Restaurant Reviews --> A Visit To Festiva
A Visit To Festiva
An upscale Mexican restaurant
Restaurateurs Peter George and Tom Main of Tinker Street fame have hit another home run on East 16th Street, just east of the Monon Trail, with the opening of Festiva. We were late adopters with Tinker Street, so we made it to Festiva within two weeks of their opening. Yelp had over 84 photos posted and at least 25 highly positive reviews within the first two weeks, so the buzz was already strong and now we know why.
Who would think, with a Mexican restaurant in almost every strip center in Indianapolis, that there would be so much demand for upscale Mexican food? One visit to Festiva made clear the dramatic difference...this is not tacos with rice and beans! The 70 seat restaurant, with its heated porch and intimate atmosphere, is reminiscent of Tinker Street. Overall, the interior has a hip, slightly rustic look, with some vibrant colors on the walls and comfortable, low-key, cozy seating inside. The heated porch features garage doors opening to the bar and Mexican blankets on the chairs for additional warmth.
We did show up at 5:30, as we'd been warned that they fill up early (and we were far from the first people there on a Tuesday), but they were certainly prepared for a crowd.
Forget about wine (yes, they have "red and white" on the menu) and go for the Margaritas. We had the house version, made with Casa Pacific Reposado Tequila, fresh juice and agave nectar, that may have been one of the best Margaritas we have ever experienced. Next time we will try one of the premium blends that involve interesting ingredients like blood orange, habanero hibiscus and dry curacao. Not surprising that they are that good since the bartender is Jason Foust, known for his mixology expertise, most recently at Late Harvest Kitchen and North End Barbecue.
The menu is tight, offering only four appetizers, three salads and five taco and five entree dishes designed for sharing. We had to start with the chunky, yet creamy guacamole accented with serrano pepper slices, pepitas and sweet pomegranate, all served on a bed of slivered jicama that added an an enticing crunch - what a great combination.
From there we shared the Cabra tacos, Indiana goat braised in an Adobo sauce, in an ample portion, that was served with five fresh corn tortillas, red and green salsas (beware of the heat in the red), sliced pickled vegetables and garnishes. Based on our server's sage suggestion, we also ordered a side of the arroz roja rice that combined nicely with the goat in our tacos. We thought the meat was tender and flavorful, far beyond any tacos we have had before.
The second entree we shared was the costillas, braised pork ribs served over a chipolte crema drizzled with a potent chili de arbol oil. Obviously cooked long and low the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and pleasantly flavored by a spiced rub. The chipolte creama was a wonderful accent and the dish was absolutely delicious.
We were really too full for dessert, but regretted it when we saw the flan being served to a neighboring table - next time! The prices seem pretty reasonable, with appetizers at $7 or $8, and the sharable tacos and entrees ranging from from $13 to $24. And you have to love the fact that at $24, Indiana goat, not lobster, is the most expensive thing on the menu.
The chef, Rachel Hoover, formerly a sous chef at Tinker Street, is married to a Mexican chef and has patterned the menu after the dishes made by her mother-in-law and her husband's grandmother....obviously with great success. This is another great addition to the Indianapolis dining scene, and fun to see another new restaurant neighborhood emerging.
1217 East 16th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(Just east of the Monon Trail)
January 11, 2017