By Shari Benyousky
Photographs by Tony Garza
WARSAW – “Apparently people don’t like us writing about exotic places to travel.” Tony folded his glasses and slipped them into his vest pocket. He munched a slice of pepper and scrolled further into the online comments of our last article. A dangerous move. “They think traveling to places like Chicago or San Antonio is irrelevant and even dangerous.” We were sitting at Cardoso 520 restaurant in Warsaw. I attempted to slurp my chicken tortilla soup without getting it on my suit.
“They have a point.” I waved around the Mexican restaurant. “I mean not about travel being irrelevant or dangerous. But we do have so many interesting places to find exotic fare here in Warsaw if someone is afraid of traveling afar.”
Tony took his glasses back from his pocket. He knew I was about to make a new list. “So, if someone wanted to *travel* without the expense or planning, where would they go within Warsaw itself? Perhaps something more hands-on than just a restaurant?”
#1 THE ASIAN MARKET 658 S. Buffalo St., Warsaw
When I first heard Asian Cajun was moving into Wabash Donuts, (and keeping the donuts), I was skeptical. But after a meal of velvet shrimp and grilled vegetables chased by a shared raspberry donut, I changed my mind. In a brilliant multi-taking move, three other tables around us took home boxes of donuts for breakfast.
As we sat in stunned culinary happiness, the waitress told us to visit the Asian Market behind the restaurant, and I remembered the amazing Maduros/Fried Plantains that we had eaten in Puerto Rico. Perhaps I could make them myself? A woman with a 1000-watt smile greeted us as we walked through the door, introducing herself as Sina. She personally chose the best plantains and told me how to make maduros in less than five minutes. She also sold me fresh steam buns, banana tapioca and the largest frozen shrimp I’d ever seen.
Tip: The charismatic Sina posts great how-to-make Asian food videos. I learned how to make PHO from her here.
#2 GREENS N SPICES INDIAN STORE 114 S. Buffalo St., Warsaw
If you’ve eaten Indian food, you know that the accompanying Naan or Roti flatbread has addictive powers. Of course, you can buy those fresh at Biryani Kitchen but, if you prefer the easy, hands-on method, you can purchase a package of pre-made ones in the Indian Store too. Along with high-end ramen, fresh Asian vegetables like purple and white baby eggplants, lovely spicy milky chai, and a large range of interesting cookies, crackers, and snacks that I’ve never seen before. If you need a cheap and exotic trip abroad, but don’t have the time to leave Warsaw, stop by and pick out a few things to try at home.
FYI – Beware of the innocuous-looking sweet and spicy wheat balls which have a powerful spicy filling. Tony’s face changed a few colors of pink when he bit into one.
Tip: Make a to-go Biryani order (I’m partial to mildly spicy Tandoori Chicken and Gobi Cauliflower appetizers). While you’re waiting to pick them up, go to the store in the back and grab some food for your next home adventure.
#3 – TWO MEXICAN GROCERY STORES
CARNICERIA SAN JOSE 896 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw
SAN JOSE FRESH MARKET 2283 N. Detroit St., Warsaw
Next in your local tour of the world we visit south-of-the-border. Also, if you’re tired of waiting in long fast-food lines, check out Carniceria’s quesadillas at their back lunch counter. While you’re walking through the grocery, grab the best-looking limes and cilantro in town. You might also find an excellent fresh meat counter and popsicles in amazing flavors like mango-chili- and lime-coconut.
Tip: Supermarket limes are Persian. Mexican limes are a totally different fruit. They are rounder with thinner skin and are much juicier. In my opinion, they are far superior for everything from squeezing on cut apples to making cocktails.
After trips to three exotic grocery stores in Warsaw (how lucky are we?!), the back of my Rav4 sprouted piles of grocery bags, so it was time to go home and make beans and rice and maduros with fresh limes. Tony, thinking about the InkFreeNews comments for this article, shook his head. “What do you think people will want to complain about this week?”
“I’m looking forward to finding out!” I backed out and headed home to make a gin and tonic and plan my next real trip abroad.
BONUS TIP: ONE Warsaw will host a downtown CELEBRATING US event from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, April 30, where you will find lots of exotic food, dance and musical performances, and lots of cool things to try such as Cricket, dunk tank, bingo, and prizes. Come take a local vacation!
Know of an interesting place, statue, or restaurant which you’d like to see featured in this column someday? Send SB Communications LLC an email at [email protected].