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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Urban Element II: The Bruschetta Strikes Back

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Sequels are funny things. Sometimes they are not nearly as good as the first, such as the movie “Matrix Reloaded,” or “Dumb and Dumberer.”

Some weren’t too great the first time and became even worse with the sequel. Remember “Legally Blonde” and “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde”?

However, some sequels, such as “The Empire Strikes Back,” or “Superman II,” are very good, maybe even better than the first. The restaurant I visited this week, Urban Element II, which just opened April 2 at 415 N. Alabama St., falls into the latter category. I found the food, atmosphere and friendliness worthy of sharing the name of the first Urban Element, which has earned a reputation over the last five years as a great downtown eatery.

Part of the appeal is good food at a solid price. “In both locations, especially along Massachusetts Avenue where Urban Element II is located, people expect that it’s going to be expensive,” says owner Steve Roberts. “But here, you can get quality fine dining without fine dining prices.”

Roberts’ description is accurate. Virtually everything on the menu is in the $6-$10 price range, and signature items like Cajun fish, shrimp pineapple salad, blue cheese pasta with grilled chicken, and a variety of burgers have already become customer favorites.

For starters, I tried the hummus, made in-house with garbanzo beans, a little red pepper, and some secret ingredients. Served alongside fresh veggies and pita seasoned and toasted in house, it was very tasty. Next, I tried the Bacon BBQ Burger. It reminded me of the burgers a friend of mine makes when he cooks outdoors. He always smothers everything in barbecue, whether or not it traditionally comes with it, and it always turns out good. Urban Element II’s BBQ burger was also smothered in sauce, along with bacon and cheddar, and, m-m-mm, it was also quite good.

There is much more to be found at this new restaurant. The bar has a nice selection of wine, and beer from local brewery Sun King is on tap. For a special treat, visit Urban Element II on Sunday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for the brunch buffet, which includes mimosa and Belgian waffles made to order. Lots of veggie options are available for our herbivorous friends, and a real effort is made to make everyone welcome.

“Both Urban Element I and II are, you know, urban, so we have always reached out to the African-American community,” says Roberts. Head chef Mike Hayes has worked at St. Elmo’s, Mama Carolla’s and Harry and Izzy’s, and brings both experience and diversity to the kitchen staff, because he also happens to be African American.

To learn more about this new addition to Indy’s culinary world, call (317) 602-5408 or visit urbanelementindy.com.

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