Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bahama blog.

I had one novel experience in Indianapolis earlier this week, a fairly minor one, but better than nothing. On a previous visit to that city, when wandering around and in need of a phone—my co-worker’s cell had run out of power, and mine at the time didn’t include Indy as part of its service area—we stopped in at a place on the north side called Bahama Breeze to make a phone call. If we’d had time for lunch there that day, we might have actually eaten there, but no.

It’s a small chain. There are about 30 of them scattered across the country, though Florida seems to have more than anywhere else. The theme is Island—Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica, rather than Ellesmere, Baffin or Greenland—with warm-color island paintings on most walls and a ceiling designed to look like a tin-shed roof, but supported by sturdy wooden beams. It was fairly busy for a weekday night, but not especially noisy. While I was waiting for my table, a fellow in tropical prints with a guitar and harmonica established himself at a corner near the bar, and started imitating Jimmy Buffett (see Nov. 14, 2004). He did a creditable set.

A decent but not stellar selection of beer. That may be unintentionally authentic island atmosphere, where most beer has to be imported. A house brew called “Aruba Red” was promoted on the menu and on a little tent on the table, but closer inspection revealed it was brewed for Bahama Breeze by Anheuser-Busch. I ordered a Pacifico Clara.

The menu had its island charms. Appetizers to choose from included “island onion rings,” “West Indian paties,” “Creole bake goat cheese,” “jerk shrimp,” and “calamari sofrito,” which I had. For people who don’t like seafood (go figure), pizza, salads, chicken and beef appeared on the menu, but I’m not going to go to a joint called Bahama Breeze and not eat something from the sea. Four of the five specials of the day were seafood: grilled Atlantic salmon tostada, bronzed tilapia, jerk painted Atlantic salmon, and pan-seared mahi-mahi. For me, the salmon, since I was intrigued by the idea of jerk salmon. It came with rice and black beans, sweet plantains, and “citrus apple mango salsa.” Nice and spicy jerk, sweet plantains, and tart salsa. A fine tasty plate all around.

When I asked, the waiter wasn’t sure how many Bahama Breezes there were, but he said that this one was the only one in Indiana. He asked where I was from, and when I told him, he said that he was sure there was one near Chicago (in fact in Schaumburg, about three miles from my home). “I’ve only been to Chicago once,” he added, “and I ate pizza when I was there.”

“Only once, ever?” I asked. That was a little surprising, since Chicago’s an easy three hours up the road from Indianapolis. He explained that he was from Evansville, Indiana, near the toe of the state, and when he had time he went that direction instead of north. Just speculation on my part, but I suppose moving to the big city for him meant Indianapolis, and why not?


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