Marrow: Good for the Soul

A new Fountain Square restaurant from John Adams will offer family-style dishes and sides with influences from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as innovative cocktails and homey desserts.
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Enlisting a couple of experienced local business partners, chef John Adams, who most recently served as the consulting chef at Flatwater after departing Plow & Anchor earlier in the year, plans to open Marrow, an elevated family-style restaurant with influences from around the globe, in the former home of Maria’s Pizza at 1106 E. Prospect St. in Fountain Square. Brian Epstein of UrbanSpace Commercial Properties and Darren Block of Broad Ripple’s Landsharks (and also of UrbanSpace) are backing the project, which the trio hopes to open in September.

Adams had initially planned for a much smaller concept but tweaked his ideas when the Maria’s space became available this spring. Drawing on his love of world flavors, Adams hopes to offer shareable dishes in the mid-$20 range with large sides, similar to the meat-and-three concept popular in the South. Marrow will be open for dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday, though Adams plans to schedule some special Sunday events such as occasional dim sum brunch service. Current menu items the chef is considering include pork neck and shrimp wontons, boiled peanuts, and a bone-marrow curry, as well as whole fish, Chinese-inspired char siu ribs made with Dr. Pepper, and such hearty sides as a dirty crab rice and Manchurian cauliflower. Adams’s love of rustic indigenous cuisines will definitely be present in his menu—as well as in his kitchen design. “I hope to offer lots of offal and variety meats,” he says, “and I want to design my kitchen with the pantry and hot line together, with the kitchen partially exposed.” He also hopes to install a built-in Asian-style smoker to experiment with a variety of smoked dishes.

As for the decor, Adams is aiming for clean but funky simplicity in keeping with the culinary selections. “We want the place to have a sort of dive-y feel, with old barn wood but brighter colors,” he says. “We hope to have at least a few communal tables with lazy Susans to make sharing easier. And the music will be a mix of hip-hop and funk.” Innovative drinks mixed up by Steve Simon, the current Broad Ripple Tavern bartender Adams tapped to be the director of his cocktail program, will have tiki influences but not be limited to any specific cultural tradition. A sweet-corn milk punch and a bone-marrow–washed house Manhattan are just some of the innovative drinks Adams and Simon plan to offer. Southern influences will show through in the desserts, including pies and cobblers, but Adams also hopes to purchase a shaved-ice machine to make Asian-style street desserts and New Orleans–style snowballs.

In terms of staff, Adams is bringing along his Plow & Anchor sous chef Myra Church to help realize his general vision for the restaurant and to “take his dessert game a little further,” innovating with savory flavors in more traditionally sweet offerings. As for the motivation behind opening Marrow? “I’ve long wanted to have a place where I can share my passion for international cuisines and bring them together in really solid but sometimes unorthodox ways,” Adams says. “It’s exciting to finally be able to plan that out and see how far I can take the combinations. And with a concept as broad as Marrow, I’ll never be bored; for my inspiration, I’ve given myself the world.”