Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Off the Map: Peppered Hoosier

Peppered Beef Sandwich -- Shapiro's Delicatessen, Indianapolis, IN
Shapiro's Delicatessen

At our next Kentucky-based meal, Vodka and her friend, Diet Coke, sit across from one another, fingers extended and throwing out numbers in rapid-fire succession.  "Oh sorry, we were just counting," Diet Coke "explains" when our perplexed waiter approaches.

"States," Vodka clarifies.  "We were counting how many states we've each been to."  Which, while maybe not exactly normal dinner conversation, still makes a lot more sense than merely stating we were "counting," as if we had just learned how.
We Never Graduated Past the "Counting on Our Fingers" Technique
The outcome of this conversation reveals that, including Kentucky, Diet Coke has now been to 34 states, while Vodka has been to 17.  Which obviously means that we should hightail it for Indiana, immediately, if not sooner.
Lewis and Clark Ain't Got Nothin' on Us
As we weave our way up the farm-lined highways toward Indianapolis, home of not one, but two Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes, Diet Coke's husband (let's call him "Regular Coke") begins texting her about how "nice" Vodka is to "put up with her."  You see, along with trying to visit every state in the union, Diet Coke is also in a battle with her sister to see who can eat at a Chipotle in more states, and venturing to one in Indiana would put her in the lead.
Clearly, Vodka Only Befriends Weirdos
"Putting up with you, eh?" Vodka asks.  "Does he not realize you will soon have carted me to THREE Best Thing I Ever Ate places today?"
So Just To Be Clear, Indianapolis Is NOT Right Next Door to Louisville?
Our first stop along this journey is Shapiro's Delicatessen in Indianapolis, home of Marc Summers's LOCAL FAVORITES dish, the peppered beef sandwich.  
As We Pull Up, Diet Coke Silently Wonders If They Serve Burritos
Shapiro's itself is set up like an old-fashioned cafeteria-style deli, where the customers grab a tray and then choose their desired dishes while cruising along the counter.  
If Only All Meals in Our High School Cafeterias Came with a Side of Pickles
Vodka orders one peppered beef sandwich on rye, with mustard and cole slaw on the side, since Diet Coke, in a preference that is completely flummoxing, dislikes ninety-percent of condiments.  (As opposed to the "That's why I eat food -- as a vehicle for condiments" discussion of yore).
Between Diet Coke's Lack of Drinking and Lack of Condiments, It's a Wonder She and Vodka Are Friends
The bread arrives hot out of the oven, the peppered beef is cut directly in front of us, and the whole thing looks to be about the freshest sandwich we have ever been handed.  
My, Don't You Look Scrumptious
Without asking, Shapiro's provides us with both an extra plate and an extra pickle, and we are equally heartened to find a napkin dispenser and salt and pepper set featured on each table.
We Ask for So Little, Really -- Don't Make Us Fetch Our Own Napkins, and We'll Be Your Best Friend
As Vodka begins taking notes, Diet Coke takes a bite of her half and calls out enthusiastically, "Good!"  Immediately correcting herself, she says, "Oh sorry, I'm not supposed to influence the first taste."  
As If Vodka Ever Had Trouble Forming Her Own Judgmental Opinions
Luckily for Diet Coke, Vodka agrees that the sandwich is indeed quite tasty, though it is even better when she slathers on a preponderance of mustard and cole slaw.  
Now THIS Is a Perfect Sandwich
The meat itself tastes like a combination of pastrami and corned beef, with just enough peppery flavor to give it a kick without being overpowering.  The rye bread on which it is assembled is unbelievably good -- crispy on the crust and chewy on the inside, perfectly molding to the contents within.  
Possibly Because, Unlike Our Last Locale, It Has FLOUR
What we decide we like best about this sandwich is the simplicity -- all Shapiro's recommends dousing it with is a solid helping of yellow mustard, as opposed to some of the newer sandwich places, where no lunch is complete without at least nineteen ingredients.  
When You're Right, You're Right, Shapiro's
Rather than over-complicating things, Shapiro's keeps their food -- and their entire restaurant -- simple, letting the real flavor of the ingredients shine through.
Good to the Last Drop
Heartened by the fact that our two-hour drive up Interstate 65 wasn't for naught, we leave Shapiro's Deli with a pep in our step, rehashing all the things we loved about the peppered beef sandwich.

Or rather, counting them.

Shapiro's Delicatessen Peppered Beef Sandwich: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate

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