Zest! Exciting Food Creations

Atmosphere: We sat outside; it was hot and the awning didn’t do much, but it had more appeal than inside.

Service: Our server was sweet and attentive, and the food arrived very promptly even during dinner on a friday evening.

Booze: Large selection of intriguing small batch and organic spirits, good wine and local craft beer from sun king, upland, etc. The list is so long they give you two separate drink menus. I ordered a “really old-fashioned” made with backbone uncut bourbon (Lawrenceburg, IN) that was just delightful and garnished with a piece of candied ginger and lemon peel, which really tickled my fancy. I’m easily amused by the little things in life. Pretty cool tidbit to keep in mind: they have a carry out license.


Crab Cakes | chef valerie’s famous crab cakes with mango salsa and horseradish crème $ 8

Baja Tacos | cornmeal-crusted basa (or roasted wild mushrooms), white cheddar, chipotle slaw, white corn tortillas, house-made refried beans, avocado salad $ 17

Chilles Rellenos | poblano pepper, our world famous mac & cheese, black beans, white corn, hazelnut romesco, chili spiced tortilla crumbles, arroz rojo, refried black beans, avocado salad $ 15

Simple and delightfully crunchy crab cakes were served on romaine shreds with an avocado, mango, green apple, cucumber and red pepper salsa and topped with horseradish. I much enjoyed the surprise of apple and avocado together, but the sauce could have been more…. sinus-clearing? The chille rellenos were right up my alley. Carbs upon carbs upon carbs upon carbs. Whenever I eat something extraordinary… my brow furrows, I let out a groan of satisfaction and immediately force whoever is nearby to take a nibble. This was definitely one of those times, and my foodie pal agreed that the dish was fantastic. “Oh my..” All of the spicy flavors married perfectly with the creamy mac & cheese… I could barely finish chewing each bite before shoveling in more. The fish tacos were authentically served on two corn tortillas and so loaded with basa that they required some forkage to eat. These were some of the best fish tacos I’ve eaten in my day, especially coming from the middle of Indiana. The fish was sweet and flaky with a perfect crunchy coating of corn meal, and the chipotle slaw complimented it wonderfully.

Although we were STUFFED by this point, the Chowdown Midtown deal included our choice of dessert, which in this case was a brownie flight. The flavors were as follow: Bodacious (pretty classic: chocolate and nuts), blue ribbon blondie and caramel with french grey sea salt. The bodacious brownie was good, the blue ribbon was slightly better, the caramel & sea salt brownie was to die for just as we had expected. No better combination in my opinion than chocolate, caramel and SALT.

Kudos: The menu is extremely accommodating to vegetarians, which I find very refreshing. Not only do I have quite a few vegetarian friends, but I was one myself for about six years. Better yet, the meatless options aren’t boring; I didn’t mind the lack of carcass in my dish one bit. They even have several dairy-free options, including a vanilla bean cake that walked by right before our dessert arrived that made me seriously question our decision.

Overall: A little pricey but the portions are generous enough. I definitely want to venture back to experience their brunch options (ex: a salmon dish with poached eggs and asparagus?… MM.) Kudos to chef Valerie. I say her “down home goes uptown” approach is a success.

1134 East 54th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46220

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