The legendary Hoosier broadcaster Fred Heckman,
who spent decades as news director at WIBC-AM, used to do a segment called "My
Town, Indy." He'd talk for a few minutes about someone or something that made
Indianapolis a richer and more enjoyable place in which to live.
Harrison Ullmann once told me that every public
relations person in the city lobbied to get their clients on "My Town, Indy"
and that it was considered a major coup to have done so. Mr. Heckman was such
an astute observer of the town and such a paragon of integrity that if he
conferred his approval on something, people paid attention.
While I can only dream of attaining the status
that Heckman once held, I do like to celebrate the great places of
Indianapolis, the institutions that bring my wife and me happiness and make it,
well, "My town, Indy."
El Sol de Tala restaurant. For more than 30 years,
El Sol has been known for some of the best and most authentic Mexican cuisine
in the Midwest. For most of those years, it didn't have much competition on the
"most authentic" front, but the influx of Spanish-speaking people over the last
15 years to Indianapolis has brought us a great variety of Mexican and Central
American restaurants, from L.A.-style taco trucks to mom-and-pop comensales.
But El Sol still serves as the standard against which all others must be
judged. The other night, Katie and I had the best and freshest guacamole dip
we've ever had: tangy, spicy and so rich that we never wanted to ever eat
anything else ever again.
The rest of their menu is the same -- fresh,
lovingly prepared and unique to this city. It is one of the city's great
ComedySportz. For years I've heard
people rave about the weekly improv shows at ComedySportz but I've always
resisted. A few weeks ago, we were invited to take in a show at their
Massachusetts Avenue theater. We left a few hours later with the kind of joy
that comes from laughing non-stop for an extended period of time. It takes
discipline, quick wits and nerves of steel to pull off improv -- and the
performers we saw all had those skills.
If you've never seen ComedySportz, it's a
competition-based exchange of improv games that, on the night we attended,
never hit a sour note. The weekly lineup is ever-changing, but all the
comedians have the same mission: putting on a fast-paced, family-friendly show
that delivers great value for your entertainment dollar. I can't wait to check
out another show there soon. (www.indycomedysportz.com)
Taj of India in Castleton. We are blessed with
great Indian restaurants in Indianapolis: India Garden, Shalimar and many
others. But Taj of India, located in a nondescript strip mall across from
Castleton Square, holds a special place in our hearts. Whenever we go there,
we're treated like family by the staff, most of whom hail from the Punjab
region of India. But what keeps us coming back is the food: Heaps and heaps of
fresh naan bread, tasty vegetable samosa and, most of all, what has to be the
best lamb boti kebab in North America.
Lamb is a difficult meat to prepare properly.
It's either under- or overcooked or drowned in spices. But the clay tandoori
chefs at Taj always seem to cook it with special attention, with spices
accentuating but never overpowering the lamb. We've eaten at Indian joints
across the country, but if we could only pick one, it'd be Taj of India.(www.tajofindia.org)
Mass Ave Toys. The people who operate
Mass Ave Toys must love children, because their store is so perfectly designed
to please them. Most toy stores are full of modernistic, electronic,
computerized crap. But Mass Ave Toys sticks to the tried-and-true, classic toys
of my childhood, my father's childhood and his father's childhood. If you want
a tin robot, science kit, erector set or an old-fashioned doll, this is the
place to come. I've never failed to find the perfect gift there, whether the
recipient was an adult or child. Everything is first-rate and the staff
obviously loves the toys they sell. This place never fails to make us smile. (www.massavetoys.com)
My list could go on for days: RadioRadio, Big
Car Gallery, the IMA and many, many others. But I'm neither as powerful or as
influential as Mr. Heckman was and my space is up.But the above are just a
few of the places I love about my town, Indy.