Tonight we're in Indianapolis, doing our first caterer visit. This is definitely the fun part of wedding planning!
We drove down to Greenwood to visit Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria - something of a local institution. They're well-known as a Midwestern-type after-church cafeteria, with a big serving area and lines out the door. They used to be well-known for not serving any alcoholic beverages, but I was really pleased to learn that's changed. Now they try to feature Indiana wines in their bar service, and that's something we really want to do.
Even though all of Southern Indiana was flooded last weekend (the cafeteria was OK, but some of the events they were catering were canceled), they put on a lovely tasting evening. Their banquet facility was set up as if for a wedding reception, and we were able to taste some of their entrees, carved meats, and side dishes. They even had their chocolate fountain running, and a display of wedding cakes (with a photo album of more).
We want good food. It's really that simple - nothing fancy, just good. We want to offer a good selection of food, so everyone can find something they like. And we want it to taste good. A friendly and helpful serving staff, and an honest and straightforward sales department, would be a big plus.
That's not as easy to find as it sounds. Several caterers have been great to contact, but others send only generic responses to my e-mails. One tried to lure me away from the Mavris center (who referred us to them!) and to their own facility. One suggested we could negotiate "upgrading" to Indiana wines (you can upgrade from something that retails for $7.95 a bottle?!? I definitely wouldn't want to serve the non-upgraded stuff to my guests, and am afraid of a caterer who would!) Some are already nagging me for a decision, with the wedding a year away. And lots of caterers like to put in lots of hidden charges - here's a food price, but then you pay 20% for service, and 9% for delivery, and more to rent china, or set up a buffet table, or whatever.
So I like Jonathan Byrd's because they answer my e-mail. I like them because their staff was friendly. I wasn't impressed by their cake, but I may like them enough anyway - especially as we explore other options for dessert. Even if we don't wind up using them, I'd certainly recommend them.
We haven't made a choice yet - I'm probably going to give a couple of other caterers a chance to impress me. But this one has definitely set the bar.