Where the citified smokers leave their stogies next door 


The Cabana Room delivers smoke-free cocktails and eats

You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. The suburbs have gone glam. And, no, I’m not just talking about those northern ’burbs with their chic malls and big name chain restaurants overfilling on weekends. These days, even spots farther west and south are getting in on the act. Onetime farmland, dotted with formerly sleepy hamlets, is now the province of such citified venues as sushi joints, ultra lounges and cigar bars. Many of them are even locally owned.

The latest evidence of cosmopolitan culture in the country arrived late last year in the form of Brownsburg’s The Cabana Room, an offshoot of My Favorite Cigar Bar, one of the town’s most happening haunts. Thankfully, this isn’t a big-box, strip-mall draw. Instead of a more spacious, lounge-like bar, however, with lots of quiet nooks for tête-à-têtes, the bar and its adjoining eatery have taken over two cozy storefronts right in the heart of old Brownsburg. As such, the bar is a lot like a small-town shotgun bar of yore; the restaurant has more the layout of a town-square café than a cocktail-friendly bistro.

Nonetheless, co-owners Bruce and Lisa Freestone along with partner Kim Hamilton have put some definite attention into their cocktail-friendly café. A dark jade green brick wall runs the length of the space; mini palm trees and lampshades shaped to look like colorful melting art glass definitely give the place a funky feel. Light jazz from a local radio station made for some groans at the table, but the place is spiffy enough to distinguish itself from its quaint environs. In case you’re wondering, you definitely get a strong whiff of cigar smoke when you enter the place, but you hardly notice it when you take your seats in the dining room.

When I think cigars and martinis, I think snacks in the form of appetizers and small plates. Indeed, The Cabana Room has nigh on a dozen intriguing offerings, everything from cheese fries to a gourmet cheese plate. Unfortunately, what we ordered made rather poor mates to our pomegranate martinis. Crab and smoked gouda bread ($8.55) arrived practically tepid on grocery-store quality French bread. What little crab there was smelled less than fresh, and the cheese wasn’t exactly browned and bubbling from the oven.

House-made hummus ($6.95) had a sort of sweet and creamy undertone that had us wondering if the kitchen had used peanut butter instead of the typical sesame tahini. Oddly, it came with more French bread, buttered this time, which my lactose-intolerant friend had to pick around until our accommodating but sometimes confused waitress fetched him some unbuttered slices. Included with our meals, a Caesar salad had only the lightest of dressings on haggard bagged romaine. A house salad with a balsamic vinaigrette was hardly any better.

With such an inauspicious start to our meal, we didn’t have high hopes for the entrées. Thankfully, things took a turn for the better. The best of the main events were the Cabana chops ($15.95), two perfectly cut and charred pork chops rubbed generously with “island” spice and topped with a tangy sweet fruit chutney. Steamed broccoli on the side and a puffy dinner roll were forgettable, but those chops were definitely a highlight of our trip west.

Cast iron-seared black and bleu chicken ($12.95) packed an equally spicy bite with a tasty topping of gorgonzola, though goat cheese mashed potatoes were a little watery and bland. The Cabana burger ($7.65) restored our faith in this place’s ability to put out decent bar food. Meaty and juicy with jerk seasoning and a judicious coating of chipotle barbecue sauce, this was a very respectable burger, topped with tasty onion straws.

While it’s not made on the premises, the carrot cake ($5.75) is one to be reckoned with. Exceptionally moist with six layers of cream cheese frosting, it made up for the fact that it was the only dessert offered that evening.

Maybe because we were in early on a Saturday, the place wasn’t exactly hopping at the dinner hour, though the bar next door was already almost full.

City-like living can definitely be had outside of I-465, though it takes a little selective ordering. Stick with cocktails, entrées and dessert, and The Cabana Room will satisfy your urban urges.

The Cabana Room
36 E. Main St., Brownsburg, 317-858-8755

11 a.m.-9 p.m.
11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Food: Two and a half stars
Atmosphere: Three and a half stars
Service: Three stars

Nonsmoking (smoking in bar next door)

Recommended dishes:Cabana chops, Cabana burger, carrot cake


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