Can anyone recommend decent non-chain restaurants in Carmel? We are open to most kinds of cuisine but not looking for anything too elegant. Ethnic or American are fine.
All I can say here is good luck! You're talking about the land of TGI-Chilibee's. I personally know of 2 great chefs that have attempted to serve outstanding food to the "sophisticated" Carmel market. Both failed in short order while the lines were out the door at the nearby "eatin' good in the neighborhood" place. I'm afraid you'll have to get the heck out of Carmel to find what you're looking for.
> Indianapolis and environs must be the chain capitol of the U.S. and possibly the free world....
I've spent time getting to know the restaurants in a lot of different cities, and I don't think Indianapolis has any more chains than any other big city. (You would be surprised how many different cities have people who make that claim - and of course, almost all of them are wrong, by definition.) As in most cities, it all depends on where you are. Newly-developed neighborhoods, like those in the far northern suburbs of Indy, tend to have chains open first, and independents then come in as neighborhoods mature.
For example, there are lots of upscale fine dining restaurants in Indianapolis that are independents, as described in this topic:
Walk around a trendy neighborhood like Broad Ripple, and you see a lot of independent restaurants of various types, too.
And even among the so-called "chains", many of them are outstanding, creative restaurants with only a few locations, not your cookie-cutter mass corporations that some envision. For example, Adobo Grill is an excellent restaurant with regional Mexican cuisine; one location is in Indy and the other two locations are in trendy neighborhoods in Chicago. Similarly, the Oceanaire has only a handful of locations (including one near the Circle Center) and is one of the very best seafood restaurants in the Midwest.
Despite the many comments to the contrary there are a number of good places to eat in Carmel, Shapiro's on Range Line is a weird hybrid of cafeteria and deli with excellent corned beef, pastrami, and lots of other good things to eat, Sansui, also on Range Line is one of the best Japanese in the region, not far away on 86th street at Ditch Road is Oakley's, an excellent chef owned bistro. The best bagels in the state are at Bagel Fair in the Nora shopping center also on 86th street.
As a sidebar to the chainophobic...As NXSTASY points out, the fact that there are more than one of a restaurant in the world doesn't make it bad. Jean Georges Vongerichten and many other big name chefs have multiple restaurants, does that make a chain?
Steak and Shake is a local chain with great burgers and even better chili.
Peterson's (96th & I69) has wonderful steaks but it is a bit pricey - but I would say worth it. The Mellow Mushroom and MCL Cafeteria are in the shopping area at 116th and Keystone. If you head north on Meridian there are several restaurants in Clay Terrace - some are chains... is Ted's a chain? There is also Charlestons just north of Clay Terrace, in the same area as Best Buy.
Noblesville has several nice restaurants if you would be willing to drive just a few minutes longer. Matteos, The Classic Kitchen and The Hamilton Restaurant. If you make it up and you do go to the Hamilton - be sure to have dessert. Vanetta makes the BEST cakes!!