Food and Art at Penn & Palate

By Karen Kennedy

Art and food are a perfect marriage, and that marriage is sublime at Penn and Palate.

Walking in the door of this small and stylish new Herron Morton eatery in the historic Picadilly Building at the corner of 16th Street and Pennsylvania, you’ll most likely be greeted (and perhaps even served) by a gracious and accommodating blonde who seems to be amazingly knowledgeable about the menu. Why is this server and hostess so experienced and capable? Because she is Kim Robertson, and she (along with her husband John) owns the place. The Robertsons also own and operate The Legend in Irvington.

It would be easy to love this place for the décor alone. The interior design was a collaboration between Robertson and Capehart Gulde Designs, and the result is simultaneously “night on the town dressy” and “come as you are from the neighborhood.” Shades of eggplant on the walls mix perfectly with cozy chocolate brown booths, a beautiful tile backsplash in the bar, original terrazzo floors and interesting light fixtures. Photos of both current and past art teachers at the neighboring Herron School of Art as well as Indiana authors complete the theme.

But executive chef Bill Julian’s food, coming out of the tiny kitchen, brings the art-themed décor full circle with imaginative and artistic American cuisine, beautifully presented.

On a lunch visit, we sampled starters of crispy Scallion Corn Cakes finished with marinated olives, cherry tomatoes and feta and the rich and (almost too!) buttery Feta Cheese Torta, layered with roasted red bell peppers and pesto, and accompanied by a generous portion of Amelia’s bread.

The House Chips are divine—an interesting mix of paper thin russet and sweet potatoes, turnips, beets and carrots. Order a side of the Blue Cheese Yogurt to dip them in. The salads are built from a foundation of really fresh greens and topped with delicious house-made dressings. Tomato Basil Soup is always on the menu, but the fact that there is always both a daily cream-based and broth-based soup is a very nice touch.

The lunch menu is rounded out by an interesting selection of sandwiches, served on your choice of bread. The Braised Short Rib, finished with arugula, Havarti, crispy shallots and an ancho-balsamic glaze is a perfect winter stick-to-your-ribs meal. If you’re in a hurry at lunch time, the $10.00, two-item lunch combo is a great option.

‚ÄčEntrées, served after 5:00 p.m. include a nice selection of fish, meat and vegetarian choices. The Short Ribs appear again, paired with Duchess potatoes, wilted spinach and caramelized fennel. Other stand-outs include: Buttermilk Roasted Chicken, a seasonal vegetable Risotto and Shrimp ‘n Grits. For dessert, the crunchy but tender and moist Rosemary Polenta Cake is a must-try, swimming in a pool of tart lemon curd and finished with a lovely raspberry coulis.

All of this delightful food is complemented by a thoughtful beer and wine list that features off-the-beaten-path wines and all of the must-have local breweries.

On Wednesday nights, the Robertsons create a special menu designed for the “starving artist” students who live in the apartments above them, so if you happen to stop in on that particular night, you might find Biscuits and Gravy or Chicken and Noodles available for only $5.00 per plate. In the summer months, the outdoor patio is the place to be to soak in the vibe of this hip and artsy neighborhood.

Penn and Palate

28 E. 16th Street, Indianapolis

Facebook.com/pennandpalate

602-6975

Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; closed Sundays.