Review by Dustin Heller
Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Our food adventure this week takes us to a nice little neighborhood restaurant located in the wholesale district of downtown Indy. Wait, what? That’s right, not all of the restaurants in the heart of downtown are chains or fancy steakhouses. Spoke & Steele is located inside the Le Méridien Hotel at 123 South Illinois Street and is perfect walking distance from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and even the convention center. Pretty convenient, right?
Spoke & Steele has been a vibrant part of the Indy foodie scene since 2014, but we all have a reason to celebrate as they’ve got a brand new menu from a certain four-time James Beard nominated chef–he’s kind of a big deal!
Chef Greg Hardesty has been a rock star on Indy food scene for years, but a big void was left when he decided to retire and close Recess in early 2017. When word came out that he was going to be consulting for a new menu and Spoke & Steele, the excitement was at fever pitch. The restaurant has been rolling out his newest creations over the past month or so and it seems the menu is now complete. In light of this, Spoke & Steele hired Chef Erin Gillum as Chef de Cuisine to carry out Chef Hardesty’s newest inspirations.
Spoke & Steele’s desire to become a downtown neighborhood restaurant not only meant that the menu had to be creative and delicious, it also needed to be approachable to everyone. In order for this to happen, Hardesty took inspiration from some of his fondest food memories and also his passion for Midwestern cuisine with an international flare.
I’ve had the privilege to try this new menu, and let me tell you, it is worth the hype. I know that when I’m trying a new place or even a new menu, the last thing I want to do is order the wrong thing. This is where I come in and offer up my four “can’t-miss” items from the new Spoke & Steele menu.
Spoke Burger: It’s probably not a coincidence that this burger was the first item that Chef Hardesty introduced from the new menu, and it’s definitely not a coincidence that I’ve got it at No. 1 on my list. The Spoke Burger is INSANE–like, so much so, that you really should stop reading this and go get one right now. The patty is a blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib (aka the Holy Trinity of Beef) that is sourced from our very own Fischer Farms. This glorious burger is topped with double cheese (American and sharp cheddar), shredded lettuce, roasted tomato, and the cherry on top of the sundae is the caper-tartar mayo and the blend of three mustards. Put all that between an Amelia’s Brioche Bun and you’ve got yourself a burger that is jam-packed with flavor. I get asked all the time, “What’s the best burger in Indy?” The Spoke Burger has definitely entered the conversation.
Tyson’s Famous S&S Nugs: These little beauties come from the mind of Chef Tyson Peterson that he’s appropriately named “Nugs.” What is a Nug, you ask? Well, it’s an oversized meatloaf ball that is smothered in a sweet chili glaze and melted cheese curds and placed atop a perfectly cooked thick-cut potato. The only thing left is to put some Fresno chili slices on top and dig in. Let me just say, these Nugs are famous for a reason. Just look this picture!
Pagenaud Steak Frites: Pagenaud isn’t the name of some fancy cut of steak or exotic breed of cow, but rather the last name of acclaimed IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud gave his official seal of approval for this classic French dish by deeming it “délicieux,” a fancy way of saying “delicious” (it’s actually the French way of saying it, but it sure does sound fancy). The mouthwatering 8 oz. flat iron steak from Fischer Farms is served with a Parmesan fries, house steak sauce and Amora mustard. I’m usually not one to put steak sauce on a great piece of beef, but I couldn’t get enough. Maybe I’ll order it as my beverage on my next visit!
Charcuterie: My loyal readers know how much of a charcuterie honk I am, and with that comes a very high standard. Aside from bad taste (of course), my biggest pet peeve with a charcuterie board is skimping on the portions. Many of the high end restaurants want to charge an arm and a leg for just a few slices of meat and cheese, but not Spoke & Steele! When you order the “FULL BOARD”, it’s just that: full. Not only is it chock-full from end to end, but the chef’s choice is consistently spot-on. With a variety of housemade sausage, Smoking Goose salami and specialty cheeses, it’s safe to say you definitely get your money’s worth.
After all this talk of food, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the beautiful décor of the restaurant. The place has such a cool, relaxed vibe that you’re never gonna want to leave. Oh, did I mention that they have a room dedicated to the king of cool himself, Steve McQueen? You’ll also find a hip cellar room complete with a record player. All this adds up to where you should be going to dinner tonight!