Don’t be fooled by the fried chicken at Eduardo’s
Those of you who believe cheap, authentic international food is available only in the shadowy outskirts of the city, those seedy, once-defunct strip malls you wouldn’t dare drag your family to, take note. Some of it’s closer than you think. Typing the address of Eduardo’s, where several sources assured me I could get some of Indy’s only Filipino offerings, into Google Maps, I was surprised that it was just a quick 15-minute drive away. (Full disclosure: It actually took closer to 10, including a U-turn. But don’t tell the state police.) Definitely faster than flying around the planet for menudo or adobo.
Before you write to complain that I’ve sent you on some crazy hunt for bait-and-switch ethnic cuisine, don’t let the exterior of this place fool you. Yes, Eduardo’s is another Asian restaurant masquerading as a more Hoosier-friendly eatery, this time, Charley Biggs’ Chicken ’n’ Sauce, an Indianapolis-based fried chicken franchise with a wide-grinning, cleft-chinned mascot. You can’t get more all-American. Just the sparest of evidence — the small printed letters of “Eduardo’s” on the door, a stack of Asian-American magazines in a corner — tells you that there’s more to this place than meets the eye (or the palate).
That a Filipino restaurant is hiding just off the interstate northwest of Beech Grove is a mystery, especially given how sparse this area is in eateries or businesses of any kind. A quick drive around the neighborhood reveals only blocks of boxy WWII-era homes and a few lingering industrial landmarks. A stream of locals seemed to prefer the chicken, fish and fried potato wedges to the authentic Filipino cuisine at Eduardo’s, and most of them took their food home. Indeed, if you want the food of the Philippines, you’d do well to call ahead to see if they’ve got any, and then get in your car.
The marriage of deep-fried foods and southeast Asian eats may seem a little incongruent, but there’s actually a strange affinity between soul food and the homey Philippine dishes. Fried fish, roasted pig, stewed chicken and goat, as well as rice, potatoes and yams are some of the staples that would be just as at home in the American South as in Manila. Our dinner for the evening was a curious mix of what was available that night, though the very considerate and patient women behind the counter were quick to whip up enough Filipino food to make our short trip worthwhile.
A number of Filipino dishes come in small bites with dipping sauces. After we had made our way through some delightfully chewy marinated pork shish kebabs ($1.50) and some unusual skinny egg rolls called lumpia Shanghai ($2.95) cut from foot-long rolls, we remarked that this would actually make great takeout party food. Among other celebration-friendly dishes, “Mexican” tamales, both pork and chicken, were a tad to the dry side though with plenty of meat (and a touch of gristle). These were a bit under-seasoned, but a smear of a chili-like paste in the masa left our palates nicely scorched.
Unfortunately, Eduardo’s was out of adobo, a typical dish of vinegary pork or chicken. But bowls of steaming menudo made up for that lack, comforting with chunks of tender pork, assorted peppers, carrots and potatoes in a rich tomato sauce. This is not at all like Latin American menudo, famous for its use of tripe.
Though it wasn’t exactly a dessert, we saved the turon (75 cents) for last. We couldn’t be sure if these pastries contained jackfruit, a traditional tropical ingredient, but it definitely had plantains wrapped in wonton skins. Deep-frying seems the consummate way to treat these banana-like fruits. We devoured the luscious, lightly sweet pastries in seconds.
But our adventures didn’t stop there. Figuring we should try the chicken, we went back to the counter, only to spy a slab of pork with a shimmering golden crust. This turned out to be another classic Filipino dish: lechon kawali ($7/pound). Essentially, this is pork belly (in truth, un-smoked bacon!) that’s first boiled and then deep-fried to crisp the skin, which is left on. Rich to the point of artery clogging, it came in bite-sized chunks with a sweet, slightly tangy dipping sauce one of the employees told us was, surprisingly, “liver sauce.” We couldn’t exactly detect any liver, though later recipe searches found it in most versions. We chalked it up to another unexpected international flavor available just few minutes’ drive away.
2412 E. Raymond St., Suite B
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Food: Three and a half stars
Atmosphere: Two and a half stars
Service: Three stars
Nonsmoking, Handicapped accessible
Recommended dishes: Lumpia Shanghai, menudo, lechon kawali, turon