House of Yakitori 2
1612 N. Academy Blvd., 594-4471, yakitori-house.com
Though decorated with a scattering of Thai accoutrements — with a picture of King Rama V, also known as Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, in the corner, at the behest of the proprietor's wife, who says it's good for business — House of Yakitori rocks Japanese-style meat and lots of it. Lunch prices are cheap, and even if they weren't, you get a good amount of food to start.
Like a bowl of soup with wonton crisps floating on top, acting like salty Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and then a cabbage salad with ranch dressing. Even more salad arrives with the yakitori and tatsuta ($7.55), which is grilled chicken with fried beef that looks like mini Tater Tots. Everything ran a little greasy, but big flavors (and a little hot mustard) easily outpaced the downside. More heavy grease with slices of fried chicken in the pankodon ($7.35), but it was still moist and delicious, with enough left over for later. — BC
7607 N. Union Blvd., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net
We aren't really supposed to pick "bests" here, mainly because you readers will do that for the next two weeks in the Indy. But damned if every time I revisit Vietnamese Garden I'm not blown away. My first obsession back in 2009 in the former OCC location was the yam fritters app. Next, in early 2012, it was chef Dung My Tram's Vietnamese crêpes, and last year I discovered the epic eggplant in coconut sauce.
Recently, more new items arrived, and all are superior. The curry chicken Banh Mi sandwich ($4.49) features India's favorite spice, cut by pickled veggie tang and jalapeño heat. The Swai Fish in Clay Pot #1 ($13.75) is a spicy, molten cauldron of ginger and chili essence, the soft fish also gaining heat from white peppercorns. Those spices join garlic, a dash of gluten-free soy, rice wine, vinegar and notably, unsalted butter, to turn tender tri-tip into killer Com Bo Luc Lac ($11.75), commonly called "shaken beef." — MS
J2K's Classic Roadside Diner
675 Security Blvd., Security, 332-8266, facebook.com/j2ksclassicroadsidediner
Found at the corner of a large parking lot across from two gas stations, J2K's is a little red trailer with one plastic table and a lot of burgers, all available with either buffalo ($8.75) or ground-sirloin ($6.75) patties. You can also nosh down some corn-dog bites or chicken-avocado-bacon salad, but burgers are best and everybody knows it.
The Trevy and the Slap Jack were recommended to us. The former is a traditional barbecue burger, with bacon, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, mayo and a juicy, crispy onion ring, smothered in sweet barbecue sauce. Ain't nothing wrong with that, or with the Slap Jack: avocado, local salsa, onions, Pepper Jack, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, and two badass jalapeño poppers. With cream-cheese richness oozing from the poppers and fresh flavors snapping everywhere else, it was a lovely day for juicy meat. — BC