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Carmel, Indiana

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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.

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Matt986

      An acquaintance on another food board has given a single name to describe all these Applebee's / O'Charley's / Chili's / Max & Erma's / etc. Chains: "Apostrophe's".

    2. Are you interested only in what's in Carmel itself? For example, the Keystone Shopping Center area isn't too far away, and the Broad Ripple area is on your side of Indy too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Doesn't have to be in Carmel -- just within a 10-15 minute drive. We don't want to go into Indianapolis. And, it does not need to be "sophisticated" food. Decent mom & pop Asian (Thai, Chinese, Indian) or Italian is fine, or a place with burgers, etc.

      2. Agree that Indianapolis and environs must be the chain capitol of the U.S. and possibly the free world....
        Try Mangia at the corner of 116th St. and Range Line Rd. Non-chain Italian. I have never been dissapointed. The owner is generally on site and very accomodating as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: qbdave

          > 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.

          1. re: qbdave

            Mangia is closed. (as of October 2012)

          2. 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.

            1. 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!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cookiefiend

                We really like Mitchell's in Clay Terrace. The fiish is impeccaply fresh. Viet Bistro is a recent find on E. 86th, over near Costco is a delight.

              2. Thanks for all of the input. We just returned from our trip. I only saw Candy's post today, but ironically we did eat at Viet Bistro one evening. We're not experts on Vietnamese food but the ingredients were fresh and tasted good to us. Prices were modest and portions small. Service quite amateurish but a sign indicated that it was only recently under new management. Virtually everyone else in the restaurant was Vietnamese.

                The other night we were with a large group and someone else had selected Eddie Merlot's, which apparently is a small Indiana-based chain of the basic expense-account steakhouse genre. Food was good and service very attentive. Prices were not too bad, considering the genre.

                2 Replies
                1. re: masha

                  Try Saigon over off of Lafatette Rd. and stroll through the Saraga market near it. An amazing store. The Saigon menu is larger than Viet Bistro, service is similar and it is what it is. I kind of like the smaller portions, it allows you to order more tastes but be warned, if you order Pho you get a bowl at either place big enough for 3-4 to share.

                  1. re: masha

                    I don't know what you ordered to get a "small portion," but when Candy and I had lunch there recently, I couldn't eat more than half of my Pho, delicious though it was.

                  2. I see you've already visited Carmel but next time, if a burger is what you crave, head for Bubbs in downtown, adjacent to the Monon Trail. On nice days and at lunchtime, it is packed but worth the crowds.

                    1. Muldoons in downtown Carmel is a very nice irish pub with excellent food and portions.

                      1. Don't make it up to Carmel much but Bub's Burgers is very good. I'm sure there are some decent ethnic eateries hidden within the strip malls in this area, but I'm not familiar. Broad Ripple continues to become more bar oriented, but you can find some decent casual food. Sobro and Mass. Ave is more attractive for independent foodie joints. Lafayette Road, 86th and Ditch, and the suburbs are going to have a number of good ethnic places. I think the mega stores and chain restaurants cast a huge shadow on independents right now. Downtown Carmel with the Monon trail is starting to develop for the better. Good Luck.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: napolean

                          Muldoon's tenderloin is good if not a bit salty, the rest of their food is average to below average. It does not seem like they care about quality ingredients. Bub's is very good and while you have to have their burger, their Mahi sandwich steals the show. Bazbaux in Carmel now with their famous pizza. Charleston's is very consistant, and if you have kids (i have grandkids) clearly the best kids meal in town, $3.89 for a half pound burger, fries, and sundae...the sundae has a hot cookie on the bottom with vanilla ice cream and choc syrup and I eat what they don't. Thai Castle is new at 126th and Rangeline, it's not world class but much better than average. Mangia! at 116th and Rangeline is consistent and nice, I like to eat in the bar for lunch now and then. Being meatcrazy I wish for a good steakhouse. Ruth's Chris is great but expensive and not local, Glass Chimney is high end and fine. Don't recommend the new Bistro de Paris, but willing to give it a second try. Their service and food quality were suspect at best , how I wish it were different, we need something good up north. The Meridian is new in the old Dodds Townhouse and it's good. Really love Amalfi at Greenbriar/86th &Ditch for maybe the best Italian in indy. When it's all said in done though, your best bet in Carmel might be buying your own meat and cooking at home. There is a very good butcher shop on main street next to Muldoon's called Joe's Butcher Shop. I've had their meats and fish and both are excellent and the service has been good too if not a bit overkill.

                          1. re: meatcrazy

                            That butcher shop in my opinion is the most overpriced (given its not in a major city) I have ever been to. I lived in Carmel for 20 years before moving to Minneapolis. Only in a pretentious city like Carmel would people pay steak prices for thanksgiving turkey. With the amount of money in the city its shocking that there aren't more chef inspired restaurants. With that said, I always crave Shapiros pastrami when I come back...and most importantly Grey Bros. cafeteria.

                            1. re: brlattim

                              Joe's Butcher Shop IS expensive, I agree. The selection isn't that great either, and not of significantly better quality so far as I can tell from other decent but cheaper places for meat. They do have some interesting canned goods and frozen stuff from "local" artisanal/restaurant food purveyors but nothing that you couldn't find elsewhere too.

                        2. I agree Muldoon's in downtown Carmel has a great casual atmosphere and food.

                          good burgers and GREAT tenderloins

                          1. No one on this old thread has mentioned Sichuan at Rangeline & 116th? (in the mall on the SW corner) Pretty decent Sichuanese/Szechuanese food (what else!), fairly authentic for what it is and for its location in central Indiana. (Order off the "Chinese" menu; avoid the weekday lunch buffet which is mostly standard American-Chinese glop; Sunday lunch buffet is largely much more authentic Sichuanese dishes, clientele then is overwhelmingly Chinese)

                            1. Try mudbugs in downtown Carmel, or try Oakley's Bistro.

                              1. I can't believe that anyone ever recommended Mangia on here, as it was awful. I'd much prefer to eat at one of those chains the proud citizens of Indianapolis were so quick to say we were awash in. So many more local options now. The idea that this poster didn't want to "go into Indy" is really sad.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: indypoetchef

                                  OP here responding to your comments as to my 6-year old post.

                                  Why is it really sad that we did not want to go into Indy? We were visiting from out of town, to attend a collegiate athletic event in Carmel. The primary purpose of the trip was not culinary, but to see our son and his team. We wanted to stay in the immediate area. Does that mean we should have dined at Appleby's instead of inquiring as to some locally-owned spots with good food?