Since before I can remember, my dad has been using charcoal for grilling.

Growing up, that little black pod has been cooking up hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, chickens, steaks, ribs and whatever other meat you can buy at the grocery store to bring home for dinner.  Whether it is the lighter fluid and a match or the chimney stack with newspaper lit underneath, my grilling has also taken the charcoal route. I wouldn’t know what to do with a gas grill.

It would be like me getting in a car and seeing three pedals at my feet and a numbered stick to my right — I have no idea how to operate this thing and if I try I would probably not only break it, but most likely end up with an explosion. There is just a different type of taste you get while barbecuing with charcoal. It’s some type of smokiness that gets ingrained in your food that you just cannot get from a gas flame.

Last winter I took the family to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Since the Indy Fuel had a hockey game that night, we decided to get a hotel and make a weekend out of it. While reserving the hotel on the northwest portion of I-465, I noticed a little place called Chef Mike’s Charcoal Grill. We had to check this place out, my family loves charcoal grilled food.

It was everything we thought it would be.

Chef Mike's Charcoal Grill is just off of I-465 in Indianapolis. Blogger Mike Tomko says that it's the place to visit if you love the taste of charcoal-grilled food. (Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko)
Chef Mike’s Charcoal Grill is just off of I-465 in Indianapolis. Blogger Mike Tomko says that it’s the place to visit if you love the taste of charcoal-grilled food.
(Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko)

The burgers, pizza and potatoes all tasted like they came off the charcoal grill. Turns out, they have a 2-foot-wide Weber Grill in the kitchen and cook anything.

I’ve never had luck making wings on the grill. The wings you buy at the grocery store tend to be on the small side. I prefer to buy drumsticks for grilling purposes; they are a lot larger and cheaper than wings and have a similar taste. Grilling also seems to leave a soggy skin on the outside, so I usually do a sweeter barbecue sauce rather than a spicy wing sauce.

A few weeks ago, while coming home from a work trip in Ohio, I took the long way around I-465 near Indy just to have dinner and check out how the wings were at Chef Mike’s.

Six giant wings came out, along with the smell of a backyard barbecue. I ordered the hot BBQ sauce instead of buffalo, as it seemed appropriate with grilled wings. You will notice the soggy skin that is typical with any kind of baked or grilled wing, but don’t let that turn you off of the wings because the rest of it was spectacular. The chicken was large and juicy. It had a hint of that charcoal-grill taste in every bite. The sauce was great as it melded in conjunction with the charcoal-grill taste instead of drowning it out like buffalo sauce so often does. The heat was there but not too strong, around a 2 out of 4 on the heat scale.

The charcoal-grilled potato skins at Chef Mike's in Indianapolis were a favorite for blogger Mike Tomko. (Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko)
The charcoal-grilled potato skins at Chef Mike’s in Indianapolis were a favorite for blogger Mike Tomko.
(Flavor 574 photo/Michael Tomko)

The cost is 12 for $14 yielding a CPW of 117. It’s little steep in price, but the wings are huge and there is a lot of meat on them, so it’s not a bad deal.

The wings were great here and the burgers were top notch, but I was more impressed with the non-traditional food offered up on the charcoal grill. The pizza was fantastic; at first glance it doesn’t look like anything special, but the charcoal-grill taste you get from it makes it a great pizza to eat. The potato skins were by far my favorite thing here. They are sliced, battered and fried and taste just like the old Shakey’s mojos, but with one more flavor touch. It’s like you were at home on a clear summer day and someone fired up the black Weber grill and threw a bunch of potatoes on.

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