To say Charmaine Cooper has taken the Atom to another level is an understatement.
The chef roasts fresh, two-tone sweet corn at Public House and dresses it up with different spices. And while customers appreciate the $10 “Basic” cobs with broccoli, cheese, cheddar, and bacon; Selling Italian herbs and cheese, it’s the gourmet protein additions that take them beyond gourmet.
Lamb chops ($20) topped with a vegan spread and an artisanal blend of parmesan and mozzarella, then topped with lamb chops drizzled with garlic parmesan, parmesan cheese, and house seasoning.
The lobster cone comes with a six ounce lobster tail. (For those who can’t choose between the two, there’s a surf and turf option with both.)
But diners who want to indulge themselves have few dates to grab one of this year’s specialties at the restaurant, 4002 Boulevard Pl. , Indianapolis.
It’s part of the Charmaine Gourmet Corners menu, available only on Fridays and Saturdays from April through September.
Innovative cobs helped launch Cooper’s Restaurant, but Public House has other signature dishes, fusion cuisine with TexMex, Asian, Italian, French influences and soul.
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Burgers, shrimp quesadillas and a crispy onion chicken sandwich adorn the menu with sides like lemon, pepper, broccoli and yellow rice. Lamb chops and also honey-garlic drizzle over garlic Parmesan potatoes ($25); Those with a big appetite can take advantage of the huge plates with salmon fries, burgers, and three full wings.
Much of the traffic to the bistro is for salmon nachos ($20), which are a mix of tortilla chips topped with fried salmon, pico de gallo, Southwestern ranch, sour cream and house sauce. The dish was so popular that it spurred the release of a cob.
Pastas there have been a highlight, particularly the Surf ‘n’ Turf Ramen Bowl ($50) with lamb chops, salmon, shrimp, and lobster tail.
Cooper makes the sauces in-house, including the chutney-cheese blend that is widely used throughout the menu and has been an integral part of the business since its inception.
From home to restaurant
Cooper, who attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Oregon, opened a plant-based restaurant in April 2021. This was after restrictive work conditions led her to quit her call center job in 2016.
She was doing side shoots, but it did not provide an approximate income. Cooper had a four-year-old daughter at the time.
“I knew I wanted to get back into the food industry. I knew I wanted to sell something no one else would,” Cooper said. “And I knew I could make a great toast.”
The combination of that and her talent for working with flavor profiles led to the birth of Gourmet Corn. The creations sold for $2 an ear.
“I was just putting in the basics, like butter, cheeses, and various things,” Cooper said. “Most of the protein I added to it was bacon.”
That was enough to draw hundreds of customers a day to her home on the South Broad Ripple.
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Besides traditional Mexican corn with mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, chili and lemon; Cooper listed seven other varieties, including maple bacon, pepper, lemon, and old bay.
She moved up the upper tier in 2020, but halted the operation after the Health Ministry told her she could not sell food from her home.
The same employees who worked with her there followed her to Public House.
Among them is older sister Celanese McCray who has been with Cooper since the start of the gourmet corn business.
McCray is in awe of Cooper’s creativity.
“She can put anything on top of a corn,” McCray said. “It’s very exciting for people to see these things.” “Her food is so unique. You won’t find much of it anywhere. I really think she should have patented some of the things she makes.”
Gourmet corn, including a cob dipped in buffalo chicken ($12), can only be ordered over the phone or at the counter.
Other menu items are available at Public House, 317-602-6569, publichouseindy.com, Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.