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Sidebars: Detour off U.S. 31 to Big Mike's Cafe

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SidebarsI’m going to bend the rules a bit. This place is nowhere near a courthouse but it is not too far off the heavily traveled U.S. 31 corridor in Hamilton County. Nestled in a bland little strip mall just north of 96th Street on College Avenue, Big Mike’s Café is worth the small detour it takes to get there. Having been there for dinner and lunch, the appeal of this place is its variety and quality of the food served.

Owned and operated by Mike Minch, a.k.a. Big Mike, it fulfills a dream of his. The Lake County native held executive chef positions at places such as Shula’s Steak House and Bravo Italian Restaurant before taking the plunge in his own venture and, while still evolving, he is not looking back. While I’ve not had all his menu items, I’ve had enough to know Big Mike puts his heart and soul into every dish and cares deeply that what he serves is something that will bring you back for more.

My first visit was for dinner with my wife, Amy, and our three children. The weather was horrific and we virtually had the place to ourselves. The décor is simple but clean; a large open room with a counter for ordering then sprinkled with wooden table seating. Once you order, the wait staff brings your food. So upon my first visit I wasn’t exactly expecting impressionable food. I was dead wrong.

I mentioned variety earlier. Big Mike’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast items range from fruit and granola to full-fledged skillet breakfasts with eggs Benedict and omelets in between. The lunch items include soups, salads, pastas, baked pastas, and a heaping variety of sandwiches, including, I understand, some stellar burgers. There is also a salad, soup, pizza, and pasta bar for lunch. The dinner selections include any lunch item plus regular or deep-dish pizza. Dinner also includes entrees such as Boston crab crusted tilapia, pork loin with garlic and herbs, or beef tenderloin with mushroom risotto, to name just a few. In short, there’s something to please every palette here.

For our dinner Amy and I split a pizza. My half was sausage while hers was spinach, garlic, and ricotta cheese. The crust is outstanding and among the best I’ve had in the city. The toppings were top notch also and strike you in a way that tells you on some day you’ll want to come back. The kids ate heaps of fettuccini Alfredo and spaghetti and meatballs. Mike graced us with a platter of homemade cannoli and brownies for dessert that sealed the deal on a return family visit.

You may recall from a few of my past columns my affinity for Chicago-style Italian beef. Mike shared with me that an Urbanspoon critic once posted on the site that he would “take a bullet” for Big Mike’s Italian beef. This piqued my curiosity and upon my return lunchtime visit I had to see what all the fuss was about.

This was a solo visit as Jenny was unavailable to join me. Italian beef is a thinly sliced beef wonderfully seasoned and served dripping in au jus on baguette-style bread with accompanying sweet or hot peppers or giardiniera. The bread is as equally vital to the success of this sandwich as is the beef. It must contain a soft yet durable inside that can support the juicy beef. The crust should be crunchy but easy to bite. Space limitations prevent me from fully describing the sandwich Big Mike serves, but let’s just say while it’s the best Italian beef I’ve had in Indianapolis, it still doesn’t steal me away from some of my Chicago favorites.

Noticeably lacking from the menu is a beer or wine option. Upon my return lunchtime visit I was pleased to note a pending alcoholic beverage permit application. Food of this quality cries out for an accompanying glass of wine or perhaps an Indiana craft beer alongside the meal. It’s all part of Big Mike’s evolution. So, take the detour toward great food that’s far from ordinary. Big Mike will appreciate it. Big Mike’s Café, 9611 College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46280. 317-571-1000.•
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Fred Vaiana and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. Vaiana is a 1992 graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Lukemeyer earned her J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1994 and is active in the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indianapolis Inn of Courts, and the Teen Court Program. The opinions expressed in this column are the authors’.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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