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Recently moved to Indianapolis. Appears to be overrun by chain restaurants....

Non-chain reccomendations?

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  1. yats has three locations but still feels kinda commercial. lafayette has the same problem

    1. Yes, we are unfortunately full of chains. However, we also have some pretty talented chefs. For non-cain recommendations, you'll have to give us some ideas as to what you are looking for.

      Indianapolis Monthly has a decent listing of restaurants, but it seems to me that they are focusing more on the Carmel, Fishers area more that true Indy these days.

      1. I thought the same thing when I moved to the area from the West Coast - my fiance (now husband) still remembers my comment that I had never seen so many chain restaurants lined up on most of the main streets.

        The Broad Ripple area has many small, independent restaurants.

        The Music Mill has an excellent restaurant and hosts musical acts.

        Look closely at some of the ubiquitous strip malls - many have hidden gems in them. Losts of good ethnic choices. My favorite is Taste of Thai in Castleton, in the same center as Trader Joes.

        Downtown - hit Massachussetts Avenue.
        At the Circle Centre Mall downtown, Bertolinis is very good Italian - yes, it's a chain but there are only 4 nationwide!

        For decent upscale chain restaurants, head to Clay Terrace in Carmel - Kona Grill, Mitchells Fish Market, etc.

        Everything I've mentioned is on the Northside and Downtown; I'm unfamiliar with the South and West, except for Rick's Boatyard near Eagle Creek Park - nice place.

        This blog reviews Indy restaurants

        Good luck.

        1. There are a couple of other posts on htis site for good Indy food -- do a search and see what comes up.

          But quickly, for nonchain upscale try Elements, Oakleys, L'Explorateur.

          A little more casual but aslo very good is R bistro.

          Also good ethnic Just for example, lately we've had good Mexican at El Maguey and good Vietnamese at Saigon. But there are lots of options. Check the Indy Monthly too, and subscribe to their weekly email newsletter The Dish.

          1. Try Mama Corolla's in the Broad Ripple area for good Italian.

            Scholars Inn opened a branch in Indianapolis that's comparable to the good food they have down in Bloomington.

            1 Reply
            1. The idea that Indianapolis is any more overrun by chains than any other city in the Midwest is absolutely a myth. Just drive across West 86th Street or down Lafayette Road or through Broad Ripple, and you'll see dozens of signs for restaurants unique to our city--many of them very good. Sure, we have our share of coporate eateries, but that TGI Friday's in Times Square does a pretty brisk business as well (and the diners aren't all tourists).

              Visit www.indyethnicfood.com to see a listing of over 750 international restaurants in Indianapolis, only a few of them chains. The website lists ethnicities from Turkish to Somali to Ethiopian to Korean to Iraqi to Belgian.

              Among excellent local upscale eateries, try Oakleys, L'Explorateur, R Bistro, Elements, Shanghai Lil, Mikado, Peterson's, Danielli, 14 West, just to name a few. Dozens of quaint little Hoosier places as well.

              I have lived here for 11 years and have probably eaten at chain restaurants less than 1% of the time--and I dine out at least 3 times a week.

              Hope you can find time for all of our local eateries.

              2 Replies
              1. re: indypoetchef

                It's true that everyplace U.S.A. is overrun by chains, but the fact is, Indypoetchef, Indy has more chains per person in the U.S. for the size of it's population. For instance, have you been to Louisville? Much smaller city than Indy. Unfortunately for us foodies here, Indy has a much smaller independent restaurant scene than places like Loisville, Milwaukee...to name just a couple. That's a fact!! If I was a visitor to Indy and was just wandering around looking for a non-chain place to eat, I would also be lost for words. Those suburbs are tricky places...so just eat them up if you want. For me? I'm on a diet for now!

                1. re: napolean

                  The density of chains in Indy is a matter of geography - Indy annexed nearly all of the suburbs in Marion county through a consolidated city-county government. While Indy is in the top 15 of american cities for population, the metro area is only in the 30s. Indy has more than twice the land area of Chicago, but a quarter of the people. Most of the area within the city boundaries is "sub-urban". Columbus annexes the surrounding cities at a high rate, and the city itself has a similar restaurant scene. Louisville just switched to a city county government, and it should be interesting to see their development patterns. So, when comparing the restaurant scene, or big box scene, or low density housing development scene, it might be helpful to do that comparison by metropolitan area. In that case, it doesn't look much different than Louisville, Cincinnati, Kansas City, or any other midwest metro area. 465 is quite similar to 275, 265, or 270.

                  That said, I generally ignore the restaurant scene. The offerings for unprepared food in Indy seem ok, so I make some really great food at home. Good produce is cheap at the 38th and meridian farmer's market, and the loss leader meat specials at the supermarkets are great. Saraga is a total dump filled with questionable grub, but if I absolutely can't find something in Indy, I know where to go. I really enjoy the resources of a two million person metro area, but don't have much interest in the dining "scene".

              2. I have been to Indianapolis a few times for business trips... and I highly recommend:

                The Rathskeller - An amazing German restaurant. Has a great selection of beers from Belgium, Germany, England and more. The food is reasonably priced and very tasty!

                St Elmo - a pricey steakhouse... but worth every penny. The shrimp cocktail is phenomenal... I still don't know how they get the cocktail sauce so spicy!!!!

                Good luck!


                1. We do have some great non-chain ethnic restaurants. We like Sawsadee (86th street west of Meridian) for Thai and Sakura on Keystone for Japanese. There are two really good hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurants on Lafayette Rd.

                  1. Oh, also if you like New York style pizza, Cio's in Fishers is super. The best pizza this east coast girl has had in Indy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: knielson2

                      Do you know if they are still open? The 96th street Cio's closed after they got the Fishers store running. Went there last Friday at 7pm and the place was dark, no answers on the phone and no messages.. I'll really be missing them if they are gone!


                    2. Macchu Picchu (Peruvian) on 38th is different and fun on a weekend night when they have music. There are some really good independent Mexican places, including one that was recently highly recommended on Michigan St.

                      1. How could I forget Trader's Point Creamery? Its an organic farm on Moore Rd. north of 86th street. They serve lunch Wed-Friday and brunch on Saturdays. You can check out their weekly menu on their website. The food's great, yummy and healthy. Plus they have a great ice cream bar for dessert. No, I don't work there, we just go every week for lunch!

                        1. It's been a while since any posts on this question. I've just registered and am looking for restaurants (downtown) that will be open on Thanksgiving. How can I find out without calling each one individually (we live out of the state)?

                          1. Can't believe no one has yet mentioned Shapiro's on South Meridian--a deli cafeteria, and the best deli food this side of NYC. Only place I have to visit when passing thru Indy. Awesome bakery there also.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: KyMikey

                              Though I have to say, I grew up on NY deli, and Shapiro's ain't it. I was there last weekend and was reminded again that it is exactly what I think a midwestern version of a New York deli would be. I have been craving a real bagel and tried one of theirs in desperation. Soft, cottony and sweet. Damn.

                              1. re: myplateoryours

                                For more authentic bagels, try Bagel Fair in Nora....the family that owns it is the same one that makes bagels in my husband's hometown in New Jersey.

                                1. re: prose

                                  I agree - Bagel Fair is the only bagel I trust in Indy.

                                  1. re: Jpotacki

                                    I have issues with their sweet bagels - they keep them too close to the garlic and onion bagels and they take on the flavor. yuk, not what I want in the morning, but I do love the texture...

                            2. Do not miss Cairo Cafe at 30th and Lafayette Rd. The best lunch buffet in the city. Authentic, wholesome, everything is delicious, and friendly prices. Exactly what chowhound.com is all about. Amani the owner is a gem.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: JoeBagadonuts

                                DON'T forget the Saigon Cafe, which is practically next door! And La Guatelinda, a Guatemalan restaurant that just opened beside Saigon! Saigon is family-run as well, and has an attached grocery store. Wonderful family and the food is just amazing. I love the store, too--I can't find cheaper big bundles of thai basil, cilantro and mint anywhere.

                                1. re: JoeBagadonuts

                                  Oh and another rec in the same neighborhood--both of the indian restaurants north of 38th street/Lafayette Square mall on Lafayette. For some reason, their names escape me right now, but they're both great.

                                  Also, don't miss Saraga--it's a gigantic international grocery store just south of 38th on Lafayette. Wonderful place.

                                2. The Tamale Place at Rockville Road and Lynhurst near the airport is a treasure. Takeout only and they often run out early in the day (you can call in an order ahead of time). Consolation prize when they run out is to ask them to make you some tacos...sometimes they have yesterday's tamales cold for a dollar apiece.

                                  It is impossible to overstate how good this place is.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gargantua

                                    I totally second that suggestion! We love The Tamale Place. Chicken in green sauce is my favorite, although everything I've had there is good. The idea of a chocolate tamale is hard to swallow for some (sorry for the pun), but I thought theirs was great...not too sweet, very chocolate-y, potentially addictive. Plus I have met the owners and they are nice people and so proud of what they do.

                                    I also recommend Boulder Creek/Stone Creek/Charbonos...a local group of restaurants in the Hendricks and Johnson County areas.

                                    And for pizza, check out Eh! Formaggio at 56th and Lafayette. It's my New Jerseyite-husband's favorite taste of home.

                                  2. I suggest Greiners subshop at raymond and shelby good soup,subs and pizza happy eating

                                    1. China House in Greenwood, Shapiro's, John's Hot Stew (try the breaded tenderloin with stew) and Scholar's Inn

                                      1. Came to Indy 1 1/2 years ago. Best independents in my world:

                                        Brugge - Belgium beer (fantastic) and mussels, crepes and salads
                                        Adobo - maybe considered a chain but a small one fro Chitown. Excellent creative dishes and best tequilla list in town. Many new Mexican restaurants in middle class areas that are worth checking out. One called aTamales I think.
                                        Taste Cafe - gormet lunch anbd cheese and salad. About to expand to include lunch and diinner.
                                        Naked Tchopstix - in Broad Ripple also, Maybe not the ultimate for pure sushi but bonus for creative rolls (I"ve also lived in NY in CA and seen a good amount of sushi places). But they serve good Korean. The Dolsop Bimbimbop is fantastic. Good soups. A nice variety and a hip casual atmosphere.
                                        H20 Sushi. Good qulaity sushi - but also great deserts
                                        New Hookah bar in Braod Ripple- name unremembered. Try the weekday as teens rush in on weekends. Authentic but simple Middle Easstern dishes. I only had hummus, babaganoush and spanikopita. But the babaganoush was the best I've had in a long time.
                                        Yats- for cheap eats.
                                        For more expensive check out downtown. Although its a chain the Oceanaire is worth it - especially for lunch - a bargain for that quality.

                                        hope that helps.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ripeandkosher

                                          >> Although its a chain the Oceanaire is worth it - especially for lunch - a bargain for that quality. <<

                                          I agree! The Oceanaire is an outstanding seafood restaurant, and I've enjoyed it every time I've been there. Regarding bargains, they have a special three-course deal for lunch that runs until around 4:30 or 5:00, so it may even work for an early dinner if your schedule is flexible.

                                          If you're going to the Oceanaire for dinner, make your reservations in advance. I've checked their reservations on opentable.com and they are often booked up between the hours of 5:00 and 9:00, even during the week.


                                        2. I would have to turn in my 'hound membership card if I did not recommend the roundtrip to Bloomington to enjoy the wonderfulness that is Restaurant Tallent.

                                          1. For very casual burgers, fries, and shakes, I highly recommend Bub's off Carmel's Main Street, right off the Monon trail (more useful in the Spring and Summer of course). It's just burgers, but good burgers, and full of local charm. I'm from Indy (now living in LA), and I know it could be sort of sacrilege to recommend a place in Carmel, but Bub's is worth the trip north. Plus there's a decent butcher and fish shop nearby on main street. I forget the name, but you would see it driving down main, they carry great diver scallops.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chaussonauxpommes

                                              Yes, Bubs is worth the trip from anywhere around Indianapolis especially on a day with nice weather. Muldoon's is down the street too and has a good pork tenderloin but not much else but a nice patio to eat on. The butcher and fish shop on Main is Joe's Butcher Shop and it is more than decent, it's wonderful. Their fish is very, very good, make sure you ask someone about special orders on fish. I got real steamer clams this summer at a good price, i had to rinse them as they were a touch sandy, but they were delicious. Mudbugs Cajun is there too. Good stuff, family owned and you can tell they care about the ingredients more than most do.

                                            2. I am a downtown freak. I choose Amici's on New York street. Get the cheese lasagna with sausage on the side. R Bistro is always very good. Chef Mehallick's menu changes weekly and she emphasizes very fresh and organic food. Dunaway's in the old Oxygen Building is my favorite downtown steakhouse. Wine list is long and strong. You can sit on the roof and overlook downtown. Best chilli meat or vege is at the Old Point tavern on Mass Ave. Nothing fried on the menu. Great pub food. There is very good bbq in town. I like the ribs at BBQ Heaven. They smoke them a long time, the ceiling is yellow from the smoke and there is no seating. North of 21st st on MLK Dr. Also, the pulled pork a Judge's BBQ is some of the best I have every had. He has two locations, one straight downtown in Market Square Center and the other just west on Michigan St. Get the coleslaw on your sandwich and do NOT miss the corn casserole. Melts in your mouth. Best fish and chips (and a great serving of mussels in Harps) head over to Claddagh on South Meridian street. Portions are huge. For the best stew in town Yeah, stew) go to John's Hot Stew just southwest of downtown on Kentucky Ave. Finally, for the best super freaky late nite dining, go to Canary Cafe on Fort Wayne Ave. I think the Elbow Room on Meridian has the best burgers in town, but some dispute that saying that Ralphs Great Divde on East NY st does. The Rathskellar on Michigan not only has some of the best German food in town, they point blank have some of the best food. For the price (under $30) their filet's are probably the best in town. Get the Jagert (sp?) sauce on the side with your steak. It's mushroom brown sauce. Also not to be missed is the Ox-Tail sout. Some of the best soup I ever had. so there is a start for you.....

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: gotdebt

                                                Some of my favorite places in Indy (I've lived in Chicago and Philadelphia before moving here 10 yr ago, love to travel to NYC and SF).
                                                Bazbeaux pizza - on Mass Ave and Broad Ripple (Some Guys pizza in Carmel is also pretty good).
                                                Gray's Cafeteria in Mooresville -- I used to think all Indiana food was bland and pasty until I ate here, it's just yummy home-cooking.
                                                Asaka sushi -- on 82nd st behind Hooters, excellent sushi at a great price ($1 a piece from 5 to 7 pm weeknights), usually packed with Japanese customers.
                                                India Sizzling on Allisonville in Fishers - only ate there twice but the food is very intensely flavored (not spicy), I like this place better than the Indian restaurant on the main drag in Broad Ripple.
                                                Bosphorus Turkish cuisine - in a brightly painted house on East st(?), delicious Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food, tastes home-cooked
                                                Cafe at Nordstrom (lower level) - OK pastrami on rye

                                                Some other good places (albeit these are chains): Oceanaire, Palomino, downtown Claddagh (fish+ chips as mentioned above), PF Changs (sadly, I find this to be the best Chinese food in town and I'm Chinese), Scholars Inn, Bertolini's in Circle Centre, The Ram

                                                Over-rated in my opinion: Mikado, Wasabi on 82nd (pricey tiny portions), Sakura (long wait for table), Rathskellar (very bland sausages, but great beer and atmosphere), Agio, Greek Islands, Cafe Patachou, Sahm's in Fishers

                                                Truly Horrid: Milano Inn, Cici's pizza, Easley Winery

                                                1. re: MuchMunch

                                                  Have you tried Great Garden for chinese? (besides Saraga Int'nal Market on the West side)

                                                  1. re: MuchMunch

                                                    I hear Great Garden is good but I will tell you that after eating at Shanghai Lil, I may never have any better chinese food in Indy. Very fresh and reasonable for what you get. Agree with your over-rated picks besides Sakura---mainly because they are always busy. It's always good to know you're food will more than likely be fresh when you walk into a busy restaurant. Just plan ahead or something.

                                                    1. re: MuchMunch

                                                      I love Sahm's in Fishers! One of my favorite places to eat for the price. Not to be missed are their fried mushrooms! Yummy good ole midwest eating! Great place where I take clients where light enough to write contracts not too loud, so we can talk, and several different menu items to choose from. I don't like the new spot across the street as well as I did the on the corner, however. I bet they got a nice chuck of change for moving...

                                                      Sahm's Restaurant & Bar
                                                      11590 Allisonville Rd, Fishers, IN 46038

                                                  2. I love the India Garden downtown for carry-out or dinner (I haven't tried downtown's buffet and but the buffet at India Garden in Broad Ripple didn't make a good impression on me). They have the best Matter Paneer.

                                                    Wasabi has some really creative maki rolls (like the Jolly Hot and the Mistake Roll) and they are willing to create or modify anything you'd like.

                                                    Adobo Grill is a fun atmosphere and their signature margarita is delicious. I remember liking the chile rellenos.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Kate_N

                                                      The comments on the Rathskellar are interesting. I agree the beer is good and the atmosphere (especially out in the garden) is fun.

                                                      But the food is pretty lousy. And the service was ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE.

                                                      If I want decent beer, I'll suck it up, go to a chain, and enjoy myself at Rock Bottom. At least there I don't have to talk a waiter into coming by and giving me a menu.

                                                    2. Had some of the best Thai food I've ever had recently (particularly the Tom Kha Gai soup) at Thai Spice on east County line Road.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: KyMikey

                                                        Try Thai Castle in Carmel at 126th and Rangeline. Above average.

                                                      2. Hey, just one recommendation, as I don't live anywhere near Indianapolis, but I went to H2O Sushi tonight and I think it was AWESOME. I'm from Los Angeles, and I'll admit to being a bit snobbish about sushi, but I think this place really gets it right. I heartily recommend! Try the tuna tartar app!

                                                        1. My favorite restaurant in Indy is Banura 1. Not much on ambience, but food is awesome! Greek/Middle Eastern. LOVE the felafel plate. Wish I could have one right now! www.banura1restaurant.com
                                                          7940 N Michigan Rd
                                                          Indianapolis, IN 46268-2393
                                                          (317) 334-0497

                                                          Another favorite is India Palace on the west side. (www.indiapalaceindy.com
                                                          4213 Lafayette Rd, Indianapolis - (317) 298-0773) Best Indian I have ever had, hands down!
                                                          The other two places I love are Thai House (8431 N. Michigan, 317-871-0023 Be sure to call for hours. ThaiHouseOfIndy.com)
                                                          and El Rodeo in Speedway on High School Road. Last two very casual "hole-in-the-wall" type places, but wonderful people and food. Thai House has this wonderful brown tofu in the Kao Padd and great spring rolls. El Rodeo has the best vegetable fajitas I have ever had. Good portions and cheap.

                                                          I grew up in Indianapolis. I always prefer to stay away from chains and support the local business owners. I can't wait to get back to Indy fora visit and eat at these places again!

                                                          One more place I have to add is Charlie Brown's in Speedway. Great little place for breakfast, but I think they serve lunch and dinner as well. I took my good friend there every sunday after church for awhile. He just passed away so I had to mention "our place."

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: MrsJTW

                                                            Charlie Brown's closes at 2pm. I've been there for lunch twice, and both times the cooks and the waiters were yelling at each other in front of customers. My food was good, though. Pretty standard diner fare.

                                                            In my opinion, the best place for a hamburger in town is at the Working Man's Friend, a complete dive bar in Haughville, south of the Haughville library on Belmont. The place is usually packed during lunch time. The double cheeseburger is fantastic. My friend has seen the Mayor there a few times.