Fresh ingredients, imaginative combinations, and simple, farm fresh flavors welcome you to the table when you dine at some of the neighborhood favorites in Indianapolis. My top dining tip to anyone traveling anywhere is always– get out of the downtown corridor. This is definitely true when looking for some of the top Indianapolis restaurants.
Get out of your comfort zone. Take a walk. Wander into the neighborhoods. Hop on a Pacers bike share or drive. Mass Ave has a ton of options that you can walk to from most downtown hotels, but push a little farther out too. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals about the up and coming neighborhoods. This is where you can find cheaper eats. Gone is the old “meat and potatoes” mentality of the midwest. This is where farm to table really lives, since well, the farm is right here, in middle America.
Reservations at Indianapolis Restaurants
Not all Indianapolis restaurants take reservations. Yes, this can feel painful, but it will be OK. I promise. Grab a drink. If you have kids with you, let them run around, bring the fidget sticks, play a game of cards.
In general, you can make reservations at the restaurants downtown. It’s the neighborhood restaurants that don’t always take reservations. When in doubt, just call and ask if they take reservations or how long the wait is. Like most restaurants, wait times tend to move faster than estimated.
Any restaurant that knows how to do a killer bacon cheese burger AND true vegan meals is something that is very hard to find, but we did just that at this Indianapolis restaurant on Mass Ave. Mesh doesn’t advertise itself as vegan by any means, but when my friend mentioned that she was vegan, they came up with an amazing cauliflower and mushroom dish for her, and even knew to ask if she preferred it without the buttermilk. Bravo Mesh!
Now back to that burger. I prefer lots of meat (hold the vegan), and this burger was cooked perfectly, and flavored to perfection without being overly pretentious. You’d think this would be simple, but sadly it’s not. Trust me. I’ve tried a lot of burgers. As for appetizers, don’t miss out on the biscuits. They are light and fluffy, and the lemon curd that comes with it is mouth-puckering awesome.
Pizza gone awesome is just about the only way to put it. Salads and appetizers are definitely worth devouring, but if you love Naples-style, thin crust pizza, you will want to head to Napolese, an artisanal pizzeria by Patachou. This is a local chain of restaurants with multiple locations and a few different style of restaurants by the owners. If you love sausage pizza, try the Meridian Kessler. I like my sausage shaved, crumbled and crispy, which is something very hard to find. They do it just right. I got mine with no mushrooms (I’m allergic). So good!
The owners of Amelia’s bakery (named after one of the owner’s grandmother’s) had been supplying bread to restaurants across the city for a few years when they decided they wanted to open a dinner spot as well. Behold, the dinner spot you can’t get a reservation at (don’t worry, no one can. They don’t take them), but you will want to wait in line for a table.
The staff really knows their way around the menu as they guide you through small, medium and large plates that can be served family style so everyone at the table can get a taste, or you can be greedy and just order a few things for yourself. The cocktail and wine menu is pages long, so take your time to read it. The dinner menu has a few main staples, but many items sell out and change out with the seasons to include as many local finds as possible.
The beet salad, fresh pappardelle pasta and salmon ceviche were a little slice of heaven. My friends and I (there were seven of us) actually got in a fight over which was the best out of our eight dishes. Even the bread platter we ordered was in the running! Rare, I know, but how could it not be? It’s straight from Amelia’s bakery.
Oh, but save room for dessert. Bread pudding, Chocolate goat cheese cake, and something called checkered pie had us all wishing we had an extra stomach so we could take just one more bit.
Breakfast and lunch in an old car garage may seem like a hipster thing to do, and you are right. But it is so good and the space is so gorgeous that you will want to show up anyway and then realize that no one looks or acts like a pretentious hipster at all. You are allowed to photograph your food and post it on Instagram however.
Dutch baby pancakes are on the menu, as well as big ole slabs of bacon, massive grilled cheese sandwiches with an egg on top, fried chicken wings and whatever else the chef comes up with that is in season. But watch out. What is on the menu today may not be on the menu during your next visit, so order up.
There is also no decaf coffee. Your caffeinated options (oh and boozy beverages) are ingenious and creative, but don’t worry parents. There is plenty of juice for kids to order off the menu. And yes, children (even tiny babies) are welcome.
No. This is not a hotel. Phew, we got that out of the way. What this is, is one of the best cocktail bars and distilleries in town. You may want to leave the kids home for this one, or hit it on a date night or girls weekend, as this really is booze only.
You can order the usual cocktails (Moscow mules, mojitos, etc.), but I highly recommend you go with one of their speciality cocktails. Garden inspired, fruit concoctions and “oh lordy that has some liquor to it” mixology is happening behind the bar. Not sure what you want? The staff is incredible and will help you make a decision. If it’s on the menu, I recommend the Slow Jamz (Gin, basil berry puree, simple, lemon, egg white and blackberries). That egg white smoothed out the berry and gin so I ended up sipping a not-to-sweet cocktail on a warm summer evening.
Indianapolis Tinker Coffee
This local brew has a very smooth decaf. If you need to switch to decaf for whatever reason, definitely ask if they have Tinker decaf in house. It is divine. If you have ever had decaf coffee you know how hard it is to get non-bitter brews. Indianapolis Tinker coffee is for you! Don’t worry though, they also make caffeinated versions for those that need a jolt.
This post is in partnership with Bloghouse, Visit Indy and Visit Indiana. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links.