I was out in Indianapolis late last year for a couple days and I found a hotel in downtown Indy where I got a pretty good rate. Even though most of my dealers are to the north side of town and having not stayed in the downtown area for awhile, I decided to take the room and spend the night there. Looking for a place to eat that evening, I found a Mexican place that wasn't too far away from the hotel - Adobo Grill. Here's what I encountered during my visit to the Adobo Grill.
Longtime Chicago restaurateur Paul LoDuca is the man behind Adobo Grill. LoDuca and his DaVinci Group restaurant holdings have developed a number of restaurants over the years including Vinci in Chicago, Pikk's Tavern in Valparaiso, IN, and Adobo Grill locations in Chicago and Indianapolis. LoDuca was the owner of Trattoria Parma in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood which he closed in 2001. About a year later he opened Adobo Grill which was one of the first "nuevo Latino" restaurants in the Chicago area specializing in modern Mexican food and also being one of the first places in Chicago where guacamole was made tableside for patrons.
LoDuca and the DaVinci Group opened a second Adobo Grill on E. 82nd Street near Allisonville Road on Indianapolis' north side. When the Bazbeaux Pizza location on E. Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis moved in 2008, LoDuca moved Adobo Grill to that existing space in late 2008.
The Adobo Grill location in Chicago suffered a devastating fire in August of 2015 that devastated the building and caused serious damage to the neighboring offices of the famed Second City Theater. When the landlord elected not to rebuild right away, Adobo Grill's lease was terminated and they were forced to find another location. Wanting to stay in the Old Town neighborhood, they were able to find an open location in a former restaurant just around the corner from the original spot. The new Adobo Grill in Chicago opened in the summer of 2016.
It was about a two block walk on a chilly and blustery evening from my hotel to Adobe Grill. (see map) The front of the restaurant looked like it was more of an upscale steakhouse with a stone facade and a wide curved awning with stainless steel trim. I walked past the place because the restaurant's sign was on the corner of the building. I looked back and saw a big Corona beer sign in a window above the awning and I realized that I had walked past the front door.
Inside, I encountered a huge crowd inside the place - most of them in the bar area. A hostess greeted me and took me to a table on a step-up level in front of the bar area. There was a short wall that delineated the bar from the step-up dining area. She wanted to seat me at a two-seater table along that wall, but the bar area was so packed that people were leaning up against the wall and setting their drinks on top of the wall. I opted to take a seat in an alcove along a banquette bench seat. I hate sitting on banquette seats in restaurants, but this was a better alternative to being crowded at a small table with people lingering over a short wall next to me.
The restaurant was actually pretty roomy once you got past the bar area. The dining area on the main floor featured a high ceiling with soft lighting. The upstairs, I'm guessing, had overflow and private dining areas.
The bar area was kind of nice, too. It featured a long bar out front with a long back bar that was accented by lime green lighting on the shelves. They had an impressive number of tequilas to choose from - I counted over 60 different types on their tequila list.
My server for the evening, an effervescent young lady with short blonde hair who introduced herself as Keta (although on the bill it said her name was Alison) asked what I'd like to drink. I ordered up a Dos Equis Ambar that they had on tap. Moments later, Keta came back and told me that they had sold out of the Dos Equis Ambar. "This large group just ran us out," she said above the loud crowd noise in the background. I ordered up a bottle of Sol, but she said she wasn't certain they had any. She turned to go look and I called for her to come back. I decided that I needed a beer sooner than later and I told her that if she didn't have Sol, I'd take a Modelo Negra draft.
Suddenly, the large group at the bar - about 40 to 50 people - started to leave the bar area. I thought they may be going upstairs to eat, but they all went out the front door and left the restaurant.
Keta came back with a Modelo Negra, but didn't indicate that they were out of Sol. I was fine with that. I said, "So, what happened with the group?"
She said, "Oh, I don't know. I knew they were just in for drinks and then they were moving on. They'd been in here for about an hour." All I knew is that the bar area was empty and the noise level had decreased considerably.
Keta tried to get me to order their signature guacamole as an appetizer. I had seen someone make an order up at a table not far from where I was seated and it looked like a lot of guacamole. I love guacamole, but it's so rich and I get filled up on it pretty quickly. If it was me and another person or two, yeah, I would have ordered the guac. But I stayed with the chips and salsa for the time being.
Looking through the menu, it featured various traditional Mexican items such as enchiladas and tacos, but they also had some interesting foods such as an ancho chile-marinated/cedar plank-roasted salmon; a grilled pork tenderloin in an Oaxacan mole sauce; and a cilantro-marinated grilled flank steak with a mole-cheese sauce. They also had Las Cazuelas on the menu - a Mexican casserole baked in an earthenware pot with a bunch of stuff mixed together and topped with cheese. They had a pork shoulder casserole mixed with black beans, chiles de árbol salsa and pico de gallo topped with cheese; and they had a chicken casserole with mushrooms in a cream poblano chile sauce and topped with cheese. The also had a vegetarian casserole, as well.
I thought about getting the pork shoulder casserole, but I ended up going with the shredded beef enchiladas. They were three seasoned beef and ancho salsa-filled shells topped with drizzled sour cream and three small strips of red onions. A side of Mexican rice came with the meal.
The enchiladas were very good - the beef was very tender and easy to cut with a fork. The ancho chile sauce was a bit spicy on the back side of the taste and went extremely well with the shredded beef. I was more than happy with what I got.
The only problem I encountered all night - save for the large and loud group at the start of the visit - happened after I was finished and ready to get my check. Keta just disappeared. She was very attentive all evening long up until the very end. I think I was finished for well over 15 minutes before she finally did show up with the bill. The place wasn't that busy that evening, so I don't really know where she went to.
Other than the fact that my server sort of disappeared at the end of my meal when I was ready to pay, I'll have to say that was visit to Adobo Grill was very positive. The food was interesting and the shredded beef enchiladas were very good. Once the large crowd that was in the bar area moved out of the restaurant, it became much more of a bearable atmosphere in the place. There's a number of good places to eat in downtown Indianapolis, but for a nice experience with Mexican food, I'd give Adobo Grill a wholehearted recommendation.
Update - This has happened to me more than once. I try a place and a couple months later the post comes up in the queue. It turns out that Adobo Grill closed just a few days before this entry was published. No reason was given for the closing of the restaurant. Had I known that it was going to close, I wouldn't have written about it. Oh well...