JT's Grille & Bar, 2210 E, 54th St., Indianapolis, is one of those, unfortunately, overlooked eateries. It is not flamboyant, not in the heart of Broad Ripple, and just sits quietly on a side street of Keystone Ave. Its nondescript exterior of what must, at one time, have been a Waffle House, will fool the diner looking for a catchy name or spectacular sign to draw their attention. No such thing exists.
So, why am I impressed?
I like the place. It is that simple. And... maybe why I like it so much is... it is simple.
It doesn't try to be another nightspot with food or attempt to keep up with the latest trend in food or a poorly executed Midwest comfort food joint that a couple without a clue opened on a whim. It is not a steakhouse chain and seems quite comfortable with that fact.
It is, quite frankly, great food in a boring shell.
Sorry, JT's, but your outside doesn't come close to the quality of service, food and cleanliness inside.
Do not misjudge the book by its cover, however, folks. JT's put all the details to the interior by renovating and redesigning it to a warm, homey feel. Over to the far side there is a sports bar ~ almost separated completely from the restaurant which is nice.
There is a sunny room with plenty of windows and several smaller areas perfect for group or family occasions. And it is so clean and uncluttered with friendly staff and comfortable seating. When you want a meal, sometimes you just want something uncomplicated.
Back to the Chow Down review ~
The Food: I love that the menu has a "For One" section ($25) for the single diner. What a way to consider all guests. They also had two options, $30 and $40, for two guests. A gesture that took extra time which gives you an idea of what they are all about there.
We got a sample from each menu to cover it all, including the Grilled BBQ Shrimp Skewer, Summer Squash soup and Shrimp Cocktail appetizers. They also had salad, but we went with the hot food.
For the full menu choices, click here.
Appetizers... the grilled shrimp had a dry bbq rub and was perfectly cooked (so many overcook shrimp). The shrimp cocktail sauce was done in-house and with less heat then St. Elmo to give you an indication. The summer squash soup was blended and made in-house (as are all soups, sauces and desserts).
Entrees... included other items also, but we tried the 10 oz. (seemed bigger) BBQ Ribeye (medium well), smothered chicken and steak fries. The steak was dead-on accurate as a medium well temperature and the chicken was cooked precisely right, also. Smothered with provolone, onions and mushrooms really was a great combination and the steak fries were crisp, hot and big. (I loathe crinkle cut fries.) Fries, in the Midwest at least, is NOT the area to cut costs, so I was happy JT's didn't go the way of "cheap crinkles," as I refer to them. And, cross your fingers, owner Tim is considering breaking out gourmet fries in the near future.
Bottom Line: JT's is one of my favorite restaurants reviewed for any of the food weeks I have covered over the years. It is good food made well with an eye on giving you your money's worth and more. This is the place to go for people who don't want to dress up and pay big bucks for a great meal.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated fine-living, travel columnist, freelance writer and photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic for Gotta Go. Read Infused, her spirits, wine & beer lifestyle column, at www.GottaGo.us and www.FoodDigital.com and catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Gotta Go is published on www.Gottago.us, www.BroadwayWorld.com, an in print. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.