When it comes to driving around small town America, I'm the eternal optimist. Whether it's in New Hampshire or Oklahoma, I'm in a constant state of anticipation that just around the next bend and down the road, there will be the world's greatest hitherto unknown restaurant, just waiting to be discovered and savored. My wife thinks I'm bonkers, but charmingly so.
Usually she's right.
Until recently that is. I think I just found my latest and greatest out-of-the-way eatery. Strolling up and down Main Street Zionsville recently, I came across Plum's.
A quick glance around revealed this to be a really great space: sandblasted brick walls, exposed timbers, refinished wood floor and distressed cabinetry all giving the impression of the kind of classic bistro you might find around Bordeaux. It has a nice, effortless, thrown-together feel: the sort of look that requires a great deal of thought and attention to detail to make it work.
Upon questioning my well-informed server about the restaurant's origins, I learned that this was the same Plum's that had once occupied the Panache space on Elm Street, only with a new generation of chef/owner. The current menu, however, is quite classically French, something I welcome in a world that's gone fusion-crazy.
Because this was only a lunch visit, I can't comment on the quality of the dinner offerings, but if the level of ingredients and execution are anything to go by, this could well have the potential to be one of the city's brightest up-and-coming destinations. A future visit is definitely in order.
I decided to try three classic dishes, all of which, in my opinion, define a chef's ability to capture the style and tone of classic French cooking.
The well-designed menu (available online) offers a sizeable percentage of locally-sourced ingredients, including Trader's Point dairy products and beef, Capriole cheese and much more. The bread and desserts are prepared in house, and their preparation is absolutely exemplary.
It was with pleasure that I tucked into a delightful French tomato soup ($5), redolent of freshly-picked tomatoes, thickened slightly and perfectly seasoned. I inquired about cold soups, but was informed that salads were the overall preference with those who lunch (salads vary on a seasonal basis, depending on available produce).
Next was a perfect (impeccable, I might add) Croque-Monsieur ($12): a classic grilled ham and cheese sandwich. When made indifferently, this sandwich can be pretty bland, but in this case, the dish (made with custard-dipped house made bread, Black Forest ham and aged provolone) was close to a masterpiece of the species. It's the treatment of classics like this that really defines the quality of a restaurant. This was absolutely superb in every way.
Finally, a lemon Pot au CrÃ�'Æ'Ã'Â¨me ($6): a delicately-flavored lemon custard. Again, so easy to mess up, but in this case, perfectly executed: light yet sufficiently firm to give it some weight on the palate. Great stuff.
Plum's features a short but very well thought-out list of craft beers and a selection of boutique wines at very reasonable prices. I enjoyed a glass of sparkling Sangria that was so good, I required a second.
I would strongly recommend a visit to Zionsville, if not for the boutique shopping, but at least to check out this little gem of a restaurant.
Plum's Upper Room
112 South Main Street
Zionsville, IN 46077-1520
Tues.-Fri. 11:00 a.m.—9:00 p.m.
Sat. 9:00 a.m.—9:00 p.m.