City Guide

8 Restaurants You Can’t Miss in Indianapolis

Indianapolis might hold bragging rights to more steakhouses per capita than any other city in the country, but there’s much more to eating and drinking well here than hunks of beef. After the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2012, interest and development in the downtown area boomed, resulting in a cool crop of new restaurants and bars. And since the city is surrounded by a bounty of farms, eating farm-to-table comes quite naturally. So here, 8 buzzy restaurants you can’t miss during your next visit to Indy.

Owners Chris and Ally Benedyk have created a low-key, daytime nook with great energy, and with food that’s wildly addictive. (Photo credit: Katie Chang)

Love Handle

The design is lean and spare. The menu is written daily on a chalkboard. And it’s located in a quiet pocket of town. But once you walk in, you’ll see what the buzz is all about. Owners Chris and Ally Benedyk have created a low-key, daytime nook with great energy, and with food that’s wildly addictive. The famed biscuits and gravy are spiked with spicy collards, and the original sandwich creations are belly-busting. (The Tame Tunnel features a beef and beet tartare with grilled broccolini.) Benedyk especially loves working with less popular cuts of meat, so you’ll see a lot of tongue and heart on his menu. Even better? The prices are incredibly forgiving. 2829 E 10th St.; 317-430-5004; facebook.com/LoveHandleIndy

The vibes match the warm and charming service, making Tinker Street the kind of restaurant every neighborhood needs. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

Tinker Street

What was formerly a real estate office is now home to one of the city’s most beloved restaurants. Chef Braedon Kellner’s globe-trotting menu is thoroughly elegant but approachable — think steam buns with shiitakes and kale, heirloom tomatoes with fried pickles, and gulf shrimp with grits — and the wine list curated by sommelier Lindsay Slone focuses on equally exciting, but lesser-known labels. The vibes match the warm and charming service, making this the kind of restaurant every neighborhood needs: a place you’ll come back to over and over again. 402 E 16th St.; 317-925-5000; tinkerstreetindy.com

Bluebird, a popular restaurant in the historic Holy Rosary neighborhood, is known for partnering with local farms and purveyors since opening in 2012. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

Bluebeard

Co-owned by Abbi Adams, Tom Battista and Eddie Battista, this popular restaurant in the historic Holy Rosary neighborhood in known for partnering with local farms and purveyors since opening in 2012. Fittingly, the food is seasonally driven, yet deeply hearty. The lunchtime sandwich offerings — all of which are served on Amelia’s bread baked next door — are especially satisfying. (The egg salad, which is studded with capers and pickled red onions, then heaped into a flaky croissant, shouldn’t be missed.) Curious about the library theme? Bluebeard’s name takes inspiration from a best-selling novel by the city’s most beloved author, Kurt Vonnegut. 653 Virginia Ave.; bluebeardindy.com

Believe it or not: it’s the spicy shrimp cocktail that’s the best-selling item at St Elmo Steak House. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

St Elmo Steak House

A city institution, this beloved steakhouse was opened by Joe Stahr in 1902. Today, it still maintains a delightful old-school vibe that appeals to locals and tourists alike. Servers clad in black tuxedos juggle trays of perfectly charred steaks and bracing ice-cold martinis while weaving their way through the bustling dining room. And as strange as it might sound, the steakhouse’s claim to fame is its shrimp cocktail. The jumbo shrimp are plump and sweet, but it’s the cocktail sauce loaded with freshly grated horseradish that packs such a punch. It’s a slow and intense burn, but thoroughly manageable if you like heat. 127 Illinois St.; stelmos.com

The fried chicken at the lively Thunderbird is especially good. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

Thunderbird

In the Fountain Square neighborhood, you’ll find this wood-cloaked, rollicking bar specializing in seriously spirited cocktails — the Sam Hell, for example, is a woozy blend of two types of Wild Turkey Bourbon and two kinds of bitters — and quality Southern-inspired snacks, including hot chicken biscuits, shrimp étoufée, and succotash. Late night revelers will appreciate that the kitchen’s open late. 1127 Shelby St.; thunderbirdindy.com

Be sure to request a seat in the nest at Cerulean. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

Cerulean

Tucked away on the ground floor of The Alexander Hotel, Cerulean sports a chic, design-minded interior with its soft beige palette, oversized paper pendant lights, and most interestingly, an open nest fashioned of birch pieces woven together. (When making a reservation, request at table in the nest.) Chef Alan Sternberg enlists a similar artful and slightly refined approach to his cooking. His summer pappardelle, for example, is tossed with in-season vegetables, pine nuts and a bright arugula pistou — it’s is as easy on the eyes as it is on the palate. 339 S Delaware St.; 317-870-1320; ceruleanrestaurant.com/indianapolis

Breakfast rules at Milktooth. (Photo credit: VisitIndy.com)

Milktooth

Instead of rushing through the first meal of the day, why not set aside some time to slow down, catch up with friends and linger over something filling and hearty? That’s exactly the thinking at this casual spot run by Jonathan and Ashley Brooks. Though it’s only open 7 a.m. through 3 p.m. daily, there’s almost always a line, so be prepared to wait. And whether your appetite is light or indulgent, there’s plenty to tuck into, from a vegan ancient grains porridge topped with plum jam and hemp seed to an airy, pull-apart dutch baby pancake made with fresh fruit. 534 Virginia Ave.; 317-986-5131; milktoothindy.com

Don’t forget to order the house salad, with greens plucked from the wall garden at Vida. (Photo: VisitIndy.com)

Vida

While most of the buzz about this restaurant in the historic Lockerbie district has been about the famous hydroponic wall of greens there’s much more to eating and drinking well here. Plenty of seating options (in the patio, bar and main dining room) cater to every type of occasion, and you can go à la carte or splurge with the chef’s tasting menu. The housemade charcuterie, which rotates frequently, arrives with sweet and savory accompaniments, and serves as an especially memorable start to the evening — especially with a salad whose leaves were plucked off the wall. 601 E New York St.; 317-420-2323; vida-restaurant.com