1747 S. Eighth St., 477-6997, lnepal.com
From the moment we enter, we get the feeling an employee must have no-showed, as the whole staff appears flustered and discombobulated. As requested, they seat us on the patio, which offers a stark contrast to the ornately decorated interior. A broken water fountain occupies a corner and there's nothing but wrought-iron tables and umbrellas bearing soda company logos.
Free papadums arrive with chutney, then, after a long wait, an accidental chicken chat ($7), which we start eating before realizing it's not the lamb korma ($18) we ordered. They comp it and we enjoy the cooling cucumber-mint sauce over mildly spiced tandoori hunks, especially after the lamb arrives as spicy as we'd asked for. A touch of sweetness neutralizes any gaminess, while coconut milk and heavy cream buffer the heat and add velvety body. Basmati rice drinks whatever sauce our pinches of garlic naan ($4) fail to absorb. Atmospheric disharmony aside, we're happy. — MS
Border Burger Bar
819 Manitou Ave., 685-3287, borderburgerbar.com
Co-owners Todd Dorman and Rick Good didn't want to turn BooDad's Louisiana Café into the second Border Burger Bar, an El Paso, Texas-based brand owned by Sung Song, a friend of Good's whom he describes as "[the] smartest guy I know in this business." They tried to lease the nearby spot where PJ's Bistro now resides and open it as a new space. But details didn't line up, and ultimately, they felt Border had more potential to expand than the BooDad's brand. "Burgers have a wider appeal to the tourist walking down the street," says Good.
At least the results satisfy. My Coloradoan ($9.95) comes out medium as requested, juicy and bountiful on its house-made bun, piled with avocado, tomato, white onion, lemon aioli, Swiss and grilled anaheim peppers. More green chilies in the patty add a mild earthiness but no heat. Parmesan and parsley truffle fries run $1.50 extra, and though they are pleasantly crisp, the heavy truffle flavor overwhelms. — GS
2514 W. Colorado Ave., 632-3287, datsitalian.com
Dat's Italian has some dissonance problems, but that, at least, is the worst of it. When the Indy first visited the restaurant in 2010, owner JoAnn Trujillo said that the restaurant's objective was less fine dining and more "get-it-and-go," specializing in big plates for low prices. While the colorful logo on the awning still reads more casual, the food and interior have gone a little more highbrow. Of course, the menu still sports a few "car bomb"-style drinks, so it's hardly a full white-tie affair.
Nonetheless, the salami trenette ($12.99) indicates where Dat's is going. The fresh pasta meets truffle white sauce under Pecorino and Parmesan, plus strips of salami and sun-dried tomato, with roasted garlic and sautéed onions incorporated. The preparation is fine, and though the salami and tomato have some chew, it's a rich bite, with salt, meatiness, truffle funk and creamy sauce playing their roles for a balanced dish. But the portion feels small for the price. — GS