Even though their menus are the same and they are basically extensions of one another, Dupont Bar and Grill and the J.D. Lounge couldn't be more different.
The Bar and Grill is as sports bar as it gets with TVs all over the place, along with the usual promotional signs from beer and liquor distributors. It is loud, of course, like most bars of its kind, and also allows customers to smoke inside, which gives it the strong odor one would expect.
J.D. is smoke-free, and its atmosphere could not be more different. It gets its name and decor from Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. But it isn't dotted with neon or gaudy posters, the accents are much more subdued and classy. It offers folks who live near Leo Crossing a great alternative to its rowdy sibling and has a small legion of regulars who appreciate having a nice space where they can enjoy a drink or two with their significant others without all the ruckus.
It is dimly lit, giving it a hideaway sort of feel. You are met with a wooden wine rack on one side of a brick wall with a faux fireplace on the other side that separates the lounge from the front entrance. The attractive brick, which reinforces it as a lounge instead of a bar, continues throughout and one wall is covered with a mural dedicated to Jack Daniel's and the man himself is also represented in statue form. My favorite features were the nifty glass-topped high tables made from whiskey barrels.
Though the menu is not going to wow any foodie, the food Dupont Bar puts out is solid and satisfying. The best parts of that menu were simple appetizers and shareable items, the perfect things to enjoy when relaxing after a busy day.
The Late-nighter Flatbread truly surprised me in how well it was executed and how enjoyable it was. The “artisan flatbread” was nicely browned but still soft and chewy. The grilled chicken pieces were of good quality and it, the bacon bits, sautéed onions and diced tomatoes were spread out evenly so each bite had it all. There was just enough cheese to make it pizza-like and the alfredo sauce under it all was the perfect creamy accent.
And though I am rarely surprised by artichoke and spinach dip, J.D. Lounge's version was a refreshing change of pace from what most places offer. It was bright green from a copious amount of spinach and was also packed with finely diced artichokes. It had a layer of nicely bubbled and browned mozzarella cheese blanketing its top.
The chicken wings were oddly different. I asked for half of my 12-piece with the bar's sweet-heat sauce and half standard hot Buffalo. They were either fried separately for different lengths of time or maybe one set of these fried-then-grilled treats spent more time on the grill than the other.
The sweet-heat were just right with crispy skin that had dark charred grill marks and moist, tender meat inside. The sweet-heat sauce was also enjoyable. The Buffalo wings were also marked by the grill, but the skin was not properly rendered so it was fatty and flabby. I also did not find these hot wings to be hot enough at all.
The breaded tenderloin was not all it was touted to be, but it was still a decent option. When asked, my server, who was on the ball all night and who could not have been more engaging, described it as one of those classic giant versions that covers the plate. It was not enormous by Indiana tenderloin standards, and its best asset was the thickness of the loin that made it quite meaty. It was a pretty standard version of this Hoosier staple – not great, but not at all bad – that I would not hesitate to have again.
I will not be having another burger, however.
The Craven' Burger enticed me when I read its menu description. “Char-grilled and loaded with sautéed mushrooms and onions, bleu cheese, bacon, lettuce and horsey sauce.”
The patty for this burger looked rather mediocre, but the char-grill method gave it deep marks and made it much better than I expected in terms of flavor. But it was not as “loaded” as advertised. The canned mushrooms didn't need a lot of sautéeing, but the still-white onions were not as caramelized as they should have been. The bacon was fine, however.
There was some kind of white sauce that I assumed was horsey, but I picked up little horseradish flavor. It also seemed to be missing its bleu cheese until I looked closely at what little sauce it had on it and saw tiny bits of what looked like cheese mixed in it. It might have been a very mild horseradish with very little bleu cheese or it might have been bleu cheese dressing. There was not enough of it for me to tell.
The Breaded Chicken Bacon Wrap was a way better choice and, unlike the burger, it was nicely executed. It was stuffed with ingredients – cheddar-jack and nacho cheese, ranch dressing and crunchy chicken pieces and barbecue sauce (which I chose instead of Buffalo) – and it was tightly wrapped by its lightly grilled flour tortilla to make it easy to eat.
It might have benefited from some lettuce or even raw onions to add a fresh element and break things up texturally, but it was still a solid option.
And really, that is exactly how I would rate J.D. Lounge. It is only fancy compared to its sister store, and its food is pretty basic, but there is nothing wrong with that. It is a simply a solid option.
Restaurant: J.D. Lounge
Address: 10336 Leo Road
Hours: 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Kid-friendly: No; over-21 only
Menu: Artichoke-spinach dip ($5.99), flatbread ($11.99), wings ($10.99), tenderloin ($10.49), burger ($10.99), wrap ($8.99)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★ (3-star maximum); atmosphere: ★ (1 maximum), service: ★ (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five