On Spring afternoons when sunlight slants through fresh green leaves and the restaurants haul their tables outdoors, Broad Ripple comes as close to feeling like northern California as Indiana can get. In fact, it may be even better because in addition to being laid-back and convivial, almost everything in Broad Ripple is actually affordable.
That Broad Ripple vibe is delightfully exemplified by one of the newer arrivals to its already bountiful restaurant scene, Monon Food Company. Although still a fledgling operation, it's clear the Monon "gets" Broad Ripple in some crucial ways. In its neighborly style this place feels like it's already been here for a long time.
Located in a house on Cornell Ave. that used to be a barbeque joint, Monon Food Company, as its name suggests, faces the Monon Trail, a veritable stream of meandering humanity – and more than a few dogs. Indeed, the Monon is a dog-friendly establishment. On the evening we set foot on the deck, we were greeted by a pair of pooches who were waiting for their two-legged companions to finish their grub and be on their way.
The Monon seems designed for just this sort of serendipitous repast. You go straight to the counter, a few steps past the front door, and order from a menu that's large enough to provide plenty of intriguing options without stopping you cold with indecision. Upon ordering, you choose a table and the food is brought to you – quickly, as it turned out, and by a very solicitous waitperson who managed, in her hospitable enthusiasm, to use "awesome" three times in a single sentence.
We started with an order of BBQ Chicken Mini Rolls, three open-faced biscuit-size rolls scrumptiously piled with shredded BBQ chicken and melted cheddar cheese ($4.95). The rolls were a tad bland and the sauce would have benefited from an extra kick, but the chicken was tender and moist.
We followed this up with the Grilled Veggie Burrito ($7.29), one of four explicitly vegetarian options on offer at the Monon, and a Smoked Salmon Wrap ($5.59). We topped things off with a side of homemade Coleslaw ($1.89).
The burrito was a hefty serving filled with grilled onions, green, yellow and red peppers, rice, black beans and shredded cheese; there was a cup of fresh salsa on the side. The flavors and textures of this mixture got better and better the deeper you cut into it; the salsa, while not exactly hot, was pleasingly hearty.
The salmon wrap was really more like a taco. It, too, was a generous portion consisting of large chunks of what seemed like poached salmon served with capers, cucumber, fresh spinach leaves, a creamy pesto, red onion, tomato and green onions. The challenge here was whether to tackle this delicious dish (the capers were an inspired touch) with a fork or fingers. Fingers won.
We ordered a "small" serving of coleslaw, but as generosity seems part of Monon's ethos, there was plenty for sharing. This version emphasized a refreshing, lemony tang over cream or sweetness.
Beer and wine are both available. The beer selection, emphasizing local, regional and imported brews, was especially appealing. My companion stuck with the tried-and-true, an Upland Dragonfly ($4.00); I opted for a blonde, Belgian Farmhouse Ale by Vielle Provision Saison Dupont ($6.00).
By this time we were so sated neither of us had room for the Monon's selection of seasonal desserts. Too bad, because the Cheesecake ($4.25) looked truly awesome (there, I said it, too!). Next time.
Monon Food Company
6420 Cornell Ave.
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Food: 3.5 stars
Service: 4 stars
Atmosphere: 5 stars