Saturday, December 14, 2019

Havana Grill relocates, becomes legit dance venue, El Taco & La Arepa Venezuelan & Mexican Grill opens in its wake

Posted By on Sat, Dec 14, 2019 at 3:28 PM

Havana Grill, home to hearty Cuban sandwiches and now, much more. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Havana Grill, home to hearty Cuban sandwiches and now, much more.

Year-and-a-half-old Havana Grill recently moved north to 2165 Academy Place, the site of the former Brayla Wedding and Events, which as of the summer of 2019 began hosting the 719 Hump Day Food Truck Rally. What that triggered: The food trucks now park nearby at Copperhead Road on Wednesdays, and the former Havana Grill spot at 3748 Astrozon Blvd. has become El Taco & La Arepa Venezuelan & Mexican Grill.

Fusing Venezuelan and Mexican foods. - EL TACO & LA AREPA, COURTESY FACEBOOK
  • El Taco & La Arepa, courtesy Facebook
  • Fusing Venezuelan and Mexican foods.

As for Havana Grill, co-owner Carlos Rodriguez says the new location has “everything we were looking for,” and that after one week open, response “has been amazing.” The team has essentially quadrupled its capacity, capable of seating up to 215 people for dining service (with more tables capable of being set up, he says, noting an overall capacity of 441). That means jumping from seven staff at the old spot to 28 people for weekend nights, when Fridays bring family-friendly karaoke and Saturdays usher in club nights, with free salsa lessons from 8 to 9 p.m., followed by live music or sets by resident DJ DjDannyblaze (Danny Baez) for the 21-and-over crowd until 2 a.m.

Baez spins nightly (except for Sundays, when the venue closes for private parties) and Rodriguez credits production manager Victor Carbonell for helping get Havana Grill to the next level as a legit concert and dance venue, now hosting 24 laser lights and a couple C02 cannons amidst its party arsenal. So, “we’re a restaurant with a music venue,” explains Rodriguez, also listing off four pool tables (with leagues coming soon), an arcade room and dominoes tables. The bar hosts a full beer, wine and spirits menu with mojitos being the best seller by far, while the Cuban food menu remains unchanged, just expanded greatly in daily output.

Even though it is winter, the Wednesday food truck rally continues, relocated to Copperhead Road. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Even though it is winter, the Wednesday food truck rally continues, relocated to Copperhead Road.
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Monday, December 9, 2019

Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon soft opens

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2019 at 10:26 AM

COURTESY SLINGERS SMOKEHOUSE & SALOON
  • Courtesy Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon


The question isn’t “What is Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon.” It’s “What isn’t Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon.

Open as of 4 p.m., Monday, Dec. 9, the restaurant, bar and nightlife spot is actually our state’s first (and technically partial) “ghost restaurant” to hear co-owner Greg Howard (former McCabe's Tavern owner) explain it.

A ghost restaurant is a kitchen that serves delivery and take-out only, thereby keeping low overhead for economic viability. Howard cites recent data which indicates pickup and delivery as the #1 growing restaurant industry trend. “With this model coming out of big cities,” he says, “we looked at it and saw that we may not have the population [in this location] to support one restaurant, but it can support three of four different concepts out of one kitchen.”

A proper barbecue setting. - COURTESY SLINGERS SMOKEHOUSE & SALOON
  • Courtesy Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon
  • A proper barbecue setting.

So, Slingers is a sit-down bar and barbecue joint — “We’re all hospitality folks, so it’s hard for us to let that go,” he says — but it also sells 1) a vegan/vegetarian menu, 2) a Nashville hot chicken menu and 3) an Italian menu for pickup/takeout only (they’re partnering with third-party providers like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub).

Co-owner Stephon Black (who helped with Copperhead Road and Johnny’s Navajo Hogan openings) says Slingers has 20 taps (one with wine, another with Truly hard seltzer) and craft cocktails, and serves lunch, dinner and late night (until 2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, which also feature a DJ or live music). Programming includes sports channels, and themes like Taco Tuesday and Wing Wednesday. Slingers’ ownership team also acquired the adjacent, former Bikini Xpresso kiosk and intend to launch a coffee arm around mid January.

Birds in the oven. - COURTESY SLINGERS SMOKEHOUSE & SALOON
  • Courtesy Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon
  • Birds in the oven.

Also part of the ownership team are Travis Blaney, managing partner at Streetcar520, and Jay DesRoches, who brings other restaurant experience. Tommy Taylor is Slingers' kitchen manager; his recent work includes Patty Jewett Bar & Grill.

As for the barbecue, Howard says DesRoches lent his recipe for apple- and oak-smoked meats, and that "smokehouse" is the key word to understand Slingers' style. The team doesn't prefer to get caught up in all the regional banter about all the barbecue styles out there, believing that if you say you are one thing, like Kansas City style, for example, then some purists will attack you for not being dead-on style, while other potential diners will perhaps avoid you, saying, 'Oh, well I prefer Carolina- or Texas-style.' Here, they're just going for good barbecue all around.

You won't be putting angel wings on for your Instagram photos here. Nope, it's chicken wings for you. - COURTESY SLINGERS SMOKEHOUSE & SALOON
  • Courtesy Slingers Smokehouse & Saloon
  • You won't be putting angel wings on for your Instagram photos here. Nope, it's chicken wings for you.
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Friday, December 6, 2019

R&R Coffee Cafe's new Tri Lakes expansion opens

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2019 at 6:33 PM

Big mug, mini pie. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Big mug, mini pie.
R&R Coffee Cafe — Tri Lakes has finally opened, expanding on 12 years of well-regarded history for R&R in the Black Forest area.

The Indy first spoke to R&R owner Ryan Wanner about the new location in April, 2019, who said at the time, “The No. 1 goal is to make it to where it’s not your typical medical center coffee shop... Make it interesting.”

This new location, which has sat vacant for around a year, is in Monument, at the Tri-Lakes YMCA that shares space with Centura Health’s Tri-Lakes Health Pavilion.
R&R Tri-Lakes shares space with the YMCA and Centura Health’s Tri-Lakes Health Pavilion. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • R&R Tri-Lakes shares space with the YMCA and Centura Health’s Tri-Lakes Health Pavilion.

Wanner says the coffee menu's 95-percent the same as in Black Forest, but he has aimed for healthier food fares here to match both the neighboring fitness and health facilities. Which is to say if you want R&R's awesome biscuits and gravy, you still have to head into Black Forest for that.
A very shiny new espresso machine. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A very shiny new espresso machine.
Here, Wanner has added more smoothies, and already in the cafe's opening days, the turkey croissant (which is at Black Forest's location as well) is a bestseller, he says, also noting a new multigrain bread. Soon, he hopes to add some keto items he's been tinkering with recipes on. And maybe some avocado toast.
R&R owner Ryan Wanner. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • R&R owner Ryan Wanner.

R&R's popular in-house pastries will definitely be served at this new location for those still looking for a sweet treat. Wanner says he aims to make seasonal menu changes as this cafe moves forward, with a more flexible menu than the Black Forest location. 
OK macho drinkers: Here's your seven-shot Heart Murmur. Have fun! - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • OK macho drinkers: Here's your seven-shot Heart Murmur. Have fun!

Relatedly, Wanner notes a couple breweries in town currently serving beers made with R&R's Golden Pine label coffee beans: Black Forest Brewing has a Guatemalan coffee vanilla porter, while JAKs Brewing Company is still serving a coffee stout made with Monsooned Malabar cold brew coffee.
R&R's Golden Pine label house roasts. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • R&R's Golden Pine label house roasts.
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