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Mar 17, 2009 01:28 PM

Moving Back to Indy!

We have been living in Boston for the past 6 years and am moving back home to Indiana. After I get my fill of Arni's pizza and other favorites that I have missed over the years, I am looking forward to exploring the Indy dining scene. I know this is pretty general, but what are your favorite places and why? I'm looking for neighborhood dives, the fanciest places in town, and everything in between. Location preference is northside and downtown, but we will travel for some really good grub. Where do you go for

anything else

I want to get a list started and work my way through it for the next 6 months. Thanks for any and all suggestions!

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  1. I usually stick to the higher-end restaurants on my visits to Indy. However, I wouldn't describe any as "fancy", more "bistro-ey". I don't think gentlemen would need a jacket any place in town except maybe the Glass Chimney out in Carmel (gee, it's been many years since I went there). Incidentally, L'Explorateur closed some months ago, unfortunately, but Neal Brown is scouting locations to open another restaurant.

    My favorite of all is Oakley's Bistro, on the north side. I have also enjoyed dining at R Bistro and Elements on Mass Ave, a strip which seems to have developed nicely, and at the Oceanaire and 14 West downtown near the Circle Center. All of these places are excellent; the Oceanaire specializes in seafood, and the others lean towards contemporary American. You can read my detailed reports in the discussion at

    The discussion on Thai food in Indy at was recently updated with additional posts. And you might want to check out the "Impress Me Indy" topic at

    Indianapolis Monthly does an annual article on the best restaurants in town, with sidebars for "People's Choice" (reader favorites), "10 Little Gems" (cheap eats), "5 Worth the Drive" (places outside of the Indy area), "Freshmen 15" (newly-opened restaurants), and "7 Deadly Sins" (indulgences). You can view the most recent version at

    There's also an article on Metromix about the best restaurants in town, according to readers as well as local chefs:

    1. Left Indy over 10 years ago : fond memores of : I think many are still open.

      Burgers & pup grub: Z's pub 62 & allisonville. Honest food...fresh pounded "giant tenderloins"...hand made burgers. Also a great place to start you day right with steak & eggs and a few beers. Donald Van Z is a classic....if he is still alive.

      BBQ - GT Souths . East 71st. Opened like a year or so before I left. but still open. quailty smoked meat. this ower tried hard to produce a qaulity product.

      Pizza - Some Guys pizza E 62 st- Indy's first gourmet pizza. First BBQ Chix in the area. Also herd Bazbeau's down 62'd was good but dined there only once.

      Mex - El Sol E washington st - true mex....first place I ever a a real mole sause.

      Marco's : Had a great grouper meal their one night.

      Broad ripple allways had some good offerings. Union Jacks...always got the roast beef with sour cream and horse radish....tastey.

      Of coarse shaperio's deli down down for breakfast. Matzo's & eggs with a few sides awsome nice pastry case too is i remeber.

      Say hi to every one for me!

      1. Welcome back!

        Good advice from the other 2 posts, but let me speak to the categories that you listed.

        Sushi - Naked Tchopstix
        Thai - Good luck. Jasmine is on 96th and Hazel Dell.
        BBQ - Squelers
        Italian - Capri
        Steak - Eddie Merlot's.
        Seafood - Yikes... good luck
        Tex-Mex - El Sol

        Pizza: Jacamo Upper Crust (worth the drive)
        Oakley's Bistro
        Meridian (former Dodds Townhouse)
        14 West
        Goose The Market

        7 Replies
        1. re:

          Hey glad we agreed on El Sol!

          I was young & went in for lunch. Was totally blowen away with refried bean scrambled eggs & fresh tortialls for luch. Probably the first time I had a home made tortila. This was really a hole in the wall when I was there and east 10'th street was a tuff neighbor hood. At 22 I was always up for an adventure....ordered a beer you got it in a can. I understand the place has grown up a bit.

          Your right on the seafood....I don't remember a single good seafood dinner in my time in Indy........but geography have indy at a far as shiping as about as far away as you can get from the ocean, Cat Fish seemed to the the choice locally when you wanted fish.....ok but does not hold a candle to diver scallopes we get here in the east, Funny when you look back how regional fiood is.....never see a giant pounded pork tenderlion in Maine lol.

          1. re:

            >> Seafood - Yikes... good luck

            I gotta disagree on that one. The Oceanaire is wonderful, as good as any seafood restaurant in Chicago, and that is high praise indeed. They have the freshest seafood imaginable flown in. For example, the Alaskan king crab legs served at most restaurants are previously frozen. However, I've had fresh, not previously frozen Alaskan king crab legs there, something that's extremely difficult to find anywhere (they don't always have them at the Oceanaire, either) and they were fantastic, the best I've ever had. It's no wonder that the Oceanaire was named the top seafood place in town by the Indianapolis Monthly readers as well as by the chefs and readers in the Metromix survey (who were "near-unanimous"). If you enjoy seafood and you've never been there, you should try it!

            westernmaine, you should come back to Indy and visit! The dining scene has changed enormously in the ten years you've been gone, with a huge leap in quality as well as variety. I'm pretty sure well over half of the best places named in that Indianapolis Monthly article weren't around when you lived in Indy. Heck, when you left, Mass Ave was just another street downtown, and Steven Oakley was creating a reputation for Something Different (it was quite good at the time, but he's now doing things that are way better, more creative, and more fun at his namesake restaurant). Come back and eat - you'll be quite impressed!

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Strongly agree about Oceanaire: Everything I've eaten here has been fresh and delicious. Had a piece of barramundi that was as good as any I ever ate in Australia.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                The Oceanaire is indeed incredible. The pricing makes it special occasions only for most budgets. Menu changes daily, they have stuff flown in every day, and the menu differs depending on what they buy that day. It's an odd thing to say, but the creme brulee at the Oceanaire is extraordinary. It should be noted that the Oceanaire is a chain, but they do seafood very well.

                1. re: Chalkie

                  Yes, the Oceanaire is fairly pricey. However, even before the recession hit, they were running lunch specials with a limited three-course menu at a very reasonable price, available up to 4:30 on weekdays. So that would be one way to try it without paying the full freight at dinnertime.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thank you! You're right, the Oceanaire has some lunch specials. I think, since the original poster said "downtown and northside", I think we can assume that they're living northside and working in the city. I think we have another lunch option for them. McCormicks & Schmick's . Again, a chain, but with good things. They seem to have some lunch options, and some affordable happy hour specials, which are remarkably affordable. It might work.

                    1. re: Chalkie

                      There are a couple more options, too. For some reason (probably to maximize freshness from suppliers), finer seafood restaurants - like finer steakhouses - seem to lend themselves to chains, four of which are represented in Indy. And I think some are better than others.

                      There are two seafood restaurant groups whose food I like head and shoulders (or tail and fins, LOL!) over the other two. As I previously noted, I think the Oceanaire does a fabulous job; the only location I've been to is the one in downtown Indy, but I've been there several times, and it's been wonderful. Another that is just outstanding is Mitchell's Fish Market ( ); its suburban Chicago location is my favorite seafood restaurant in the entire Chicago area, and I've found the same excellence and consistency at locations elsewhere. The Indy-area location, which I haven't been to, is in Carmel.

                      The other two are McCormick and Schmick, which you mention, and also Bonefish Grill ( ), which has two Indy locations, on the north side and in Greenwood. I've eaten at several non-Indy locations of both of those groups, in Chicago and elsewhere, and I think those two are pretty good, but not quite as impressive and as consistent as the Oceanaire or Mitchell's.

                      None of these restaurants is inexpensive; we're not talking Red Lobster (let alone Long John Silver!) here. However, many restaurants are offering specials and deals in this recessionary environment. For saving money, the same advice goes for these as for any restaurant you're interested in trying or returning to: Check their websites for specials and deals, and if they have an e-mail list available, that's another way to get notified of specials. For example, right now Mitchell's is showing a new special of "Mitchell's Favorites, 3-course meal for $22.95". And even without any specials, lunch is almost always less expensive than dinner. The Oceanaire, Mitchell's Fish Market, and McCormick and Schmick are all open for lunch as well as dinner. (Both locations of Bonefish Grill are open for dinner only, not lunch.)

            2. Welcome back!

              I'll just go in order...

              Sushi - H2O in Broad ripple - excellent fish, marvelous ice cream
              Thai - Jasmine on 96th and Thai Spice in Greenwood. Thai Taste in Castleton is good too but I gotta say I'm still recovering from the heat of my last meal there!
              BBQ - GT Souths - oh my good ribs and pulled pork but the sides are skip-able, there's one in Beech Grove and one at 71st and Binford
              Italian - oh my is this a hot subject... I like Amalfi (northwest) and Matteo's (Noblesville). Great gnocchi.
              Steak - Peterson's, hands down. 96th and I-69. And the seafood is good too!
              Seafood - Oceanaire, plus the chef is stellar.
              Tex-Mex - My personal favorite is Adobo Grill, they just moved downtown on Washington Street. I'm not sure that this is really Tex-Mex, it's probably more Mex than Tex but very good and the margaritas are excellent.

              I'd second Nsxtasy's favorites in Elements and R Bistro downtown, and Oakley's on the northwest side. Also Meridian (on N Meridian, near Broad Ripple) has a great menu, a nice brunch and a surprisingly good wine list. There's a great pizza place in Noblesville - Dom di Carlo, thin crisp crust and marvelous spicy sausage as well as a nice place called The Hamilton Restaurant - good food, but the cake is to die for - I kid you not. Sometimes we stop there for cake alone... ;-)

              If you're in the mood for a road trip, try Carnegie's in Greenfield, Tallent in Bloomington, and Joseph Decius just outside of Fort Wayne - my current 'I've got to go there' place. In the upcoming Indianapolis Dine magazine, Tallent and Joseph Decius are mentioned in the same breath as James Beard.

              There are many, many other places, the dining scene has changed for the better in the area. Congratulations and keep us posted!

              1. Indy's restaurant scene has grown a bit since you left. First, there is a place I haven't had a chance to go to, but I've heard good things. There is a Paraguayan restaurant on west 38th called Machu Picchu. I've been told casual, and I don't believe they serve cuy.

                Downtown, (along the east side of the big Lilly building) there is a Turkish place called the Bosphorus, which is quite delicious. Casual, affordable. Their website is absolutely horrible, but here it is. (warning, lots of sound) I have no idea how authentic it is.

                Indianapolis has a remarkable selection of Indian cuisine. All of it is relatively casual. India Garden is frequently cited as a local favorite (Broadripple. I've not confirmed that the downtown location is open). Shalimar and India Palace (Broadripple and near Lafayette Square, respectively) are pretty good. Websites: . For the north side, on the south side of 82nd across from castleton square, Taj of India is really good, and they also include some non traditional London style items on the menu. Just east of where 82nd goes over 465, on the south side of the street.

                If you are ever in Anderson there is an excellent Mediterranean style restaurant called The Nile. ( ) Basically, it's Egyptian, but they seem to blend over to Greek. I mostly mention them because they have the best Falafel I've ever had. Again, very casual.

                No one mentioned Yat's! The place is incredible. Menu changes from day to day. 6 bucks, in and out as fast as can be, and for a downtown lunch it's just over on Mass. Ave. Basically, to describe it inelegantly, it's cajun slop on rice with bread, but if you've never had crawfish, you're deprived.

                Northside breakfast, Original Pancake House. . It's a chain, but... If you've never been, just go. The German Pancake is frightening in it's enormity. On the Northwest corner of 86th and Ditch.

                Another thing to try is just across the street from there. On the south west side of 86th and Ditch is a place called the Russia House. As you might have guessed, Russian food. I have NO idea how authentic it is.

                Oh, it's a chain, but try Abuelo's. Sort of a high end Mexican... I'm not quite willing to call it fusion, but they do have seared tuna as an appetizer. Anyway, north side of 86th just East of 465.

                If you want baked goods, I recommend Rene's. Located in Broadripple. if you have trouble finding it, don't be disheartened, it's pretty much in an alley. Look for a small blue painted cinderblock building several blocks north of Broadripple avenue, and less than a block west of the Monon trail.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chalkie

                  I moved from Indy three years ago yesterday, so my info is a little bit out of date. Bosphorus had been very, very good for years, but wasn't as good the last time we were there (which has been a year and a half). I think they just had an off night. Their tabbouleh was the best my now-husband had ever had- and we live in Detroit, so tabbouleh is common, to say the least. The last time we were there it tasted the same, but was almost all cracked wheat instead of parsley. I would still go back though.

                  If you're looking for a quick cheap lunch downtown, I really miss Ameer at City Market.

                  1. re: Chalkie

                    I just realized I wasn''t specific enough on location for Abuelo's.. 465 goes all the way around. Abuelo's is on the northwest side of town.

                    1. re: Chalkie

                      Tried the Nile in Anderson Saturday. Authentic Egyptian and middle east food, with a good mix of meat and vegetarian dishes. Warning: the Spanokopita (sp?) is very hot (temperature) and the service was friendly, but a little slow, so relax and enjoy the appetizers and salads (which came promptly) first.

                      1. re: Chalkie

                        >> If you want baked goods, I recommend Rene's.

                        Thanks for the recommendation. I stopped by Rene's last week on my way into town. I liked it! They have a nice assortment of pastries and breads. I tried a bunch of things, and all were good (if not necessarily unusually so).

                        I was particularly impressed by their chocolate eclairs, which were among the best (maybe even THE best) I've had anywhere. I'm not sure why it should be so difficult to find good eclairs; places just need to use a fairly standard pate a choux with a fairly standard creme patissiere. I think maybe other places keep them around too long (so the puffs get soggy) or they don't use enough pastry cream or they use inferior ingredients. You won't find those problems at Rene's. The eclairs were freshly made, generously stuffed with authentic pastry cream. I particularly liked the milder (milk?) chocolate icing they used, which had less tendency to overwhelm the rest of the eclair than the more conventional dark chocolate icing. If you're a fan of chocolate eclairs, get thee to Rene's - theirs are awesome!