Though it hasn't changed much in the more than 50 years it has been churning out pizza and sausage rolls along West Main Street, the Redwood Inn's most recent changes have been big.
They started not long after Mark Nei took over as owner five years ago, and have continued under new owners Barry Levy and Melissa Earls. There were minor tweaks inside to spruce it up, but it is still dark and somewhat brooding and has that old-bar feel – which makes sense, since it is an old bar.
The most noticeable and best changes were updated facades and the addition of an outdoor patio. These not only were great additions to the restaurant but also give that strip of Main Street a more friendly, welcoming appearance. The only change I would love to see Redwood Inn make would be adding a family-friendly dining area, because that would allow me to visit way more often.
The menu doesn't have any new bells or whistles, and that is not really a bad thing.
The sausage rolls are still some of the best in town, and having a little of the restaurant's sweet barbecue sauce on one is a must. The dough was super-crisp, there was way more than enough sausage and cheese inside, and I think it would be a struggle for anyone to find a flaw with them.
A tasty-looking sandwich caught my eye during one visit and a friend swears by it, so I knew I had to try the Meatball Supreme.
As I eagerly waited on this toasty baked sub loaded with meatballs, sauce and cheese, of course, along with pepperoni, green peppers, onions and Italian dressing, I nibbled on some Texas Cheese Toast.
The thick bread was lightly toasted, so it was soft and chewy, and also a tad soggy. The regular garlic cheese bread was executed better, but I think the Texas would beat it had it been toasted longer, so I might have to give it another chance and simply ask for it extra toasty.
The toast was just a precursor to a much bigger issue. Not long after I finished it, my server returned to break the bad news that the meatball sandwich had been eighty-sixed because the restaurant had not received its bread delivery. Felling rejected, I just ordered a pizza.
I still want to try that sub, but the pizza at Redwood Inn quickly turned my frown upside down. The super-crispy, thin-crust pie was made to perfection. There was plenty of cheese, but not too much so it became a clumsy endeavor with the toppings trying to slide off.
The sauce had the perfect balance of tangy and sweet, and it was also perfectly applied to nicely accentuate the toppings and crust. Mine was half sausage and mushroom and half plain cheese, and it was hard to choose which side was best.
The cheese on the cheese side was well browned and made these slices the kind you could shovel away swiftly, losing track of how many you had engorged yourself with. The sausage and mushrooms were nicely balanced on the other side, so each bite was perfect.
There were many choices that were not part of the pizza section of the menu, and the results were split, which is kind of what I expected given it is such a pizza-heavy place.
The fried tenderloin sandwich was a popular choice, I was told, but tenderloins are always a popular choice because this is Indiana, and breaded tenderloins are king. The circular, bun-sized loin was the standard pre-made, fast-food variety. It was crunchy and fine for what it was, but not worth going out of your way for and definitely not worth having over some of the Italian delights Redwood offers.
The cup of clam chowder – a staple soup at Redwood along with chili – was a decent choice as an appetizer, and I had no real complaints, though I was not about to tout it as one of the best I have had. The hot dogs followed suit. They were a better choice than the tenderloin, not because they were otherworldly or amazing. They just matched my expectations and didn't leave any room for false hopes.
The Coney dog had a robust sauce with all the flavors you would expect from the spices one uses to make this Summit City classic. The chili dog was very similar to the Coney, but it had a little more sweetness and reminded me of what many places refer to as a Spanish dog. The slaw dog was also a decent choice, and it had me thinking a side of that slaw might be a good thing to pair with the Meatball Supreme when I finally get to try it.
The hot dogs took quite a while to arrive during the lunch rush, but that didn't alter my perception of the service, which is another great thing about Redwood Inn that hasn't changed.
Everyone in my parties were made to feel welcome, and there was an old-fashioned, folksy approach that fit its retro theme perfectly. I never felt neglected, I was thanked for visiting each time and I was treated in a way that made me want to come back for sure.
There is no doubt I will be back, because Redwood Inn is the kind of place you make sure to go back to from time to time. I can't tell you how many times I have driven past it on my way back to the office after lunch and thought, “Man, a sausage roll sure would have been better than what I had.”
And I am sure the next time I drive past after lunch, I will be thinking, “Man, I should have gone there and tried that meatball sandwich.”
Restaurant: Redwood Inn
Address: 1432 W. Main St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday and Friday; 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes; entrance in rear
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Kid-friendly: No; 21-and-over only
Menu: Texas Cheese Toast ($5.95), garlic cheese bread ($4.95), sausage roll ($9.95), tenderloin ($8.25), meatball supreme ($10.50) chowder ($3.40 cup; $5.50 bowl), two-topping pizza ($10.95 for 11-inch; $16.95 for 14-inch)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★★ (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (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