"Two hot new lunch spots offer elegant brunch specialties with a nod to France

From the looks of things one recent spring afternoon, the queues started forming at Petite Chou almost before renovation began on the new Westfield Boulevard location, mere steps from the canal in Broad Ripple. A few weeks after opening, tables required a 10-minute wait late in the lunch hour; water glasses lagged several minutes more, though we offered to drink our water out of dog bowls, free to all visiting canines. True to its name, the new place, the fifth in Martha Hoover’s fleet of Patachou cafés, has a Parisian accent, though you don’t have to wear a beret to dine here. Clientele definitely look the part, however, as you could hardly guess the stylish set in this spiffy brunch bistro weren’t lounging on the Champs-Élysées.

The menu’s offerings of classic French cuisine fill a much-needed niche in Indy’s brunch scene, but so far things are inconsistent. The potage Saint Germain ($3.25/cup), one of two soups offered, was strangely bereft of flavor, despite a hearty base of puréed vegetables. Pesto added richness but little zip. A Croque Madame ($9.25), on the other hand, lived up to its reputation as an erudite grilled cheese. Plenty of nutty gruyère cheese, smoky ham and a light treatment of béchamel sauce made for a tasty sandwich. And kudos to Petite Chou for serving up a perfectly runny fried egg on top, a rarity in these bacteria-wary days. The croque of the day ($8.95) with bacon and goat cheese was equally good, perhaps with a touch more flavor.

A salad aux lardons ($8.95) had meaty hunks of bacon and another soft-cooked egg, this time poached, but greens were dressed so lightly as to have little life and almost no bite to cut against the bacon and egg yolk. A fresh fruit crêpe ($4.95), which our waitress implied would have a mix of berries, was equally restrained, with only very lightly sweetened strawberries in an unsweetened crêpe. Only whipped cream reminded us this was dessert. As with other Patachou locations, purity and healthfulness mark the cuisine; indeed, the menu offers all the fruit salads and granolas Patachou is known for. Knowing Patachou, the crowds of chic diners won’t soon die down, so get your spot in line now.

From Boston to Paris?

A few weeks ago, when Mary Beth and Jeff Gahimer were still selling their New England-inspired cuisine to dedicated regulars at City Market, things were a little more relaxed. They could joke with the customers, wax poetic about their love of food. Now that they’ve moved to their new Meridian-Kessler location on 49th Street, expanding into weeknight hours and weekends, well, the Gahimers seem just a little stressed.

But when you’re making every sauce, soup, sandwich filling and dessert from scratch, you pull some long hours. You try to get everything right, but you miss a vinaigrette on a salad or forget a sandwich in the back. Hopefully, the husband-wife duo will get comfortable in their new space, painted vibrant purple and gold, with plenty of kitschy bric-a-brac only a dog-owner can appreciate. For now, the lunch line crowds the somewhat modest space, but any inconvenience is worth it for victuals this good.

Fresh and homemade have always been the hallmarks of Barking Dog, and the food is even a bit more refined and varied now. While it could have used a contrasting herbal or acidic note, mushroom soup ($5.75) was a luscious, woodsy elixir with plenty of cream and a nice undertone of sherry. Pommes frites ($3.75), which the menu bragged were “Just like in Paris,” were indeed wonderfully crisp shoestring fries that would fare well in a Left Bank brasserie. Accompanying chipotle ketchup was subtle, but an amazingly thick aioli with olives and rosemary was delectable.

The bistro staple Niçoise salad ($10.75) had an American twist with a scoop of tasty tuna salad atop fresh greens garnished with olives, tomatoes, potatoes, hard cooked eggs and nicely steamed local asparagus. A tangy balsamic vinaigrette arrived immediately after we noted its absence. A clam roll ($8.95), one of the café’s signatures, was a whopper of a Cape Cod classic piled high with crispy clams on wonderful grilled bread. A tartar-like sauce with chopped egg offered a perfectly cooling condiment. This is by no means a cheap eats joint — a meal for two can easily push $30 — but the quality of ingredients, rotating menu and the commitment to making just about everything fresh is practically unparalleled among similar eateries, making this a great spot for your next special lunch or early dinner.

The Barking Dog Café

115 E. 49th St.



Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Food: Four stars

Atmosphere: Three stars

Service: Three stars

Nonsmoking, Handicapped accessible

Recommended dishes: Clam or lobster roll (in season), soups, Niçoise salad, pommes frites


Petite Chou

823 Westfield Blvd.



Monday-Friday: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Food: Three and a half stars

Atmosphere: Four stars

Service: Three stars

Nonsmoking, Handicapped accessible

Recommended dishes: Croque Madame, salads, crêpes



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