Mass Ave's Rooster's Kitchen brings endless surprises

INDIANAPOLIS – If a friend said, “Hey, let’s go to Rooster’s Kitchen,” what would you expect? Maybe a place known for their famous chicken, right?

Wrong.

This new bacon-themed restaurant on Mass Ave will keep you on your toes. Even the owner has begun to expect the unexpected.

What Ross Katz thought would be a spot known for craft beer and slow-cooked meats has crafted its own identify since its Oct. 17 opening at 888 Mass Ave.

The menu is one area where Katz, a former restaurant and brewery manager, thought he could predict the top sellers.

“My rule of thumb is, if I don’t have a brisket in the oven cooking, I better get one. We’re going through multiple per day,” he said.

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But what he didn’t foresee was the sale of their build-your-own mac n cheese. Probably because it was it wasn’t originally planned to be on the menu.

The mac n cheese was suggested to Katz to compliment the cured and slow-cooked meats on the menu.

He admits the dish was a “side thought” at one point, but he played with the idea as a side item and was eventually convinced to make it a main dish.

Today you can choose from chopped brisket, pulled pork shoulder, charred carrots, crumbled pork rinds and others to pile onto your bowl of cheesy noodles.

The menu change wasn’t the only surprise for Rooster’s. High Yelp reviews led loads of customers through to doors where R Bistro once sat.

Katz said the uptick in customers is forcing the staff of 20 to iron out a few hiccups.

“The first couple of weeks we were a little bit busier than we thought we would be,” he said. "We did run out of food a couple of nights because our briskets and pork shoulders take at least five to eight hours (to cook), so it’s hard to try and time that stuff. Our bacon cures for about a week. It’s a guessing game on how much we’re going to go through.”

Katz mentioned he cooked a batch of bacon that was 200 pounds because the restaurant ran through the first batch of 120 pounds within the first two weeks.

He said with time, he’ll have an idea of how much they go through and their staff, meant to operate as a small kitchen, will run more smoothly.

When most think of Mass Ave., they may think of bars and booming nightlife. Katz said he thought Rooster’s Kitchen would blend into that scene, although they are on the east end of the strip, but lately they’ve attracted a different customer base.

“The demographic has been a surprise. You think Mass Ave and you think parties, but it’s been amazing being on the east end. We’ve been really connected with the community. Surprisingly, we’ve been more family oriented than I imagined. I thought we were going to be along the lines of a craft beer bar and now we’re family friendly,” he said.

Repeated customers have emerged in the past few weeks and Katz believes that all comes from a sense of community in the area.

“I didn’t expect the amount of support I’ve gotten. I’m very much a ‘do it on my own’ type of guy and the amount of support I’ve seen from the community and local businesses has been great. Local businesses are asking what can they do to help,” Katz mentioned.

You won’t find any prepacked sauces here.

Besides making all items from scratch, Rooster’s Kitchen sources local ingredients whenever possible by supporting neighborhood businesses like the Broad Ripple Chip Company, Amelia’s Bread, Cornerstone Bakery and breweries around town.

“I try to support the local community as much as possible. It’s not always the cheapest route to go, but its often the best route to go as far as quality goes. Making items from scratch helps us maintain that local sensibility,” he said.

Outside of the surprises, you can expect items like fresh pork rinds – similar to the ones you wait for all year for at the Indiana State Fair. They are tossed in a brown sugar barbecue rub and are warm and crunchy at first bite.

As the weather continues to cool, Katz said he’s thinking about seasonal items like homemade chili and other savory dishes that you’ll just have to find out during your visit.

For more information on Rooster’s Kitchen, visit roostersindy.com

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