After a short-lived makeover in early 2012 as The Night Porter, the iconic faux-adobe business along Broad Ripple Avenue’s best people-watching stretch now houses a small-plates emporium and live-music venue called Sabbatical. This slightly frumpy but lovable mix of sports bar and bohemian coffeehouse features low-pitched arches in earthy oranges, reds, and browns; clusters of local art; and plenty of flat-panel TV screens for taking in sports matchups. But, really, all we care about is Sabbatical’s deck.
We have sat on that patio before. We had been among the throngs of fair-weather bar-hoppers at erstwhile La Jolla who pulled up plastic chairs at the first sign of spring. We had sipped our Coronas and downed the woefully mediocre Tex-Mex food—while longing for the day when someone would reinvent the location as one we could actually love, not love to hate.
So we were hopeful when David Queisser, longtime owner of cult-favorite club Locals Only, along with wife Jeanne Queisser and partner Kevin Phillips, took over the place last summer. Queisser and his crew have largely re-created the Locals Only vibe, down to the Sunday Bears-game specials (and the open-mic poetry nights that are on the horizon). The small plates are a fresh change from the bar fodder at nearby pubs. No burgers or tenderloins clog the menu (or your arteries), though pork and beef show up in some quite respectable sliders, one with brightly spiced tequila pork and another with tender pulled brisket dressed up with cocoa, coffee, and a smoky mushroom cream sauce. Big meatballs with a center of molten Brie wear a nice crust and a not-too-sweet cranberry chutney. Truffled sweet-potato “chips” are more like earthy home fries, and a “haystack”—more a hay “pile”—of battered onions and mushrooms gets a nice twang from its wasabi-inflected sauce.
Salsas and spreads include a hearty red pepper–and-bean dip, as well as versions with bleu cheese and more red peppers with goat cheese and ricotta. Ignore the gratuitous—and puzzling—“pub fare” of dogs and nachos, but make sure to order the silken, sweet Cuban Espresso creme brulee, with a nice undertone of espresso, for dessert. Having dropped in back in 2012 when the place had just opened, we could tell that some pains had been taken to improve the presentation—fewer dishes garnished with wilted field greens, for instance—and streamline the menu. By this month’s patio time, we figure Sabbatical should just be hitting its stride.
SABBATICAL 921 Broad Ripple Ave., 253-5252, sabbaticalindy.com
Hours Tues.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun. 5–9 p.m
Photos by Tony Valainis
Article appeared in the June 2013 issue.