We’ve waited a long time for this.
I know that Sassafras, located in the cute house next door to La Trattoria, is not the first luncheon and tea room on the south side of Indianapolis by a long shot. Bay Window stayed busy for more than a decade and spanning two locations before its owners call it quits. My friend and I were frequent guests at Lonesome Pine, The Gazebo and Lady Victoria’s Tea Room.
Yet one by one they each disappeared.
I caught a glimpse of a sign that said something about luncheon while leaving Mi Mexico Lindo earlier this month, and promptly forgot it until my friend dropped in for lunch last week. We went through our usual negotiations: McAlisters? No, I ate there yesterday. On the Border? Too hot. Paradise Cafe? My sister always insists on eating there and I’m getting bored with it. Panera Bread? We were mulling that one over, despite the fact it’s a bear to get there from my place now that the DOT felt compelled to take out Fry Road for the entire summer.
That’s when my friend said the magic words: “I wish we still had a tea room around here.” Seven minutes later, we were at the hostess stand at Sassafras.
It’s a quintessential tea room alright: tables throughout the house already set with gold charger plates, real silverwear and glasses, and gorgeous centerpiece arrangements. The chairs were heavy when we moved them to take our seat. And the menu offered the expected chicken salads, sandwiches … and a Monte Cristo you dip into apple butter. No matter what else I considered, my brain continued to focus on that one ingredient. The only problem: the meat listed for the Monte Cristo is ham, and I wouldn’t eat at my own wedding reception because it was ham.
“But you want to try the apple butter, it’s probably awesome, and the panini bread and cheese might disguise the fact you’re eating ham, and you could dip it in the apple butter. Apple butter, you love apple butter,” my brain yammered. So I met it halfway, and told the waitress I had a very odd request — could I substitute turkey in that sandwich?
“People do it all the time,” she said cheerfully. Yes, I believe the owner’s claim at the website that she staffs her restaurants with friends. There is definitely a can-do spirit here, making you the guest at your own party. To have opened 5 locations in just two years (Serenity in Zionsville, Sonata in Fishers, Signature in Indianapolis and Serendipity in Carmel), you are obviously doing something right.
Thank goodness I customized my lunch order because it was out-of-this-world delicious. Unfortunately, it was also tea room size, which means the entire Monte Cristo equaled half of the sandwich by the same name that they serve at Bennigans. It came with a cup of fruit, a butter crunch scone (which I immediately labeled as butterscotch) and a few lettuce leaves with dressing. Considering my entire bill came to $14.75 with a tip, and I was hungry again a few hours later … well, both my friend and I agreed this is a special occasion spot for us. We’ll celebrate good news here, we’ll splurge when one of us needs the pick-me-up of a nice atmosphere, but stopping in for our usual weekly lunch? McAlisters has nothing to fear.
Perhaps we’ve just stumbled onto why our former tea rooms died in Greenwood, huh?
229 N. Madison Ave.
Greenwood, IN 46142
Photography: Julie Sturgeon