Indy's Top 25 Local Restaurants 2014
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, narrowing down your selection can be tough. From favorite local dives to culinary superstars, here are 25 of our favorite locally-owned restaurants. Editors note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and restaurants are in no particular order. Click here for the 2015 list.
From their backyard garden to your plate, R bistro keeps you on your toes with weekly menus that showcase what “farm to plate” really means in contemporary American cuisine. Sit down, order a bottle of wine, and relax as you enjoy your made-to-order meal from chef Regina Mehallick, who mixes international culinary influences with fresh local ingredients (some sourced from an urban garden right next door!).
Offering a nightly changing four-course tasting menu where truffles and high-end cuts of meat are staples, acclaimed chef Greg Hardesty and his team at Recess aim to make every dining experience unique. There are no culinary boundaries for Recess or its casual neighboring restaurant, Room Four, which takes the essence of Recess and infuses it into tacos, burgers, and appetizers.
This Kurt Vonnegut-inspired restaurant in Fletcher Place offers contemporary Italian-style cuisine in a cozy yet modern atmosphere. Snacks, charcuterie, and cheeses are offered on the daily changing menu along with plates that are arranged by their size instead of their ingredients. Ponder the libations menu of cocktail flavor profiles while you enjoy fresh baked bread from their bakery, Amelia’s, which provides artisan breads for a number of Indianapolis restaurants and grocers.
Passion for craftsmanship and artisans is evident in The Libertine’s cocktails that delicately balance new and classic inspirations. Hidden behind deceiving names like Chicken Wings, Bacon Flight, and Fried Wedge Potatoes are modern dishes that emulate the ambiance of a liquor bar that commemorates the workers and pioneers who dedicate themselves to their craft.
Late Harvest Kitchen
You may have walked in for the extensive wine list and a steaming bowl of mussels, but you will leave remembering the large bowl of Sticky Toffee Pudding. Voted “Restaurant of the Year” in 2012 by Indianapolis Monthly, this northside fine dining establishment has one of the most romantic outdoor seating areas. Bring friends and take advantage of sharing your meal together by ordering small or large plates and sides that are meant for more than one.
The Black Market
You may get caught staring at the descriptive chalkboard menu that shares the daily creations at Black Market on Mass Ave. Communal indoor seating and a private outdoor patio allow you to share not only your meal but your conversations. The seasonally changing menu will connect you to the farms where the ingredients came from while the cocktail pairings create a modern twist that complements the ambiance. While waiting for your meal, order a pickle plate and enjoy the tart and crisp snack that comes with a scoop of freshly made peanut butter.
Travel to the north edge of Indianapolis to find a restaurant tucked away in what feels like rural landscapes of the midwest. With eggs picked from the barn and walked to the kitchen, and from cows milked only a few yards away, you cannot get closer to your food than at The Loft. The farm focused menu is simple, allowing ingredients to speak for themselves, bridging the gap between farm and fork. Sunday brunches of steak and eggs or Chilaquiles Verdes to farm cheeseburgers and charcuterie boards are snippets of the seasonally focused menu that reminds you of the pleasures of living off Indiana soil.
Think you’ve eaten it all? Even culinary enthusiasts can be stumped by ingredients listed on chef Caleb France’s menu at Cerulean, located in The Alexander Hotel. Lunches are served in bento boxes while dinners are a series of small plates that might include quail, rabbit terrine, or bone marrow, which helped earn Cerulean a spot on Gayot's 2013 Top 10 New Restaurants in the U.S.
Zest! Exciting Food Creations
The name Zest! embodies the ambiance and menu offered at this candlelit, art-filled restaurant. Come for the revised comfort food classics such as chili pie and five-hour braised short ribs or order small plates with any of the numerous crafted and custom cocktails. This reservation-required dinner spot and weekend brunch restaurant also boasts a new cocktail lounge called Twisted Sister open on evenings and weekends.
Over the rainbow bridge and to the north, you will find a Broad Ripple cafe that feels like home, or the vegetarian home you wish you grew up in. Known for their lemon corncakes and house-made maple vanilla granola featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, 3 Sisters Cafe serves breakfast all day with food as eclectic as the visual experience you will step into.
This eatery puts just as much focus on what comes out of the kitchen as what comes from their brewery. Pommes frites and mussels are a must, along with sweet and savory crepes that pair well with their Belgian-style beers. Local farms are sourced for their cheeses and meats, making up the various charcuterie boards available. Sit on the deck to look out across the heart of Broad Ripple and the Monon Trail.
Does pepperoni and mozzarella cheese bore you? Bazbeaux offers full pizzas, single slices, and daily specials all on their signature thin crust. Gluten-free crust options, cheeseless pizzas, and a wide variety of toppings make Baxbeaux a hit no matter your dietary needs. With several locations throughout Indianapolis, this accessible pizza eatery will become a favorite no matter what part of town you are in.
Craving a burger without the fuss of a fine dining restaurant? Workingman’s Friend is a cash-only, one-room dive bar that caters to your fried food needs. You may be surprised that the clientele is a mix of downtown businessmen and neighborhood locals, all looking to escape into a plate of onion rings or fries. This affordable and friendly spot is a place where everyone knows your name.
You know St. Elmo for their award-winning shrimp cocktail that dates back to the turn of the century, but the rest of the menu is just as exciting. Named an America's Classic by James Beard Foundation, prime rib, filet mignon, and king crab macaroni and cheese are classic dishes that are prepared with extreme detail by chefs who know you walked through their doors for an experience.
Indianapolis’ kosher deli, bakery, and grocery established in 1905 has heritage as rich as their food. People come for the mile-high piled corned beef or pastrami on rye bread that, along with multiple sides, salads, and dessert, can easily take up multiple cafeteria trays. Warm up on a cold winter day with matzo ball or chicken noodle soup or other traditional favorites such as borscht, latkes, or swiss steaks.
Café Patachou, the crown jewel of local restaurateur Martha Hoover’s empire, is everything you think of for a farm fresh breakfast and lunch minus the big red barn and chicken coop. Made-to-order omelets and broken yolk sandwiches are given the utmost attention with multiple ingredients that are anything but boring. Come here for the food but linger for the cozy-yet-modern atmosphere and hot cafe au lait.
You may have been lulled in by the sushi, but do not underestimate the General Tso’s Chicken. The pan-Asian menu at Naked Tchopstix is a unique twist on traditional sushi, as seen through the Playboy Roll, which is lit on fire as it is brought to your table.
Don’t judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its exterior. Kountry Kitchen is full of traditional down home soul food such as chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, fried corn, and catfish. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and carry-out, order alone or family style and enjoy service that will make you feel right at home.
You won’t mind the cash-only policy at Yats when you taste the Cajun and Creole dishes at astonishingly affordable prices. Whether you’re eating in or carrying out, you can order and have your food in a matter of minutes. Yats offers several meaty, vegetarian, and vegan classics served over rice and with a side of seasoned bread. At a mere 50 cents, always get more bread.
Food meets fun at Scotty’s Brewhouse, a part sports lounge, part family-friendly restaurant. Enjoy local craft beer from Indiana as well as their own brewery, Thre3e Wise Men, while you try a peanut butter and jalapeno burger (the Shewman) with a side of creamy mac and cheese or their well-known fried dill pickles or tidals dip. Daily drink and appetizer or entree specials will have you making Scotty’s Brewhouse a routine stop for happy hour, date night, or family night.
If you are craving tacos but want more than a shell and beef, head over to Delicia’s for modern Latin American cuisine. This new South Broad Ripple (SoBro) spot has a contemporary vibe with elegant entrees to match like Serrano Scallops or Ancho Peach Pork or the house-made guacamole with pistachios. You won’t be judged for ordering only a cocktail and vanilla caramel flan, offered as the “cake” to any birthday celebration happening in their restaurant.
You came in for a pint of local beer from one of the dozens of taps available, but you will leave with a belly full of fried cheese curds or a signature burger as you cannot escape the smells coming from the kitchen. Stop by on Tuesdays for pint night to meet fellow SoBro neighbors looking to wind down after a long work day.
Tradition is key at downtown Indianapolis’ authentic, family-owned Italian restaurant, Iaria’s. Classic entrees and an old school atmosphere have you feeling like you time traveled into the 1960s. While known for their spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna, don’t pass up the thin crust pizza available in the restaurant or for carry out.
This colorful restaurant fits right in with its Fountain Square neighbors and offers plates just as exciting. True Thai flavor is found in the many curries, entrees, and appetizers that can be ordered mild, medium, hot, or Thai hot. Lunch specials have smaller entree portions and come with two sides and fast service while dinner entrees are larger, and there may be more of a wait to sit in one of Indy’s most popular Thai restaurants.
Located in the heart of Lafayette Square, Szechwan Garden is where locals and visitors go for authentic Szechwan Chinese cuisine. House-made dumplings are the recommended way to start your meal, followed by one of their many entrees that may be sourced right from the large fish and seafood tanks seen from your table.