Restaurant Reviews --> Foxgardin
A Find in Fortville
For the past 5 years, we have been pretty much resigned to the fact that everything interesting and new on the food scene occurs on Mass Ave or in Fountain Square. Last week we made a find in the farthest northeast reaches of suburban Indianapolis at an interesting new restaurant, and without a hipster in sight - Foxgardin Kitchen and Ale. Chef Jake Burgess has returned to his boyhood home in Fortville opening a self-labeled gastropub, after most recently being executive chef at Prime 47 in downtown Indianapolis. He and his former college roommate, Toby Shelton, who came from the Omni Severin downtown, teamed up to open their own place last July.
We had not been to Fortville in years, and were surprised at the gentrification that is taking place, with lots of beautifully renovated homes and a Main Street that is coming back to life. Located in a former Main Street tavern, a turn-of-the-last century building, the vibe and atmosphere is a cross between a modern pub and an old-time small town tavern. There is a narrow downstairs bar and dining room, and a small, intimate lounge-like room upstairs where they offer seating in comfortable, overstuffed chairs, dining, and live music three nights a week.
Based on a recommendation from friends, we first ventured there for lunch on a Sunday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised. This isn't your average small town restaurant. The food is creative, fresh, made from scratch and as Jake said in an interview, "the only thing frozen in the kitchen is the ice cream." We struck up a conversation with Toby, who was behind the bar, and he gave us a tour and indicated that they were doing well enough now that they recommended Open Table reservations for dinner on the weekends, and that is saying something for Fortville.
And the food didn't disappoint! We started with a shared cup of clam chowder, which Linda declared as good as our recipe (high praise). In fact, she liked the addition of celery and carrots so much that she added them the next time she made it at home. Her PEI Mussels, technically an appetizer, were excellent and had a wonderful garlic-filled broth with toast for dipping. My fried fish sandwich, served on a brioche bun, had been hand-battered and was accompanied by homemade remoulade. And it was more than enough to share some with Linda. We also shared the unique "cafeteria chips," spiral sliced, thin cottage fries, that you might find at the State Fair, but much better. We even succumbed to sharing a piece of apple crisp pie topped with ice cream, which Linda said tasted just like her mother's apple crumb pie. But that should have been no surprise since Jake's mother bakes all the pies for the restaurant (over 600 served since opening).
A few weeks later we returned for dinner with the friends who had recommended it, and again, were very impressed. We shared two appetizers, the prosciutto wrapped, flashed fried prawns and the calamari, which was served with a lightly sweet/spicy Asian fusion sauce on a bed of greens. Both were excellent. We all decided to do some sharing and were pleased with the decision as servings are generous. Kurt & Cathy shared the pork "ribeye" served with crimini mashed potatoes, and caramelized balsamic onion that was tender, perfectly prepared and very flavorful. We shared the meatloaf topped with a slightly sweet tomato jam on a bed of mashed potatoes with a mushroom pan gravy and grilled baby carrots and broccoli. Absolutely delicious, but we have a weakness for meatloaf. And this is why we really liked FoxGardin - creative comfort food, well-prepared, and not over "chef-i-fied," without a pork cheek or fried pig tail in sight.
Quick note here - they were gracious enough to also split all the dishes for us in the kitchen - at no extra charge...something we really appreciate.
They, of course, have a full bar, plenty of craft beer and bourbon, and a reasonably acceptable and affordable wine list. We began with glasses of William Hill Chardonnay and shared a bottle of the Shebang Zinfandel blend from Morgan Twain Peterson, California's latest cult Zin-maker. Great wine and at $39, a pretty reasonable value.
Yes, we still love Tinker Street and we can't wait to try Pioneer in Fountain Square, but this kind of quality and originality in a far-flung suburb is really refreshing. We'll be going back.
Foxgardin Kitchen & Ale
215 S. Main Street
Fortville, IN 46040
February 3, 2016