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May 5, 2011 07:48 PM

Any recommendations for casual, good local food in Indianapolis?

I'm planning a business trip there in late June. Will be at the Marriot Downtown and without a car. I don't mind taking the bus or subway if not too far from downtown.

Primarily interested in local or ethnic food that I can't get in San Francisco. To give you an idea, my last trip to Cleveland, I ate Polish, Eastern European and Skyline Chili.


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  1. I will tell you up front that Indianapolis is not great with public transportation. There is no subway and the bus system is hit or miss. You can however get to some good casual restaurants downtown by walking or taking a quick cab.

    I would highly recommend Yats on Mass Ave. It's a very small, very casual place for some dynamite Cajun food.

    For dinner, I enjoy Santorini Greek Kitchen in the Fountain Square area of downtown. The reviews are mixed, but it's some of my favorite ethnic food in Indianapolis.

    Because it's within walking distance, it's definitely worth a trip to the city market downtown. The crepes at 3 Days in Paris make a great breakfast or lunch spot.

    Yats Restaurant
    5363 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

    Santorini Greek Kitchen
    1417 Prospect St, Indianapolis, IN 46203

    3 Replies
    1. re: Wabash70

      I second Yats, for sure. You could also sample the an Indy cafeteria (way better than it sounds). I'd recommend Shapiro's delicatessen just south of the main downtown area on Meridian St. They have a dynamite pastrami sandwich, and I've heard their brownies are good (To be honest, after a sandwich like they serve, I've never made it to dessert.)

      The local signature sandwich is the pork tenderloin, but I'm not a huge fan of it, so I never seek it out. It might be worth a try though.

      Yats Restaurant
      5363 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

      1. re: tdlogan

        Thanks you two. Yats sounds like a winner. I love NO food and there is not much here in the Bay Area. Indy Cafeteria and the city market sound good too. I love American comfort food. I want to eat what the natives eat.

        Is the pork tenderloin like the similar sandwich in Philly with broccoli rabe?

        Yats Restaurant
        5363 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          No, an Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich doesn't have broccoli rabe with it. It's a piece of pork (fillet) pounded thin, breaded and deep fried, typically served between the two halves of a sliced roll, with some fixings like L&T and onion rings/fries. There are several places around downtown for a Pork tenderloin sandwich, Indiana style, which is a signature dish of Indiana and Indianapolis and a variety of a "pork sandwich" that you may not get back in SF. This thread discusses several pork tenderloin places as well as referring to a blog about these sandwiches: That thread also discusses stuff that is specific to Indy, stuff that has Indy-specificity - such as Slippery Noodle Inn - near downtown - which you would not get back in SF. (After all, the food you would get in SF would in a GENERAL sense be pretty extensive and good...)

    2. Here are some places that I recommend:

      Working Man's Friend: Very dive-like bar that has GREAT burgers. You'll hate the neighborhood, but just take a cab. It's within 10 minutes of the Marriott.

      Siam Square: Very food Thai food that's in Fountain Square. Also a cab ride away.

      R Bistro: Very nice restaurant with a chef who is dedicated to local, season goods. It's on Massachusetts Avenue. Cab ride.

      If you decide to head about 50 blocks north, which sounds worse than it is, check out Recess and Taste. Both have excellent menus. Recess offers a set menu each night, while Taste offers dinner only on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Two of my favorite places. Again, a cab ride away. The owners/chefs of both are very nice, and staff will help you get a cab back to your hotel.

      R Bistro
      888 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46204

      Working Man's Friend
      234 N Belmont Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46222

      Siam Square
      936 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

      1. Although in my view Indianapolis is culinarily challenged, I believe your best bets are the Mass. Ave. area and the Broad Ripple area. The Cab driver will know where these are. Not uncomfortably far from your hotel. No chains, interesting bars, decent local fare. Enjoy!

        1. @chocolatetartguy, how long will you be here for? How far from downtown is "too far" for you? Outside of walking distance it will need to be a cab, as public transportation is poor around here. Indy is very spread out and many places to eat (including 'local' restaurants) can be far from downtown.

          You requested "local or ethnic food that (you) can't get in San Francisco." I imagine that you have excellent Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese etc places around SF and the Bay area (a quick estimate from a Google map shows somewhere close to 100 Thai restaurants in SF while shows 118 Thai restaurants listed in SF); perhaps if you said which ethnicities are missing in SF and that you may have in mind? Be cautioned that many of the best ethnic places would be on the Westside of town, around the Lafayette Square/38th Street area, 7-8 miles away. Here's a portmanteau site for ethnic food in Indy: Here's a recent NYT article: Here's a recent CH thread on a request similar to yours:

          Around downtown, I second the suggestion above for wandering around the Mass Ave area as one local scene; R Bistro, mentioned above is a good place that tries to use local produce and meats as far as possible and is at the far end of this Mass Ave area. Further afield, I second the suggestion for the Broad Ripple area (62nd Street/Broad Ripple Ave), about 8 miles from Monument Circle, the center of downtown, as another local scene. Google them. Taste and Recess, mentioned in another post here, would both be on College Ave just before Broad Ripple. If you care to go that distance, I certainly concur in recommending Recess for dinner; the menu changes daily and locally sourced ingredients also shine there. Google it.

          8 Replies
          1. re: huiray

            I'll fly in sometime around dinner on a Sunday and leave late on Friday. I'll be free most of Monday and all day Friday.

            By ethnic food, I mean food from ethnic groups that are native to the area. Not at all meaning Asian, Mexican, etc. Thinking more in terms of American comfort food, eastern European, etc. In Cleveland before I travel to Indy, I will be eating Polish and Hungarian. I expect in Indy I will eat several of those pork tenderloin sandwiches. Looking for more foods of a similar ilk.

            If I have to, cab is fine. I'd like to try to avoid the $50 cab ride I took recently in Hollywood, but I've got a ticket to ride if there is sufficient reason.

            Monday and Friday I plan to go to junk shops, antique stores, collectible shops. So nearby eateries would be good those day. Also if there is a good flea market to go to Sunday I could jet in Saturday night.

            I want to eat what the locals eat, foods that are indigenous and unique to Indiana. Luckily, the conference is not serving dinner!

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              This is slightly off the food topic, but if you are looking for antique and junk shops, try Midland Antique Mall downtown. I think you'd be happy there.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Do you know where you will be going antiquing?

                The Midlands Arts & Antique Market on Michigan just east of Interstate 70 has 2 floors of stalls in an old warehouse ( ), about 2 miles from the Marriott. 10 am – 6 pm. The closest reasonable eatery/watering hole would probably be Lockerbie Pub on Michigan west of Interstate 70 ( ), otherwise back in the Mass Ave area, which has been proposed to you in previous posts. (The 501 Eagle won't open till around 6, I think, basically no food; gets busier only later)

                The Fountain Square area (a designated cultural district, such as it is... ) has the Indianapolis Downtown Antique Mall (1044 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46203) plus some other shops and some odds-and-ends. There are various restaurants in the area, including Santorini (3 blocks east of Fountain Square) and Siam Square mentioned by others above. Google "Fountain Square Indianapolis" for more info. The Brass Ring Lounge has decent drinks/cocktails (and food).

                There are other antique malls/shops, but they are out of the Downtown area. There is a more upscale place on East 52nd Street.

                There are some Vintage shops/Bric-a-brac shops in the Broad Ripple (BR) area. http://www.discoverbroadripplevillage... Bar-hopping and eating. Various places, some better than others, wander around. Be aware the area is more spread-out but is much less extensive in overall scope/scale than similar areas in SF; no comparison w/ NYC. Brugge Brasserie for Belgian beers, steamed mussels & pommes frites, crepes. Petite Chou, Ambrosia, Corner Wine Bar, 3 Sisters Cafe, Broad Ripple Brew Pub, etc are just some other places. (Boogie Burger has just closed - relocating to a place about 2/3 mile east) H2O Sushi about 3/4 mile east on 62nd Street before Keystone for imaginative new American/Jap fusion, dinner only, closed Mondays.

                Recess for dinner as an option (if you are going to go to the BR area), about a mile south of BR. Closed Mondays. Reservations recommended. One could cab it there, then walk up College towards BR, dropping by Jazz Kitchen maybe, or Red Key Tavern (Kurt Vonnegut hangout), and passing by the original location of Yats in Indy, other eateries & pubs...(there will be a stretch of residential homes etc in between).

                Google "antique shops Indianapolis" for more info, drag and enlarge the map in various regions of Indy as appropriate...

                I can't really help you with junk shops and flea markets, though the one that is closest to you (Irvington Flea Market) is quite a ways out of downtown and from what I understand not worth it anymore anyway.

                Other than the places already mentioned in other posts, another place with "Indy color" near the Downtown Marriott is John's Famous Stew.
                Interesting stew [the stew of their name, :-)], a sort of (Hungarian-like) goulash. Enormous Pork Tenderloins. Patronized by folks in suits to ripped jeans/T-shirts. About 1 1/2 miles from the Marriott, stand-alone building in a slightly desolate area. The Slippery Noodle Inn is also not too far from the Marriott. See the CH thread I cited earlier for more “Indy-type” places.

                Another option is to take a walk along the Downtown Canal, a short distance from the Marriott, up to Euphoria ( ) for decent locally-sourced food and not a bad view.

                There's nothing much in that 38th Street/Lafayette square area mentioned above that you can't get back in SF in terms of "ethnic"/non-white folks food. Along the lines of what you clarified about your "local ethnic" request, however, Indy had historical German/Bavarian associations and a "local color" [ostensibly Bavarian] place might be the Rathskeller ( ) in the Mass Ave area. Variable food, nothing to write home about, decent beers. (German friends of mine say the place is pleasant enough but it doesn't particularly evoke Germany or Bavaria for them, so be cautioned)

                p.s. I assume you, from SF, are used to walking around. :-


                Yats Restaurant
                5363 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                Lockerbie Pub
                631 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46202

                Corner Wine Bar
                6331 Guilford Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 76220

                Jazz Kitchen
                5377 N. College Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                Broad Ripple Brew Pub
                840 E 65th St, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                John's Famous Stew
                1146 Kentucky Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46221

                Brugge Brasserie
                1011 E Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                3 Sisters Cafe
                6360 Guilford Ave Ste X, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                Petite Chou
                823 E Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                Siam Square
                936 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

                4907 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46205

                Brass Ring Lounge
                1245 Shelby St, Indianapolis, IN 46203

                1. re: huiray

                  Thanks you so much for all your recommendations.

                  I sell vintage movie memorabilia on the internet and that is what I will be antiquing for, so low-end/wholesale is the goal. I've already penciled in John's, Yats, Slippery Noodle and several days of pork tenderloin sandwiches.

                  Luckily the business conference I will be attending is not serving dinner, so I will have 5 dinners and 2-3 lunches to set up. T-Th I need to stay close to the hotel and tcb. Otherwise I will wander wherever the antiquing leads take me. I'd like to have something good to eat wherever I end up.

                  It just occurred to me that Marriott may have a shuttle so that might increase my range. I will mostly be in shorts, jeans, t-shirts.

                  Yats Restaurant
                  5363 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    I see!

                    Regarding Slippery Noodle - I trust you realize one goes to the place for what it is, a fun scene of sorts with some Indy history behind it, and not for the food, which is mostly decent but unexceptional.

                    1. re: huiray

                      I misread the map. It is only 10 miles. I can cab that.

                      Is there a way to get from downtown to the Hollyhock Hill without a car. I mapquested it and it is 30 miles! I love fried chicken. I might consider renting a car for the 1st day in town if need be.

                      Hollyhock Hill
                      8110 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46240

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        I'm glad you noticed the discussion about Hollyhock Hill (presumably) in that other thread. :-)
                        It's probably the only place in the country left that still fries chicken in lard. The place is on College between 81st and 82nd Streets - about 10 1/2 miles from the Downtown Marriott, not 30 miles. Not sure how Mapquest came up with that. Note: Closed on Mondays.

                        Broad Ripple is also just 2 miles down the road from Hollyhock Hill, something to think about.

                        Not sure how to get there by public transport, but if you do rent a car for that 1st day (or the last - Friday, then drive to the airport) it is straightforward to get there. Try Googlemaps instead. Of course, you could range a bit and do your antiquing with the aid of personal motorized transportation as well.

                        BTW if you are keen on fried chicken there are other places as well. I like Mississippi Belle very much. (2170 East 54th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220-3434. Tel: (317) 466-0522) Tasty. Nice Southern hot water cornbread. You might see an Indy Pacer or Colt in there too, maybe. Closed Mondays. Oh, cash only.

                        Some folks swear by Iron Skillet ( ) on 30th Street. Some like Maxines ( ) which happens to be downtown near the Marriott. [There are other "fried chicken places" besides these mentioned here]

                        Whichever one you choose to go to, you should look them up and note their hours of operation. Important.

                        ETA: p.s. With a car, Oakleys Bistro ( ) is also within reach. One of the best places in town, using locally sourced ingredients as well. Closed Mondays.

                        Hollyhock Hill
                        8110 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46240

                        Mississippi Belle
                        2170 E 54th St, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                        Oakleys Bistro
                        1464 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260

                        1. re: huiray

                          There's an extensive network of bus routes in Indianapolis and almost all the routes go to and from downtown Indy. Individual rides are $1.75 for adults, a day pass is $4.00, and seniors and kids are half price. Bus drivers can't make change so you'll want to bring exact change. For public transit info, including maps and schedules, go to the IndyGo website at (Unlike many other major cities, public transportation in Indianapolis is not covered by Google Maps.)

                          You can go all the way to Hollyhock Hill from downtown Indy on the IndyGo #18 bus. If you want to go to Oakley's Bistro - my FAVORITE restaurant in Indianapolis - there are two buses, the #28 and #34, that each go from downtown to the intersection of 86th and Harcourt (at St Vincent's Hospital), and Oakley's is a 5-10 minute walk east of there on 86th.

            2. If I could piggyback on this thread, are there any Thai, Indian, or other other ethnic hole in the wall places that will allow BYOB. Good food with or without corkage fees.
              I have a friend that will be there this weekend, looking for good ethnic on tight budget.
              Thanks Indy hounds.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Bobfrmia

                Will he be driving? With maps or GPS?
                What is his definition of "ethnic food"?
                What would he be able to get in his hometown?
                Dinners? Lunches?
                Could he do without alcohol?

                1. re: huiray

                  Yes, she will be driving. Maps or GPS? No matter, if it sounds good, she'll find it.
                  She mentioned Thai and Indian. We have many good places in Des Moines, she just likes the cuisine, and is looking for the good spots.
                  Dinner or lunch. Lunch would likely be fine sans alcohol, but she would like a dinner with wine.
                  I hype the hell out of Chowhound to people I work with as a way to find the best local places when traveling. Not trying to make it it difficult.

                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                    Here's a thread that would be of use:
                    In case she might want to consider Mexican:

                    I don't really know about BYOB policies in any of the restaurants discussed here, sorry. You'll have to call them and ask.

                    For myself, the Thai places I would choose to go to would be Siam Square [Fountain Square area, on Virginia btw Grove & Buchanan](also mentioned in another post above); Thai Taste [South side of 82nd just East of Allisonville]; Sawasdee [North side of 86th, just East of Ditch]. There is a well-regarded one (by some) on the far Southside - Thai Spice - but it is probably a bit far for your friend. There are other places.

                    Would she want to try Vietnamese?

                    For Indian I tend to go to Shalimar [Broad Ripple Ave just East of Winthrop] (I find the nearby India Garden too Americanized for my taste; they do have a downtown location - have not eaten there); India Palace [in a strip mall at right angles to Lafayette on east side, north of Office Plaza Blvd; run by the same folks who run Shalimar]. Udupi Cafe/Passage to India in the same strip mall is supposed to have a decent vegetarian menu. There are other places, those I've tried seem to (again) use too much cream (not yoghurt - I mean heavy cream) in Americanizing their food.

                    Perhaps others might chime in here.

                    Thai Taste Restaurant
                    5353 E 82nd St, Indianapolis, IN 46250

                    Thai Spice
                    2316 E County Line Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46227

                    Udupi Cafe
                    4225 Lafayette Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46254

                    India Palace Restaurant
                    4213 Lafayette Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46254

                    Sawasdee Restaurant
                    1222 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260

                    Shalimar Restaurant
                    1043 Broad Ripple Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220

                    Siam Square
                    936 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

                    1. re: huiray

                      BYOB is not allowed in Indiana. It's a major bummer.

                      Having said that, The Barking Dog in SoBro does allow it.

                      You have to bring your own glasses and corkscrew, but that's small potatoes for the priviledge of bringing your own bottle.

                      1. re: huiray

                        @ Bobfrmia: Oh, BTW - there is a place called Village Restaurant [on Century Plaza Rd], in a lonely strip mall just east of India Palace, that is more Pakistani than Indian. Interesting, decent.

                        p.s. "Indian food" is a somewhat vague term (India encompasses many varied regions and cuisines) just as "Chinese food" is equally vague. "Pakistani food" as such of course dates from the creation of Pakistan as a country but really relates to the food of the NW regions (roughly) of the Indian subcontinent. The mix of spices, method of preparation, ingredients used [e.g. they would be meat-heavy] would differ from, say, the food in Kerala (in South India). Here's a useful CH thread:

                        Village Restaurant Fine Pakistani & Indian Cuisine
                        4734 Century Plaza Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46254

                  2. re: Bobfrmia

                    Actually, now I might need recommendations for Chinese near downtown. I'll be travelling with 2 Asian colleagues who are less adventurous than this ABC. Cantonese, Hunan, Hong Kong are all fine. We don't expect the equal of San Francisco.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      Near downtown...well, there's Naisa in the Fountain Square neighborhood on Virginia down the road from Siam Square on the opposite side of the street. Well-liked by many folks. (I have issues with their food)

                      Otherwise, the one that comes to mind for me would be On Time Restaurant, reasonable Cantonese/Szechuan food - about 7-8 miles from the Downtown Marriott, in that "38th Street area ethnic neighborhood" mentioned previously. I consider this place one of the better "Chinese" restaurants in Indy.

                      I think there is a C-A takeout-type place downtown (China King), eat there at your own risk.

                      There is also a PF Chang's in the Circle Centre Mall, as well as Mikado Japanese Restaurant & Sushi on S Illinois, both a couple minutes walk from the Marriott. I have not eaten at either.
                      [I have eaten at the PF Chang's at Keystone Crossing on 86th Street. It's PF Chang's...what else needs to be said... The proprietress of Mikado also runs Shanghai Lil in the Keystone/86th St area, which is not a bad place but I've had some pretty underwhelming dishes there. Others like Shanghai Lil a lot.]

                      Siam Square
                      936 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

                      1025 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

                      On Time Chinese Restaurant
                      3623 Commercial Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46222

                      1. re: huiray

                        That does not sound too promising. However, sometimes if the cook knows you want real Chinese food, they will prepare it for their Asian brothers and sisters. I found that out in Tampa once after a so so Chinese-American meal.

                        btw, the worst Chinese food I ever had was in Columbus, OH.

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          There are some places with decent Chinese food (and some with, uh, Chinese menus from behind the counter, shall we say...) but they are all outside of the downtown area, some quite far from the Marriott. There are several places around the 86th/82nd Street corridor, some in the "38th Street/Lafayette area, others in Carmel... Indy is pretty spread out, as you have gathered I'm sure, with many decent food places way outside of downtown (which is dominated by American/Western National chains). It's hard to be a Chowhound in Indy without a car.

                          Also, yes, in a general sense there isn't that much in the way of very good real Chinese food in Indy. Sorry. I myself go to Chicago when I really need to get some good/decent restaurant-type stuff. There are some decent Vietnamese places, BTW.

                          Y'know, I've had some very nice Japanese food in East Lansing... :-)

                          Oh, BTW there is also a place called Bu Da Lounge [] on Mass Ave (see discussions above) which serves snack-type semi-Westernized Pan-Asian/Chinese-Japanese mashup type food.