The 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 will take place this coming Sunday in Indianapolis. Actually, the race track is in a small encircled suburb of Indy by the name of Speedway, a city that was one of the first planned communities in the United States. I've been going out to the Indy 500 off and on since 1986 and while I've known about the town of Speedway, I never knew there was actually a downtown area until I met up with a guy for a business lunch at a place called Dawson's on Main. It is literally just a stone's throw from Turn One at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (see map). All these years of going to Indianapolis for business and pleasure and I never knew there was such a thing as downtown Speedway, let alone a place like Dawson's on Main.
Brothers Chris and Tony Hill opened Dawson's on Main in June of 2006 along with help from their father, Gary, and their sister, Barb Lesko. The place is named after Tony Hill's son, Dawson, who will, no doubt, grow into the family business.
As I said, Speedway was one of the first planned communities in the United States with much of the development designed around the use of the motor car. It was one of the first communities that was laid out with wide streets and designed with garages for every home in the little city. So I found it somewhat ironic that Main Street was effectively shut down with a massive works project putting in new storm sewers, lights and sidewalks. I had to park up the street on 15th and walk about a block to the restaurant. However, I understand that Main Street in Speedway should be open by now.
Dawson's on Main bills themselves as an upscale restaurant with a casual atmosphere. And it's sort of an upscale sports bar, as well. It has two pretty good sized dining rooms - the main one as you come into the restaurant at the corner of 15th and Main in downtown Speedway, and a dining/bar area as you pass through the main dining room.
It was in the bar area that I met with my guy who I was having the lunch meeting with. He was already seated with lunch menus in front of him. We sat for awhile and caught up on some business before I even had a chance to look at the menu. Although the lunch menu is definitely upscale compared to other places in the area for lunch, Dawson's on Main's dinner menu was something that interested me tremendously. While both menus share a handful of items such as some appetizers, sandwiches and salads, after 5 p.m. Dawson's on Main goes even more upscale with a wide variety of steaks, seafood, pasta dishes, chicken and pork chops, as well as their own barbecued ribs.
I wasn't overly hungry as I'd had breakfast earlier in the day, but I knew it would be a long time before dinner that evening so I thought I'd better have something substantial for lunch. I looked at possibly getting the iceberg wedge salad - a large wedge of iceberg lettuce that was topped with smoked apple hickory wood bacon, red onions and cucumbers, then finished with crumbled bleu cheese and honey pecans and topped with Dawson's homemade house dressing, a herb vinaigrette. In fact, all of Dawson's salad dressings were made in house.
Dawson's on Main also featured a number of sandwiches and wraps including the Italian chicken and pepperoni wrap - Dawson's grilled chicken with Italian spices and topped with pepperoni slices, alfalfa sprouts (I'd pass on those), red onions and banana pepper rings, then topped with Gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in slices of cheddar cheese. Then they top it off with the house herb vinaigrette dressing. Man! That sounded so good, but it also sounded so filling!
I also had my eye on the reuben - black angus corned beef, slow roasted in house and served on homemade marble rye bread with sauerkraut and aged Swiss cheese with Dawson's homemade Thousand Island dressing. I almost got that, but I'd been on such a reuben kick as of late that I decided to go another direction.
The state of Indiana rivals Iowa for breaded tenderloins and I decided to see how the one at Dawson's stacked up. I ended up getting the pork tenderloin sandwich - a pork cutlet, hand breaded and fried, then served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, red onions and dill pickles. A side of Dawson's homemade honey mustard came with the sandwich. I had my choice of French fries, onion rings, potato salad, cottage cheese, cole slaw or pasta salad. I got the cottage cheese.
My guest got the chicken and spinach melt - a grilled seasoned chicken breast topped with their apple hickory wood bacon, Swiss cheese, then finished off with a dollop of Dawson's homemade spinach and artichoke dip. It's then served on sourdough bread. He told me, "It's the best sandwich in Indianapolis." I came about this close to changing my order, but decided at the last moment to hold tight.
When our food made it to the table, I was instantly mentally smacking myself in the head. This huge pork tenderloin sandwich was placed in front of me and it was huge. Not only was it large in size, but it was thick from a combination of the breading and the thickness of the pounded pork loin. I knew there was going to be NO WAY that I'd be able to eat the whole thing.
But I took a bite and it was good - very good, as a matter of fact. The breading was crunchy and had a somewhat herbed taste to it. The pork loin, itself, was juicy, flavorful and not over cooked in the least. It was really a good sandwich. The only thing I really didn't care for was the honey mustard dressing. I ended up asking the bartender/waiter for some yellow mustard and he seemed a little taken aback that I didn't care for the honey mustard.
My guest's chicken and spinach melt was declared to be "excellent". And it did look good. The spinach and artichoke dip oozed out of the sandwich. It was definitely a multi-napkin lunch for him. If I get back to Dawson's on Main - and I figure I will - I'll get that chicken and spinach melt.
Of course, I couldn't eat the second half of my sandwich. And I couldn't take the leftovers with me because I knew it would be sitting in the car and not in the fridge for the next six hours. If it would have been colder out, I could have put it in the trunk and it would have been fine. But it was in the 60's and I knew I couldn't chance taking it with me and going bad before I had a chance to get it cooled down. I usually take a cooler with me on the road, but for some reason I didn't bring it with me on this trip. That's OK, I had more than enough of the sandwich to figure out that it was very good.
Dawson's on Main is one of those great little surprises that pop up in my travels from time to time. I like it when the locals turn me on to little places that are just outstanding. And I thought the food, the service and the atmosphere at Dawson's on Main were all very, very good. I would put their breaded pork tenderloin against many of those I've had in Iowa and would probably beat a couple of the "Best in Iowa" pork sandwiches I've had over the past couple three years. I'm sure that during Indy 500 weekend, Dawson's on Main is nearly impossible to get into. But now that I know where its at - and that the street work out front is probably finished - I won't need to wait for an Indy 500 weekend to visit Dawson's on Main.