The Indianapolis Star recently published a list of the top 46 sandwich places in the state of Indiana in anticipation of the upcoming Super Bowl event in Indianapolis. After reviewing the list, I was not only disappointed but, quite frankly, a bit upset. Sponsored by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the list was developed in part by the Super Bowl Host Committee and experts from Indianapolis Monthly magazine. I wondered about the extent of the research because of several notable absences. I’m taking a detour from the usual format of this column to stand on my soap box so those omitted from this list can rightly be heard.
While I’ve had many of the sandwiches on this list, I’ve not had most of them. I am sure some are quite good and that some on the list of 46 cannot hold a candle to some of the places listed below, which tells me not much time and/or genuine effort went into the merits of the list. Just because it boasts fresh fruit, can a peanut butter and jelly sandwich truly represent the best of what Indiana has to offer?
Of the listed 46, eight sandwiches were breaded pork tenderloins and one was a grilled pork tenderloin. Nothing represents the Hoosier State like a pork tenderloin sandwich, but did we really have to dedicate nearly 20 percent of the list to it? One of my first reviews was the tenderloin at the Gnaw Bone Café in Gnaw Bone, Ind. After a hiatus, the sandwich is now served at the Gnaw Mart, in the heart of Gnaw Bone, on State Route 46. I haven’t had all of the other eight on the list, but since the Gnaw Bone version was good enough to garner an article in Gourmet magazine (and by me!) that should probably be the one and only state representative in the tenderloin category.
Three of the 46 are pulled pork sandwiches. I’ve had them all and none hold a candle to the pulled pork sandwich at Circle City Soups located in the historic City Market in Indianapolis. You must try the pulled pork sandwich at Circle City Soups and the prosciutto and spinach sandwich at Café Olivia. Both outshine the pulled pork from Papa Roux, also in City Market and at the previously reviewed location near 10th Street and Post Road in Indianapolis. While the Papa Roux version is very good and on the list of Super 46 sandwiches, the other two surpass it. Some sandwiches are well-suited to make the list of 46. The Reuben at Shapiro’s is an Indiana staple, but some of my Jewish friends from New York were not as overly impressed as I am. I was pleased to see the Batali from Goose the Market on the list. It was voted a top sandwich nationwide by Bon Appétit magazine, so I would have hit the roof if this wasn’t on it. The Batali is truly one of Indiana’s finest.
Eight of the 46 are burgers, if you count the one veggie burger from Broad Ripple Brewpub. Burgers come in so many varieties and preferences making this is a tough category to judge as “best.” Burgers from Bub’s and Workingman’s Friend are deservingly on the list, but I can’t see how the Duane Purvis All-American Burger from West Lafayette’s Triple XXX (basically a burger with peanut butter) outshines those at the Capital Grille in downtown Indy or the burger at Shipley’s Tavern in Madison. While Triple XXX was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and positively reviewed by me, that doesn’t mean other places don’t deserve showcase recognition on a list like the Super 46 in its stead.
I could go on, but here’s a sampling of what I think deserves placement on the Super 46 list, Jenny’s opinion notwithstanding. I am sure I’ve omitted some:
• Hank’s Smoked Brisket, 3736 Martin Luther King Dr., Indianapolis (A must try.)
• Capital Grille, The Conrad Hotel, Indianapolis (This $16 cheeseburger is worth every penny, especially with the truffle oil fries. Plus, it’s much cheaper than a $40 steak and every bit as satisfying. I know it’s a franchise but it’s my column so I can break my own rules.)
• Shipley’s Tavern, 322 West St., Madison (Semantic battle sometimes with Indianapolis’ Slippery Noodle Inn as to which is the oldest bar in Indiana. The previously reviewed cheeseburger was among my first, and among my few, four-gavel ratings.)
• Circle City Soups, City Market, Indianapolis (Amazing pulled pork. Try the adjacent Circle City Sweets for nationally recognized and award-winning chocolates.)
• Café Olivia, City Market, Indianapolis (An immensely talented sandwich maker. The spinach and prosciutto is my favorite.)
• South of Chicago, Virginia and College Avenues, Indianapolis (authentic Italian beef, sausage and meatball sandwiches and outstanding pizza, too).
• The Black Market, 922 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis (The burger is 1/2 lamb and 1/2 beef and dressed with goat cheese. This is a seasonal menu so check availability.)
• Portillo’s, 555 East 81st St., Merrillville (While a franchise, it remains privately held. The Italian beef and hot dogs alone are worth the trip. Get some vacuum-sealed ribs to take home, they won’t disappoint.)
• Koney King, 4601 Broadway, Gary (since 1920 and the best coney dog EVER. The cheeseburgers are addictive.)
• King David Dogs, 135 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis (an Indy original since 1941 literally puts Indiana’s stamp on hot dogs).
To see the Super 46 list, which pares down to one winner on Feb. 2, 2012, visit www.super46.com.•
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.