Food seems to taste better when it's eaten outdoors. If you don't believe me, go to Broad Ripple, where outdoor dining is practically mandatory for anyone wanting to make a go of it in the restaurant business.
But then comes Autumn. The temperature drops and diners are driven inside. Restaurants are tested to see who can really deliver the goods.
The Midtown Grill (815 E. Westfield Blvd.) has held its own through all kinds of weather and in every season. Located originally on Broad Ripple Ave. and then reincarnated on the canal, The Midtown comes about as close to being an institution as you can get in Broad Ripple. Spacious yet cozy, with warmly flattering light, it seemed the perfect destination on a chilly night last week.
The Midtown team has steadily refined its menu over the years and, at this point, I'd say they've found a the right balance in terms of providing diners with options between lighter dishes and those aimed at more robust appetites. This is a place where you can combine a salad with an appetizer and come away satisfied - or try the Filet Mignon Dijon if you want swing for the fences.
My companion and I sampled a Caesar Salad ($6.00) and a cup of the Tomato Dill Soup ($4.00). The Caesar consisted of dense, pleasingly chewy shreds of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over chilled Romaine with a couple of croutons drizzled with melted cheese for good measure. This was a nice start; it was topped by the Tomato Dill Soup, a Midtown signature. Served with an apostrophe of crème fraiche, this is a velvety concoction that gets just the right tweak from the dill.
When it comes to main courses, Midtown splits the difference between light and robust with a selection of pasta dishes. They also provide customers with a real value by offering these dishes in half portions at about half the price, making it possible to enjoy a meal with two or three courses for a reasonable price (indeed, Midtown now offers a three-course fixed price meal for $19.95).
We ordered full portions of the Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($15.00) and Ragu ala Bolognese ($19.00). The Wild Mushroom was a show-stopper, large squares served in a gorgonzola cream sauce that practically reached out to give you a hug with its aromatic sweet and sour accents. It was a vegetarian delight.
The Bolognese rewarded the meat eater at our table. A blend of finely ground veal and beef, mixed in a light but authoritative sauce of tomatoes and ground herbs, the Bolognese offered a rich, slightly smoky, blend of flavors.
On this night, Midtown only had three desserts on offer, none of which was particularly inspiring. But the after dinner menu made up for this by providing a nice selection of cognacs, coffees, sipping bourbons and single malt Scotch whiskies.
It was a warm -- decidedly adult -- way to finish a meal on chilly night.