Choy and I are big fans of Upland Brewing Company. Big fans. We drive from Indianapolis to Bloomington just to eat there. Every time we are in Bloomington, we stop at Upland. We’ve tried just about everything on the menu.
So you can imagine how excited we were to learn that Upland was opening a location in Carmel. We finally went and… we won’t be going back. Yeah, that bad.
Maybe their non-vegetarian menu is decent, but their vegetarian options are so bad. But it’s not just the food (as if that’s not reason enough not to return), it’s the feel of the place and the staff. Just not the Upland we’re used to.
FOOD – Me: 0 stars, Choy: 3 stars (average of 1.5 stars)
Choy’s experience wasn’t as bad as mine, so we’ll start there I guess. He rates his food experience 3 stars – average. He had a pizza that was edible, nothing to write home about.
When we were talking about our food, I asked him, “Would you go back for that pizza?” That is a pretty important question – Would you go back for the meal you had and order it again? He said no. It was “fine” but the pizza wasn’t warm when it was served, his cheese didn’t stretch when he bit into his first piece. So could he eat it? Yes. Does he crave it? No.
And that’s the big difference between the restaurants that you frequent and the ones that you don’t. You WANT something on their menu. Take my love of The Sinking Ship for example. I love, love, love their seitan buffalo wings. Love them. Every time I go to The Ship, I get the seitan buffalo wings. When I tell Choy, “Let’s go to The Ship,” it’s because I want those wings. Sometimes I get the black bean burger because I love that too, especially on Monday’s when it’s half off! Ok, enough about The Ship (go there!).
So my meal(s). That’s right, plural. I had to send my order back and order something else. And I was still disappointed. I first ordered the tofu tacos. AWWWWFUL. I must go into list mode.
1. The tofu was supposed to be fried, but it was so soft like it had been sitting in liquid. Imagine eating soggy saltine crackers without the salt. That’s what my tofu was like.
2. It was southwest style – not wonderful. I was fully expecting the asian-style tofu tacos from Upland Bloomington that ARE wonderful, but I guess that is a matter of preference, but why would you change the recipe?
3. The salsa on the tofu tacos was bland, watery and over-served. I thought I ordered tofu, not salsa in a tortilla.
For my second meal, I ordered the black bean burger. List mode.
Black bean burger:
1. I didn’t know you could char a black bean burger patty, but you can. I didn’t even taste the burger, I tasted the grill.
2. The fries that came with my burger tasted and smelled like fried fish. Is that even allowed? Can you fry fries in the same oil you fry fish? It was so obvious. AND SO GROSS BECAUSE I’M A VEGETARIAN. (That means I don’t eat fish!)
3. The cheese that I ordered on my burger was solid, like the cheese on Choy’s pizza. Not warm and not melting. It was a slice of cheese. Had it been a Kraft single I would have totally flipped out.
STAFF – 0 stars
We sat at the bar for approximately 5 minutes (that’s a long time to be sitting at the bar without a beer) before anyone even acknowledged us. Did we have a menu in front of us? No. Did we have water in front of us? No. Did we have anything in front of us that would have led anyone to believe we had been helped? No. Was the bar even remotely clean? No. Was the bar crowded? No. Was staff available? Yes.
It most definitely needs to be noted that I WATCHED THE BARTENDER HANDLE CASH AND THEN SCOOP LEMONS WITH HIS BARE HANDS. He went through a series of tasks: taking cash (so dirty!), working the register (dirty!), handing the patrons their bill on one of those little plastic trays that they put your receipt and change on (dirty) and picking up their plates (with patron saliva) before refilling the lemon container that was by the beers on draft. He unwrapped the white bowl they were in and scooped them out with his bare hands. The same lemons that go in your water, son. So gross.
FEEL OF THE PLACE – 1 star (for the natural light)
Upland Bloomington is fueled by tuition dollars. These are tuition dollars that come from the student via Mom and Dad or from the professors via salaries via student tuition via Mom and Dad.
Upland Carmel cuts out the middle men and goes straight for Mom and Dad. And it’s uppity. I should have known when the lady with the black Louis Vuitton dress sat next to me at the bar (and was helped right away!) that this was not Upland Bloomington.
The place is nice enough, big windows with lots of light, but the kitchen is oddly placed and the restaurant feels empty, hollow is a better word. Maybe it’s the very high ceilings. To me, Upland always felt like Brown County. Green, welcoming and fecund. Upland Carmel is sterile (of personality, not germs obviously), commercial and artificial (fake, fake, fake). It wants to be hip. I don’t need things to be hip to enjoy them, but I do need them to be real.
Need I say anymore? The whole experience was bad. And it wasn’t in just one category – ALL CATEGORIES HAVE DEFICIENCIES.
If the same guy that owns Upland Bloomington, owns Upland Carmel, he should be embarrassed. It’s time to clean up shop, Upland Carmel, and you’ve been open how long? Two months? Yeouch.