We give Left Bank Café 2 1/2 gavels!
I love sitting outside for lunch or dinner during the summer. But there is something about Indy and that concept that makes me giggle.
Indy restaurants/bars/cafes will put outside seating no matter their locale/setting/view. Haven’t you ever noticed a few tables set out in front of a place that just makes you scratch your head and say “I’m not sure I’d enjoy sitting outside there watching/smelling/hearing (fill in the blank).”
Well, we found a delightful outside venue where that won’t be your complaint. The Left Bank Café is located on the canal walk in downtown Indy.
I know it is not necessarily near a courthouse, but on a pleasant summer day it is worth a little extra effort to stroll the canal and grab a bite at the Left Bank Café. Sure there is foot traffic, some bike traffic, and the Segway tours (which Fred could do circles around them on his!). But it beats looking over a busy intersection inhaling bus exhaust. It is a small cafe with plenty of good outdoor seating located on the canal level of the newly constructed Cosmopolitan apartment building at 310 W. Michigan St.
I had lunch there with my husband last week and was very impressed considering it’s in its infancy. Fred and our associate, Tyler, returned for lunch in hopes of a repeat. It was close, but the kinks are still getting ironed out. Their menu is somewhat aggressive and diverse given its size, and the café fortunately does not restrict itself to the coffee-house standards. They offer a variety of flatbread pizzas, paninis, and crêpes.
The flatbreads are not really traditional pizzas as they are smaller portions of flatbreads with three varieties of toping mixes. Andouille sausage, red pepper pesto, red onions, and pecorino cheese adorn one. Another is with Italian sausage, honey Dijon, portobello mushrooms, red peppers, and provolone. For the vegetarians there is one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and garlic-infused olive oil. On the prior trip we had the Andouille flatbread, which was very satisfying. Insisting Fred and Tyler try it, we ordered one. However there was a mix-up in the kitchen, which combined the Andouille sausage flatbread ingredients with the Italian sausage one. That was a bit disappointing because the flavor mixture of Andouille sausage flatbread, as promised on the menu, is quite delectable. Tyler had the Italian sausage flatbread for his entrée, and it, too, had the ingredients mixed up. Another disappointment, but we moved on. (The chef did apologize and was extremely sincere so that gained back some credibility).
Fred had the crêpe with chicken, mushroom, and spinach. He was satisfied and it was hearty, but he wasn’t heartily satisfied. Some more flavor kick would have been welcomed. They also offer an apple and leek crêpe, a smoked salmon crêpe, a veggie crêpe, and a spinach and artichoke crêpe, so there are some choices. A number of sweet crêpes also are available.
The panini I had was the three cheeses (brie, gruyere, and provolone) with apple wood bacon and tomato, served with chips. I really liked it. I also sampled the Caesar salad that had a variation of the traditional dressing with what appeared to be cornbread croutons – mmmmm. You have to judge for yourself. My husband had the Rueben which sated him, and it was not so heavy that it sends you for a nap. The other panini include pulled pork or chicken with red onion and cheddar jack; cheese steak; grilled Portobello; and a veggie selection.
The overall experience earned 3 gavels from me, but Fred would give it 2 because of the flatbreads mix-up and because his elitist sausage taste was not impressed with the quality of meats on the flatbreads and antipasti plate. I love the setting, the menu selection, and as an after-work venue they are hoping for a liquor license soon. Give it a try – I have faith they’ll work out the kinks – and enjoy a view that is unique to the downtown area.
Left Bank Café is at Canal Walk level, 310 W. Michigan St.; 317-642-3305. Hours are Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.•
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 those of the authors.