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.
Review by Dustin Heller (@eatindywatchindie on Instagram)
“What kind of music do you usually have here?”
“Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.”
That is a quote from the 1980 classic movie, “The Blues Brothers,” but we’re not paying a visit to Bob’s Country Bunker. Nope, we are headed to a new Honky Tonk joint on the near South side that has the same taste in music and some pretty amazing food to boot. Duke’s is located a couple miles South of Lucas Oil Stadium at 2352 S West St; the former home to the legendary Ice House. Indiana native, Dustin Boyer, always dreamed of opening a Honky Tonk bar in the Indy area, and when he heard that the Ice House was closing its doors for good, he saw fate staring him in the face. Dustin hit the ground running to make his dream a reality and now he’s doing what he loves and bringing “real country” to Indy.
Duke’s (aptly named after Dustin’s grandfather, Hayes “Duke” Boyer) is not only a Honky Tonk concert venue; it is a restaurant and neighborhood pub to boot. When you first set foot in Duke’s, you know the place is legit…from the neon signs to the newly built stage. The layout of the interior is wide open, which makes for a great concert venue. The place has that good ol’ country charm coming out of its ears.
When it comes to food, Dustin is the man in the kitchen. He is pretty much the jack of all trades when it comes to Duke’s…it is his baby after all. The menu is simple, but don’t let that fool you. For lunch, the menu is mostly made up of sandwiches and sides…including an ever-changing sandwich from the guys at Black Metal BBQ. When it comes to dinner, fried chicken takes the spotlight. The Ice House left their deep fryer in the kitchen, so Dustin took four months to perfect his fried chicken recipe. He serves the chicken dinner with a choice of sides that change periodically, or you could just order “The Whole D*** Thing” (this is a family-friendly column after all), which comes with all three sides. Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, let’s get into my “can’t miss” choices from Duke’s…and away we go…
- Tater Tot Waffle…For as long as I’ve been writing this column, I don’t recall very many times that I’ve led off with a side dish. That should clue you in to just how special this waffle truly is. I’m going to do my best to describe how delicious it is, but you really need to experience it for yourself. The waffle “batter,” which consists of grated potatoes and cheese, is poured into the waffle maker and cooked until perfectly crunchy. That crispy cheese taste is a thing of legend. The waffle is then topped with Duke’s secret hot sauce for some nice heat, and finished with a dollop of sour cream to counterbalance that heat. It is big enough to share, but if you’re anything like me, you’re not gonna want to.
- Hatch Smash Burger…My “best burger in Indy” list is ever-evolving and I’m always looking for the next great one to put in the conversation. Hatch Smash Burger…welcome to the conversation! The burger is smashed super thin on the grill creating those crispy edges to go along with that juicy center. This gem of a burger is topped with American cheese and all of the standard fixins, but what really makes it special are the hatch green chiles…a little secret Dustin Boyer must have picked up with his time spent in New Mexico. Put all of that between a toasted bun and call it a day. Pro tip: Ask for a few extra napkins when ordering…you’ll definitely need them.
- Spicy Mac & Cheese…I’m starting to sense a theme here…Duke’s isn’t scared to spice things up a bit. They start off with some big corkscrew pasta and then smother in a rich and creamy cheese sauce. That is the foundation of a great mac & cheese, but why stop there? Duke’s kicks it up by putting some of those famous hatch green chiles right on top for everyone to see. I’m now convinced that hatch green chiles can literally make anything taste better.
- Roasted Pork Sandwich…I feel like I could make a blanket statement and say “get the sandwich at Duke’s”. No matter which you choose, it’s probably going to be special. That said, the roasted pork definitely got my attention. The pork is roasted and then finely chopped all while maintaining that rich pork flavor (and it’s not the least bit dry). They pair the pork with swiss cheese and kale and put it all between two slices of Italian bread. It then goes on the sandwich press for the finishing touch.