The good news is, when I walked into Red Yeti Brewing for the first time since it opened May 19, the place was buzzing with activity. The bad news – for me, at least – was that there had been such a lunchtime rush that I arrived just as the kitchen was being forced to shut down to prep more food for dinner.
So, I decided to just hang out at the bar, have a beer from the 10-tap craft menu, and take in the surroundings. And even without getting to try the fare, just based on my fairly brief and foodless visit, Red Yeti looks and feels like a winner right out of the gate.
The harried staff were friendly, even if they were clearly distracted by everything being thrown at them. Friendly bartender Caitlin, cousin of Red Yeti owner Brandi Ronaur, was apologetic and patient when informing disappointed would-be diners that the kitchen was closing temporarily.
I ordered a Founder’s Pale Ale – pricey at $7 for a pint – and chatted briefly with a woman sitting next to me who’d arrived in time to order a “briskit” sandwich and a bowl of cheese and ale soup. She was impressed by both, noting that the “soup” really ate more like a gravy. It nearly looked like actual beer cheese. Bring on the big pretzel.
When I first stepped into the old building – which at one time was a mortuary, according to Caitlin – back during winter, it was barren. The Ronaurs (Brandi’s husband Paul is the brewer) did quite a job with the décor, adding a striking black and red theme to mimic the distinctive logo, which plays nicely with the natural brick and a few rustic touches. It truly is a cozy place. On this sunny spring day, the al fresco seating outside the main entrance was hot real estate.
My beer came accompanied by an ice water in stemware (nice touch) and a request to see my I.D. In fact, the bartenders were carding everyone, so if you go, make sure you have identification. I witnessed a couple of people being turned away.
The menu, created by Chef Michael Bowe, is compact, but seems a cinch to be ever-evolving – when Red Yeti posted an image of it on Facebook on May 20, it noted, “Check out this week’s menu.” Hmm. That bodes well for more interesting dishes.
The briskit and burger come topped with an intriguing condiment called “bacon jam,” while the menu also offers tantalizing options like smoked pork belly and buttermilk fried chicken with bourbon and rosemary glaze with braised kale with bacon and onions, and grilled Indian corn.
There are also grilled wings with either honey bourbon barbecue sauce or spicy adobo, as well as hand-cut fries with Parmesan and roasted garlic aioli. The crab cake bites looked intriguing as well. Entrees are roughly $10-$15, while starters and salads are in the $5-$11 range. You can cap off your meal with funnel cake or a beer float made with Brooklyn Brewing Chocolate Stout.
On draft, there are plenty of Indiana beers rotating through, from New Albanian Brewing Company to Flat 12 to Tin Man to Oaken Barrel, along with a nice variety of others. Most drafts are $5 or $6, but some high-end pints run as much as $9. There are also eight more taps awaiting installation. (There are no corporate light swills to be had, just so you know.)
Caitlin said Red Yeti won’t start brewing for a few months, pending federal inspections, and then dotting and crossing the requisite I’s and T’s. However, she said she tasted some of Paul’s beers at last year’s family Christmas party and assures me they will be worth the wait. The brewing equipment, a one-and-a-half-barrel system that apparently will be expanded to an eight-barrel system, is in place and appears ready to go, which is promising.
A few minutes later, it didn’t help my rumbling belly when a server brought out two burgers, presumably among the last orders of the lunch rush that day. They looked and smelled delicious. Caitlin noted that everything on the menu is sourced locally and fresh – even the buns for the sandwiches are made from scratch, which, along with having a thin staff as the restaurant gets its bearings, helps explain why Red Yeti ran out of prepped food.
Heck, I’m not even sure what I want to try first when I return. So I asked Caitlin what the best thing on the menu is.
“Hands down, the brisket,” she said. Hmm.
Guess I’ll try the brisket.
Next time, however, I’ll make sure I get there earlier.