I was in Indianapolis recently and I had just finished a late afternoon meeting with my dealer in the Broad Ripple area of the city. I asked him and one of his sales guys if they would be interested in going out for dinner. The owner begged off - he had a pregnant wife at home and he needed to get back home to attend to her. And the sales guy also said that he had had a long day and he needed to get home, as well. I asked the owner if there was any place around the area that he would recommend for dinner. He told me of a place that wasn't far from his business, a restaurant by the name of The Northside Social on College Ave. "They've got really good food there," he told me. He wasn't kidding that it wasn't far from his place. It was literally a one minute drive of two blocks to College Ave. and a block north to the parking lot of the Northside Social. (see map)
Bill Ficca, his wife, Nancy, Jamie Browning, Tim Oprisu and his wife Nicole took what was a former biker bar in Broad Ripple and turned it into a somewhat chic/casual restaurant that featured comfort food, fresh seafood, seasonal foods, and influences from Mediterranean, Caribbean and Southern cuisines. The Northside Social opened in 2010 and it wasn't the first - or last - restaurant that the Ficca's and Browning would be involved with. With the help of other partners, they opened their first restaurant - Usual Suspects - a bistro-style place in Broad Ripple in 2006. (Usual Suspects is currently undergoing a renovation.) The same year, the Ficca's were involved in the opening of Casbah, a college bar that catered to students from nearby Butler University.
After opening The Northside Social, the Ficca's, the Oprisu's, and Browning have opened a handful of other unique places in or near Broad Ripple that includes 317 Burger, Northside Kitchenette, Delicia, and La Mulita, a cantina-style restaurant that shares a building with Delicia. The group also owns Village Cigar, an upscale cigar bar in Broad Ripple.
The decor at The Northside Social features a lot of white throughout the place. Subdued lighting, elegant seating, and a laid-back atmosphere gave the restaurant a trendy vibe. The clientele was decidedly older when I first got there, but after the crowd thinned out, more young people were having late evening dinners and drinks.
I decided to sit at the bar and I was greeted by a bartender who gave me a menu. I started out with a Lagunitas Pils, but for my second beer awhile later I was talked into getting a PDG pale ale from the local Bier-Brewery in Indianapolis. The PDG was hoppy, yet smooth with a refreshing aftertaste.
When I've been on the road for awhile, I get sort of burned out on, well, food. Some nights I really don't know what to get when I'm not hungry for a burger, or for Mexican food, or for pizza, or for Italian food, or for - whatever. Sometimes I just need good ol' comfort food to get me out of a food funk. And a number of things on the menu at The Northside Social caught my eye. They had a barbecued pork tenderloin that was covered with an agave barbecue sauce and served with white cheddar grits and tri-color carrots. They had a parmesan/herb-crusted chicken breast that came with green-chile white-cheddar mac & cheese and grilled asparagus. And they had New Zealand lamb lollipops (chops) that were grilled and served with truffle-parmesan fingerling potatoes.
After I ordered my entree for the evening, I started out with a 1/2 wedge salad. It was the perfect size for me as some wedge salads can be rather large. The iceberg lettuce was cool and crisp, and the salad was topped with a horseradish blue cheese dressing with blue cheese crumbles, crispy pancetta, balsamic-marinated chopped tomatoes, chopped red onions and house-made garlic croutons. Had I known how good the salad would be, I would have gotten the full wedge. It was simply delicious.
I almost went with the caramelized scallops served with garlic-wilted arugula and oven-roasted tomatoes, but at the last moment the beef brisket called my name. "Good choice," the bartender who took my order told me. It featured beef brisket slow-roasted in a Guinness Stout sauce, and served on top of mashed potatoes with grilled asparagus on the side. The brisket was fabulous. It was lean and tender, easily pulling apart with the cut of a fork. The sauce had a bit of a bite to the taste, but it went well with the beef. It was a healthy cut of beef - they certainly gave me a large portion. Along with the very good mashed potatoes and the equally good grilled asparagus, this was the perfect meal for me that particular evening. And it was a lot of food. I was able to finish all the beef, but left a good portion of the potatoes and a couple three spears of asparagus on the plate.
The Northside Social was certainly a great recommendation from my dealer. The service was a tad suspect sitting at the bar, only because the bartenders were busy most of the time. But they tag-teamed back and forth to take care of me in an all right manner. The brisket was simply outstanding - tender, flavorful, and a large portion, to boot. The wedge salad was also very good, the 1/2 sized wedge was perfect given all the food that I ended up getting for my entree. The atmosphere at The Northside Social was tony and fashionable, but still relaxed without a lot of pretension. They had enough other interesting things on the menu that I could probably go back six times and get something different each time. The Northside Social is a wonderful place to dine in Broad Ripple.