Monday, December 17, 2007

Indigo Joe's

Restaurant: Indigo Joe's Sports Pub and Restaurant
7425 Dodge St - Across Dodge from Crossroads Mall.
Website: (Warning, Flash)
Genres: American, Fusion
Check Constraints: Automatic 18% gratuity on parties of 7 or more.
Chain: Yes. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Bloody Mary
  • Slapshot (Appetizer combo - Onion rings, fried zucchini, chicken tenders)
  • "The San Fransiscan" chicken sandwich
  • Banana Joe
This is not the first time we've been to Indigo Joe's, but I thought that since we're recording all this for posterity now, a revisit wouldn't be a cardinal sin. Besides, I never really like excluding places off my list of viable food options until they've had at least a couple of tries at producing something worthwhile. And if that doesn't give you a hint as to where the rest of this review is going to go, then I suppose you'll just have to read along.

Let's start off with a good word, though. The ambiance of the place is nice - the tables are all high bar-type tables with comfortable chairs, and there are a truly ridiculous number of televisions, with a truly ridiculous amount of channels. There's free wifi, and since there's no Keno, it's a smoke-free bar. The service was blindingly fast. It was approximately ten minutes from when we ordered to when the food - the entrees - arrived (more on that in a second). Finally, the menu is expansive and genre-spanning, with practically something for everyone.

The speed, however, helped to reveal a critical flaw in the menu; Indigo Joe's appears to assemble its food via some culinary application of a philosophy derived from Legos. Sauces, especially the ubiquitous and super-sweet Santa Fe sauce, get used and reused all over the place. The food doesn't seem to have been cooked together so much as assembled, as Mecha will later attest. The chicken tenders and onion rings were pre-made, which is not really a fatal flaw for a restaurant, but were just another couple of points against in this case.

The fried zucchini really was good (while warm), but the Santa Fe sauce served with it to dip totally overshadows the subtle zucchini flavor with syrupy taste. The chicken tenders were, well, bog-standard chicken tenders - which I used to think were impossible to screw up, thank you Chili's for disabusing me of that particular notion. The sandwich had serious potential; it was chicken, cheese, and a pickled ortega chile, along with Santa Fe sauce. The chile was a delicious addition, and it would have been pretty good had not it also been totally dwarfed in flavor by th omnipresent sauce.

The Bloody Mary was entirely lacking in flavor. I'd accuse the liquor of being watered down, had I not ordered something that is traditionally mostly tomato juice anyways. Who waters down tomato juice? There's not exactly tomato rationing going on. There was also the entire salt content of the Dead Sea precariously perched on the rim of the glass, making it impossible to take a drink without immediately needing ANOTHER drink of water. Or of the Bloody Mary. Not too much difference there. Which reminds me; the fries? Way too salty. As was the rest of the meal, really. At least, the parts that weren't too sweet.

The dessert was supposed to be a banana-cheesecake roll with ice cream. Now, most restaurants don't make desserts on-site. It's time-consuming, expensive, and usually wasteful, especially since if you're a chain, you can crank out your "signature desserts" elsewhere and ship them all over hither and yon. My guess is that's what's happening here, since the cheesecake filling in my dessert showed up in Mecha's as well. Curiously, there didn't seem to be any actual banana, or banana flavoring, which is perhaps unique for a dessert with "banana" in the name. If it was mixed into the filling, it was totally overpowered by the ice cream. That said, it's hard to screw up sopapilla filled with cheesecake on top of decent ice cream, and it was at least not tastebud-killing sweet.

This is the second time I've been disappointed by Indigo Joe's. It's more expensive than Applebee's or Chili's - hell, it's more expensive than Jaipur, and it doesn't have any right to be.

Ordered (Sorry, Cham has the check on this one, but is incapable of commenting on money in detail):
  • Lava Flow
  • Slapshot (Appetizer combo - Onion rings, fried zucchini, chicken tenders)
  • Half Rack of Ribs (+Fries and Vegetables and Garlic bread)
  • The Big Blitz (An Oreo Cheesecake)
The Lava Flow was a strawberry-added pina colada and tasted it. I like those flavors, so I liked it. Simple enough, huh? The Slapshot was of generally average quality, but it's amazing that Cham tells me of chicken tenders botched that badly. I do like the Santa Fe sauce, but it is strong. The oreo cheesecake was pretty strong on the cheesecake part, and definitely premade. Not really to my taste.

The ribs are what I can get into the discussion, as a ribs fan, and I have to say that I wasn't happy. They were not in any way fall off the bone, and really weren't even reasonably tender. This is a huge sticking point with ribs (and any good BBQ), and the fact that the food came quickly (+) means that there was basically no freaking way they coulda done this right (-). And they didn't. They were actually pretty hard to get into, having to manually tear with my teeth just to get them into my mouth (they gave me a serrated knife to cut them. A knife! The horror.) The BBQ sauce was on the sweet side (unsurprising, considering) but not bad, however, it'd be better on something that wasn't tough pork. Unfortunately, upon everything else, a pattern is set. Also, the cost of the ribs for a rack is currently a few bucks higher than the much more superior rib options findable elsewhere. For what is, as Cham puts it, an essentially slapped together block of ribs, that's not good. Cham said that sauce could have worked better on a sandwich (which they have sandwiches of), and the concept of 'take your sandwich sauce, slap it on some quick cooked ribs, and put it together' and it not working? Nnh. Sorry, that won't win me over. Even a yankee knows better ribs than that. The fries, vegetables, and garlic bread were all fine, for what they were, which is fries, vegetables (actually, a pretty decent mix), and garlic bread.

I ultimately could live with eating at the place, but you pretty much have to confine yourself to specific parts of the menu. I think the place could do better if it were more willing to stick with some of its strengths, and not be everything to everyone, badly. (Seriously. Alfredo at a bar and grill? Well, ND gets to that.) If someone ever wanted to go here, I'd almost certainly pick somewhere else over them (except for the Wi-Fi. Might need to test that another day just to check that it wouldn't be an okay place to sit and drink on the wifi.) And considering my decision process of where to eat is just about *shrug*, that is almost as bad as I get.

Edit: One thing that neither of us tested was the strict 'go in, drink, and chat and watch sports' type setup. I imagine it would at least be okay for that. The draft beers _looked_ big. And Cham commented favorably on their selection. They also have a couple in-house video games, and I saw some kids take advantage of that for parental relief (kids in a bar? Still not used to that.) But for a meal... elsewhere. Especially near there, where you've got a ton of options.

  • Fab Fries
  • Chicken Alfredo
I didn't actually go to Indigo Joe's this time, this is a recollection of the first time we went. It was bad enough that it's worth ranting about for a moment. The fab fries, by the way, were not as fabulous as advertised, but they were definitely fries drenched in cheddar cheese (not sauce, just cheese), and as far as appetizers go, they were a good meal. I say meal because there was actually more food in that appetizer than there was in the plate of chicken alfredo I ordered for an entree.

The chicken alfredo is proof that there is no god. Your basic alfredo has three primary components. Butter, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Indigo Joe's alfredo tastes of none of these. I have had off the shelf store bought mass produced alfredo that tasted more of these ingredients than Indigo Joe's alfredo. I tried to come up with three things that this sauce was made of, and I really couldn't. The simple fact is, this sauce was made of bitter and dry. That's it. They took heaping helpings of bitter and dry, mixed it up with some noodles, and put some chicken on top. The best part of the platter was the garlic bread that came with it, and even that was small and stale.

As a sports bar, one would expect the appetizers to be the part they concentrate on, but the appetizers are average, at best, which means that you can expect the entrees to range from mediocre to terrible. You can tell a lot about a restaraunt from their alfredo sauce. Indigo Joe's alfredo tells me they care more about the TVs on the walls than actually serving decent food.

I did neglect the mention of the bar, which, in terms of beer, was reasonably well-stocked with drafts, the sizes of which I cannot offhand remember, but were large (I need to start carrying a notebook). It's not impossible to find Smithwick's (warning, Flash) on tap, but it's decently hard, and certainly finding it without smoke's even harder. So, you know, go in, have a few beers, watch a game on one of the incredibly huge plasmas, eat some fries, and then go to McDonald's and chow down something you at least know is going to suck, and won't be paying $11.00 for.

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