By Brent Bordeaux
A Saturday night, Patrick’s Kitchen and Drinks, Zionsville. You walk in: the soft wood atmosphere is cozy yet open, both welcoming and relaxing; the bar is lively, full, yet with old-friend familiarity; the wall sconces snap a crystal glint from a pair of crisply-chilled Martinis drifting by on a tray; guests at window-side tables look out onto the yesteryear brick charm of Main Street but also onto Patrick’s front terrace, waiting with its planters and picket fencing, seemingly poised in spring thought, dining al fresco, a lingering bottle of wine under warm evening stars. Until winter leaves us, however, the fireplace in the dining room will have to flicker its own ambient dining magic, and it surely does. You’re at once glad to be here, and yet somehow already wanting to come back.
The impression is of being in good, capable hands; a place well thought through, each point of detail brought forth simply from the giving desire of doing so. But when talking with Patrick Mullen and his wife, Beth Dickerson, co-owners of Patrick’s Kitchen, a deeper story comes into focus: “Oh the love of what we do,” says Beth, “is still here and has been from the beginning. We couldn’t continue the effort otherwise. And we’re finally becoming what we’ve dreamed of being. But what you’re experiencing today is truly here by the generosity and faith in us from our guests, the Zionsville community itself.”
Patrick’s Kitchen’s first incarnation in Zionsville’s Boone Village Shopping Center, June of 2007, opened to glowing reviews and a groundswell of business. But the ensuing nationwide recession began to take its toll. Patrick and Beth reflect. “The initial buildout took far longer than expected. Sales needed to be higher right off the bat for us to survive. Then the economy tanked. Friends sensed our struggle. Out of nowhere, a regular suggested purchasing a hefty gift card from us. Then another offered. And another. They trusted in what we were trying to do; they wanted us to pull through. It was deeply touching.”
Fall of 2011, Patrick’s Kitchen faced a looming crossroads: sign another 5-year lease or vacate. “We wanted to stay in Zionsville — home our entire married life — but we couldn’t stay where we were. We were paying for more space than we needed. We’d built a good reputation, but we needed better exposure, more curb appeal.” Beth adds, “But we also had to find a space that was restaurant-operation ready. We couldn’t afford either a rebuild or the down time.” And time was running out.
“We looked and looked; we were very down. And then a regular of ours, a realtor, suggested the front space of the Brick Street Inn on Main. We couldn’t believe it. It was ideal.” With just days before the old lease expired, the new deal was signed. But how do you move an entire restaurant – every cooler, keg, oven, table, chair, stockpot — in just three days? “That was the true miracle,” says Patrick. “Our loyal staff, friends and regulars came out, volunteering their time, trucks, and hands. Both ends of the move. Electrical work, plumbing, everything. The community helped us reopen.”
A smaller dining area meant the occasional wait for a table, but regulars adored the new intimacy; winter gave way to spring, and business was thriving. Then late one night last June, a fire broke out outside the Brick Street Inn. Luckily, the majority of damage came from smoke, but Patrick’s Kitchen was not able to reopen again until mid October. “Looking back, though,” says Patrick, “that reopening marked a true new phase for us. That’s when Roger came.”
Chef Roger Duran’s list of culinary accolades, awards, and appointments is long: he is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, New York) and is currently vice president of the American Culinary Federation, Indianapolis Chapter. His global travels bring ethno-cultural as well as classical cooking and spicing techniques to contemporary fusion cuisine. Patrick’s Kitchen’s time-honored slogan is “comfort food with a twist,” and time-honored Patrick’s Kitchen favorites such as the pulled pork (home smoked!), nachos, and the spinach-artichoke torta, remain; but Chef Duran brings the twist.
“Let’s face it,” he says, “who goes up into the Andes Mountains to learn from a century-old woman traditional preparations of Peruvian pork?” To wit, Duran’s spin on the classic Osso Bucco has already generated a local following — a must try. His menu is seasonally driven, with many items changing monthly — more food fun for us. He’s even willing to improvise, within reason. “If you don’t see it, I’ll make it! Well!”
“Give our guests what they want, how they want it,” says Beth, “with an accommodating range of price points. A BLT with a top-flight Cabernet? No problem. The best rib-eye in town and a glass of house Merlot? Fine. You’ll find no pretention here.” Her wine list is trim yet versatile, with gems, many by the glass, you’ll likely not find nearby. The Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc, with peach undertones and bright minerality, is one such find. Paired with Duran’s take on Chilean sea bass, simply sublime.
From the beginning, Patrick’s Kitchen has also been synonymous with “good beer culture.” I caught up with Patrick at the recent Noble of Indiana fund-raising event, where Patrick’s Kitchen was volunteering time and home-cooked food. “A good beer culture,” he says, “means offering outstanding craft brews and serving them correctly. This means using correct vessels, a calibrated nitrogen blender and glycol chiller, so that optimum freshness to your glass is ensured. With so many brewers these days, it’s easy to have a big selection. Ah, but is it a good one? We listen to our customers and suppliers. We find the rarer, exceptional products people want.” Still, Patrick’s Kitchen has perhaps the highest ratio of taps to seats around. “That’s why we come,” say locals Candy and Mark Riggins, back at Patrick’s Kitchen. “Small-town hospitality, the incredible selection of craft beers, and fantastic menu items to match.” This night they paired Flat 12’s Pogue’s Run Porter, rich in dark coffee notes, with the hedonic Chocolate Volcano. Zow!
Patrick’s Kitchen is ready for spring, with live music Wednesdays on the terrace, Mother’s Day Brunch, monthly wine-tasting dinners, and much more. Watch for the MK Ultra and Zippy the Pink Martinis.
Patrick’s Kitchen also caters private events such as showers, graduations, and rehearsal dinners in the rustic banquet rooms at the Brick Street Inn. Hurry, though, as popular slots fill quickly.
“We try continually to give back, any way we can,” says Beth, “to this community who’s given so much of themselves to us.” It shows in everything Patrick’s Kitchen does.
Visit Patrickskitchen.com for more information, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.