A hint: something is on the back burner

Dateline: Tue 11 Aug 2009

Is Oberweis a man-magnet?

Could be. Or maybe it just attracts youthful chefs looking for a home.

So there I was, sitting in Guy's Toyota truck, Oberweis plastered on the sides, passing time in the parking lot of the 21st Amendment Liquor Store at 56th and Illinois a couple weeks back. I had a fresh bottle of Russian vodka, and a fresh copy of NUVO. This was the remains of the day: scanning NUVO's Best Of issue (Best of blogs, tip of the hat to the top 3: My Old Kentucky Home, about music; Feed Me -- Drink Me, food and culture or lack thereof in Indy; and Bilerico, gay/lesbo etc. issues.) Anticipating that Vodka Ton.

 A young man appeared like a comet, filling up the shotgun window, leaning in, grinning -- green baseball cap, hair the color of Peter Pan, whiff of alcohol on his breath. He was like a son to me. (Inebriated, lazy, goofy).

"Hey, I hope I'm not bothering you," he said. "But I noticed you have an Oberweis sign on your vehicle."

Great gambit. I mean, you're in sales, and the dream is to have them coming up to the truck and ASKING to get this great product delivered to their home.

He explained that he's "into local food," and he likes Oberweis  -- (sales pitch insert here), a dairy which delivers its milk (in glass bottles, yet) to your door. The cows are all grass-fed animals living, as cows are meant to do, on small farms in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Oberweis, while relatively new to Indiana, is regional, and local food is a big healthy buzzword, and this guy made it clear he is A-OK with Oberweis.

"I'm Neal Brown," he said, proffering a card the color of chocolate mousse.

OMG, he's famous. Neal Brown was THE CHEF and owner of the alas-now-defunct l'explorateur restaurant in Broad Ripple where, according to my kids, the ones who could afford to eat there, he did amazing things: prepared five course meals filled with culinary adventure and surprises, the like of which Indy has rarely seen, or eaten, if at all. Of course, it was too good: it had to end.

But he was as full of light and fire as that proverbial comet. Something new is coming, he hinted -- actually, he came right out and told me, but then he swore me to secrecy. "I have the biggest mouth in the city," he acknowledged, a trait I can respect.

Anyhow, he was on his way to celebrate the birthday of Indianapolis Monthly editor David Zivan at a party being given by the food blog-godess (blogess) Renee Wilmeth -- the FeedMe/DrinkMe girl -- and he couldn't chat any longer, had to run, etc. But he did plant the seed of curiosity and plowed the ground for some news to break, one of these days.

Like a French sauce, it will be ready when it is ready.

And it will be very fine. (And no, it's not so mundane as Neal Brown is opening a new restaurant, altho that may be in the offing, too. This is, like, bigger: think big).



hendy [Member] said:

I'm toying with the idea of getting the stickers; we need some new restaurants down here in Bloomington. Really.

2009-08-12 07:49:33

indykjsharp [Member] said:

Meanwhile, you can't go wrong at The Meridian. Every bite an orgasmic experience.

2009-08-12 19:26:58

ruthholl [Member] said:

Meridian is owned by a group of restaurant owners/investors. I agree, it's great, but what Neal did was in a class by itself, or so I am told.
Poor Bloomington: all that talent, and the food scene is tired. Is Uptown Cafe still dishing up Sunday brunches? That place was good. How about the Snow Lion? Gone?
Opportunity is knocking, and Oberweis will get there someday, too.
(Milk is sold in the stores there but no home delivery yet)

2009-08-13 06:40:02

Andrew Holladay [unverified] said:

Neal Brown is amazing. You could have transplanted L'ex to New York or Chicago and it wouldn't have seemed out of place. Indianapolis can talk about being a "world class" city all it wants, but if it can't support a place like L'ex then all the talk is simple lip service.

2009-08-13 10:14:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I liked Neal's restaurant, too. He seems very eclectic, and that's inmportant to have in a nice mix of locally-owned restaurants.

But I took business customers there twice, and the service was deplorable. That's why I stopped going. I once waited 35 minutes after all dishes were cleared, for a check. Meal service was similarly tardy. The place was good on the palate, but otherwise, it was as scatter-brained as he is.

I can tolerate some of that. But when I left 1 10% tip, the waiter literally threw my change at me and snarled. I almost asked for the 10% back.

Andrew, this city is full of folks who think we "can't be a world-class city unless......" (fill in the blank). Everyone has their opinion of why we're not a world-class city. I hardly think our failure to support a good-food-but-poor-service eatery, qualifies us for eternal damnation.

For my money, I want good food and good service, and the tips are generous if the latter is there.

And I've decided to stop tipping at all if service is truly bad. Hate to do it, and it won't happen often, but a gratuity is earned, not promised.

2009-08-13 11:16:56

Neal Brown [unverified] said:

"as scatter-brained as he is"? Really? I'm not sure THAT'S neccesary. I'm sorry you had not one, but two poor experiences. That has to be frustrating especially while you're entertaining business associates. Some unsolicited advice if I may:
1. I always reccomend alerting the highest ranking member of mgmt. available. I have a policy that if a guest has a complaint, and they express the complaint to us, we listen only, and rectify appropriately.
2. Realize that if you are having a poor experience, chances are that your experience at that moment is probably not isolated. Sometimes servers, cooks, accountants and even P'sOTUS need help and don't ask. Letting someone know there is a problem early can benefit everyone around you.
3. If the server threw your change back at you, you must have told him or her that you were going to leave them a poor tip. If a server did that to me, I'd take ALL of my money. Of course, I'd also tell someone who could adress the issue.

Hopefully this helps.

But let's clear one other thing up. If you decide to use an otherwise playful blog post to personally bash a chef, its very important not to let said chef know your true identity, or said chef may instruct his kitchen brigade to drop their bollocks in your Bouillabaisse.

2009-08-13 12:30:53

Brent Borland [unverified] said:

Now THAT is the Neal that I remember!!

2009-08-13 13:21:10

Andrew Holladay [unverified] said:

My wife and I went to L'ex probably 8-12 times. We even took our oldest son there once (he was 7 at the time - 8 now) for his first "fancy restaurant" experience. The service was always appropriate for the expectation. When I go to a place like L'ex, I EXPECT to be there for 2 to 3 hours. You're eating a 5 course meal (amuse, app, entree, desert/coffee, anti-griddle). I feel gypped if it doesn't take that long.

With respect to world class city, yes everyone has their "opinions" as to what it takes to qualify for that designation. However, there are certain minimum qualifications that a city needs to meet in order to even be in the discussion.

1) Have an airport
2) Have an opera and a symphony
3) Have multiple 4 star restaurants
4) Have a nightlife that isn't limited to college kids vomiting in an alleyway
5) Have a working public transportation system.
6) Have a radio station that doesn't make me want to open up my jugular (optional, i suppose)

This isn't meant to be an all inclusive list; just what immediately came to mind. Don't get me wrong; I _like_ Indianapolis. But I've lived in Chicago and Boston and visited Paris and Prague. Those are world class cities. This isn't. Doesn't make it bad, but if you delude yourself into thinking Indianapolis is, I'd admonish you to travel more.

2009-08-13 13:38:18

ruthholl [Member] said:

I have to say it: a world-class city also has to have a decent daily newspaper. That means "just say no to Gannett." But I know the problems with papers extend beyond the G-madness. Not kidding myself here.
Still, as a friend just observed, newspapers formerly were the forum that mediated the public discourse, gave vent to the various views, allowed us to see one another. With that dying, how do we get along?
Neal Brown or anybody else, what is P'sOTUS? I am probably dating myself.
I am looking forward to news of Neal's next adventure. Anybody who generates all those comments in Property Lines has to have a second coming...

2009-08-13 13:56:37

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Before I forget it: Ruth, in a previous post you addressed me as WhiteBREAD. Now, I want to point out that I have not eaten white bread for 20 years and I consider it an unhealthy food source (smile and a big hug).

About all of this restaurant stuff: Give me a big, red home-grown tomato, some lettuce I grow out in my back yard, cottage cheese and a glass of some cheap red wine and I've got a feast fit for a king. Better tastin' than a fancy restaurant meal for $50 - and no one to tip!

Also, I love the Oberweis Dairy concept. It reminds me of when I was a kid and the milkman in his white uniform and hat (don't remember any women doing this at our house back then) would deliver milk and other products to our house and put the bottles in a metal box on the porch. I especially love it that this milk is not toxified with hormones, antibiotics, etc.

2009-08-13 14:04:10

Andrew Holladay [unverified] said:

@ruth: POTUS = President Of The United States.

2009-08-13 14:39:43

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hey, Neal,. funny post. Seriously.

I don't consider "scatter-brained" a slam, for the most part. Because all too often, I am, too. But I'm not doing a terribly difficult multi-tasking thing like running a restaurant.

I fully respect those who do it well. Managing that many moving parts is, well...it requires a snappy mind. Which I do not possess.

Your food was superb. Always. I'm not a terribly effective restaurant complainer because honestly, I haven't had to do it much. And when I've witnessed it, it either ends up with: "What can I do for you?" Or nothing. Both are awkward.

If the food was bad, I'd want some of my money back. If only the service was bad, it demonstrates lack of focus, and the server, while polite, may need to find another vocation.

My standards aren't terribly high: keep my drinks full, do the money thing promptly. I do not understand why it's so diffiuclt to pay in some restaurants.

As for the anonymity, it's been explaiend here many times before, but there's a reason. I enjoyed your remedy (tee-hee), and I've always suspected restaurant folk do it to partitularly difficult customers.

2009-08-13 14:48:01

Neal [unverified] said:

TTT. Im glad you found the humor in it. It was intended.
I would never or allow anyone else to do anything to that effect, it was just for fun.

Frankly, to know me, is to know that I am about as scattterbrained as they come.

The pointers are true though.
If at any point in a dining experience you feel alienated, or uncomfortable, it is always in everyone's best interest to politely, and discreetly bring it to managements attention.

This is particularly disturbing since I feel like what really set us apart at L'ex was out attention to detailed service. Trust me, your experience does not fall on deaf ears.

Introduce yourself anytime. Ill buy you a bowl of stew. ;)

2009-08-13 15:15:36

hendy [Member] said:

The twists that this blog takes, blows my mind.

2009-08-13 15:25:30

Phil [unverified] said:

Things were rough financially for me when L'Ex was open but I received an award at work that offered me a rather sizable gift certificate there.

It was one of the best dining experiences of my life. The food, the service, the ambiance.

I thought our server did an amazing job.

I was sad to hear that it closed, but excited to hear that Neal is opening a new place.

Times are better for me now and I'd gladly spend much of my income on a Neal creation.

Oberweis on the other hand will never, knowingly, get my hard earned money. While I can appreciate that he advocates for local-food, he also advocated and donated for discrimination during his bid for Illinois governor. A big no-no in my book.

Neal, I hope you reconsider using dairy from Oberweis for your future endeavors.

2009-08-13 16:15:18

ruthholl [Member] said:

I'm going to become a food blogger. OMG WhiteBEARD. I should have known.
This is more fun than slamming Gannett any day.
Or as they said about Donna Mullinix's job years ago in Indianapolis Monthly: "Best job in town? Mullinix' Talk of the Town. No work, go to parties, plus she gets to eat all that free food."
Or something like that.
Anybody got a job like that anymore?

2009-08-13 16:31:54

indykjsharp [Member] said:

The lesson here is: Never order the Bouillabaisse. Or any soup, for that matter (except the corn puree at The Meridian). I've heard horror stories from servers and I've personally witnessed at my table (having lunch w/a bunch of work pals) a cig butt in a bowl of PF Chang soup. Blech.

2009-08-13 21:14:41

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Cig butts in PF Chang soup. There goes breakfast.

Ruthie, did you tell the other half about Oberweis's deplorable campaign tactics? And, I thought I read somewhere that Oberweis sold his dairy to his kids or something.

2009-08-14 05:23:38

Tom Butters [unverified] said:

"1) Have an airport
2) Have an opera and a symphony
3) Have multiple 4 star restaurants
4) Have a nightlife that isn't limited to college kids vomiting in an alleyway
5) Have a working public transportation system.
6) Have a radio station that doesn't make me want to open up my jugular (optional, i suppose)"

Plus, an art museum. And a museum museum.

Also- I worked in Manhattan for a number of years. Much client dining involved. One became accustomed to restaurant wait staff with attitude. But dining at Lutece or 21 or Four Seasons was worth the aggravation, especially when on expense account. (Naturally much alcohol was involved, which encouraged Big Tips.)

I am not too demanding of service. I want the food to be hot, reasonably prompt, glasses kept full and check to be presented in a timely fashion. I do not want unctuous "Hi, my name is Goober and I will be your server today" friendliness, especially in a top notch restaurant.

I also do not want a high noise level. Amazing how many places fail to invest in sound deadening tile and thus the dining room is filled with kitchen din, customer noise, server conversing and bad music, thus guaranteeing early exit.

2009-08-14 09:22:48

hendy [Member] said:

To be a world class city, you need the world to be able to get to Indy. The exit of ATA, United, US Airways (and its predecessor failures) mean that you might get Air Toronto on a good day. Toronto, by contrast, is highly accessible.

World class arts also means not listening to dead European composers' works. There needs to be a vibrant ethnicity. There indeed is some of that, but the lilly-white aristocracy of the community disregards it.

Museums, Indy has. The Children's Museum is glorious. Ok, there's one check-mark.

Restaurants? We can hardly keep the progressive ones in business. The venues are good, but this is meat and potato and liquor world, if the liquor is a tequila umbrella drink or simply beer. Yes, you can find fine wine at mind-numbing markups served in pseudo-sommelier ceremonies (ever sent a wine back in Indy? The server simply never has had that problem before, ever).

World class transportation is an oxymoron, unless you believe it to be by auto.

World class might mean working sewers, but we prefer financing sports edifices.

World class media might be interesting, this being the home of Emmis Communications, but even the public media is pedestrian (despite the good efforts of some) and alternative radio (no, not that kind) is simply absent. When the biggest variety can be heard on high school licensed stations, you're in trouble.

World class might mean progressive arts, music, and theatre, and there is actually some of that; but the efforts are diffuse and taste of bad patronage.

And as this is Ruth Holladay's site, it must be mentioned that the newspaper monopoly simply has caused what could have been a great city to fall to the malaise of irrelevancy, and the abyss of Don't-Care.

2009-08-14 10:21:10

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"The Children's Museum is glorious."
And damn expensive.
I remember when it was free. It has become a massive eater of grants and endowments, always on the hunt for more...and still admission goes up. It's beyond the proles' price range.

2009-08-14 10:30:10

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"Oberweis on the other hand will never, knowingly, get my hard earned money. While I can appreciate that he advocates for local-food, he also advocated and donated for discrimination during his bid for Illinois governor. A big no-no in my book."

I don't quite get this dissing of Oberweis Dairy. When I buy food at a farmer's market, I don't ask the guy selling me cucumbers about his politics. Right-wing cukes taste just as good as left-wing cukes.

I also don't take a list of food company owners' names and political backgrounds into the grocery store to buy food off the shelves.

2009-08-14 11:15:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Whitebeard, many of us don't go around consciously looking for trouble in this "politically correct" thing.

But when a producer of a productm, uses his profits to strongly support an agedna with which any of us disagree, then our social conscious should kick in.

This does not mean Don Marsh's $2,000 to Dan Burton (gag). But, Oberweis was particularly hateful to gays during his campaign, and he has donated large money to groups to fund "studies" whose results are then used to promote right-wing hatefulness.

The distinction between a CEO's personal contributions, at the legal levels, and the CEO's dedication at gatgantuan levels to ideological nut jobs.

When my milk money goes to Don for Danny boy, even though I detest Danny boy, I figure, Don's got a right. But if my grocery money went to open and fund, in large amounts, a think tank devoted to demolishing civil rights...then I've got a problem. It's all about proportion.

I don't like it when left-wingers do it, either.

Oberweis probably sells good milk. But their patriarch is hateful.

2009-08-14 12:28:49

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Oh yeah, and regaridng this world-class argument.

Have any of you local detractors been to the art museum lately? It's fantastic. I visit artm museums all over the country. For our size, the local museum is phenominal, and the permanent collection is being supplemented with significant works.

Hendy's dead composer stuff is funny, but directorial problems aside, our symphony isn't half bad, either.

Orchestras and their choice of musical program...a constant source of debate in all world-class cities with good musical groups.

2009-08-14 12:32:04

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

TTT - I get your point and I appreciate where you (and others) are coming from.

But, I still think it is a bit unfair to single out one food company (Oberweis in this case) in this manner.

I am an animal rights advocate (a vegetarian since 1986) and, as I understand it, this company treats its cows well and does not pump them up with hormones and damage their immune systems with massive doses of antibiotics.

So, to me, a company like Oberweis is a "win-win" dairy proposition. The cows are treated humanely and the milk products they produce are healthy for human consumption.

Buy dairy products from major corporations and you're getting products from abused animals and products that are harmful to those who consume them.

2009-08-14 16:07:35

Me [unverified] said:

Dunno 'bout y'all, but I just love the [unverified[ spam, such as "trxoac", above!

2009-08-15 19:38:48

Crossedwires [unverified] said:

Sorry Ruth, but there is a boycott on Oberweis products due to former Illinois Republican gubernatorrial candidate Jim Oberweis’s anti-gay marriage statements and actions.

2009-08-15 22:33:03

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Whitebeard: I hear ya. I'd think about buying the product, I guess....but Mr. Oberweis's hateful diatribes are a cautionary tale.

2009-08-16 04:57:36

Art Fuggins [Member] said:

I quit purchasing Oberweis products when I learned that the owners were horrible bigots and very right wing. They are especially homophobic. My limited consumer dollars will go somewhere else.

2009-08-16 14:53:59

Kendra [Member] said:

So what other companies should we be boycotting because of their homophobic mindsets?

2009-08-16 15:53:09

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Atkins cheesecakes and prepared foods. Which are fabulous, But ask around--the senior Atkinses, who run the company, are Cruella DeVilles in disguise. Horrid creatures.

God I miss the praline cheesecake. But it shall never again cross my lips after the way they treated their own flesh and blood, just because he is gay. Pathetic.

And it turns out they have nearly-forced employee Bible studies, too.

My God weeps. For now. And then he's coming back, and he's gonna be pissed.

2009-08-16 21:13:25

linda [unverified] said:

Neal.....where are you now???
Kendra, what's the news on the job front?

2009-08-19 10:31:22

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