It's a universal truth: Anyone who works the nine-to-five grind has a go-to sandwich shop. A nearby place to head to for quick, good lunch or takeout on a hectic day. The kind of place you end up at once a week or so, usually with a co-worker. For many of us at the Indy, that place is the Corner Café. Located two blocks from our offices and across the street from the county courthouse downtown, not only is it nearby, but it also serves great sandwiches. And yummy pies. And a killer pork green chili. And owners Bob and Virginia Smoot are just as nice as can be. And they use socially conscious meats from Ranch Foods Direct, Redbird and Boar's Head.
Yeah, it's safe to say we've got a crush. Were this Beverly Hills, 90210, they'd be our Peach Pit.
The caf's decor is quaint, with a handful of knickknacks adorning a large, usually bustling dining area. Outside, a few patio tables appear to be the playground for musical chairs during nice weather.
To add fresh perspective to my review, I brought along two Corner Café virgins, and to test consistency, I brought one caf regular his favorite sandwich back to the office.
As for the to-go test, my co-worker gushed on and on about the San Diego sandwich's ($7.50) virtues something about perfectly crispy, grilled sourdough with a soft, buttery inside, containing generous roast beef and pepperjack with a superb jalapeo-ranch dressing.
The newbies opted for sandwiches, a chicken salad ($6.95) and the vegetarian ($6.25), comprising cucumbers, wax peppers, sunflower seeds, black olives, tomato, lettuce and usually cream cheese (he subbed cheddar). Both were pleased, as was I after stealing bites. Most notably, everything tasted fresh; the chicken moist, the veggies crisp, the bread soft. They also delighted in stealing my fries that I'd dumped half a cup of green chili over, which I munched with bites of the Cajun chicken sandwich ($8.50), a nicely seasoned breast with Swiss, mayo, lettuce and tomato.
The following Saturday, I visited Bob at his breakfast and lunch stand outside Apex Sports on Weber Street. I ordered one of everything to-go but a hotdog: a smothered breakfast burrito ($6), a Laughing Lab brat ($5) and a tri-tip sandwich ($7).
Back home, my friend, a Crown Point, Ind., native who calls it "Polak Haven" to prove her prowess for outstanding brat detection, labels the brat "excellent." Made with Bristol Brewing's flagship beer, they're also left to soak in a Lab bath and grilled onions until plucked to rest in a soft hoagie roll under delicious Boar's Head sauerkraut.
We cut into the enormous breakfast burrito next, carrying pork green chili into grated potatoes, scrambled egg, melted cheese and flavorful bits of bacon. Suffice to say, there are lots of great breakfast burritos available across town, and this one stands among them.
Lastly, we began nibbling at the tri-tip, described by Bob as a part of the top sirloin cut with slight marbling and a fat cap that melts into the meat during slow roasting on low heat seasoned a bunch, sliced in shop and brought back to temp in an au jus bath. Again on a hoagie, but under grilled onions and peppers, the meat was tender and moist, a sure favorite for any roast beef snobs.
As Corner Café was already a go-to, I can't say I'll do anything different on weekdays. But on Saturdays, I think I'll follow the bikers (and firemen) to Apex more often, where the caf's charm exudes from Bob's smile and great food.