Embrace the Elements With Fire & Smoke Burgers
Get a fish taco, drink it with a Boner Pils (a German pilsner), and giggle your way through a meal that delivers as much on flavor as it does on adolescent humor. Even without the smirk-inducing names, both the food and the beer at Big Lug are consistently amazing, whether you’re stumbling off the Monon with a voracious appetite or just want a few wings to go with your pint. Even if you want a cocktail, this place has you covered on that front, too.
For the first couple of years, Cerulean was mistakenly grouped in as a hotel restaurant because of its shared footprint with the trendy Alexander Hotel. Now, the independently owned farm-to-table spot is finally getting its due for its high-concept tasting dinners and a la carte plates. Make sure you leave enough time to stop at the bar for the house Old Fashioned or a carefully curated bottle of wine. Definitely check out the restaurant’s exceptional (and gorgeous!) dessert menu.
It’s only been a year and a half, but Milktooth has made waves across Indianapolis like no other restaurant in the Circle City before. The casual brunch restaurant backs up the hype with outstanding, envelope-pushing food, great cocktails, and about nine ways to get your coffee -- from pour-over to the Modbar espresso. If you're pressed for time, get a few pastries and a coffee on your way to work.
The first version of this sandwich and brunch shop got started in Milwaukee and moved back home to Indianapolis over the summer. Expect a lineup of sandwiches piled with smoked pork belly, house pickles, and a whole mess of local ingredients stacked in between. If you need to perk up after a long night, get a plate full of house-made biscuits & gravy.
Before there was Three Carrots, Indy was awash in mass-produced black bean burgers as the only alternative to eating animals. You could argue that this humble food stall in City Market is more or less single-handedly responsible for the vegan revolution in Indy. Three Carrots supplies the hands-down best seitan to restaurants around the city, and it also throws down on some of the most delicious sandwiches you'll ever eat that are surprisingly meatless. Bonus: You can order lunch online and pick it up from the restaurant if you're short on time. A second location will open soon at 902 Virginia Avenue in Fountain Square.
When Rook moved up the street to a bigger spot, it took a long five-month hiatus to prepare the new space, which didn't seem to hurt business one bit. Now it's back, the restaurant is gorgeous, and there's room for many more diners. Get a glass of wine from the impressive list and dig into the fried chicken steamed bun and a plate of pig face hash to go with your karaage bowl.
Since the Libertine seized the crown as the best cocktail bar in the city, it's been impossible to knock off. Maybe because you can get a perfectly balanced Manhattan, or maybe because you can get a cocktail that tastes like a fancy PB&J. Whether you want something classic or experimental, you can find it in this basement bar on Mass Ave, along with one of the best small-plates menus in the city.
I believe this restaurant has the power to convert a lot of people to the whole-foods diet. When you eat The Garden Table's food, you get a shot of that clean-burning energy that powers you through the rest of the day. Two high recommendations: the acai bowl if you want something sweet, or the BLT Smash if you want something meaty and filling. One thing: It closes at 3pm, so arrive hungry and early. It now also has a second location at 342 Massachusetts Avenue.
The famous Chicago burger joint now has a little sister store in Fountain Square. It’s right down the street from all the best bars, you can get takeout, and it serves liquor. Fill your face with a Mastodon while you fill your ears with metal, or take on one of the massive beef patties in the privacy of your own home as the resto starts testing out a delivery service.
Pioneer is positioning itself as an "alpine" restaurant, carrying a variety of Italian, French, and Germanic dishes. The small-plates menu is one to love and makes a perfect accompaniment to a limited but focused cocktail selection. Pioneer’s best feature won’t come into play until spring, when the expansive patio opens for the season.
OK, so it’s not technically in Indianapolis, but it definitely has some incredible food and good beer. The Sunday brunch is a quick four-hour engagement, but the lunch and dinner options are as approachable as pub food gets, if more sophisticated in the execution. The lunch special changes all the time, so stay tuned to the spot's Instagram to stay updated.
This brand-new place from Cunningham Restaurant Group is pushing the envelope in hyper-local sourcing and the use of charcuterie in the dishes themselves. There’s a hydroponic grow wall that supplies the restaurant with ultra-fresh veggies and lettuce, plus a charcuterie aging room and a wine list that would make a collector blush. Make sure you save room for dessert at this place, too!
Lots of people have a crush on Tinker Street, from Colts players to regular ol’ Hoosiers. It serves farm-fresh food that’s some of the most delicious in the city, and stands out for the level of service provided by the staff. The best way to enjoy Tinker Street is to order a bunch of small plates, get a bottle of wine, and bask in all the flavors of the meatless and carnivore-friendly food. Also check out for the Tinker team’s newest project, the recently opened Festiva at 1217 E. 16th Street, featuring a carefully curated collection of authentic Mexican dishes.
Sometimes you just want that big, over-the-top, all-beef-everything steakhouse experience, and the best place to get that experience for your money is Prime 47. Now, this is no shade on a certain other famous Indy steakhouse, but the Prime 47 menu is just a little more fun (and baller), with options like a wagyu tomahawk steak for a cool $119, and a roasted wild boar option if you’re an adventurous eater. This is definitely the place to take the bachelor/bachelorette party if you’re trying to do the all-out Vegas experience here in Indianapolis.
This newly opened lunch spot is hitting home run after home run with its sandwich selection. You could get a sandwich piled high with some of the most lovingly prepared roast beef in town, or go light with a veggie roll: roasted portobello, goat cheese, roasted bell peppers, and basil mint pesto. Or split the difference and earn yourself some cookie points with the veggie sandwich, then immediately blow those points on a side of homemade chocolate chip bread pudding.
Tucked behind some of 54th St’s most popular restaurants, The Gallery Pastry Shop is a brand-new shop serving up delicate, classic French pastries like macarons, opera cakes, eclairs, and croissants. Everything is made fresh daily, and we’d highly recommend grabbing a table to enjoy some desserts with a nice charcuterie plate. The glass-encased open kitchen allows diners to watch chef Ben Hardy create the artful treats, and with a six-flavor mimosa menu, it’s easy to see how you could spend hours here.
Just around the corner from The Gallery Pastry Shop, Bent Rail is a great little pub that serves great food. There is still a bit of time to wait before it can serve its own beer, but it is still on the way and in the plan. In the meantime, avail yourself of a great tap list and grub on an outstanding list of sandwiches and culinary-cultural crossover. We highly recommend going to brunch when the Korean breakfast bowl is on the menu, a filling combination of egg, rice, kimchee, pickles and veggies that perks up your palate first thing in the morning. If you’re there in the evening, try literally anything on the sandwich menu with literally anything on the salad menu. You will go home full and happy.
The first rumblings of Open Society happened over a year ago with a series of invitation-only dinners accompanied by a selection of cocktails. The restaurant has since opened to overwhelmingly positive reviews, offering everything from Modbar espresso drinks, liquor, pastries, and a full dinner service. The new SoBro spot promises an experience similar to Milktooth with a South American flair, with help from talent imported from The NoMad in NYC.
Listen, this is probably going to come to blows, but it's something worth fighting for: The best “comfort” Mexican food in Indianapolis is at La Parada. The people deserve to know. It’s hangover-friendly without being a total grease bomb, and the tortilla chips are often still a bit warm from the fryer. Everything is actually spicy and tangy and bright, not just salty. And the beer is always extra-cold. It’s a great little neighborhood joint for when you want your tacos fresh with nothing but lime, onion, and cilantro.
You’ll never get a bad meal at Bluebeard, but the crew has recently re-invigorated menus with offerings like an all-street-food menu on Tuesdays, and chicken & waffles on certain days during lunch. The restaurant is having fun with its regulars while maintaining one foot firmly in the globally inspired seafood game that keeps everyone -- including regulars and Colts QB Andrew Luck -- coming back for more. Keep your eyes trained on Bluebeard's social media feeds for fun, short runs of new menu items.
Folks in the northeast suburbs now have a reason to keep their dining dollars in town. Chef Jake Burgess has already garnered tons of praise for the high-end flavors presented in his laid-back dining room. Don’t feel bad about stopping in to the place while on a long bike ride or after a day at the lake, as they will be glad to serve you no matter what you wear.
Normally burger chains (or chains of any sort) don’t land on “best” lists, but we’ll make an exception for this New Zealand-based operation, which this summer opened its first US location in Broad Ripple. Try the Wagyu With Cheese, a burger featuring Australian beef, New Zealand Egmont cheddar, truffle mascarpone, caramelized onion jam, horseradish cream sauce, salad, tomato relish, and aioli. And make sure to ask for a doofer -- a cardboard burger holder that keeps the juice off your shirt. Mostly.
Everybody’s trying their hand at pho these days, but you won’t find a more authentic stateside version than the one prepared at this Westfield establishment. Owner Leo Nguyen uses recipes from his Vietnamese family to fill out the menu, but really, just get the pho. Nguyen personally shops for the day’s meat and veggies, and the soup stock is created by simmering beef bones for as long as 18 hours. Toppings include sliced beef, brisket, tripe, and Vietnamese beef meatballs. A second location will open soon at 5603 E. Washington Street.
Set in the midst of downtown’s Mass. Ave cultural district, this contemporary-themed establishment is a go-to staple for the post-theater, -concert, and -work crowds. The seasonal menu includes Parmesan-encrusted Chilean sea bass; salt and pepper calamari cut in-house; and Indiana Viking lamb. If you’re really hungry, order the 26-ounce Wagyu tomahawk steak.
A Latin-themed Downtown establishment that gets its name from its location -- a former horse stable. A cool, two-story setting with bars on both levels. Lots of tequilas. The food includes a pork tenderloin prepared with a chipotle dry rub; red beans and shrimp; and red drum with sweet plantain and jicama fries. But you can’t go wrong with the beef short rib tamale and a side of yucca fries.
It started out as a food truck serving Cajun food. Now it’s a smallish N. College Avenue restaurant run by a Panamanian native offering (among a great many other things) his signature version of red beans and rice, an alligator sandwich, and a selection of po-boys featuring everything from shrimp to sausage to catfish. By the way, SotSot is short for “some of this, some of that.”