The North End
1250 E 86th St. Indianapolis, IN 46240
May has been a busy month for restaurant openings in Indy. The North End, a sister restaurant to one of our top-rated restaurants Late Harvest Kitchen, opened last Tuesday. We were excited, not only because of its association with Late Harvest Kitchen, but also because we have gone eight months without eating at a barbecue restaurant. We had 6:30 reservations on their opening night, but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as we had imagined. Perhaps this was because they’d already had a soft opening the prior weekend. The inside is very open and has several televisions, local brews, and over 50 choices of bourbons and whiskeys. We dined with our family, so we knew we’d be able to try many different items on the menu.
Sean was torn between a couple of dishes, so he went with the one that gave him more than one type of meat: Ribs and One Meat ($24.95). The ribs are 1/2 rack of St. Louis spare ribs and are rubbed with a light seasoning. Unfortunately, the ribs were slightly dry and needed one of the four home-made sauces to provide some moisture. Their sauces are North Carolina (which is normally vinegar-based, but this tasted more like honey mustard); Kansas City (very sweet with a slight smoky flavor); Original (sweet); and Texas Red (tasted like Original with a very slight kick). Each entree comes with two sides so he got 1) Hand-Cut Fries (normally $5) with smoked bone marrow butter and jalapeños and 2) Baked Beans (normally $3) with burnt ends and smoked hocks. The hand-cut fries are the same as the ones we blogged about when we went to Late Harvest Kitchen. However, here the jalapeños seemed to have been fried before serving, so unfortunately, they were not as spicy as LHK. This really took away from the overall flavor for us, but someone who hasn’t tried the original fries wouldn’t know what they’re missing. The baked beans had visible chunks of meat in them and tasted sweet, which was decent when paired with the salty meat. Unfortunately (again), the beans were really undercooked. The pulled pork, like the ribs, were dry and also needed the help from the sauces.
Recommendation: This dish will help us know what NOT to order next time we come back, with the exception of the fries. We’ll have to try those again to see if the difference was just a fluke.
I ordered the Texas Brisket ($12) and my two sides were Mac & Cheese (normally $3) with house made rib jam and Skillet Cornbread (normally $3) with maple-bourbon butter. The brisket was very moist, tender and flavorful. It was definitely the entire table’s favorite meat that night. There didn’t appear to be a huge smoke ring around the meat so we assume they smoke their meats for an hour or so and then transfer them into the oven. I do have to mention that although I loved the brisket, when I reheated it the next day, it tasted AWFUL. This was kind of a disappointment considering how much we love leftovers, but some things just reheat better than others. Lesson learned with the brisket. The Mac & Cheese was very bland without the rib jam. It really had no flavor at all, not even from the cheese. The rib jam certainly made the dish a lot better, but it was disappointing that the cheese was flavorless. The cornbread was light and airy. Sean enjoyed the maple-bourbon butter which tasted more like maple than bourbon, but I don’t like sweet cornbread so I ate mine sans butter and enjoyed it, although it could have been slightly more moist.
Recommendation:The brisket was fantastic, the cornbread was good (FAR better than Thunderbird’s) and the mac & cheese (rib jam aside) was worse than Kraft.
Our family ordered the Memphis Baby Backs ($28.95) with their two sides being the Hand Cut Fries and Coleslaw (normally $3). Sean normally prefers St. Louis ribs to baby backs because he feels they have more fat, tend to be more moist (as a result of the fat), and are bigger. However, Sean (having disliked his St. Louis ribs) really enjoyed these. These ribs were about 30% longer than typical baby backs and they were moist and flavorful. The coleslaw, like the mac and cheese, was very bland and lacked any flavor at all.
Recommendation: The better (and more expensive) of the two ribs. 86 the coleslaw.
They don’t yet have a dessert menu, but we were given three options and went with the Pecan Pie-sounding choice. It had ice cream, pie crust and pecans toasted in butter and brown sugar all shoved into a mason jar. In Sean’s opinion this dessert alone was worth going back for and might be a contender in our ‘best of.’ I’d like to consider myself the dessert expert between us and while I did like it, I wouldn’t come back for this alone. However, it is definitely worth a try. The butter from the flaky pie crust along with the warm pecan filling was a perfect marriage. I believe we were told the ice cream was vanilla bean, but that was not the case.
Recommendation: We hope this stays on their dessert menu and it is worth a try.
Moonshine Punch ($6)—Georgia Moon peach infused shine, grapefruit, honey water and rhubarb bitters. This drink tasted good for about one second, but the flavor it left us with was just overly bitter. The grapefruit along with the rhubarb bitters took bitter to a whole new level.
Old Prentice ($7)—four roses single barrel, peach, lemon, chamomile tea syrup. This was definitely the booziest of the bunch, although we don’t think the bourbon flavor came through as much as we would have liked. It just tasted like alcohol, but not really bourbon specifically.
Season Shake-up ($5)—vodka, basil, lemon, strawberry puree. This drink has summer written all over it. The vodka was dangerously hidden in this drink. We could easily sip on this all day long in the humid Indy summertime. It was definitely on the fruitier side, but not overly sweet. We would have liked to have seen the basil incorporated into the drink more than just as a garnish, but overall it was light, fresh and fruity, all of which we can appreciate.
Paloma ($6)—lunazul reposado, agave, lime, salt and house-made grapefruit soda. This drink was somewhere close to the bottom of the list for the night. The smoke from the lunazul in addition to the smoked salt along the rim of the glass was a little much in our opinion. Delicia has a similarly adventurous drink that was much better.
Spicy Texas Mule ($6)—Tito’s vodka, lime, chipotle agave nectar, house-made ginger beer, habanero bitters. Aside from the season shake-up, this drink was our second favorite. The habanero bitters came through in this drink, but not in an overpowering way and not that this contributed to the flavor, but the serving ‘glass’ was a nice touch.
Our satisfaction with the various dishes was all over the place. There were was a home run (dessert), four triples (brisket, memphis style baby backs, cornbread and fries), and several strike outs (St. Louis ribs, coleslaw, pulled pork, mac & cheese and baked beans). We now know what to order when we come back. Unfortunately, many of the highly satisfactory dishes were not meat entrées, in fact two of the meats (St. Louis ribs and pulled pork) were quite disappointing. All their bbq meat showed little-to-no smoke ring and no bark whatsoever. Additionally, all of the sauces were on the sweet side, which we didn’t really enjoy. There should definitely be some savory/spicy options. As for the drinks, some were refreshing and enjoyable while others were downright unbearable. The various televisions and endless bourbon menu make this more of a place that we would come back to during a sporting event, rather than a place we would come back to just for the food. We hope they can work out some of these issues because we’d love a delicious go-to BBQ joint. Are there other good BBQ places around Indy that we’ve been missing? Let us know!
Location: Northeast (Nora)
Dress Code: Casual