One of the surprises we came across in Indianapolis during the CEDIA Expo was that they now had a Weber Grill restaurant that was about a half a city block from our hotel. I've written about the Weber Grill restaurants in the Chicago area here, here and here and a couple of my colleagues have since eaten with me at a Weber Grill location. Of course, they raved about it to others so when the opportunity for us to eat at the one in Indy we gladly signed up.
For the uninitiated, the Weber Grill restaurants cook their meats and many of their veggies over charcoal on Weber grilles. That's right, the Weber Grill restaurants are owned by the same Palatine, IL-based manufacturer of the popular backyard cooking apparatus. Only, these grilles are not like the ones you find in hardware stores or large retailers. The ones that the Weber Grill restaurants use are industrial 42" models. You can actually buy consumer grade 42" Weber grills, but I've only seen them for sale at retail at one place - Smoke 'n' Fire in Kansas City, the huge barbecue store that I wrote about here. And they sell them for $1099. Now, having a huge Weber grill on my back landing would be awesome, but I'll settle for the two 22" grilles and my Weber "bullet" smoker for now.
The ones in the Weber Grill restaurants are much more heavy duty with cast iron bowls, heavy duty grates and a large aluminum top. Since these things get cooked on more in one week than an average Weber grill would get cooked on in 1 year, they need to be heavy duty to be able to handle the constant heat. I'm sure these things cost much more than $1000 bucks.
Since CEDIA hadn't been in Indianapolis since 2005 - plus the fact that I just don't get downtown all that often when I go to Indy for business - we had no idea the Weber Grill restaurant existed. That's because it opened in 2006, the 4th Weber Grill restaurant to be opened. The original one up in the north Chicago suburb Wheeling - the first experience I'd ever had at a Weber Grill restaurant - closed down a few years ago as the company was trying to change the image of their restaurants from a small family style place to more of an upscale steakhouse, complete with a large lounge/bar area. The one in Wheeling was deemed too small after they built their second location in west suburban Lombard and they shut it down. They built the one at the corner of State and Grand in downtown Chicago (the one I go to quite frequently, due to the fact that it's attached to the Hilton Garden Inn - a place I stay at when I'm in downtown Chicago), followed by the one out in Schaumburg, IL near Woodfield Mall.
We almost didn't go to the Weber Grill restaurant because it was going to be the treat of Jean-Philippe Fontaine, the Export Sales Manager for Focal loudspeakers. He had heard us talking about Dunaway's restaurant and some of the fine roof-top meals we'd had in the past during our previous visits to Indy. We initially made reservations for Dunaway's after the last day of the show. However, in checking with some locals and looking up reviews on line about Dunaway's, my colleague, Ian, and I were beginning to have second thoughts about going there. It seems that Dunaway's had gone downhill in terms of food and service. Even my local Indy friend, Steve Somermeyer, who knows more than a thing or two about fine wine and fine dining told me that he and his wife had stopped going to Dunaway's. That was the clincher for us when he told me that. The day before, we pulled the plug on our reservation at Dunaway's without having a dining option for a Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Since there was going to be a number of Europeans in the party - and Europeans love Midwest beef - we decided to see if we could get in at the Weber Grill just north of the corner of Washington and Illinois in downtown Indy (see map). Since it was the last night of the show, a number of people had already left town so they were able to accommodate our rather large group of 22.
In the meantime, I had talked to Jason Ressler from Music Direct who was in town for the show. I told him that we were going to the Weber Grill for dinner the next night and he sort of turned up his nose. "I went there last night with a buddy," Jason told me. "It wasn't that good."
He said the service was poor and the food was average, at best. That gave me a momentary pause and then I asked him what he had. He said, "I had the ribs (which I've had at a Weber Grill and the ones I had were pretty good), and my buddy had the lamb shank. He said it was fatty and greasy."
I said, "Jason, have you ever eaten at a Weber Grill in Chicago?" He said he hadn't. I said, "And you live in Chicago? OK, we have to go to the one downtown some time when I come in. You don't get lamb shank at a Weber Grill. And ribs are only ordered when you've literally tried everything else on the menu. You go to Weber Grill for steaks."
At least I was doing my very best to talk myself into keeping our reservation at Weber Grill.
We had a 7 p.m. reservation that evening, barely giving us enough time to pack up at the convention center, get back to our rooms to shower and change clothes, then meet in the lobby of the hotel for the half block walk down Illinois to the Weber Grill. Although there were a couple large parties in the place, we figured we'd be able to be seated right away. Nope. I know it's a conspiracy with places like the Weber Grill to hold large groups in the lobby or in the bar area to run up a large drink tab before dinner. Well, I wasn't shy about it. While everyone else was grousing that we had to wait, I went to Smokey Joe's Bar to get a beer, followed closely by my colleague, Ian, who was dying for a rum and Coke. I said, "While everyone is standing there bitching about having to wait, I decided to take the initiative and get a drink!"
"That's what I like about you," Ian said. "You're a 'take-charge' kind of guy." We enjoyed our drinks at the bar before others in the party got the hint and came over to get something to wet their whistle before dinner.
When we were finally seated in the dining room after about 30 minutes, we had to use two tables - a large one that accommodated 18, and then four others sat in a booth along the wall. The decor of the Indy Weber Grill location is rich in dark walnut paneling along the walls and booths. The heavy wooden chairs at the table are comfortable and sturdy. And the lighting is subdued, but not so much that it's difficult to read the menu.
I had pretty much made up my mind even before I entered the restaurant that I was getting steak. I'd have to say that about 90 percent in our party had pretty much the same idea taking an informal poll before we sat down. Figuring out what kind of a steak to get would be the difference.
I ended up ordering the 28 day aged 16 oz. New York strip - rare. My boss, Daniel, who was seated next to me, got the 28 day aged 22 oz. bone-in ribeye. And my colleague, John, who to my other side, also got the New York strip. And everytime I get dinner at a Weber Grill I have to get their outrageously great whipped sweet potatoes with the bourbon maple butter. The garlic mashed potatoes that come with the steaks are wonderful enough, but I always substitute out the whipped sweet potatoes. They're orgasmic.
I didn't bring my phone with me that evening so I wouldn't be tempted to sit there and try to catch up on college football scores and receive the wrath of my boss who flips me shit when I do just that. So I don't have any pictures of my food. But I have to say my New York strip was definitely above average that evening. And the whipped sweet potatoes - oh MAN! Daniel said that he didn't really like sweet potatoes all that much and I offered him a bite of mine. "You'll love these," I told him in advance.
He took a bite and his eyes lit up as the whipped sweet potatoes were still in his mouth. He swallowed and exclaimed, "Wow! You're right! Those are wonderful!" I felt bad for him, however, as his ribeye was full of fat and he was having a tough time negotiating around the marbling to find the succulent pieces of meat.
Even with a big group the service was above par. They had two or three people taking care of our table that night and our requests were always met with prompt service. Our wine glasses were seemingly never empty and we were all having a good time. It was a great last night of the show.
I was hesitant to write about the Weber Grill in Indianapolis, mainly because I'd written about the ones in the Chicagoland area in the past. But it has been five plus years since I wrote about them and this entry is a little more in depth than what I wrote in the past. I've had a lot of items on the menu at the Weber Grill restaurants, but steak is definitely the king. It's very difficult to find anything wrong with the food or service at the Weber Grill restaurants and the one in Indianapolis is no exception.