Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Review by Dustin Heller (@eatindywatchindie on Instagram)
Don’t you love it when you stumble upon a restaurant that you don’t know much about and it knocks your socks off? I had an experience like this recently at a hidden gem on Indy’s north side, the family-friendly restaurant and tavern, Rusty Bucket. OK, raise your hand if you’ve never heard of it. Don’t be embarrassed, because I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t either and it has been going strong in Indy for over ten years now.
Now that you know, you have no excuse not to pay them a visit. Rusty Bucket is located at 1130 W 86th St, just east of Ditch Road, where they are serving up a wide variety of delicious homemade dishes. That’s right, a tavern with a scratch kitchen. I’m telling you: this place is legit.
Rusty Bucket is somewhat of a catch-all when it comes to the dining experience. It’s a great place to bring the entire family for dinner or have a drink at the bar with some friends. It even doubles as a sports bar with a number of televisions mounted throughout. Rusty Bucket feels like that neighborhood joint that all the locals go but don’t tell their friends about because they don’t want to have to wait for a table. I’d be remiss to not mention the amazing crew working at Rusty Bucket as well; they are friendly and professional from top to bottom.
When it comes to the food at Rusty Bucket, everything is prepared fresh in-house daily. The menu is quite large, so I guess that means I’m gonna have to go back a lot of times (yippie!). They offer a nice selection of appetizers, soups and salads, sandwiches, burgers, main plates and more. They even have a great brunch menu for the weekends (next on my list). Aside from all of these great offerings, they also have daily blue plate specials that are awesome–trust me, I know what I’m talking about. With no further ado, I’ve picked four of my favorite items from the menu that you “can’t miss” when visiting Rusty Bucket.
Blackened Salmon Salad: Those of you who regularly read this column might be thinking to yourselves: “What happened to the old guy? He would never recommend a salad.” I am still the same guy and still have the same big appetite–I just couldn’t overlook this terrific dish. I’m as surprised as you are, but it truly knocked my socks off. The salad is made of baby spinach and mixed greens with fresh strawberries, candied pecans, sliced red onion and blue cheese crumbles tossed in a honey vinaigrette dressing. It is garden fresh and packed with flavor, but it’s not the star of this show. That honor belongs to the Blackened Salmon; it is stream-to-table fresh and cooked perfectly with just the right about of spice and heat. Now you have written proof that I do, if fact, eat salad.
Pork Potstickers: Now who in their right mind would order a Chinese dish in an American restaurant and tavern? I’ll tell you, who: me, and all of you should, too! The dumplings are stuffed full of pork and other delicious goodies, and they are served with house-made ponzu sauce. Sounds pretty standard, right? So far it is, but what sets this dish apart from the rest is that layer of sweet chili sauce lying underneath. It provides the perfect amount of sweet and heat to an already crazy good appetizer. The only thing better than a side of dipping sauce is two sides of dipping sauce.
Pesto Chicken Pasta: Here we have two of my favorite things, pesto and pasta (they even sound alike). To start, Rusty Bucket sautés slightly al dente spaghetti with garlic, white wine, olive oil, fresh baby spinach, mushrooms and oven roasted tomatoes. We could stop right there and I’d be perfectly satisfied, but what fun is that? Next, they add a grilled chicken breast that has been marinated in their pesto atop this mountain. Serve it with a side of garlic cheese bread and you’re ready to dive in. Pro tip: the bread is even better dipped in the sauce.
Beef Stroganoff: Sticking with the pasta theme, I wanted to include one of the Daily Blue Plate specials. Like I mentioned above, Rusty Bucket is a scratch kitchen and this glorious beef stroganoff is, in fact, made from scratch. I’ll admit that I was a tad bit skeptical when I heard it was made in house, but there was no question once I took my first bite. Tell me this doesn’t make your mouth water: slow-roasted beef, button and morel mushrooms, thick pappardelle pasta, all tossed in a morel cream sauce. This stroganoff is only available on Wednesdays, so you better start blocking out your calendar now.