Saturday, April 24, 2010

YOU SHOULD GO: Mudsocks Grill

I had an opportunity to dine at Mudsocks Grill in Carmel/Noblesville recently. It was kind of like a solo Tastecasting adventure (here's what that means, full-disclosure included), and you should TOTALLY go.

Although my folks live pretty much right around the corner and Mudsocks has been there for a while, I'd never been there before my trip last month. On my way there, I called my brother (who also lives around the corner), and asked if he'd ever been there. He said he'd been there several times and had some recommendations. In fact, JJ is such a fan of Mudsocks, we're going there for his birthday dinner tomorrow.

I was excited to get there and was delightfully surprised to find a warm and comfy hang-out with fantastic food and great atmosphere. I met Jessica Mitchell, a new Twitter friend who is also a Mudsocks manager, and talked with her a little about the restaurant before ordering. Some stuff to know:
  • Bring your appetite. Portion size at Mudsocks is pretty huge.
  • A jazz band performs every Wednesday. (Editor's Note: They're good, too. I was there on a Wednesday night and they really were good.)
  • A big outdoor patio is open for seating when the weather's nice. I was there a couple weeks before the patio opened, but I'll definitely be back to enjoy dinner in the open air some time soon.
  • There's also a banquet room with snazzy techno-plugins and whatnot. You can have a business meeting there, and it's available for rent any time of day. There's a group that regularly meets there in the early morning once a week.
  • Fishers used to be called Mudsock, Indiana. The name originated with the farmers who kept their horses in the fields. When the fields got wet, the horses would have mud up to their knees -- as though they were wearing "mud socks."
The place itself is very cool. It looks like they spent a lot of money to create a unique design/architecture look. The restaurant occupies a wedge of a circular strip mall building, and I would say it's about 30% sports bar, 70% family dining. There are TVs freaking everywhere. This is a very good thing -- even if, like me, you're not into sports. (The TV directly in front of me was tuned to Entertainment Tonight. Goooooooooooooal!)

One of my brother's recommendations was the jumbo pretzel appetizer. And holy crap, what a treat. A yooooge fresh, hot, salty pretzel served with a big bowl of queso for dipping. You could totally make a meal out of that appetizer in itself. Another meal-worthy appetizer would be the pulled pork nachos, which Jessie told me are pretty popular, too. I almost tried the deep fried pickles -- spears, not chips -- but decided to leave that for next time.

The menu is one of the more extensive I've seen in the area. LOTS of options -- almost too many! (I seriously wrote down six menu items with "next time" right next to them in my notebook.) It looked to me to be a pretty American menu (steaks, burgers, chicken, pasta, etc.), and it all sounded fantastic. I think the "next time" item I'm really going to go with -- when we're there tomorrow for birthday fun -- is the fried cheese ravioli. (My mouth is watering already.)

On this first trip, though, I ultimately opted to build my own burger, with pepper jack cheese, avocado, and bacon. The burger arrived perfectly cooked, and it tasted great. I got the mac-and-cheese as my side, and while it was fantastic, it was a little rich to go with the burger. Next time, I'd probably stick with the homemade potato chips or creamy coleslaw.

While the food was fantastic, probably the even cooler thing about Mudsocks is the atmosphere. There were tons of BIG groups of people hanging out when I was there, and everybody looked to be having a great time. The owners were hanging out with friends and it seemed like every time someone walked in, they were either greeted by name or walked right over to someone and started talking to them. It was great for people-watching -- seeing all kinds of people celebrating their own celebrations in their own way. Very cool.

Mudsocks Grill is the type of place you would want to open if you were going to open a restaurant. The food is awesome, the atmosphere is friendly and cozy, there's live jazz on Wednesdays, the staff work their butts off, and you'll find friends new and old just a table away.

You should go.

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