It really isn’t work, you know, just to be a rose.

May roses


Review: Mondays at Friday’s. Trivia, With a Twist.

Trivia Mondays at TGI Friday's

6:30 p.m. on Mondays. Be there or be square.

Remember, once upon a time, when TGI Friday’s used to have something called “the cheesy bacon cheeseburger?” You know, the bacon cheeseburger that was topped with a deep-fried, golden-breaded disc of provolone cheese? It was utterly unhealthy and super-delicious, chain restaurant be damned. Yeah, they don’t have that any more.

But they do have live trivia on Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. And three dollar house margaritas. These two things have succeeded in getting me to the mall in a non-Christmas season and, in fairness, to a TGI Friday’s, which normally wouldn’t happen. Not that I have anything against Friday’s per se—they have, after all, held up much better than the other eclectically-decorated American-food big franchises of the 1990s (Applebee’s, Houlihan’s, Bennigan’s, forest green and cranberry and miscellaneous pop culture on the walls; a billion nearly identical pseudo-neighborhood, family-friendly restaurants) —so, nothing against Friday’s or chain restaurants, just…if I’m going to eat big fat restaurant calories, I’m going to make them really count, in a non-mall, usually non-Friday’s kind of way (excepting the no-longer extant cheesy bacon cheeseburger, rest its soul).

But I’m addicted to live trivia. So to Friday’s at the Greenwood Park Mall, I go. On Mondays. At 6:30. (Hint: take a good quality pencil with you, maybe two. The little, stupid mini-golf pencils the “Trivia Jockey” gives players are shoddy writing utensils. Trust me. I love office supplies. These weak-leaded things truly suck.) Friday’s has a full bar but they are light on any good hoppy pale ale options. Which is how I discovered that the $3 house margaritas on special are surprisingly luscious: for $3 it’s like drinking a vacation (for $6 it’s either an adventure or a hangover, maybe both — you’ve been warned), better than margaritas at Hacienda in Kokomo (good, but not as potent) but not quite on par with the margaritas at the Mexico pavilion at Epcot (the happiest place on Earth, particularly with one of those margaritas, which will set you back a little more than $3, not that you will care). I think the secret with the Monday Friday’s margarita is that it’s not too sweet. It doesn’t taste like cheap margarita mix or bad lemonade; it definitely doesn’t taste like lime kool-aid that lost a big fight. A little lime, a lot of rock salt. It totally works. But if cheap margaritas aren’t your thing, they have all of the following drinks on Mondays for $3: Mojitos (I’m told these are more sweet than minty), Martinis (also in Apple, Espresso, and Mudslide versions), Cosmopolitans, something called a “Pink Punk Cosmo,” and a diet (smirk) “Fridays Light Cosmo Cooler.” You might want to steer clear of the Long Island Iced Tea. As one of my fellow Trivia players put it: “This tastes like booze! With a little bit of lemon!” The Friday’s Long Island Iced Tea (a sad, mad lemonade color, not at all the expected tea color of, say, Roller-Rink Suicides or actual, you know, iced tea) then sat untouched and melting for the rest of the evening. It was, apparently, just that bad.

Friday’s (on Mondays) also has the following appetizers on special for $5 each: mozzarella sticks, spinach florentine flatbread, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, jack sliders, and boneless wings in your choice of sauce. Sadly, the most popular apps (among fellow Trivia players, anyway) like the crispy, fried green bean fries and the steamed pot-stickers are no longer on special. You can still get them, of course, just not for five dollars. The pot-stickers are tender with more flavor and more meat than you’ll find in a run-of-the-mill Chinese buffet wonton. The green bean fries are crispy, lightly-breaded, with a green snap at the end: really pretty nice but not necessarily unique. But you don’t go to Friday’s (or the mall) for “unique,” generally (and snobbishly) speaking.

If you’re after one of the very many meat options flavored with Jack Daniels, Friday’s still has all of those. They taste, perhaps unsurprisingly, like Jack Daniels and will run you from 8 to 23 dollars, depending on your choice of whiskey-flavored protein.

I don’t know that I would go to Friday’s under any conditions if it were not for the live trivia. But Mondays at Friday’s are quite nice, not only because of the live trivia, but also because of the unexpectedly sort of special $3 margaritas.

I know it’s not Christmas, but head to the Greenwood Park Mall on Monday. They have trivia and refreshments there (and also Wi-Fi, but don’t cheat and use it during trivia, obvs.). At Friday’s. On Mondays.

I totally get how confusing that is. With or without a house margarita.

TGI Fridays on Urbanspoon

Reviews on Yelp


Lilies of the Valley, Modern Chalk, and the Wise Garden Encyclopedia

Lily of the valley

The air is balmy and serene, / and all the sweet luxuriant scene / By thee is clad in tender green / O lovely May! — F. Hemans

There is nothing in the world that smells like these tiny flowers. I saw this batch the other day near work and promptly fell in love. That happens sometimes with flowers.

My great-grandmother also loved lilies of the valley so instead of digitally searching for all the information in the world regarding these beautiful plants, I asked her. Which is to say, I opened my great-grandmother's gardening book, “The Wise Garden Encyclopedia,” and looked there.


Lily of the Valley illustrations

From pp.771-772:

“Lily-of-the-Valley: Common name for Convallaria majalis, a low perennial herb of the Lily Family, native to Europe and Asia, but widely grown both in gardens (where it often becomes naturalized) and indoors. It has underground creeping rootstocks and fleshy crowns popularly known as “pips,” which develop two oblong leaves and a solitary, one-sided, graceful spike of fragrant, small white, bell-shaped blossoms that are excellent for small vase arrangements and much used for corsages, bride's bouquets and other decorative purposes.

“The fleshy pips are bulb-like in their construction and action in that the flower embryo is actually present in all ripened, full-size specimens so that only water and moderate heat are needed for the development of flower stems. This makes “valley” one of the most easily handled of all floral subjects and largely accounts for its great popularity.

“…Because of its beauty, easy-flowering quality and availability over the whole year, the lily-of-the-valley is also a favorite subject for house culture. Almost any receptacle will answer and, where the roots are too long for use in shallow bowls, they can be cut off to the extent of one-half their length without injury. A bowl 6 in. in diameter will accommodate 10 to 12 pips which should be stood in an upright position with the fleshy tips extending above the bowl. Sand, sphagnum moss or peat moss should be firmly pressed between and around the roots and the receptacle filled with lukewarm water and placed near a light window where, if water is added as it evaporates so as to keep the moss or sand moist, the pips will flower in 3 or 4 weeks in usual room temperature.

“For garden planting pips should be planted in late fall or very early spring. For best results they insist upon a cool, rather densely shaded spot and are perfectly hardy. They can be planted about 6 in. apart for as soon as they are established they will begin to increase and spread over a larger area every year. The planting should be kept free from weeds and not crowded out by other subjects. The flowers can be cut freely, but any removal of the foliage before it has completely died down will interfere with the flower crop the following season.”

The Wise Garden Encyclopedia

Lela's Gardening Book

I am told that my great-grandmother loved to garden but I was too young to know her when she still had a garden. I know that she loved her family. She loved to paint flowers, ducks, and rabbits. She liked playing card games of any kind. She would drive my sister and me to McDonald's and feed us Happy Meals. She would also let us douse her in all the powder she owned, layer bead necklaces around her neck, and put lipstick – carefully, but still messily – on her. Then we would parade her around the apartment building where she lived and put on shows in the lobby. She gave us very cold 7-Up in aluminum tumblers and made the best macaroni and cheese in the world (with government cheese!). She would pull out a box of craft supplies from the twenties and thirties: chalk, beads, construction paper. Modern chalk is different from old chalk. It is not nearly as good. Old chalk draws much better things, with thick, dark lines and works best on paper that is nearly powdery itself with age. I would not know that if it hadn't been for my grandmother.

She loved Joker's Wild and game shows of all kinds. I think she liked Lawrence Welk. My grandmother wore Rose Milk lotion and, for as frail and tiny as she was, could hug fiercely and tightly. She had strong arms. I think a lifetime of loving lilies-of-the valley helped with that.

I love lilies of the valley, too. I hope my arms will be strong for a lifetime. And I will never part with the Wise Garden Encyclopedia. I wouldn't trade it, not even for a box of old chalk.

And a Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Lela's granddaughter. My mom loves wild violets. But that's a post for another day. I love you, TLR.

Note: There are versions of the Wise Garden Encyclopedia available at Amazon.


Review: Trivia and Brown Gravy at McGilvery’s Taphouse

McGilvery's Trivia Night

I went to the old McGilvery’s one time. Only one time. It was a dank, strange place: ill-lit, close, and with the saddest compilation of suicidal restroom graffiti I have ever seen. It had Bell’s Two-Hearted in bottles at a fair price and even so, I only went there once. That was enough for anyone, Bell’s Two-Hearted or no, the old McGilvery’s was in the No-Fly Zone.

But then: McGilvery’s got a new owner. McGilvery’s moved to a larger space or discovered how to arrange furniture and keep the lights on. Happily, they still have Bell’s Two-Hearted. And so much more, besides. Good-bye, old McGilvery’s. Let’s celebrate everything that is so-very-right about the new one.

We’ve settled that they have one of the best beers on the planet (Bell’s). Granted, it’s not on tap, but still, they have it. If hoppy fish-head-label goodness is not your thing, they have an extensive range of other craft beers (many of them local: Oaken Barrel, Planetary, Sun King, Fountain Square Brewing are all on draft or in bottles) and specialty beers, scotches, whiskeys, and “signature cocktails.” If you don’t want a Bell’s (how can you not?) then get yourself a Bridget (marshmallow vodka, cake vodka, pineapple juice, garnished with a Twinkie) or a Bog-Jumper (Crown Royal, fresh lemon, honey syrup, and bitters). McGilvery’s has a full bar, people, and I think they feel pretty good about it. And so will you, because no matter what your pleasure, McGilvery’s has it (hello, Twinkies). And with excellent noshes to go with it.

So let’s talk food: this is an Irish-American-owned pub and the menu is chock-full of traditional pub food glory: Scotch eggs! Bangers! Coddle! Fish and chips! Burgers! Curry! Colcannon! Corned beef! Jowl bacon. And house-made brown gravy, which is — trust me when I say this — beyond. McGilvery’s is not kidding around with the food. On the foodie front, there are cabbage rolls stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms, and cheese in an herbed tomato puree; there’s a salad that’s half a head of Bibb lettuce with goat cheese, dried currants, and cashews. Did I mention jowl bacon? Plus, humble or haute, the portions are hearty: I observed one patron receive a bubbly, golden-perfect tenderloin that was bigger than the plate on which it was served.

McGilvery’s has two appetizers you seriously didn’t know you needed for life to be complete. You need to try the chips (fries): these begin as standard french fries (somewhere between Five Guys and Wendy’s, for what it’s worth). But then, because you’re a health-conscious eater like I am, you’re going to want to have your order of chips dusted with parmesan-garlic dust and a schmear of nacho cheese sauce (or you can do the brown gravy, which, as I’ve said, is simply beyond). Then the chips are elevated well-past even the Five Guys ceiling of fantastic fries. But, because you’re not kidding around any more than is McGilvery’s, you’re going to order the cheese curds. Yes, you really are: deep-fried cheese curds served with a side of, you guessed it, house-made McGilvery’s brown gravy. While the gravy/fried cheese combo may sound like the punchline to a redneck joke (what is a nutritious breakfast for…), it’s actually surprisingly delicate and comfortable; a beautiful deep-fried paradox of strangeness and familiarity that manages to be nothing short of perfect. You might think you’ve experienced fried cheese curds: at Buffalo Wild Wings (small; nubbly breading) or Culver’s (homogenized and pleasant, if not memorable), or the fair (it’s the fair and it tastes like it). McGilvery’s elevates the cheese curd and the deep-fried and the brown gravy. I don’t know how they do it. They just do. And it is worth more than the price of admission.

The prices will run you about $6 to $9 for starters; sandwiches, salads, and soups will cost between $3.50 and $14; plates/dinners are $11 to $14. But, again, portions are large without being, say, Cheesecake Factory. And where else can you get that gravy?

Beyond the Bell’s, beyond the food, McGilvery’s has solid service, a game room, wi-fi (ask the server for the password), clean restrooms, and plenty of seats. Ambiance is okay (I think maybe a work in progress?) and they are family-friendly. But beyond all that…they have live trivia. Excellent live trivia on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. The trivia is run by Challenge Entertainment and it is two hours of perfect: the only problem with the live trivia is that it leaves you jonesing for another game immediately with no other game to play when it’s over (until the following Tuesday. At McGilvery’s. At 8 p.m.)* Allegedly there is also Open Mic night on Mondays, but it’s not trivia, so I don’t care that much.

So McGilvery’s gets a lot of stars on the star ranking I have dispensed with. It gets a thumbs-up and a high recommendation, particularly for Tuesday nights. And the cheese curds. With a Bell’s. A better Tuesday night you’ll not find on the South side of Indy.

*You can also play live trivia on the south side/Greenwood at Friday’s (Greenwood Park Mall) at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays or at Mucky Duck’s (just off Southport Road) on Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

McGilvery's Taphouse on Urbanspoon