John Adams Takes on the Kitchen at Flatwater

The former Bluebeard and Plow & Anchor chef tweaks the menu at a popular canal-front restaurant.
If you’ve been playing “Where’s John Adams?” for the last year or so, you may have spied him recently in the kitchen of a canal-front favorite in Broad Ripple. After his celebrated openings of Bluebeard and more recently Plow & Anchor, the talented, well-traveled chef took a break from day-to-day kitchen work to stage a quartet of supper club dinners with former H2O Sushi colleagues Eli Anderson and Nicole Ankney-Anderson. Now, restaurant owners Michael Yount and Allen Miller have tapped Adams for his considerable skills in kitchen management and menu design to help spruce up the offerings at Flatwater (832 E. Westfield Blvd., 317-257-5466), known for its live music four nights a week and revolving taps of local brews. Adams has been working for Flatwater as a consulting chef for nearly four months. “When I started in January, I just took a few weeks to make some observations,” Adams says. “But for the last couple of months, I’ve actually been doing a lot of the cooking on the line.”

Adams’ biggest influence can be seen in the size of Flatwater’s menu. “I looked at what they were doing best,” he says, “and I saw that they had great barbecue, especially the ribs and smoked brisket. And the tuna tartare and tacos showed Latin and Asian influences. So I wanted to take those flavors farther.” Aside from switching out the corned beef that Flatwater bought for their Reuben with the brisket they were already making in house, Adams has increased the vegetarian options significantly. He’s added locally made seitan from Seiten High Fives/Killer Tofu (familiar to customers of Three Carrots at City Market) and lighter dishes like Korean lettuce wraps with a spicy ssam sauce and an aromatic rice noodle salad where the seitan comes perfumed with lemongrass and mixed with plenty of veggies, basil, peanuts, and Sriracha-lime dressing. Seitan even stars in one of Flatwater’s retooled tacos.

Flatwater’s already legendary bloody Mary bar is still served at brunch, along with house-made fries that Adams utilizes in poutine topped with pulled pork, Fair Oaks cheddar curds, and gravy made from the pulled pork juices. Eggs from Fisher Farms are optional add-ons. Adams has scaled down the menu offerings, which not only helps increase quality, but it’s also brought Flatwater’s food costs down. “Streamlining a menu is a great way to save a few bucks while emphasizing what the restaurant does best,” Adams says. Now almost everything is homemade, including the desserts, and many more products are sourced locally, including meats from Fischer Farms and pasta from nearby Nicole-Taylor’s Pasta and Market. Adams even recouped some cooler space for fresh ingredients by converting an old freezer the kitchen doesn’t need anymore. Though Adams only plans to stay with Flatwater through midsummer, this fun, challenging project has been perfect for him to take some time to mull over his next big move.