With nearly two million people in the metropolitan area, Indianapolis is the second largest city in the Midwest after Chicago, although it can sometimes be difficult to convince outsiders of its status as a foodie destination.
Naptowners, however, enjoy an unpretentious and varied food and drink scene that offers great prices and even better hospitality. Start your day at Milktooth or Love Handle, two of the most imaginative and adorable brunch spots in the country, and continue from there.
Photo courtesy Public Greens
Where to eat in Indianapolis
Martha Hoover has been at the forefront of the local food movement in Indy since opening Cafe Patachou in 1989. She now has 11 restaurants and has founded the Patachou Foundation, a charity that feeds thousands of children each year who are affected by homelessness and hunger. Public Greens offers creative salads and main courses inspired by the premium of an on-site mini-farm. As an “urban kitchen with a mission”, the public greens donate all profits and additional harvests to the Patachou Foundation, which runs extra-curricular meal programs to promote good nutrition for students.
Photo courtesy of Festiva
An influx of Mexican immigrants to Indianapolis has resulted in a wide variety of high quality mercados and taquerías. At Festiva, chef Rachel Hoover, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute who learned the intricacies of Mexican cuisine from her mother-in-law, focuses on freshness and local ingredients. The menu includes vegetarian ropes with almond mole and tacos with Indiana goat, as well as an extensive list of mezcal and tequila.
Photo courtesy Vida
Since opening last year, Vida has grown to become one of the hottest wine and food destinations in town. Layton Roberts works with local farmers year round to create his menus. Seasonality prevails in dishes such as scallops with beans and asparagus or orecchiette with ramps and English peas. There is also a hydroponic wall of edible greens that forms the basis for Vida’s “Wall Greens” salad. The global wine list is one of the deepest in Indy, with multiple bottles in the $ 30 range, and it peaks with a 2013 Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Price of $ 675. Two in-house sommeliers, Roddy Kirschenman and Michael Miller, accompany the guests with infectious enthusiasm.
Photo courtesy of Mallow Run Winery
Where to drink in Indianapolis
Mallow Run winery
Though the heyday of Indiana wine was forgotten by many in the mid-1800s, many local bottlings can be found with interesting, lesser-known hybrid grapes and other fruits from the region. Mallow Run Winery, 20 minutes south of downtown Indy, has beautiful scenery to sample their dry wine selection. Grapes such as Traminette (a Gewürztraminer offspring), Chambourcin (a Teinturier or a red-fleshed grape from which a crispy varietal rose is made here), Catawba (the most commonly grown variety in the USA in the early 19th century) and Cayuga are used which has some of the aromatic and acidic properties of Riesling. Also don’t miss the hard ciders.
Photo courtesy of Mallow Run Winery
Rebar Indy is not yet a year old but has established himself as an instant favorite. There is a dedicated wall of 20 rotating beer taps and a stunning whiskey menu with 100 bottles to choose from, available in both ½-ounce flavor and full-size. A great bar menu includes half a pound signature burger with whipped goat cheese, bacon jam, grilled onions and pickled yellow tomatoes.
Photo courtesy of the bar at St. Elmo Steak House
Bar in the St. Elmo Steak House
There’s no better place to enjoy your first bottle of Indianapolis wine than the bar of this historic 1902 steakhouse. It’s a great choice for dinner, and the 1933 speakeasy-style lounge upstairs is a great place for a cocktail. However, the bar on the ground floor shouldn’t be overlooked. Bartenders are happy to provide insider tips for your time in town, and St. Elmo has one of the best wine lists in town with a range of baked-vintage bargains.