Friday, February 21, 2014

Visitor (and Local) Guide to Indianapolis Restaurants

Recently, I was asked to update my Super Bowl list of favorite restaurants for some large conventions and events coming to town...since we have some great new places, I figured it was a good time to do it. If you're local, you'll notice a lot of it is the same as my Super Bowl post--I just changed/added a few things. If you're visiting, I hope this is a helpful list! Also, if you want to see some of my favorite specific items to eat around Indy, check out my recent "Favorite Things" post.
Downtown Restaurants 
Chiliquiles at Bluebeard
Bluebeard: This is one of my favorite places in town. The menu changes all the time and they do a great job mixing up all kinds of cuisines in a friendly, casual environment. You might find foie gras with blood orange marmalade and chiliquiles with a crispy chicken leg on the same menu the same night. They don't take reservations so your best bet is to get there early if you don't want to wait. Find my reviews here.

Cerulean: This is modern fine dining. It's a great space in the Alexander hotel serving refined and creative food--small shared plates, medium plates and large, main course-sized entrees. You might find buffalo chicken skins and fried bread with housemade spreads. They are one of the few restaurants in town offering housemade pastas with many of the entrees. They also have a wonderful pastry chef who creates desserts that are not only delicious, but look like works of art. Here are my posts about my meals there.

Quail at R Bistro
R Bistro: This is fine, local dining at its best. Local chef, local ingredients, ever changing menu, cool spot on Massachusetts Avenue.  You want a nice place for dinner, this is your place (not overly formal though). One of my reviews is here. (There are more if you look).
Goose the Market: Where to begin? Goose is an amazing place to grab a sandwich for lunch or groceries or have a drink and a snack in the evening downstairs in the enoteca.  Their “Batali” was mentioned by Bon Appetit in an article featuring the best sandwich shops in the country.  And trust me, you will be a happy camper with that sandwich (or any of their other daily specials). Check out my latest review here.

Avocado bun at Rook
Rook: This is an inventive, casual Asian restaurant featuring Banh Mi sandwiches for lunch and a more expansive changing menu for dinner. They often offer noodle dishes like pho and ramen, dumplings, buns, and dishes like "pork face hash" that just beg to be tried. Beer only. Here's a recent post I wrote about dinner at Rook.
St. Elmo: Want a steak?  This is our local Indy legend. And according to locals, you have to try the shrimp cocktail (although, I have to say honestly I am not a huge fan of the insanity-horseradish thing, but that’s just me, apparently.) And here’s my review. If you can’t get in, give Harry & Izzy’s a try—it’s St. Elmo’s more modern little sister (or brother) and you can check them out here.
Ceviche- Black Market
B's Po Boy: My favorite casual restaurant in Fountain Square to grab a great authentic New Orleans style po boy. I recommend the fried shrimp and/or oyster po boys and the onion rings. The beignets are great as well. They are open for lunch and dinner. Here's my last review.
Black Market:  Indy’s gastropub.  Also located in the Mass Ave area, Black Market is one of Indy’s newer restaurants and serves hearty comfort food but with a gourmet twist. Also a bar though, so don’t bring the kids.
Downtown Lunch
Several of the above restaurants are open for lunch so you can check them out as an option. But if you are looking for a more causal place for lunch (and in some cases dinner as well), here are some of my favorite downtown lunch spots.
City Market: Indy’s City Market has undergone a great transformation over the last few years and now features mainly local foodservice vendors.  This is an amazing place to grab lunch, conveniently located right downtown.  You can get local pizza, Greek food, homemade soups and pastries, Mexican food, French crepes, soft pretzels, ice cream, Indian food, and food from one of my favorite local chefs, Brad Gates.  I have done a few reviews of a couple of the places and you can check them out here.
Hoaglin to Go: Back on Mass Ave, if you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch, check out Hoaglin to Go.  It’s a little place with amazing fresh made items like quiche, pancakes, egg dishes and my personal favorite, their egg salad.  I also hear they have a killer grilled cheese. Here’s my review.
Tacos at La Parada
La Parada: In the mood for some cheap Mexican food that is really, really good?  This is a gem of a place where you can get a ton of food for just a few bucks. Try the ceviche too. Warning, it’s a bit of a dive, but a charming dive. See what I ordered in my recent post. (Since they don’t have a website, their address is 1638 East New York Street, Indianapolis 46210 and their phone is 317/917-0095).
Workingman’s Friend: A great dive in which to grab a burger.  It is an old bar, but on any given day you will see every type of person from blue collar workers to businesspeople in here (oh, and get the onion rings, skip the fries).  Here’s my review. (Again, no website, but they are located at 234 N. Belmont Avenue in Indy and their phone number is 317/636-2067).

City Café: This place is a little gem hidden away downtown.  Everything is homemade and the ingredients are top notch. Best steak sandwich I have ever had. Here’s my review.

Downtown Cocktails

Indy has some great options to grab a cocktail and a snack as well. Check these places out before or after dinner--all have great ambiance.

Platt 99: The upstairs bar at the Alexander Hotel--a great, open modern space to grab small plates and a drink. You can make a meal here or just have a drink before heading downstairs to Cerulean.
Bone Marrow at Libertine

The Libertine:  The Libertine is a swank cocktail joint with some nice tidbits of food as well.

Ball & Biscuit: B&B is another really cool place that while it is mainly a bar, but with little snacks as well. 

Thunderbird: It's new and you get your cocktails fast with a side of southern small plates.
Outside of Downtown
If you are willing to venture a little outside of downtown, we have some amazing restaurants in various locations.
Broad Ripple
Just north of downtown is the Broad Ripple area (probably a 10-15minute drive from downtown).  Hit any of these places and you will have a happy belly.
H2O Sushi

H2O Sushi:  This is one of my all around favorite restaurants. And don’t let the name fool you. While they do serve spectacular sushi, my favorite things are the daily specials listed down the middle of their menu. Wonderful noodle dishes and great tacos.  The chef likes to mix it up here, with various Asian influences as well as fun twists on food from other cultures too.  I love this place (read more here).  
Goat Cheese Quesadilla-Room 4
Recess/Room 4: One of Indy’s most prized restaurants is run by local chef Greg Hardesty.  With a new daily menu that is set, you may try some things you wouldn’t normally try, and you will enjoy them all. The focus is on fresh, local ingredients.  If you want to dine at Recess, you need a reservation for sure.  But if you just want to stop in, give Room 4 a try.  Room 4 is the sister restaurant of Recess which is located in the same space, but is more casual, fun, and very approachable a la carte menu. Check out posts on both here
Taste Café & Marketplace: My favorite lunch spot in the City.  Great for breakfast too (and a tip, they serve dinner a couple of nights a week too).  Favorite item here by far: the BALT sandwich (bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato).  They add dressing to the lettuce and an herby aioli to the bread. Best sandwich ever.  And don’t forget a side of their fabulous frites with basil aioli dip.  A perfect lunch. Read more about it here.
Mussels & Frites- Brugge
Brugge:  A local favorite for mussels and frites and house brewed beer.  Their fries may just be the best in town and with a choice of about a dozen dipping sauces, it’s hard to decide (I like blue cheese, regular garlic aioli and the Sherry vinegar and salt). Check out my review. Open for lunch too!

Barking Dog Cafe: One of my family's favorite lunch spots. They have my favorite thin-style burgers with nice crispy edges and the city's best clam chowder. Great fried oyster and clam rolls. Check out my last post.
Fat Dan's
Fat Dan's: Like a fatter burger? One of my favorites can be found at Fat Dan's. But they do a lot more than burgers--and just about everything is good. There's barbecue, Italian beef, Chicago dogs and great house made fries. Read more here.

Thr3e Wise Men: Currently, Thr3e Wisemen is making one of my favorite pizzas in the City—fresh dough, crispy crust and a great savory tomato sauce.  It’s a straightforward menu with pizzas, sandwiches and salads and they brew their own beer.  Lots of TVs to watch all the coverage. Here's what I said about it on my last visit. (Open for lunch and dinner.

Patachou/Napolese:  This is a local group of restaurants where you can enjoy a great breakfast or lunch.  Basic food, but extremeley fresh and high quality ingredients. Good egg dishes, really nice salads. Napolese is their own Neopolitan pizza restaurant that is quite charming as well.  Petite Chou is their French bistro version. I have done reviews of nearly all their concepts in my blog as well if you want further information. And they do have downtown locations as well.
Pizzology: Up in Carmel (about 30 minutes from downtown), there’s a great local pizza place owned by the same people who own The Libertine downtown (with a location soon to open on Mass Ave as well).  It is Neopolitan-style pizza cooked in a wood fired oven.  Great salads and pastas too. They don’t take reservations so if you don’t mind a potential wait, you should be able to get a table here. Here’s my latest post.
Creole gnocchi at Oakley's
Squealers: my current top choice for barbeque in Indy (although the quest is ongoing).  Great ribs and those fried biscuits…well, they are things dreams are made of…Here’s my post on them.

Oakley’s Bistro:  About 25 minutes drive from downtown, Oakley’s is a great slightly higher end dining option using seasonal ingredients and a seasonally changing menu.  There’s a little something for everyone here. Here's my latest review. 


Papa Roux: A little bit of New Orleans in Indy.  I personally love the shrimp po boy, but Indy people may tell you to get the pork po boy. And here's my review.
Brozinni’s: Ok, really this is my favorite pizza, but sadly, I don’t live close enough to have gotten to go more than a few times.  Huge, delicious New York style slices and amazing garlic knuckles.  If you are on the Southside, this is a must. Check out my post here.

Indiana Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Ok, you may or may not be aware that the sort of "unofficial sandwich of Indiana" is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.  We’re talking a piece of pork tenderloin that is pounded, sometimes very thin and sometimes not, breaded or battered and deep fried.  You will see them everywhere, seriously, but clearly some are better than others.  Here’s a few I can recommend:

Muldoon's Tenderloin

Muldoon’s:  In an Irish themed bar in Carmel (about 35 minutes north of downtown).
 111 West Main Street, Suite 100
Carmel, IN 46032

Pawn Shop Tenderloin
Pawn Shop: in a somewhat smoky bar about 15-20 minutes from downtown.
2222 East 54th Street
Indianapolis, IN  46262

Chatham Tap: good version I picked mainly because they have a downtown location (no kids downtown though). Also a location in Fishers, about 35 minutes northeast of downtown.
719 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

8211 East 116th Street
Fishers, IN  46038

Steer-In: This place was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and I have been told has a great tenderloin.
5130 East 10th Street
Indianapolis, IN

Sahm’s:  Sahm’s has a great tenderloin, and other great fried tidbits (mushrooms are great as well) and they have several locations including one downtown.
433 North Capitol (check out their website for all their locations around Indy)
Indianapolis, IN


Finally, Indy has quite a thriving craft beer loving population and there are some great places to drink quality beer (much of it brewed locally) downtown and in Broad Ripple (as well as other places).  This is not my area of expertise for sure, but I know a lot of people love their beer, so I wanted to give you a good place to look to find out the best places to drink.  Check out the Hoosier Beer Geek blog, particularly this page which gives you the run down on different areas and places to check out.  Cheers!

I would love to hear feedback from out-of-towners about places they visit and their overall Indy experience! And don’t hesitate to email me personally for any other specific recommendations at or reach out to me on twitter @indyrestscene.  

And hey locals, don't forget to tell me what I have forgotten!

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I recently moved from Illinois, and have been looking for good restaurants in the area. You have made many excellent suggestions. I have only been able to try a few, but I can't wait to test the rest. Thanks to your help, I will have a difficult time choosing a favorite.

    Jerry Boggs |