our fair city. Continue reading

Polenta and black-beanfritters at Exchange Pub + Kitchen.

Exchange Pub + Kitchen, a Pillar of Its Community

How good is Exchange Pub + Kitchen? Why, it’s a Pillar of its community.

I mean that literally: This month the popular spot in New Albany’s buzzing downtown dining scene won one of the city’s Pillar Awards, which recognize contributors to downtown restoration and renovation. Exchange Pub won the Horizon Award, honoring co-owners Ian and Nikki Hall for their 2012 move from the Grant Line Road area into the historic 1875-era Shrader Stables building downtown, the New Albany Tribune reported.
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Gyros at A.J.'s

Road food road trip!

I can’t believe it’s Labor Day weekend already and I hadn’t made my annual (short) road trip across the Ohio to enjoy old-style roadside dining at two local favorites, A.J.’s Gyros and Polly’s Freeze.

We rectified this lapse today with a delicious lunch of gyros and falafel sandwiches and a plate of dolmades at AJ’s, followed by a soft-serve Brown Derby cone and a butterscotch shake at Polly’s. “This is what fast food was like before there was McDonald’s,” Mary mused over gyros. True. It’s fast food as our parents knew it, and our grandparents, too, before there were interstates. Continue reading

Sushi at Dragon King’s Daughter

Pick your avatar at Dragon King’s Daughter

Maybe this is just my wacky imagination talking, but I’ve always thought Dragon King’s Daughter sounded like a good name for a really intense online role-playing game.

It would be a game full of samurai warrior avatars, of course, but it would have to have moustachio’d bandidos too, as DKD (as its fans abbreviate it) manages to fit both Japanese and Mexican flavors — and a lot more, too — into a single menu, and somehow it works.
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short ribs

Theory of Relativity is demonstrated at Exchange Pub

NA Exchange got a new name when it moved down the New Albany hill: Now it’s The Exchange Pub + Kitchen. It got a new look, which is actually an old look, as it makes creative use of a historic building in New Albany’s rapidly gentrifying downtown.

But it didn’t get new food, insists Chef Rick Adams, who swears that the menu he forged at the previous location — including his signature shrimp and grits — hasn’t changed a bit.You would have a hard time making some of the Exchange’s regular customers believe that, though. Adams says one gentleman in particular is adamant that the “new” shrimp and grits is much better than the “old.”

“I haven’t changed a thing,” the chef says, “but he’s sure it tastes better now.”
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Ribs and brisket at Feast BBQ. LEO photo by Ron Jasin.

Meat, meet not-meat at New Albany’s Feast BBQ

Why not invite a vegetarian friend to join you for barbecue today?

No, I’m not suggesting you torment your carniphobic buddies with plates of deliciously smoked and sauced animal flesh. Feast BBQ, newly arrived in the growing foodie scene that is downtown New Albany, offers a better option, more diverse and inclusive by half: You can get your smoky, saucy protein in the form of pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken or … tofu!
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Falafel at A.J.'s Gyros

Road food road trip in Southern Indiana!

I know this is hard to believe, but a couple of generations back, when our parents and even our grandparents were young, a road trip took some planning. There were no Interstate highways and nothing like McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King. What was a hungry traveler to do in those days of winding two-lane highways and no familiar burger logos glowing in the distance? As it happens, though it may have taken longer to get to your destination, but our forbears arguably enjoyed a finer, tastier and better quality of road food in those days gone by.
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grilled cheese sandwiches

Food truck fare hits the road in the Metro

If you’re trying to save on fuel during a summer that makes the case for global warming and when gasoline prices flirt with $4 per gallon, there’s a lot to like about a friendly food truck operator who brings lunch to your neighborhood. Across the country, a veritable food truck race is under way, with food truck “pods” growing in with-it towns like Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore.
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burger, chips and beer

Gastropubbing at NA Exchange

burger, chips and beer
Exchange burger plate. PHOTO: Ron Jasin
What’s a gastropub? This is more than a trivial question, as more and more open up in the area. Counting eateries that embrace the title, and those that earn it whether they claim it or not, I immediately think of Blind Pig, Bank Street Brewhouse, Village Anchor and Eiderdown. I’m sure there are more.

Now NA Exchange joins the pack, prompting me to repeat the question: What the heck is a gastropub? Is it a neighborhood saloon that serves pickled ginger rather than pickled eggs, beef tartare instead of beef jerky? Or is it a fern bar with microbrewery beer?

Quality beverages are one sure criterion: craft beers, some of local provenance; artisanal wines, as likely to be from France as California; trendy cocktails, if licensure permits. Neither dive bar nor fern bar, the gastropub offers classy cooking and thought-provoking beverages in a comfortable, casual environment.

NA Exchange self-defines from the majestic Oxford English Dictionary: “gastropub, n. Brit. A public house which specializes in serving high-quality food.” OK, fine. So what the heck is a public house? “British. A tavern,” the “Random House Unabridged Dictionary” laconically reports.

We’re making some progress here, but these are murky waters. Perhaps it’s best to head straight over to a convenient gastropub and figure it out in person. With that in mind, the other night we shot across the Sherman Minton Bridge and up the hill above New Albany.

At the time of our visit, the name of the place appeared to be “Grand Opening,” but more informative signs may be on the way. It’s not hard to find if you know your way to New Albanian Brewing Co., formerly known as Rich O’s and Sportstime Pizza. Stay in the same shopping center, then proceed south through a maze of parking lots for maybe 100 yards, and you’re there.

Formerly MyBar, a neighborhood saloon with no gastropubbish pretensions, NA Exchange has undergone a thorough interior renovation that confers a more upscale look, but the bones of a friendly tavern remain, and that’s a good thing. Chef David Clancy, formerly of Bistro New Albany and other good local spots, is in the kitchen, and that’s an even better thing.

On Tuesday evenings there’s generally a $2 special, recently taking the form of “Bells and Burgers,” with a draft beer selection from the excellent Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich., and a slightly downsized version of the Exchange burger going for $2 each. That was enough to bring us in. We immediately ordered two-buck glasses of hoppy, crisp Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale and examined the menus.

Subdivided into Starters, Salads, Light Fare and Specialties of the Chef, the evening bill of fare was substantial and varied, ranging from fairly traditional bar food to more upscale gastropub grub; but even the basics generally came with a tasty twist. For example, wings ($7.95) arrive in a generous order of 10, tossed with Vietnamese Sriracha sauce and served with Gorgonzola in place of the usual domestic blue cheese. Hummus ($5.95) adds a dose of smoky chipotle-pepper heat, plus pretzel bread toast in lieu of pitas. Nachos ($6.95) are topped with bison chili, and so it goes.

Four light-fare items were affordably priced from $7.50 for a chicken sandwich made blackened and with smoked cheddar, to $9.95 for the locally beloved fried cod, here dredged in a porter batter. Seven chef’s specialties start at $12.95, including pappardelle pasta with peppers in a spicy tomato cream sauce, with chicken or shrimp. (Enjoy a vegetarian version for $10.95.) The menu tops out at a still reasonable $17.95 for a black-and-blue sirloin, made from grass-fed, natural Virginia beef from Davis Creek Farms, blackened and topped with crumbled Gorgonzola.

We started with a shared order of fried green tomatoes ($5.95), which were just about as good as it gets. Five tangy, crisp thick slices of pale-green tomato were tightly cloaked in perfectly fried batter, golden brown and grease-free, neatly composed on a bed of spinach and artfully decorated with a subtly flavored lemon-dill aioli.

The spinach salad ($6.95) was elevated with toasted walnuts, wedges of hard-boiled egg and, considering the season, a surprisingly juicy tomato. Bacon bits, crumbled Gorgonzola, marinated onion slices and crunchy croutons topped it off.

Mary’s Exchange burger, reasonably diminished in size for $2 night (it’s normally $7.95 for a half-pounder), was excellent — a hand-formed burger, perhaps a bit past the requested medium-rare but still juicy and tender, garnished with the standard lettuce-and-tomato and, for a 50-cent surcharge, crumbled Gorgonzola. The burger was fine and so was its bakery-style bun, and fresh chopped dill tossed with crisp house-made potato chips made them something special.

My more substantial entrée, seafood risotto ($12.95), was a bowl of tender short-grain rice in a fennel-and-lemon scented broth, loaded with tender medium shrimp and fresh mussels in the shell. It wasn’t quite a traditional risotto but a delectable seafood-and-rice dish all the same.

The benefits of $2 night held the toll down nicely: A dinner that surely would have set us back $75 in a Frankfort Avenue or Bardstown Road bistro rang up a $36.47 price on the register in Southern Indiana, and careful, courteous service earned a $9 tip.

NA Exchange
3306 Plaza Drive
New Albany, Ind.
Rating: 88