with food, there’s always something new

Indy Food Fantasy #1

Originally published on, February 26, 2007

The Conrad was Indy foodies and food-bloggers hope.

Finally we had white-tablecloth dining that would put us on the culinary map. Jonathan Wright was supposed to ride in on a white horse, save the day and salvage our reputation, not to mention our cuisine.

Alas, the dream was short-lived. Chef Wright fled early in the game. Food bloggers such as FeedMeDrinkMe ( didn’t buy into the hype and reported that the two restaurants were duds. The Hilton recently announced that the restaurants are joining the Bermuda Triangle of steakhouses that dominates the sports-centric downtown restaurant scene.

Some of us, though, are still Indy dreamin. Failure puts us one step closer to success.

Here’s the fantasy, here’s the hope. Think of the Conrad as our Pittsburgh game. If the Colts can win a football championship after that disaster, there’s no reason why the 12th largest city can’t have a fancy/smantzy restaurant with drop-dead delicious food and great atmosphere.

My food fantasy?

The Columbia Club.

Last month, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana ( entertained us with his commentary on the IBJ’s reporting of the club’s financial troubles. Like its counterpart, the Athletic Club, the Columbia Club is a relic of the past. It’s just a matter of time before progress marches on and remakes this landmark into a business open to the public.

One tradition dies, another takes its place, and what a perfect place for a great restaurant. The Harrison Room and Bar and Grille on the first floor have built-in ambiance. There’s no need to hire a restaurant decorator/couturier to create a faux atmosphere, CC has the real deal.

It has the other gold key to success—location, location, location. It’s close enough to cultural, sports, political and business events, but just far enough from the beef-obsessed, manfood-environment surrounding Circle Center Mall.

The Columbia Club has culinary staff currently in place who could step up to the plate. As we know, though, that’s not how corporate America works. So when the Columbia Club goes public, what chef should be in charge?

Let the dreams begin…

What about Susan Goss and her husband Drew? Maybe Indy could get down on its collective knees and beg them to come back. I know you foodies have fond memories of their restaurant Something Different. Maybe we could call the new one Something Republican? Or, Something WASP?

We don’t have to go to Chicago to find talented chefs. They’re right here in our backyard. Let’s lure Lisa Williams away from Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. What about the Tallents of Bloomington?

Indianapolis made sports history this year when Tony Dungy was the first Afro-American coach to win the championship. Jacque Pepin has voiced concern that the U.S. has produced no breakout Afro-Americans chefs. What’s to keep Indy from having the first Afro-American superstar chef? Maybe we could lure Chef Sam Brown away from Fairbanks to take over? I know he’d get that Cordon Bleu mojo going and create a spectacular restaurant. Or, maybe there’s some other home talent that moved to LA, New York or New Orleans who’d like to come back and make us proud? Any nominations?

Alas, news in the Star last week, dashed out hopes for a new Columbia Club. John Ketzenberger reports that they’re searching for a new General Manager and trying to soldier on.

We know better. It’s only a matter of time, and then the Columbia Club is ours. Storm the Bastille, down with the Ancien Regime. This mighty clique will be overrun by outsiders, arrivistes and wannabes. And good food.

You bloggers are much smarter and more knowledgeable than I am. The day is coming when we will have an Indy-based superstar restaurant worthy of our home talents, produce and traditions. Who would you nominate for chef de cuisine? Hungry Hoosier ( Indy Food ( Vintage Kitchen (, what are your ideas? What name should we give our restaurant? What food will we serve? Share your wishes, hopes and keep dreamin’

Written by Susan Gillie

February 26, 2007 at 12:51 am

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