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Mar 16, 2003 04:34 PM

indianapolis eats - need info asap!

  • w

My sister is in Indianapolis this week and is feeling like a prisoner of the hotel. Any recommendations for mid-priced eats in the area? She likes just about everything, especially Japanese. Also, need ideas on what she can do for fun - museums, etc. Thanks!

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  1. Since you said mid-priced, I won't mention the incredible shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo's. Oops, I just did. It's way overpriced, though.

    My wife and I had a terrific meal in November at Palomino (on Illinois Street). Service was wonderful, pace was right on, food was excellent. The waiter's suggestions were all perfect. Based on our one experience there, we definitely recommend it. It's right downtown a couple blocks northeast of the RCA Dome.

    A block east of the Dome is a Japanese place...it starts with an M. Miyoto or something like that, maybe. Looks nice...I haven't eaten there.

    Enjoy. Indianapolis has a nice downtown.


    8 Replies
    1. re: Greg

      I was a frequent business visitor to Indianapolis (I live in Philadelphia) for a number of years, and I too felt compelled to get the hell out of the hotel room (I usually stayed on the Omni Severin).

      Browing through one of those "city" ad magazines in hotel rooms, I found a small ad for Shapiro's, which billed itself as a New York-style deli. Hah! I thought. I worked in Manhattan for three years and was raised in the heart of North Jersey corned beef/pastrami country. How could Indianapolis ever compete?

      Well, it can. Shapiro's is just a short walk from Union Station (although I found the area safe, I'm a big 250-pound+ guy; I would certainly understand that a woman alone would not necessary feel as secure as me). Nonetheless, I recommend a quick, cheap cab ride to Shapiro's. Their pastrami is excellent, and far better than all but one of the pastrami sandwiches I can obtain in Philadelphia. It's a cafeteria-style place, tends to get mobbed by the Eli Lily people at lunch time (but the line moves quickly); dinner is less hectic, and they also do breakfast. The chicken soup with matzah ball is good, too. Steam table stuff is variable; but I found the stuffed cabbage, short ribs, stuffed peppers and similar goodies quite acceptable. Plus you can get Dr. Brown's or Vernor's ginger ale! It's a rare establishment that offers both.

      St. Elmo's is a top-rank steakhouse, but it is very pricey. I used to go there and have a glass of port and smoke a cigar.

      I also found Palomino excellent. Though less expensive than St. Elmo, it is hardly cheap. Unless things have changed, last time I was there it was owned by a restaurant group based in Seattle which operates a number of fine establishments, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, but also scattered here and there. (There used to be one in Philadelphia, Cutter's Grand Cafe, but it has since closed).

      Should your sister find herself in Indianapolis in late May/early June, Palomino's would be a must: if it's still part of the same restaurant group, they will be serving fresh Copper River King salmon. Quite simply, this is the best piece of fish you will ever eat short of cooking a fish immediately after you catch it.

      As for things to do, there's a wonderful museum on the west side of downtown: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. Hard to imagine a museum dedicated to this regional art named after a Norweigian, but this place is well-worth exploring.

      Indianapolis Symphony also plays downtown. I'm a season subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and regularly hear other great orcehstras. While Indianapolis may not be on the top rank, it is nonetheless an excellent symphony. Certainly worth obtaining tickets if your sister is in town when they have a program. Walking distance from any downtown hotel, right on Monument Circle.

      1. re: Bob Libkind

        Shapiro's had a fire a couple of weeks back and although it was contained to the upstairs the restaurant suffered quite a bit of water damage. The health department is making them pretty much gut the inside of the restaurant to try to head off any possible future mold problems. I haven't been by there in the past week or two but I think that they are still closed at this point.

        Some other suggestions that my wife and I like (we live and work in downtown Indy):

        Bistro 936 (936 Virginia Ave, about 1.5 miles southeast of downtown) is a great little Bistro owned by Peter George who is also the owner of Peter's, which is consistently voted as one of the best restaurant in Indy. Great food and service at very reasonable prices. On Tuesday nights they have a $12.95 three course filet meal. One of the best dining values in the city.

        Santorini's (a few blocks past Bistro 936 on Virginia Ave, in the heart of Fountain Square) - Excellent Greek food at moderate prices.

        Mikado is the Japanese/Sushi restaurant that the previous poster was talking about. It's an excellent restaurant. It's at the upper end of the moderate price range. It's on the corner of Illinois and Georgia Streets.

        A few blocks north of Mikado on Illinois street is India Garden. Excellent Indian food. The lunch buffet is one of the best dining values in the city!

        Georgio's Pizza on Market Street, just east of Monument Circle does an awesome slice of pizza as well as calzones.

        There's also tons of places on Massachusetts (sp?) Aveneue which is a few blocks north east of downtown. It's walkable, but a woman on her own may want to take a cab over to the area. Once there, there are lots of places that are walkable. Some suggestions are The Rathskeller for good German food and beer or Agio for Mediterranean food. A new Caribbean place just opened up there as well. The Sholars Inn has a very cool bar that would be worth having a drink in. Finally, a trip to the Chatterbox, a very cool little jazz bar, is always fun.

        As far as fun stuff to do she should head over to the White River State Park which is on the western edge of downtown. There's the brand new Indiana State Museum, The Eiteljorg Museum (native american museum; there's a very cool exhibit of glass art works by Dale Chihuly there right now), The NCAA Hall of Champions, The Indianapolis Zoo and the White River Gardens.

        The Indianapolis Art Museum is very nice as well. They have one of the best neo-impressionist collections in the country. It's several miles northwest of the city and would require a cab ride or a rental car.

        I hope she has fun in Indy. It's a pretty cool city!

        1. re: Matt
          T.Thomas (Indy)

          Matt has it pretty well covered. I think the new Carribbean place he's referring to is Yats.

          If she wants to get out of downtown (if that's where she's staying) there are a number of restaurants in the Broad Ripple area that are worth a try. We like Tavola di Tosa (Italian), but there's also the Jazz Cooker (Cajun) and several others.

          Another downtown place to try is the Slippery Noodle Inn. Indiana's oldest bar offers live blues nightly.

          Good luck,


          1. re: T.Thomas (Indy)

            I travel to Indy a lot, and there's a good Japanese place called Sakura that I like. It's north (can't remember the address). It's kind of dumpy looking, but the prices are fair and I think the sushi and Japanese food are good quality. I take a lot of Japanese coworkers there and they like it, too. It's off the outerbelt near the exit for Indiana Wesleyan University, and there's a mall with a Parisian store on the street it's on. Sorry for the lack of address.

            1. re: Lauren in OH

              Sakura is on Keystone Avenue just north of 71st Street - on the east side of the street. They have a little market just around the corner, too, that does take out sushi...

            2. re: T.Thomas (Indy)
              Molly Symmonds

              Yats is not a Caribbean restaurant. It serves the cuisine of New Orleans - maque choux, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and so forth. Every main dish is $5, and a half-portion each of two of the daily specials is $6.

          2. re: Bob Libkind

            Shapiro's has had a fire and will not be open again until April or May. They still have a north location but it is not as good

            1. re: Bob Libkind


              I'm 4 years late in reading your post, but I just wanted to thank you for not joining the chorus of voices bashing this city.

              Did you read the article in the New York Times this summer about our orchestra?

              Thank you, and come back and visit any time!


          3. My favorite restaurant in Indy is Yummy, a Chinese gourmet place on Georgetown Rd. just north of west 38th St. West 38th has many decent eating places, but once you've eaten at Yummy, you'll drive by them with no second thoughts! I garrrontee!!