If you worked in downtown Indy back in the mid 1990s, chances are you remember Essential Edibles, a quirky and delicious little lunch spot unusually situated in the basement of an old Catholic church in the Lockerbie area. And if you were like me, you were sad to see it close in 1997.
Fans can rejoice again — after years of private chef work, former EE owner Becky Hostetter is up and running again. Literally. Together with her business/chef partner John Garnier, Hostetter is cooking up a storm in her new Duos food truck. Customers log onto Twitter and Facebook to find the mobile kitchen’s location, dishing up lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from various downtown parking spots; breakfast at the downtown farmers market; and occasional weekend meals in other destinations.
What’s cool about Duos is that the chefs change up their short menu of gourmet soups, sandwiches and salads every week. And because Hostetter is a vegetarian and Garnier is a meat-eater, they make sure to offer something for everyone — usually a couple of sandwiches, several kinds of side salad, maybe a soup or two. Everything is organic and locally sourced as much as possible.
I’d tracked down the truck with an editor friend on a blustery day back in March. The weather curtailed sitting outside on Mass Ave, so we ate in my car. The food was good, and we swapped tastes of everything — the Cajun meatloaf sandwich had a nicely spicy kick, but I preferred the Big Al’s sandwich, a drippy, gooey grilled Fontina cheese panini sort of thing with roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar and basil. Yum.
I revisited Duos on Thursday just this week, bringing hubby along for the ride. It was a little cool outside, but the weather was sunny and beautiful, and the Military Park location was perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch on the downtown canal. We parked at the White River State Park garage, walked across from the Indiana State Museum and waited in a quickly moving line to get our food.
On this day, our options included pimento cheese and herb roasted turkey sandwiches, wheatberry and orzo pasta salads, green gazpacho and asparagus soups, and an almond cake for dessert. We decided to try both the sandwiches and salads, washed down with bottles of Maine ginger brew and root beer.
Both sandwiches were served on the same hearty whole-wheat buns — hubby’s turkey contained thick slices of flavorful meat, avocado, lettuce, spouts and Jarlsberg cheese. He pronounced it delicious at first bite.
My pimento cheese sammy consisted of a generous scoop of the cheese filling with lettuce, tomato and a slice of onion. The cheese was yummy, but very heavily laced with olives. So much so that it was difficult to discern any other flavor. This was perfectly ok with me because I love olives, but the intensity of the briny saltiness might have been a little overpowering for some diners. Serving it on flatter bread and spreading it out a little thinner might have helped distribute the flavor a little more evenly.
The salads were both awesome IMO – served in little plastic cups that looked deceptively small at first, but offered a surprising amount in the end. The delicious wheatberry salad was unlike anything I’ve tried before. Studded with small crunchy bits of organic carrot and red onion in a mild vinaigrette dressing, the chewy wheatberry grains were really satisfying. I loved it, as well as the orzo pasta with roasted veggies that reminded me of something similar I’d eaten at Essential Edibles back in the day.
Hubby has a beef, though. I believe I may have mentioned his hatred of onions once or twice? Basically, if he even thinks he sees one, smells one or tastes one anywhere in a dish, it’s game over. He won’t even take a courtesy bite to be nice. So if there’s one thing he hates about dining out, it’s when onions make an appearance without forewarning. It’s ok when the menu advertises them in a dish, as he can then plan accordingly to avoid it. But when they just show up in something he was otherwise really looking forward to eating, he gets upset.
Three out of the four items we ordered for our Duos lunch contained onions. My pimento cheese sandwich included a whole raw slice, which I picked off, but still immediately disqualified it from hubby tasting. (He claims that even if you remove the onion, it’s too late at that point, having already “tainted” the rest of the dish.) The salads both included small slivers of red onion, caramelized and soft so they weren’t raw, but offensive to hubby just the same. Sigh. I think the wheatberry salad mentioned an onion inclusion on the chalkboard menu, but the orzo pasta salad description just held a vague reference to roasted vegetables.
I’m not trying to pick on Duos here, this actually happens to us quite frequently in restaurants. We try to remember to always ask when ordering, but sometimes we forget and get nailed. The point hubby wants to make is that he feels menus should alert diners to onions in any and all dishes, no ifs, ands or buts. I think he may start lobbying Congress for a full disclosure bill.
The price for each Duos sandwich with a side of salad was $7.50, so with two meals and two drinks tacked on, our total bill came to $20 even. A little pricier than fast food, but certainly in keeping with what you’d pay for a nice casual lunch for two downtown. And definitely in line with the quality of the ingredients and creativity of the chefs preparing them. I’ll be back…
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