There's no nice way to talk about how Spoke & Steele first opened: Not great. Everything was just kind of bland, as if chef Tyson Peterson wasn't sure how his Utah training would translate to our Hoosier palates. The proteins were overpriced and the veggies were underseasoned. This isn't new information to either diners or Peterson.
But either because of the historic location or because Peterson is literally the nicest dude in Indianapolis, I just really wanted to like it. Now I get to like it because the food is good and the chef is nice. After a year of experimentation, they've got a menu worth a second look. Those who have been before will be really treated if you come with an open mind.
Here's my breakdown of favorites:
• Charcuterie. NUVO profile-ee George Turkette has been "freelancing" at the restaurant as Peterson's charcuterie specialist. They've almost cycled through their original collection of Smoking Goose meats and the case is filling Turkette's house-made charcuterie. The plate itself looks like it was handed to you by a wood nymph, complete with some incredible pickled items, Tulip Tree cheese and some fruit.
• Chicken 'N' a biscuit. Chicken liver mousse and tart yogurt lavender cheese served with some crackers and cherries. This is like if your standard-issue hummus went off and got some serious plastic surgery. It's nuanced and interesting and good.
• Chorizo mussels. Salty sausage fat all over perfectly-cooked mussels in a bath of broth with some Amelia's bread on the side? Yeah, okay. I'm in.
• Braised short rib. HOLY CRAP AND A HALF. Fall-apart-tender with the gentlest pressure from a fork, this rib dish would make Ron Swanson swoon. There's no description of what's in the sauce beyond the name "tangy glaze," but I would probably eat a leather shoe if it was basted in enough "tangy glaze."
• Any dessert. Peterson gave us a huge plate of pot du cremes and they were all good, and all unique. If you want bright, tart citrus, get the lemon or orange. If you like richness, espresso all the way. If you're a fan of Black Forest Cake, you have to eat the chocolate with cherry compote on top.
The point is, you should go. And you should definitely go if you had a bad experience the first time. Service is on point, the cocktail program is great, and they have a whole menu full of great food to match the quality of the rest of the establishment.
Profile: Spoke & Steele
Where: 123 S. Illinois St.
Info: 737-1616, spokeandsteele.com