New in Town: Colts Grille

Admittedly, the Indianapolis Colts Grille (110 W. Washington St., 317-631-2007)—a new NFL-themed restaurant in the shell of the former Claypool Courts off-track betting location—seemed like the kind of eatery that would have a “kick me” sign on its back. How could any foodie take this place seriously—with its out-of-state ownership, cookie-cutter sports-bar menu, and more flat-screen TVs than a Best Buy?

And yet in its first week of operation, we visited once on a whim—and went back the next day for an instant replay.

The place is fitted out in sleek modular furnishings with a bar lit up like a nightclub and several other smaller conversation pits with deep, smooth leather seats. The servers are not polished and have clearly rehearsed the script. Yet they seem genuinely helpful and engaged in the project—like really good drinking buddies. (And they don’t seem like the kind of people who would judge a person for ordering a little extra cup of mayo for the dipping of french fries.)

A modestly proportioned stuffed Cheesy Cheesiest Cheeseburger got high marks for its triumvirate of cheddar, Swiss, and smoked gouda, with a side of rough-cut sweet potato fries gently dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Brilliant! A massive Mediterranean salad featured all of the usual suspects, with the clever addition of pickled fennel, the perfect sharable when the other person at the table orders a slab of Meat Lovers flatbread. Our server practically insisted that we order the “Soon-to-be-famous Deep Fried Cheeseburger,” a tasty if over-conceptualized entree that tasted a lot like an onion ring. (It is, literally, an entire cheeseburger, bun and all, dipped in onion ring batter, and then deep-fried.)

“Did you save room for dessert?” our server wondered. We told her that clearly we had not saved room. But the idea of a house-made carrot cake that they were just taking out of the oven was too tempting, so we ordered a slice to go. Back at the office, we opened the Styrofoam clamshell to nearly a quarter of a double-layer cake, messy with cream cheese icing and studded with coconut, raisins, and nuts, a deliciously unpolished version of the grandma classic that we worked on all day. Touchdown!