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)
Neighborhood restaurants can often be the heart and soul of a community; a place where friends and neighbors gather together and feel a real sense of home. Such a place resides on the near north side of Indy that pours its heart and soul back into the community. Tinker Street (402 E 16th St) is a chef-driven bistro that is located right in-between historic Herron-Morton Place and Old Northside. A little over a year ago, the future of Tinker Street was in jeopardy after an employee strike caused it to shut its doors indefinitely. Never fear, Chef Braedon Kellner and co-owner Tom Main weren’t giving up on the beloved hot spot, so they revamped the menu and reopened with a renewed passion.
Tinker Street is a small restaurant with an even smaller kitchen -- it’s hard to believe that they create so much deliciousness in such a small space. The bar area is nestled between the chic indoor dining area and lively outdoor patio. You know that feeling when you go to a restaurant and it just has a certain buzz about it; the feeling that something special is going on there? That’s Tinker Street in a nutshell.
In regards to the food, Tinker Street offers a forward-thinking, chef-driven menu that is anchored by fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. This pouring back into the community really helps to stimulate the local farming economy which benefits all of us Hoosiers. Staying on the theme of freshness, the menu changes regularly and is always chock-full of the most interesting flavors and textures of the season. Tinker Street doesn’t want to leave anyone out, so they offer a wide variety of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. With such a great menu, it was quite a task to choose only four items for my “can’t miss” list -- so here goes nothing:
Korean Chicken & Waffles: This is the magic that happens when a Southern comfort food gets together with Asian fusion and they have a beautiful baby. Ohhh, isn’t it gorgeous! Not to go all cannibal on you, but if you think it looks pretty, just wait until you sink your teeth into it. Tinker Street glazes flavorful chicken thighs with a sweet and spicy Gochujang sauce and places them atop savory scallion-sesame waffles. The dish is then finished with a side of kimchi butter and radish. Your taste buds will be working overtime with this Korean twist on a soul food classic.
Corn Dog: I can hear the grumbles now: “What’s this guy talking about? I can get a corn dog at the state fair!” This is true, but I can promise you that you won’t find a corn dog like this anywhere near the Midway. For starters, the “dog” is not a hot dog. It is a rich and buttery foie gras bratwurst that is bursting at the seams with flavor. The corn dog is something to behold, but it’s the accompaniments that take it next level. Imagine dipping your corn dog into pepper jelly and hickory mustard, and finishing it off with a bite of kohlrabi slaw and caper berries. Sounds pretty great, right? Well then ... hurry, hurry, step right up! (That’s my impression of a carnie)
Sakura Pork Belly: Sakura, Sakura! (to the tune of Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira and Wyclef) Check it out on iTunes if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyhoo, let’s move on. Pork belly is essentially bacon that hasn’t been cured, smoked, or sliced. It is a very fatty piece of meat, but super tasty too. The pork belly is brushed with a sorghum-tamari glaze and then served on a bed of red cabbage kimchi and forbidden rice. You have the savory from the pork which pairs perfectly with the sour of the kimchi and the nuttiness of the rice. The final touch is an over-easy duck egg on top. To say this is a complete dish is a massive understatement.
Alaskan Halibut: Fish is the perfect protein to help endure this Indiana heat; not to mention that it’s swimsuit season. Alaskan Halibut is a lean white fish with a very mild flavor and flaky texture. The halibut is pan-seared which really locks in the flavor while also giving it a crispy crust. It is served atop a bed of fresh asparagus, peas, and mushrooms and then finished with fennel soubise and sauce venitienne. The makings of a perfect summer dish. Viola!
You didn’t think I’d forget dessert, did you? After recommending four savory dishes, you’re going to need something sweet to finish off your meal. Let me introduce you to the Tinker Street Banana Cream Pie. The end!