Indy's food scene is flourishing, and the nation is starting to take notice.
Recently named "the most underrated food city in the U.S." by Condé Nast Traveler, there are a lot of delicious dining options in Indy. But we want you to try the best of the best, so we asked locals to pick 25 locally-owned restaurants that best represent Indianapolis. We then asked food writer Sara Croft to tell you what makes each unique.
The tagline of “a student union for adults since 1989” describes the essence of Café Patachou. With five successful restaurants, one of which is located in our award-winning airport, it is obvious that everything Martha Hoover touches turns to edible gold. A focus on premium ingredients that are most often local and organic speaks to Indy residents and visitors alike through their consciously crafted omelets, broken yolk sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Signatures include the house-made chicken salad, vegan cuban breakfast, stuffed cinnamon French toast and turkey chili. The bright white interior and clean, organized restaurant layout is enough to wake you up before you even grab your coffee or allow your busy schedule to subside while you focus on the beauty and attention to detail that is Café Patachou.
St. Elmo first opened their doors in 1902, and now, over a century later, they are still one of Indy’s most renowned restaurants. Forbes named St. Elmo one of “10 Great Classic Restaurants Well Worth Visiting” in 2012. The impeccable service staff will ask if you want to start your meal with navy bean soup or Indiana brand Red Gold tomato juice, a custom they have engaged in since they were established. For your entrée, you can choose from traditional steakhouse menu items such as prime rib and filet mignon, Miller Farms chicken, or Fisher Farms pork chops. Sides can be ordered a la carte, like the World Famous Shrimp Cocktail, to be enjoyed either before, during, or after your entrée. If you finish your meal and find yourself not quite ready to leave, head upstairs to the 1933 Lounge for signature pre-prohibition-style cocktails that provide the perfect end to a one-of-a-kind steakhouse meal.
The Historic Steer-In Restaurant
At a time when culinary attention is often on the most innovative and unique dishes, The Historic Steer-In Restaurant still holds strong to their tried and true menu that has lasted over five decades. Diner favorites such as fried chicken livers and beef and noodles are listed right next to over a dozen popular breakfast dishes that will make you feel as comfortable as the old school diner atmosphere. In 2011, the restaurant was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for their famous “Twin Steer” double-decker burger with special sauce, among others. Whether you walk in their doors at 7 am or 7 pm, you will find Irvington and near east side residents sitting at the bar with coffee and a paper in hand as they do every single day, and each one will welcome you with a smile.
Since 1986, Bazbeaux has won the hearts of Broad Ripple with their handcrafted thin or thick crust pizzas and open air patio seating. Now they can also be found in Carmel and downtown Indy boasting the same menu of pizzas made with their blend of Pecorino romano, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses. Over two dozen signature pizza varieties, including vegan and vegetarian versions, are freshly tossed and baked to order. But if you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own pizza with ingredients from their list of traditional and exotic toppings, such as snow pea pods, avocado, or black bean dip. Come for lunch to experience the special slice of the day paired with a salad - if you have the willpower to not order and eat a whole pie yourself.
Bru Burger Bar’s classy yet comfortable atmosphere draws lunch and dinner goers for a meal that will test your idea of what defines a burger. The Burger Guide rated Bru Burger Bar #2 for “Best Burger in Indy.” But first, you should start your meal with the Bru Board, an appetizer of tomato jam, bacon-chive cream cheese, salamis, and crostinis, meant for sharing amongst friends. Each chef burger has a twist that distinctively separates them from other burger restaurants. The Bourbon Burger has a peppercorn-bourbon glaze with horseradish havarti, and the Farmstead Burger is topped with shaved Brussels sprouts, prosciutto, truffle aioli, apple mostarda, and feta cheese. Even the Housemade Veggie Burger is worth its place on the menu. Mixing creamy garbanzo beans with the umami-flavor of mushrooms, it is both healthy and filling.
Repeal Restaurant’s menu is an edible transformation of the space that was once the Virginia Avenue State Bank. During the day, the sun shines through large street-facing windows, highlighting the sleek wooden bar, chandeliers, and dark, sexy furniture. Repeal Restaurant maintains the prohibition-era feel of the building it occupies through cocktails made with 12.05 Distillery gin and vodka. A full menu of appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts is full of options with an elevated bar snack appeal. Start with the pimento cheese fries and follow it with the Repeal Burger, which is topped with fermented cabbage and Velveeta. The cocktail menu changes with the seasons, but the Sunday Bloody Mary Bar is a staple perfect to end a weekend in Indy.
Yats has been doing Cajun and Creole right throughout Indianapolis. Known for their fast service and affordable, consistent menu, Yats brings a niche to Indy that is not yet crowded. Each entree can be ordered in half portions or whole, with additional cheese, sour cream, or onions, and with bread perfect for sopping up every last bite. Not sure what to order? The cashier will provide you with a sample. Every day the menu changes slightly, but you will always find at least one or two vegetarian or vegan options. The gumbo, arguably the pinnacle of the Yats menu, cannot be ordered any other way than simply how it comes, which is poured over white rice in a bowl or to-go container, so the rice can absorb the thick and spicy roux that holds everything together. With multiple locations throughout the city, you are never far from fast, delicious food.
Harry & Izzy’s is the best friend equivalent to St. Elmo, showing off a more casual, updated environment without sacrificing on the quality of food or service. Like the century-old partner restaurant, Harry & Izzy’s prides themselves on an experience where it is a pleasure to serve the customer, and that feeling is noted the moment you walk in the revolving doors to when you pick up the check and leave. The open bar and cozy small room seating is fitting for both lunch and dinner. A three-course lunch option allows you to try a good portion of the menu in one sitting, such as the peppercorn steak salad, filet sliders, and St. Elmo World Famous Shrimp Cocktail. In addition to their downtown location, Harry & Izzy’s can also be found in the Indianapolis airport and was voted one of the “Best US Airport Foods” by USA Today in 2013.
The plight of the Jewish deli is seen throughout the country, but Shapiro’s Delicatessen is alive and well, maintaining Indy’s cultural history through pastrami and corned beef since 1905. Shapiro’s is one of the last true Jewish delis in the Midwest, one where they yell at you for your order and give you the side eye when you ask for no mustard on your sandwich. This cafeteria-style restaurant offers salads, soups, sandwiches, sides and desserts a la carte that can be hand picked and placed on your deli tray as you walk down the line. The downtown location thrives for Indy’s residents and visitors alike, so much so that the deli has opened locations in the Keystone Fashion Mall and the Indianapolis airport. You are never far from a hot, tender pastrami on rye or brisket sandwich in Indy.
Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza
Every neighborhood deserves a pizza place where everyone knows your name. Irvington has Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza, a family-friendly establishment that is always bustling. Jockamo’s tests the imagination with pies like the Bollywood, which boasts a house-made masala sauce, chicken, green onions, peppadew peppers, fresh garlic, goat cheese, and toasted coconut. Or if you are feeling more traditional but still want a twist, try the Slaughterhouse Five, a meat-lover’s dream aptly named in homage of Indy’s own Kurt Vonnegut. If carbs don’t scare you away, word on the street says the breadsticks with garlic parmesan dip are not to be reckoned with. In addition to their Irvington location, Jockamo's legendary pies can be found at their other two locations in the Greenwood and Lawerence-Fort Ben neighborhoods.
So often we go out to dinner to get away from home, but Mama Carolla’s reminds you of home when you walk into their stucco real estate in South Broad Ripple. Each room feels like you are dining right at home, but you just so happen to be sitting near people you’ve never met. But it’s okay, because once you try their classic Italian dishes, you are strangers no more. Let Mama Carolla’s chefs spend their day stirring homemade marinara while you order the signature lasagna and bask in how good something so traditional can taste. Start your meal with “G’s” Grilled Shrimp stuffed with goat cheese over a tomato butter sauce, followed by a hearty plate of veal piccata, and end it with cannolis or a slice of tiramisu. Guests dining in the summer can sit in the beautiful outdoor patio that lines the Monon Trail.
Travel to the northern edge of Indianapolis to find The Loft at Traders Point Creamery tucked away in what feels like the rural landscape of the Midwest. You cannot get any closer to your food that at The Loft, which is perched above the barn and located right on the farm that the animals call home. Traders Point Creamery is known for their creamy dairy products, fresh eggs, and fresh ground beef that the chef turns into delicious Farmhouse Smash Burgers. Sunday brunches of steak and eggs, omelets, and charcuterie boards are always seasonally-focused. If your visit is between 11 am and 5 pm, you must experience a hand-scooped artisan dairy treat from The Dairy Bar, made with organic grass-fed milk and cream.
Bluebeard is not only known for their culinary creativity, but for the entire dining experience. Located right off the Cultural Trail in a renovated 1924 factory warehouse, Bluebeard comparably offers the R&R that the corporate-focused downtown Indy needs. Most nights are busy at Bluebeard, so guests can file into the bar to order house-made libations while they pour over the menu. A family-style approach allows you to order small, medium, or large plates that can be shared or enjoyed alone. The menu changes with the season, and hearty dishes like duck breast over wild rice risotto and lamb meatballs with marinated artichokes are currently being served right next to salads, soups, and finely crafted charcuterie boards. Bluebeard serves Amelia’s bread, which was once made out of their kitchen but now has its own location right next door.
Update: Scotty's Brewhouse has since closed since originial publish date.
It’s been 20 years since the first Scotty’s Brewhouse opened. Now, the company has built itself into an established brand with 11 locations across the state as well as a brewery in Broad Ripple. Combining family-friendly with happy hour and business meetings might sound like an odd mix, but Scotty’s has accomplished a vibe that shows they welcome all. Comfortable bar and dining room seating, private rooms, large televisions, and thumpin’ tunes are accompanied with great service and delectable plates. Favorite menu items include the 7 Tidals Buffalo Chicken Dip, wings with house-made sauces like Mo’Fo’ Mustard and Mo’Fo’ Hot, and the hot and crispy fried dill chips. If your appetite is strong, order one of the hand-pattied burgers, like the newest roasted jalapeno poutine, which comes topped with French fries, cheese, and fresh jalapenos. Drink menus vary per location, but you can expect a full bar with signature cocktails, wines, and local draft beers on tap including their own Thr3e Wise Men varieties.
When Milktooth opened in Indy, people suddenly realized not only the importance of breakfast, but how to challenge ideas of what breakfast could be. Located in a refurbished garage on Virginia Ave, Milktooth specializes in breakfast, brunch, coffee, and cocktails with locally sourced ingredients and seasonal attitudes. Start with an amuse bouche of oysters with crystal mignonette and sorghum glazed bacon, followed by the roasted shiitake and smoked swiss dutch baby pancake, or the kimchi pork breakfast wontons. If you get a chance, snag a seat at the bar for a first-hand view of the kitchen in action. In 2015, Milktooth was named “Best New Restaurant” by Bon Appetit, among numerous other accolades. Come for the food, stay for the espresso and cocktails, and leave with happiness.
Located inside the historic 19th-century Athenaeum Building in downtown Indy, The Rathskeller boasts beautiful architecture of high ceilings, numerous large and quaint rooms, and a dining experience that stays with you long after you are gone. If you are looking for authentic German cuisine, The Rathskeller has you covered with family-style portions of sauerbraten and pork schnitzel that can be paired with sides of German potato salad, spaetzel noodles, and potato pancakes. Meals at The Rathskeller are best shared with friends and family and accompanied with one of the dozens of domestic and international German beers on tap. During warmer months, the large outdoor patio is open for events and live music, while the large indoor banquet rooms are often filled with weddings and parties. This restaurant has lasted years in Indy with great service and a consistent, approachable menu.
Nobody knows artisanal meats like Goose the Market, a northside neighborhood grocer that caters to the home cook and the on-the-go diner. The butcher counter is full of traditional meats and cheeses, but what you really want is to try the cured meats, terrines, sausages, and the smoked and creamy cheeses. Looking for a rare ingredients for that family recipe? You can probably find it here, or they can order it for you. The lower-level Enoteca holds the wine and beer, which can be enjoyed right there with your sandwich. Charcuterie boards are generous and contain a little bit of everything, making them perfect for your next book club or birthday party. Sandwiches like the Batali are made right behind the butcher counter, wrapped in paper, and made in a matter of minutes, making them a quick lunch or dinner stop.
Napolese brings together two unlikely candidates: fine dining and pizza. The charcoal painted walls and intimate seating are elegant and sophisticated, and the decor matches the experience of what you get on your plate. All menu items are created with local, seasonal ingredients - just take the roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, radish, pancetta, and kale salad with a bourbon-gastrique as a wintery example. Artisanal pizzas are hand-tossed, can be made with gluten-free dough, and topped with house-made tomato sauce or with olive oil and garlic. Quail eggs, jowl bacon, charred leeks, dilled creme fraiche, and white anchovies are just a few of the many toppings you can find on the signature pizzas or use to make your own. With additional locations downtown and in the Keystone Fashion Mall, you are never too far away from an amazing dining experience.
Santorini Greek Kitchen
Update: Santorini Greek Kitchen has since closed since originial publish date.
Santorini brings their authentic signature Greek dishes to the Fountain Square neighborhood for an enjoyable, relaxing dining experience. Your meal should begin with an order of baba ganoush, spanokopita, or dolmades, though the sample platter allows you to try all three at once. Avgolemeno, a soup consisting of egg, lemon juice, chicken broth, and orzo pasta is a refreshing palate cleanser between entrees that will remind you of yia yia. All main entrees, such as leg of lamb, fried eggplant, and souvlaki are served with dinner bread, salad, Mediterranean green beans, rice pilaf and Greek potatoes. You won’t want to leave without trying the limoncello mascarpone cake or baklava, two sweet ways to sign off on your meal. Weekend diners don’t have to stop there, as music and belly dancers will entertain you all night long.
Mesh on Mass
Mesh on Mass nourishes the mind, soul and stomach with their comfortable and cozy restaurant on Mass Ave. The menu rotates with the season, giving you reason to keep coming back to try something new. Starters range from a variety of light salads to eclectic charcuterie boards and lamb meatballs, so there’s something to offer no matter how big or small your appetite. Main plates are listed as “from the land” where the fare comes right from the farm to the kitchen to your plate. Confit chicken, hoisin glazed duck breast, and chimichurri shrimp will please your palate and leave you satisfied. Lunch fare is lighter and more casual, with options like fish tacos and breaded chicken tenderloin sandwiches. Mesh on Mass stands out even more with their dessert menu, where they are known for their layered terrines and bread pudding. You certainly cannot end your meal without one.
When it comes to classic Italian dishes, downtown’s top spot is Iaria’s Italian Kitchen. This family-owned restaurant has been in business since 1933, and the menu transcends time across those many decades. While known for large portions of spaghetti and meatballs and their mile-high lasagna, Iaria’s reminds you that classic doesn’t have to mean boring. In addition to traditional pasta, stuffed pasta, and signature chicken dishes, Iaria’s offers a full menu of thin crust pizzas with toppings such as salami, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, and anchovies. Dine in on Thursday for half price bottles of wine with a wide selection to choose from. This downtown College Ave. location is one you do not want to pass up.
Love Latin American fare but tired of the same old tacos and quesadillas? Delicia, located in South Broad Ripple, is here to help you entertain your tastebuds. The restaurant renovated an old movie rental business and turned it into a gorgeous dining experience with elegant entrees to match. Guacamole is freshly prepared with a twist - pistachios - and should be paired with the salsa trio of salsa fresca, sikil pak (roasted pumpkin seed), and tomatillo varieties. Entradas of scallops and pork belly, short ribs with ancho salsa, and empanadas are just a few dishes amongst a range of vegetarian, beef, pork, chicken, and seafood options. All meals should be enjoyed with a handcrafted cocktail like the Fire N Ice, a mix of jalapeno infused tequila, hibiscus, basil, and habanero reduction over ice. Service matches the quality of food at Delicia, so don’t be intimidated by new ingredients or cooking styles - just ask.
Pizzology Craft Pizza & Pub
Their slogan “pizza of principle” is not just catchy, it represents how every aspect of Pizzology’s kitchen is fresh, local, seasonal, and high quality. You might be surprised by the list of starters like the Italian mussels cooked in white wine, fried polenta, and Autumn risotto. Signature pizzas range from the quintessential Italian margherita to the White Devil with garlic fondue, prosciutto, and mushrooms. After you place your order, your eyes can wander to the open kitchen so you can watch your handmade pizza be prepared and cooked. Come for lunch and get the lunch special of a drink, chopped salad, and pizza persona to feel nourished at an affordable price.
You do not have to pick between bar and restaurant at Union 50 on East Street, where their idea of bar food is so much more than nuts and pretzels. Make your own charcuterie board with various meats, cheeses, IPA pickled veggies, and stuffed peppers for a finger-food treat to enjoy with your cocktails. Or, maybe an order of hand-cut truffle oil fries or house-cured pastrami poutine are more your style? Petit, bistro, and grande plates are built to fit your appetite or can be shared amongst friends. Kimchi meatloaf, scallop, and mussel chowder, and shrimp and grits are just a few of the items that allow Union 50 to distinguish themselves from traditional bar fare. Live music entertains you five nights a week, so you can begin and end your night at Union 50.
Petite Chou’s quaint bistro located near the canal in Broad Ripple is known for service, style and champagne brunch. The restaurant was included in Travel + Leisure’s “Best French Restaurants in the United States” for their ever-flowing champagne, fresh flowers on the tables, and authentic pommes frites fried in duck fat. Specialties include savory crepes, like the shrimp and crab mornay, toasted brioche and broken yolk sandwiches, boeuf bourguignon, and hand-pattied burgers. Handmade cocktails such as the Petite Chou Bloody Mary, made with a custom organic mix, vodka, and salted rim, are perfect for weekend brunches. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Petite Chou’s close-knit tables with bar seating and an outdoor patio make it an Indy destination.