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Shoefly: A gastropub worth the name 

click to enlarge Shoefly's blue bison burger leads the charge, alongside tomato-basil nachos and fish tacos.
  • Shoefly's blue bison burger leads the charge, alongside tomato-basil nachos and fish tacos.

This isn't your father's neighborhood tavern. Nor is it, as far as I know, in any way related to the pesky little Australian winged insect known as the shoo-fly. Born of a need for a local watering hole in this elegantly refurbished northside district, one which doesn't require an inconvenient drive either downtown or to Broad Ripple, Shoefly puts a refreshingly modern twist on the local pub.

With its open plan design and picture windows looking directly onto the street, it's a far cry from the dark and shuttered structures which defined the neighborhood local just a couple of short decades ago, offering a much-needed oasis where grown-ups can enjoy a civilized drink and a bite without having to leave the kids at home. While not emphatically family oriented, the place is certainly family-friendly, going as far as to offer a kids' menu and a refreshingly out of the mainstream selection of sodas and soft drinks.

While no specific information is provided about the origins of most of the ingredients, it's pretty clear that only high-quality meat and produce is sourced for the short but clever menu. There is barely even a tip of the hat to traditional bar food, and while many a lesser establishment might christen itself gastropub, Shoefly is certainly worthy of the moniker. A starter of duck wings with a light but zippy dash of chimichurri sets the tone nicely, the almost confited meat falling off the bone with little coaxing. At $6 for three wings, it's a little steep, but this was the only real pricing issue I encountered on a recent visit.

A selection of pretzel flatbreads from $8 to $10 offer a slightly chewier base than the traditional kind, and come with an intriguing variety of toppings. The Cuban is a splendid take on an old favorite, substituting capicola for ham and mozzarella for Swiss cheese. Savory and wonderfully piggy, this one's a keeper.

The Blue Bison burger ($13) was more substantial, juicy, meaty and cooked to a perfect medium-rare and topped with crisp onion rings and ripe blue cheese. Burgers can be served bunless if you're of a Paleo bent. With over a dozen sandwiches and burgers to choose from, as well as a refreshing assortment of salads, there's something here for everyone. If you can save room, I can thoroughly recommend the griddled pound cake, filled with a citrus cream cheese. Lightly charred on the outside, firm but light within, this should take care of any sugar requirements for the day.

As for the drinks, we have by now come to expect a good selection of local and regional craft brews at any self-respecting eatery. Shoefly scores well on this front, offering a frequently-changing selection including, on this visit, a handful from Bier. While wine might be taking a backseat to beer and spirits in many places, here the short list showcases some really excellent bottlings from small producers, including some vibrant, food-friendly whites and roses by the glass.

My only regret about Shoefly? That it isn't closer to my home.

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