Any Good Food In Indiana?
- Vickie Sep 8, 2000 04:31 PM
We just moved here form Southern California and find the food in Indiana just awful. Is there anything other than chain restaurants? Where are the authentic ethnic foods? Can anyone recommend a good restaurant that does'nt serve meat and potatoes? Looking for anything mexican, japanese, thai food.
Midtown Grill in Broad Ripple, really good variety of food, Ambrosia in Broad Ripple, Italian, Oriental Inn on the east side, Chinese, Stringers, southside, seafood, Keystone Grill, steak and seafood, Sunrise Cafe, northside - best breakfast: eggs benedict and pancakes (never had better).
I grew up in NW Indiana, so naturally, I find the food there to be quite fine! Seriously, I don't believe you'll find tons of great Thai, Mexican, etc, anywhere in the state. However, you can find some great burgers in Indiana, and there are some nice places for fish and chicken in the NW, and Italian beef sandwiches to die for. Can't speak for NE Indiana, but I believe your problem might be solved by what people these days call a 'paradigm shift.'
Yeah, you're right, the overall standard of food here is pretty bad. We moved here from the San Francisco area 9 years ago when I got a teaching job at Purdue, and to this day whenever we have a particularly bad experience at a local restaurant, my husband turns to me and growls, "It's your fault we live here." But there *are* some places to eat that are ok, especially when compared to other local options, and there are a few places that are more than ok.
If you're in the Fishers/Carmel area then you're pretty close to Indianapolis, so that's where these restaurants are all located (and if you're from Southern California you don't mind driving a little, right?). I don't have the precise addresses for these, but you can easily find them in a phone book. Here are the places we like best:
Shapiro's - 2 locations, one downtown on Michigan, and one on the north side of the city on 86th St. This place would be worth checking out in any city - it's a really good combination deli/cafeteria. They have great pastrami, brisket, and corned beef, very good latkes, etc. The combination of Midwestern food (think Jell-o salads) and Jewish deli food seems a little strange at first, but quickly grows on you (in more ways than one). The downtown restaurant is a little funkier than the one on the northside, which looks very Midwestern/suburban, but which still has great food.
Udupi Cafe - on Lafayette Rd., near 35th St. This place is also good in absolute terms. It's a South Indian vegetarian restaurant with really good dosas - thin crepes, sometimes wrapped around a curry, with dipping sauces - and utthapams - flat breads topped with various veggie combinations. They also have some good curries, and some weird dishes I haven't seen elsewhere. If you like buffets, they have a lunch buffet that's pretty good, especially on weekends.
Thai food - there are several Thai restaurants in the Indianapolis area - none of them are great, but one is adequate. There's one Thai restaurant in Fishers, which we think is pretty mediocre, and one in downtown Indie in the Broad Ripple area, which is downright bad. The best of the bunch is a little place on Michigan Ave. around 82nd or 86th called Thai House - perfectly competent Thai food, and a really nice staff (we showed up one night 5 minutes after they closed, with a three-month-old baby in tow, and they let us in and served us a feast with no signs of impatience).
Kabul - as the name suggests, this is an Afghani restaurant, and it's pretty good. Very friendly service, good homey food (not that I've ever been in an Afghan home, but you know what I mean). It's on Ditch Rd, in the northern part of the city.
Queen of Sheba - this is an Ethiopian restaurant in downtown, on Indiana Ave. It's also pretty good (not the best Ethiopian I've ever had, but not the worst either).
Sizzling Wok - as their sign tells you, "Indianapolis's best and only Vietnamese restaurant". They're on Michigan, around 72nd St. In San Francisco their food would rate about a B/B-, but again, it's not the worst Vietnamese I've ever eaten.
Peter's - for high-end dining, this is the place to go. They're right across from the Keystone Crossing shopping center - on 86th, at Keystone. They have a good wine list (especially by local standards), and interesting and somewhat innovative food. There are other restaurants in Indie serving "innovative" food - which means combining unlikely ingredients in a heap on a plate - where I get the impression that they've read menu descriptions of such food but have no idea how to make the ingredients taste good together. At Peter's, in contrast, everything we've eaten has tasted good. They're pricy by local standards but not compared to restaurants in LA or SF.
Pizza - the only place we've found with decent pizza in Indie is Bazbeau's - they're located downtown in the Broad Ripple area.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. A few words of warning - be very cautious about recommendations from local sources such as the Indianapolis Monthly magazine or from people who live in Indie. Some of the worst meals we've eaten here have been in restaurants recommended to us by friends who know that we like "ethnic" food. In particular, there's a Cajun/Creole restaurant called The Jazz Cooker in the Broad Ripple area which served us a meal so bad that it stands as a benchmark in our lives. Almost as bad was a meal eaten at a Tibetan restaurant called The Snow Lion - think bad fried rice with curry powder sprinkled on it. (It's possible that we hit these places on bad nights, but I don't think so.)
A problem we haven't found a way of solving yet is the difficulty of getting good wine at reasonable prices in Indiana - the stuff at the local liquor stores is usually overpriced and mediocre, at least compared to the wine we used to get in California. For several years, we mail-ordered wine from a place in Orange County, but it's now illegal to do that, so we carry wine back with us whenever we're back in CA (I think this is also illegal, but we mark the boxes "glassware" and get away with it).
Good luck! And remind yourself that there are a lot of great things about living in Indiana - being able to afford a nice house on a sizeable piece of land, bicycling through rural areas, hiking in Southern Indiana, and so on. And if worse comes to worse, it's not that far to Chicago, where, with a little planning, you can manage to eat six or seven great chowhound meals in a weekend trip...
re: Mary Niepokuj
I don't suppose anything will change soon, but there is a court battle going on with respect to mail-order wine, and I believe the state of Indiana lost the first round on the grounds that their draconian law (which I believe makes felons of people who send wine into the state to consumers) violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. So maybe someday you'll have an alternative.
I grew up in NW Indiana. When I was young you couldn't buy a drink in a restaurant on Sunday. Now you can, and heck, for a long time now women have been allowed to sit at the bar instead of at a table or booth. But still no retail off-premise sales on Sunday. Drive a mile or two to Illinois from my hometown and you find lots of large liquor stores that are open on Sundays.
re: Jim Dorsch
Well, the thing that's annoying about the law against mail-ordering wine in Indiana is that its main sponsers were liquor store owners, not religious or civic leaders. Apparently they were afraid of the competition provided by mail-order wine companies (and rightly so - even after you factor in the shipping charges, I used to get better wine cheaper than I could find in local stores). Of course, they claimed they were concerned about cutting down on under-age drinking - yeah, like the local frat houses are gonna start holding wine-tasting parties instead of keggers.
re: Mary Niepokuj
First of all, Mary, you'd have to admit the restaurant situation in Indy has greatly improved in the last 9 years. 20 years ago, if you wanted any sort of Continental cuisine, you had 3 choices: Chanteclair, the King Cole and the Glass Chimney. And ethnic food, forget it! Thank God we HAVE 4 Thai places to choose from now. And by the way, I totally disagree about your assessment of the one in Broad Ripple, the Thai Cafe. It's fantastic. It's run by a Thai lady who married an American, and unlike the other 3 places,
she says their small menu is more indicative of a restaurant you'd find in Thailand. The Masamam Curry is great. (Shalimar, an Indian place, is right next door to the Thai Cafe and is really good also).
Anyway, Vickie, the Japanese options that I'm familiar with are Daruma on the northwest side at 86th and Michigan Road, and Sansui in Carmel.
You should have no problem finding good Mexican in Indy, since the Hispanic population in exploding here and several new restaurants have popped up. Some personal recommendations are: on the west side near Lafayette Square is La Hacienda, El Sol de Tala on east Washington Street, Little Mexico at 71st and Binford, El Sombrero on 86th in the Castleton area (behind Red Lobster-the only thing R.L. is good for is to use as a landmark when giving directions) and Pancho's Taqueria at 71st & Michigan.
You might want to check out www.indy.com and go to the dining guide for a bunch of reviews of places around town. You might want to call ahead, as the list has reviews from as far back as '96, and some of the places have closed. Hope this helps a little.
There are definitely some good finds in Indianapolis -- don't give up!
One of my favorite places, though it is only open for breakfast and lunch, is Cafe Patachou. There are two locations -- I've been to the one by Keystone at the Crossing. The yummiest cinnamon toast ever, great omelets, good chicken salad, to name a few things.
I have yet to find any good Chinese food in the area.
In terms of Japanese, Ocean World is good, as is Mikado, and Sakura is supposed to be good. I haven't been there yet, but Something Different supposedly is very innovative, as is Dunaway's. Out of the three types of cuisine you mentioned, you'll probably find a hard time with all three, in general. You might have the best luck with Mexican, however, at least eventually. There are new Mexican restaurants starting up all the time. The Hispanic population in the area seems to be constantly growing. In terms of Thai, Udupi Cafe is a good suggestion. I'll let you know if I think of, or experience, anything else that might be of interest to you. There are definitely a lot of meat and potato restaurants, but there are other options as well.
Chinese. No one has mentioned Mandarin House at 116th and Rangeline Road in Carmel. My friend lived in Taiwan for a year and was impressed by the food.
If you get down to Bloomington, try the Irish Lion (right off the main square on Kirkwood/5th St) for excellent fish and chips, lamb, salmon & trout. On a winter's day there's nothing better than a hot bowl of coddle (lamb, bacon, potato stew) at the old bar with a few stouts.
The Updown Cafe, also just off the square, has a cool eclectic menu. There's a gumbo of the day which you can have served on rice or "Hoosier-style" (on real mashed potatoes). They make a creole pork chop that rules and a catfish deep fried with sesame seeds that's terrific. Coffee is quality and strong. Sunday morning brunhes draw a huge crowd, but are worth the wait: there's eggs benedict, mimosa, asian-style scallion cakes, etc. I told you it was eclectic.
There's a Yugoslavian joint nearby called "Little Zagreb's" that has fine steaks and stuff. And last time I was there there was a very decent (for Indiana) Japanese place right on the square.