Between the Rapids of Life, Lies the Flatwater

Between the Rapids of Life, Lies the FlatwaterBroad Ripple is quite possibly one of the most well known parts of the city of Indianapolis. There is so much history here including the Vogue Theater, the Monon Trail, and the Broad Ripple Canal. There are tons of bars and restaurants and even little shops and boutiques. Some of my favorites include Indy CD & Vinyl, Red Mango, and Future Shock. (I have never bought anything at Future Shock but I love just browsing around in there.)

One thing I really enjoy about Broad Ripple is the selection of restaurants. There are tons of places to grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and most of them have numerous beers on tap for the beer drinkers out there. I usually find myself in Broad Ripple at night, either hitting a nightclub or grabbing a beer at Union Jack. (Sheryl and I are both members of the Passport Beer Club.) But there are times where I just want a change of pace from the north side and I don’t want to drive all the way downtown.

One night, while Sheryl and I were sitting at Union Jack having a beer with some friends, our server asked if we had been to the new place on the water. The water, being the Broad Ripple Canal, and the new place being Flatwater Restaurant on the Canal. I had never heard of it, and the rest of our party was clueless as well. So we finished our beers and made our way across the street to Flatwater. We figured we would give this place a shot and see what we were missing.

We ended up getting a seat outside, had a couple of beers each, and eventually ran into our server from Union Jack. She was there having a beer after her shift and introduced us to her mother, one of the employees at Flatwater. Long story short, the owner came over, introduced himself, and I ended up scheduling a restaurant experience review before the night was over. Sheryl and I would return a week or so later and get the chance to try more than just their beers, but also their entire menu, from their appetizers to their entrees, salads and more.

Getting to Flatwater

Flatwater Restaurant on the Canal is located in the heart of Broad Ripple and sits on the canal. I guess that makes sense, since the canal is actually in the name of the restaurant! Anyone that knows the Broad Ripple area will know that parking is a nightmare, but there is a small parking lot right next to the restaurant if you can snag a spot there. If not, just find a normal parking spot somewhere in the village and walk to the restaurant.

When you first get to Flatwater, you will see a few tables out front and then more tables along the left side of the building. You can actually walk back there and find quite a few more tables with a great view of the canal. There is another bar out there as well that allows guests libation for those hot summer nights and cool fall evenings. As with any other bar in the state of Indiana, note that you must be twenty-one years old to be in the bar area.

A Warm Welcome

When we first arrived to Flatwater, we were about twenty minutes early. It was still early in the evening, and the weather was just perfect, so they had moved the host stand outside. I walked up and was greeted by the hostess. I proceeded to tell her that I had a reservation at 7:00 PM. She looked confused, so I proceeded to give her my name. She informed me that they don’t do reservations and continued to have a perplexed look on her face. She asked me to wait for a moment and she went inside to investigate. A couple of minutes later she came back informed of the situation. We were seated out back on the patio.

A couple of things that set this place apart from other restaurants on and near the canal are the candles and Tiki torches that surround the patio. Every table has a large citronella candle in the center and when the sun starts to go down all of the Tiki torches are lit to help aid in bug control even further. And they work. Being that close to the canal and doing something so small means so much to the guests. Nothing bothers me more than eating outside and being eaten alive by bugs while trying to enjoy a meal. It truly is the little things that matter most and this was duly noted.

Starting Things Off with Some Appetizers

After we got comfy in our seat, our server greeted us with waters and proceeded to explain to us the process for the evening’s meal. She stated that we would be starting with appetizers, moving on to a couple of their specialty salads, then trying a couple entrees, and then ending the evening with dessert. It sounded perfect to me, and I was excited to try this menu.

The first appetizer that came to the table was the Best of the Wurst platter. This dish is loaded with meats, cheeses, and fruit and is something I highly suggest you share. The dish runs $13 but has three different types of meat, three cheeses, two types of grapes, and some apple slices all arranged beautifully on one plate. The meats are all local as well, coming from Claus’ German Sausage & Meats.

The first meat you will try is the Cajun sausage. This would later prove to be the best of the three as there is a certain sweetness to the sausage, but then you are hit with the heat. It is not unbearable, but a nice, soft heat that proves this is a true Cajun sausage. The next item is the Italian sausage and tastes just like any other Italian sausage you have ever had. You end with the Kielbasa, which has a smooth flavor to it and tastes fresh. Granted, these meats are all local so it makes sense they all taste so fresh.

The dish is also served with a side of course ground mustard and sweet mustard. I tried one piece of each meat before dipping into the selection of sauces, as I wanted to get a full sense of what these meats tasted like. But when I dipped a bite of Italian sausage into the course ground mustard, I almost fell out of my chair. I wanted to take a bath in that stuff it was so good. But it was a bit spicy. Not so hot I couldn’t stand another bite, but when you breathe in after taking your first bite of this stuff, you notice it is there.

I then dipped a bite of the Kielbasa into the sweet mustard and had a similar reaction. It was not as flavorful as the ground variety, but it was delicious nonetheless. I almost wanted there to be a German BBQ sauce or something served with this, but there is not a ton of meat here so two dipping sauces is just fine.

On the plate there is also an array of grapes, both red and white, and a handful of nuts that provide a wide range of flavors for your enjoyment. This platter runs just shy of $14 but if shared, it is a great way to start your night off.

Next came the pulled pork nachos. I am a huge fan of nachos too. Not to mention when they pile them so high it takes two people to carry them to the table. (Not really, but this plate was huge and stacked high with chips and pork.) The dish itself did not have a ton of toppings, and was not served drenched in salsa. That’s because the pork does all the talking with this dish.

The pork on these nachos is piled high and is the reason that this dish is so popular. The pork itself is cooked in a smoker out back for three and a half hours. They then take the meat and cook it for another five and half hours inside the main kitchen area. All of the preparation for this stuff is done in-house.

Another thing that is done in-house is their pico de gallo. Just because there was no salad dripping off these chips doesn’t mean there was not a hearty and chunky pico sitting on top. The pico has chopped onion and tomato and a certain freshness to it in every bite.

The chips were even fresh and had an intense crunch to them with every chomp. They were not soggy like some chips I have had before, and they stood the test of time, staying crisp for the entire time they sat on the table. But the dryness of the chips matched with the dryness in the pulled pork made me want more. I needed something else. I needed barbecue sauce to push this dish over the top.

Before the BBQ was delivered to my table, Mike and I had a talk about why he doesn’t serve them with BBQ right off the bat. He claims that true pork enthusiasts would rather taste the flavor in the meat and not the sweetness in a sauce. Sheryl agreed with him, as she really liked the flavor of the pork.  And I have to agree, the pork did have great flavor, but I needed something to take away the dryness I was experiencing with each bite. He grabbed the BBQ sauce and we both finished off the plate of nachos.

(One thing that our server did do was to offer us Tabasco and Sriracha hot sauces. She claimed that nearly everyone who orders this dish on a regular basis asks for one or the other. I tried a bite with each of these sauces, but the BBQ was what did it for me.)

With Nachos Come Beer

With our nachos came a couple of glasses of beer. You know how much Sheryl and I like beer. The first beer that hit the table was a Helios from Upland Brewery down in Bloomington, Indiana. I am a big fan of this brewery thanks to their Upland Wheat. They make a handful of other beers like the Winter Warmer, the Bad Elmer’s Porter and the Dragonfly IPA. But tonight we were in for something a little different. We were served a glass of the Helios Pale Ale. I have had this beer before, but pairing it with the pork nachos gave it a whole new taste. It was a perfect way to wash down those delicious nachos.

But these are just a couple of the appetizers you can choose from. Also listed on the menu are things like tuna tartar, fried calamari, and sweet and spicy Asian shrimp sauté. We did not get the chance to try any of the other dishes, but that was just fine, more food was already on its way to our table. Next up were the salads.

Bring On the Leafy Greens

It took me a long time to enjoy salad, but now its no surprise to see me order one on purpose when we go out to dinner. I love the taste of a fresh iceberg lettuce house salad or the coolness from a hand-tossed Caesar salad. Lucky for me two salads were on their way to the table. Sheryl, on the other hand, isn’t the biggest fan of salad out there, but mentioned that depending on the type of salad, it is starting to grow on her.  Lucky for her, they delivered just the type of salad she likes.

The first salad that I tried was the wedge salad. This is a classic salad that literally involves a big chunk of iceberg lettuce, some bacon (dried bacon of course), bleu cheese dressing, and tomatoes. I was served a half size of this salad due to the amount of food I was going to consume, but that was plenty for me to get a sense of what this dish is all about. A half order is only $4.50 while a full order is $7.

The second salad that we tried (the one that Sheryl much preferred) was a mixed greens salad that had a collection of ingredients in it. First off was the array of lettuce that was there. On top of that came bleu cheese crumbles (you can never have too much bleu cheese), some applewood smoked bacon, walnuts, dried cranberries, and Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. There were just so many flavors floating around on this plate it was hard to keep my head still. And any time you combine dried cranberries and bleu cheese you are in for a great dish.

Serving Some More Brews

With our salads we were served two new beers. The idea behind this was if we were going to enjoy two new salads, we needed to try two new beers. The first beer served was the Sun King Wee Mac Scottish Ale from Sun King Brewery. I am not a fan of anything that comes from Sun King, and I had had this beer before. Nothing different this night either. The beer just lacks in flavor all across the board. I do give Flatwater credit, though, for wanting to work with all these local establishments. That goes a long way.

The other beer that we were served might be one of the best beers I have had all month. It was the Osiris Pale Ale and it might as well have been considered an IPA, as much flavor and aroma as this beer puts off. Perhaps it was just my dislike for the Sun King beer that drove me to this pale, but it was a great choice matched with the mass amounts of bleu cheese on our plates. If nothing else, it just shows that Flatwater has a ton of great beers on draft.

Now It’s Time to Eat

All right, enough with the salads and the appetizers. I am ready for some real food. Before I even showed up for the restaurant experience review I was told to check out the fish tacos. Now, if you know my habits when it comes to ordering my dinner, I thrive over fish tacos. I love fish tacos. Whoever thought it was a good idea to mix Mexican and seafood is okay in my book.

Nearly every restaurant nowadays serves fish tacos. Some serve them with codfish, some with tilapia, and some with salmon. But here at Flatwater, you can choose from three different fish tacos. (Let me say that not all three of these are fish tacos, just two of them. But if you don’t like fish, you can still order tacos so you fit in with those around you digging into the fish!)

Rather than getting an order of all three, we were served a sampler platter. We were served one of each taco so we could try all of them first hand. Note that when you order these on the menu, you can only pick two, not three, tacos for your meal. I think if you offer only three choices, allow a person to select all three at once. And while it is still allowed, mixing and matching these is also discouraged. Of course, if you ask nicely, I am sure they will fill your desires for your meal.

The first taco we had was a shrimp taco. The thing that I disliked about these tacos was the number of shells. They were soft shells, but there were two of them for each taco. I had to get halfway through before I asked our server why there were two shells. She informed us there was actually cheese melted between them and they use two tacos to help keep all the stuffing inside the taco rather than on your lap. It made sense, the logic was sound, but every bite had more shell flavor than I wanted. I wanted to taste the meat inside.

The shrimp tacos were just okay. I wanted some sort of sauce or perhaps a sweet lime glaze or something to help with the dryness in the shrimp. They were just your standard shrimp tacos. Sheryl, on the other hand, thought the shrimp tacos were the best of the three. She does love her shrimp.

The second taco we tried was the “world famous” Mahi Mahi tacos. I love Mahi Mahi, and the place that makes my all time favorite fish tacos uses Mahi Mahi in their fish tacos. However, I wanted more with these as well. The shells are small, what you would expect, but there was just something missing here. The pico de gallo, which is made in-house, adds a little hint of freshness to each bite. But like how I wanted BBQ sauce with the nachos, I wanted something to throw on top of this dish as well.

The last taco, and my least favorite, was the pulled pork taco. This is the same pulled pork that is smoked out back and cooked for nearly six hours before being tossed on your plate. But this taco was boring and needed not only a sauce to hide the dryness (I do love the taste of this pork, but perhaps on a sandwich maybe), but get rid of the soft shells too. I think a hard shell taco option might make this better, or perhaps served on a taco salad maybe. I don’t want to be the guy that hates their most popular dish, but the tacos were nothing short of ordinary.

Now, before I go on, let me say that I spoke with the manager before we left. I gave him my advice on the tacos. I said that if you were going to use two shells, make the cheese on it more prominent. Perhaps throw a thin layer of refried beans in there. Do something to hide the taste of these taco shells. At the same time, he explained to me that if they make them with only one shell they simply fall apart. The juice from the homemade pico de gallo just drips out everywhere and they are a pain to eat.

He did say that if you order them with only one shell, they will prepare them that way, but he suggested that I not do that. Of course, there is always a napkin on hand to clean your lap if you make a mess. My suggestion, out of the three tacos we tried, would be to order the Mahi Mahi. The fish is the best, and the aftertaste leaves you with that fish taco satisfaction.

We managed to finish the fish tacos just in time for the next dish. When this was set on the table, right in front of me of course, the aroma just about knocked me out of my chair. Sitting in front of me was a half-inch-thick pork chop topped with caramelized onions and braised with a sweet BBQ glaze. On the side were hand cut French fries. But the side took a backseat to this gorgeous piece of meat in front of me. The first thing I did was to try the onions. They were sweet, perfectly prepared, and sitting ever so nicely on top of this pork chop.

Now, the chop itself is local. These pork chops are actually hand-picked each and every week from Claus’ German Sausage & Meat down on the south side. And you can tell, as the freshness in this piece of meat is unparalleled. The BBQ glaze also gives it such a smooth finish, and mixed with the sweetness coming off the onions, all I wanted to do was get another bite. This dish was truly knife-and-fork-licking good.

When we were chomping away on the fries, our server brought a dipping sauce for us to try. When the sauce hit the table, I had to know what was in it. Although the recipe remains a secret, she did say there is a lot of ranch dressing and some Sriracha. So I grabbed a few fries and gave it a shot. Sure enough, I was hit with the coolness of the ranch and then punched in the face with the heat of the Sriracha. It was one of the best sauces I had ever had. I dipped the rest of my fries in it and even dipped a piece of the pork chop in it.

Sipping on an IPA

With our entrée, I was served a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. I have had this beer before, and actually find myself ordering it more and more the older I get. It is not a specialty beer, made not too far from here in Galesburg, Michigan at the Bell’s Brewery, and is easy to track down by just walking into any given liquor store. But the bitterness in this beer matched the sweetness from the pork chop just perfectly. It was a perfect marriage among beer and food.

Time for the Sweet Stuff

This is the worst part of the meal for me. I hate dessert. I have just never been a fan of sweets. But of course, if you throw a bowl of ice cream in front of me, chances are I am going to eat it! After we finished our entrees, and spent a few minutes making room for our last course, the desserts made their way to the table.

The first item was a slice of chocolate cake. There was more to it, but I was too busy digging into the second dish. Sitting beside it was a piece of cherry frangipane. I had not heard of this sort of dish before either, but after I asked what all goes into making this delicious piece of pie, it’s really quite simple.

First you take tort dough and add a little bit of cinnamon. Add some cherries, throw it in the oven, and out comes this gooey mess. Think of this as a cherry pie on steroids. Make sure if you order this, you like cinnamon because every bite is packed with a heavy hint of said spice.

As with everything else, Flatwater likes to keep things local. All of their desserts come from Rene’s Bakery, which is located just down the road from the restaurant. The ice cream is not local, but that is changing soon as well. They are close to reaching a deal with a local ice cream shop.

Loosening My Belt a Couple Notches

Needless to say, after all that food I was full. I couldn’t eat another bite. I even sent some of the chocolate cake back because I just couldn’t finish it. I did order another beer, but there is always room for one more beer.

As the night came to a close, Sheryl and I sat on the patio, looked out over the calm water on the canal, and sat there completely satisfied. Flatwater Restaurant on the Canal is a hidden gem of the Broad Ripple Village and is a place that I highly suggest you try out. Whether you are coming in for a quick lunch, wanting to have a nice relaxing night out for dinner, or just want to grab a beer with some buddies, Flatwater has you covered.

I want to say thank you to Mike Yount and his entire staff for being so accommodating to both Sheryl and I. You can tell just by talking with Mike how much this establishment means to him. From putting in flat screens outside for football season, to introducing himself to every table that walks in the door, Mike takes his restaurant seriously. I applaud all his hard work. So the next time you are in Broad Ripple and want to grab a bite to eat, head over to Flatwater Restaurant on the Canal, feed some ducks, and grab an order of pulled pork nachos and an ice cold beer. I hope to become a regular soon!

Have you been to Flatwater Restaurant on the Canal? What did you order? Did you like it? I look forward to hearing from all of you on your experience at Flatwater.