When a friend suggested that we have a leisurely lunch at 1913 Restaurant, a new-ish farm-to-fork establishment in the heart of the Warehouse District, I had no idea just how leisurely things would become. After ascertaining that the bar wasn't due to open for another couple of hours, my plan to enjoy a pre-prohibition cocktail or two was summarily nixed, and we were obliged to settle for a glass of unidentified wine. Bread arrived twenty minutes later, followed at precisely the one hour mark by our starters, hastily pursued by the main courses and a premature bill. The total time for lunch was close to two hours - easily time for three martinis, had they been available.
It was the same story when I visited three months later: no cocktails, incredibly slow delivery combined with essentially inept, albeit affable and well-meaning, service. On both occasions, we were practically the only diners in the room at a peak hour for downtown lunch. Big city business folk can't afford the luxury of a two-hour lunch, especially one without suitable refreshments, so perhaps the word has already made the rounds of 1913's potentially biggest client base.
It's a shame they can't get their act together service-wise, because the food is, for the most part, pretty good. It takes guts for a vast hotel chain like the Omni to open a prestigious restaurant specializing in locally-sourced ingredients, not just on the food menu, but on the intriguing-looking cocktail list. Sourcing from Gunthorp, Viking and Capriole, to name a few, 1913 puts seasonal Midwestern fare front and center, drawing upon early 20th-century recipes (hence the name) and treating them with a somewhat lighter hand.
Appetizers include a strikingly good Indiana Onion Pie ($10), the rich custard perfectly set inside an elegant and perilously short pastry case, the kind of dish which tells you that someone in the kitchen knows their way around patisserie. Another potential hit is the Local Indiana Board ($15), consisting of various cheeses and pickles with meats from Smoking Goose. One might imagine this to be a no-brainer, but in spite of its generosity the platter was marred by brie curling at the edges from neglect, some pickles which looked suspiciously commercial in origin, and a couple of sweet compotes, one of which, allegedly made from mint, reminded me in flavor of Colgate toothpaste.
Main courses at lunch consist mostly of burgers and sandwiches, expertly prepared and full of meaty, pasture-raised flavor. Particularly impressive were the BBQ Burger (ambitiously priced at $15) and the Fischer Farm steak sandwich for $14. The latter was fork tender and deeply flavored but not terribly well trimmed.
My only real quibble about the main courses is their sheer size. At ten ounces, the burger was too much to finish at lunch, as was the steak sandwich, which begs the question: Why are we needlessly wasting so much of these fine, grass-fed animals when we could simply be serving smaller portions and conserving resources? Farm-to-fork dining is as much about the animal as it is about the privileged few who are able to enjoy the end product. It's a luxury we should all enjoy responsibly.