Monday, May 25, 2009

The "Staycation" - Part 7 - Wrapping Up

We've had a great time on the "staycation", but, sadly, all good things must come to an end. Here's a quick recap of the last few days.

Thursday - no planned activities. One of the best parts of a staycation is the ability to decide to do nothing special. Its tough to do that when you're away from home and paying for hotels, rental cars and meals out. We took Thursday as a day to run errands and stock up the pantry.

Our one nod to exploring Indy on Thursday was lunch at Roscoe's Tacos in Greenwood. We had seen an article in the Indianapolis Star about several good places to eat in Greenwood. Roscoe's was one of the places. It was plain and simple, low priced, and good. Mary tried their soft tacos - one chicken and one ground beef. I tried the "Son of Sampler" - three corn tacos (one ground beef, one shredded beef, one chicken) and a side (I had black beans and rice). We were surprised that the ground beef tacos were the best of the bunch. There were seats for about 20 people, and all were full - even at 1pm on Thursday. Maybe the newspaper article helped, maybe they are always this busy. Lunch was about $15.

On Thursday evening we met our neighbors Ann and Alan for hors d'oeuvres and wine on the roof. We had a delightful, relaxing evening - swapping stories and watching the sunset over the skyline. Our neighbor Richard joined us on the roof midway through the evening. Richard works in state government and always has a good story or two to share.

Friday - A light day in the city. We had lunch at King David Dogs on Pennsylvania Ave.

This is "the" place to get a hot dog in Indianapolis. Like a lot of our staycation destinations, we had walked past King David's numerous times, but never during their business hours. (They're only open from 11-4, Monday through Friday.) On Friday as we walked to lunch, we encountered a steady stream of people carrying plastic cups with the King David logo. It seemed like everybody on Pennsylvania Ave. had been there for lunch.

King David Dogs is run by Brent Joseph. He's the grandson of William Hene, one of the founders of the Hene Meat Company, which developed the King David brand of meats, including all-beef hot dogs. They sold them through delis and grocery stores in Indy from the 1940's through the 1990's. Brent uses the family recipe and serves all his dogs on steamed poppy seed buns.

It's a small place inside - maybe 10 or 12 tables, and at 1pm on Friday it was packed.

Mary ordered a chili dog (chili with beans, brown mustard, cheese and onions). I got the "Chicago Dog" (onions, tomato wedges, neon green relish, yellow mustard, sport peppers, a dill pickle spear and a dash of celery salt). We both also got tater tots. (Where else can you get tater tots?) We enjoyed every bite!

While we ate, we compared notes on lunch spots with the man sitting next to us. He told us he worked at the NCAA headquarters and had tried practically every lunch place downtown. His recommendations:
  • The Workingman's Friend (also recommended by our neighbor, Alan)
  • The Tip Top Tavern
  • John's Hot Stew
  • The Ice House
While we won't get to all of these this week, we've added them to our list for future outings.

Later on Friday afternoon, we went back to the Otte Golf Center for their "twilight" special - 18 holes for $10 (walking). We got there about 4:30 and had the course almost completely to ourselves until the very end. It was hot for the first 9 holes, but the evening turned very pleasant for the back 9. An added bonus - we were both hitting the ball well. The course is open until 10pm. We're planning to go back regularly throughout the summer for more twilight golf.

Saturday - We hadn't planned any activities for SaVturday, but the staycation spirit stayed with us, anyway. The big event downtown on Saturday was the Indy 500 Festival Parade. It started at noon, just a couple blocks from our condo. People were walking past in groups by 10am. We had attended the parade for the past two years and decided to skip this one. We decided to drive south, away from the crowds downtown, to run some errands and try someplace new for lunch. I checked the "Dining Out" listings in the Indianapolis Monthly and got the address for the Ice House Restaurant on S. West St. It was a warm day and we figured the a place called "Ice House"would be a comfortable spot.

The Ice House was described as an "after work hangout for generations of clock-punchers". It is located in an industrial area a couple miles south of downtown, with a freight yard behind it. It looked like the kind of place where a man (or woman) with a powerful thirst might be found after the quitting time whistle blew.

On Saturday afternoon, however, we had the place almost to ourselves. A couple of tables were occupied by groups of men in town for the race.

The place had a well worn, comfortable feel to it. At one end of the long bar was a jukebox, a couple of video games, and a cigarette machine. How long has it been since you've seen one of those?

The menu was on the table as a laminated place mat. It didn't take us long to make up our minds. Mary got a club sandwich. I went for the tenderloin - another recommendation I'd picked up somewhere.

Portions for both sandwiches are best described as "ample". In the finest Indiana tradition, the tenderloin nearly covered the entire plate!

While we enjoyed the sandwiches, Mary flipped through the Indianapolis Monthly City Guide. She found a short note about Garfield Park, the oldest city park in Indy. What got our attention was the fact that the park has a "formal garden like something you'd see at Versailles". We were intrigued...even more so because I remembered seeing signs for Garfield Park on our way to the Ice House.

The waitress confirmed that the park was nearby, so we headed that way after lunch. We drove into the park past the public swimming pool and several large groups having picnics. I was about to conclude that we'd been led astray, when I saw a sign for the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens.

Sure enough, it was a large formal garden, laid out in a very symmetric fashion. We can't compare to Versaille, since we haven't been there, yet, but it was a surprising find in the middle of an urban park.

Adjacent to the garden is the conservatory - a 10,000 square foot green house.

We wandered through the garden, out a back gate and through a portion of the larger (136 acre) park. The grounds were neat and well maintained. We saw the MacAllister Performing Arts Center - an outdoor ampitheater that feature pops concerts on Thursday nights and "movies in the park", all summer long. We also saw the Garfield Park Arts Center that offers a wide variety of programs in the visual and performing arts to the broader community.

Looking back, this was possibly the best way to end the staycation. We've had a week of fun, at very low cost, that did not require the expense and stress of traveling. And best of all, we discovered several new places that hold lots of promise for future activities, right here at home. We'll still travel, of course, but we'll do so with a much better appreciation for all that we have in our back yard.

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