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Restaurants and food suggestions for Downtown Indianapolis

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Hi Indianapolis experts,

I will be staying in Downtown Indianapolis (around W Maryland and S. Illinois) for 2-3 days. Any suggestion for food related stuffs? Obviously restaurant suggestions will be much appreciated, but if you have a cookware store suggestion or even non-food suggestion will be cool too. My food preference is very wide, but I do tend to prefer unique food more than widely available foods. Thanks.

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  1. My favorite restaurant in that vicinity is the Oceanaire, which specializes in fresh seafood; it's my reliable "go to" restaurant in Indy. Also in the immediate vicinity are 14 West for contemporary American, and Palomino, a very good restaurant (part of a small regional chain) with reasonably creative American cuisine. All three are within a block of Maryland and Illinois.

    For more unique food in the greater downtown area, I recommend R Bistro, a creative contemporary American restaurant about a mile and a half northeast of there on Mass Ave (Massachusetts Avenue).

    If you have a car and are willing to get around outside of downtown, I love Oakley's Bistro on the north side. I know a lot of folks like Recess, which I still haven't been to, in Broad Ripple (also on the north side, but not as far north as Oakley's). If you get to Broad Ripple during the day, check out Rene's Bakery, an excellent one.

    Links:
    www.theoceanaire.com
    www.14westindy.com
    www.palomino.com
    www.rbistro.com
    www.oakleysbistro.com
    www.recessindy.com
    www.renesbakery.com

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks. I will have a car with me, but I assume parking will be pretty difficult, won't it? At least in the downtown area. I will have to try some of your suggestions. Thanks a lot.

      Are these restaurants which I have booked in advance or will "walk-in" be practical?

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        >> Thanks. I will have a car with me, but I assume parking will be pretty difficult, won't it?

        No, not really. Oakley's is in a strip mall with tons of parking in front. Broad Ripple is sort of trendy retail and residential; I've never had trouble finding parking there, either in lots or on the street. There are a few dedicated spaces right next to Rene's.

        Downtown, I assume your hotel has some kind of parking arrangements. When I go downtown to eat, I always park in the Circle Centre garage, which is convenient and amazingly cheap for a meal ($1.50 for 3 hours). The Circle Centre, named after Monument Circle (a block north), is an indoor mall occupying two blocks bounded by Washington, Meridian, Georgia, and Illinois streets. All three of the restaurants I mentioned (Oceanaire, 14 West, and Palomino) are on the two blocks of the Circle Centre, but all have outside entrances and are not part of the indoor mall. The entrance to the parking garage is on Maryland Avenue just east of Illinois Street; it's a LEFT entrance (Maryland is one-way) and it's directly under a pedestrian overpass. I don't know what the garage's policies or prices are for longer parking, as I've only parked there for long enough for meals.

        R Bistro is at the far end of a mile-long strip of Mass Ave, all of which is an entertainment district with bars, clubs, and restaurants. I haven't had much trouble parking around there, but at prime times on a weekend, it might be a problem. Also note that, given its proximity (1.5 miles), a cab or even, weather permitting, a long walk might be alternatives to driving.

        >> Are these restaurants which I have booked in advance or will "walk-in" be practical?

        I'm sure it depends on the time of day and day of the week. I've generally been there at off times so it hasn't been a problem. The Oceanaire is fairly big (I love the decor - it looks like a big cruise ship) but it's also very popular, and is often named as the best seafood restaurant in town. I almost always make a reservation but when I've been there, usually either for lunch or for early dinner, there hasn't been a wait. For a Friday or Saturday prime-time dinner, I'd definitely reserve in advance. Palomino is quite popular and not as big as Oceanaire, so again I'd reserve in advance for weekend prime times. I haven't been to 14 West in a while so I don't really know how busy they get these days. Given that they're all within a block of each other, if you take your chances and find that one is full, you can just walk over to another. But if you really want to get into one, your best bet is to make a reservation. All three are on Opentable.com where you can see availability at a glance and make a reservation even at the last minute. Of course, you can also reserve over the phone.

        R Bistro and Oakley's are both smaller and very popular, and I would definitely reserve in advance for either, even for a weekday dinner. I haven't been to Recess but my impression is that it too is smaller and popular, so I would recommend advance reservations there as well, even for weekdays. R Bistro and Oakley's are both on Opentable; Recess accepts reservations but only over the phone.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Thanks so much for the information. I will be traveling by myself, so usually it is not too difficult to get seated, and of course I usually just eat whenever I am hungry, so I tend to eat a bit "off hour" too. I think I am just a bit too spontaneous (or maybe unorganized). As such, I don't usually even know my schedule. It will be like. "Ok, I just finish the museum now, and the now I will heading to mall. Oh the mall is very exciting, let's stay longer and then go to eat (or it is very boring, let's just go eat now)."

          Thanks for your help. Much appreciated.

    2. Have a look at these threads:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707657
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738218
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782912
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771392
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826680
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700727
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/801527
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/380306

      I think you are in the Trenton/Princeton area and go into Philly often? Not sure if you'd be interested in "ethnic" (i.e. non-Western European/Anglo) food but here are some threads:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838317
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861438
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827095

      As for cookware stores, I'm not sure what you are looking for or what you have available around your home area.
      • There *is* a Williams-Sonoma in the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing on E 82nd Street (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/stores...) about 11-12 miles from Monument Circle at the heart of downtown Indianapolis. However, you also have one of these at Princeton Market Fair in your area.
      • There's also a Crate & Barrel across from the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing. http://www.crateandbarrel.com/Stores/... . However, you have a Crate & Barrel near you in Cherry Hill, I believe.
      • I am assuming you would not be interested in Department stores' cookware sections.
      • There are some Chinese/"Asian"/Filipino/Indian grocery stores also a distance out of the downtown area that have various implements more specific to those cuisines, but surely you would have those around in your home area.

      There are various suggestions for non-food stuff mentioned here and there in the threads referenced above. (Are you interested in drinking/bar-hopping or brewery-visiting?) One place that I don't recall being mentioned in them is the Children's Museum, which is touted as 'not for children only' but for the child in all adults as well. :-)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chil...
      http://www.childrensmuseum.org/

      3 Replies
      1. re: huiray

        <As for cookware stores, I'm not sure what you are looking for or what you have available around your home area. >

        I have no idea. :) I am really going there to visit my friend for Thanksgiving, but I figured that I might as well a few days earlier and just hang around the city for fun during the days, and write my papers during the evening. I do have Williams Sonoma around where I live. Yes, I have visited the Crate and Barrel near Cherry Hill, but I don't visit it often since it is a drive, so I can visit the one in Indianapolis. I heard there is a big mall called "Circle Centre Mall", so maybe I will walk around there.

        <I am assuming you would not be interested in Department stores' cookware sections. >

        It is not that bad. I probably just won't buy anything there.

        <One place that I don't recall being mentioned in them is the Children's Museum>

        Yeah, I read about it. :)

        http://indianapolis-indiana.funcityfi...

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I was there a month ago and went to Penzey's for the first time. Was flagged and double-flagged for my carry-on full of bottled spices upon departure from IND. Went to the Children's Museum 2 years ago with sisters and nieces. One niece spent an hour in Barbie exhibit, another in the dinosaur exhibit. Cool place but lots of snot on the banisters! I've been to the Fashion Mall - good browsing but Restoration Hardware was closed last month. Haven't heard of Circle Center Mall. Let me know if it's okay for my next visit! Wish I'd asked for lunch recs before my last visit, as I had 3 daytimes to kill.

          1. re: KrumTx

            Circle Centre is nothing great as malls go, but it *is* convenient if you're staying in downtown Indy, since it's right next to the downtown hotels, especially the Hyatt Regency and Canterbury. There are no kitchenware stores, but there's a Carson Pirie Scott department store. You can view a list of the stores in Circle Center at www.simon.com/mall/circle-centre/stor... (Seriously, don't get your hopes up.)

            The largest malls in Indy are the Fashion Mall at Keystone, mentioned by huiray above, and Castleton Square Mall, which is 2.5 miles east of Fashion Mall. Both are "down the street" from Oakley's Bistro, which is 4.5 miles west of Fashion Mall.

      2. Ok, I got in late, and went to Shake N Steak for dinner last night. Enjoyed it as always

        I went to lunch at Oceanaire -- a very nice restaurant. I was the ONLY customer for lunch at 2:00 PM. I was a bite shocked, and asked if it was really opened, which of course it was. I got a New England clam chowder, and a crab cake melt. It was still weird that I was the only customer from beginning to end. The chowder was good, and the crab cake melt was wonderful. With tips and tax, it came out to $35 I think.

        I made a reservation at Palomino tonight for my friend and I. So we will see.

        As for the Circle Centre Mall, I remember going there years ago (this is my second time visit Indianapolis). The upper floor arcade area really bring back some very faint memory. The mall is alright, and is very conveniently located, nothing too exciting though.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Keep in mind, this week is pretty dead for many restaurants. There aren't many people traveling on business so hotels are pretty empty. As for locals, many folks take the whole week off to be eating with family, often at home (or at family's home). Also, even at normal times of the year, 2:00 is a really dead time of day; the lunch crowd has come and gone. I haven't been there at 2:00, but I've been there late afternoon, like 4:30ish, and it's pretty dead then too - but by the time I left, plenty of people were arriving. Glad you liked it!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I just came back from Palomino. I got the a glass of red wine and the Asiago - Almond Crusted Scallops. My friend got the some strawberry lemonade and Chicken Under A Brick. We shared the food just a little bit. I wasn't in love with "toasted orzo pasta e fagioli" side, but probably I don't know what is a good toasted orzo pasta anyway. The scallops were very well executed. Love them. Very happy. The chicken was very good too. Thanks for your suggestions.

            Yeah, my friend said, Indianapolis is an earlier city. People tend to eat lunch pretty early and finish by 1, more like a 11AM-1 PM lunch schedule. Where I am from (San Francisco California and New Jersey), people operate a bit late, more like a 12AM-2PM schedule.