One of the most exciting American food scenes isn’t in New York City or Miami, Portland or even Los Angeles—its smack the middle of the country. Welcome to Indianapolis where even as meat and potatoes still dominate many a menu, restaurants have emerged that balance carnivorous tradition with serious imagination.
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Key to the movement are chef Jonathan Brooks’s brightly-lit Milktooth, with its sourdough carrot cake waffles and twice fried Korean chicken thighs, and the casual, warmly-lit Bluebeard (named after native Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut’s 1987 book), which features chef Abbi Merriss’s hearty, shareable plates and crusty artisan bread from on-site Amelia’s Bakery.
In Fountain Square, the sweetly hip Wildwood Market features rotating sandwiches (unveiled on Instagram daily), grab-and-go provisions and fresh bouquets. If you're seeking indulgence, visit the cheekily-titled Love Handle for biscuits and gravy and layers of pork (smoked belly, braised cheek). Nab a patio seat at Public Greens Kitchen, an urban café-like presentation of bright sides with greens and grains including ramp beignets and arancini. For Indiana produce, Locally Grown Garden’s seasonal menu serves an array of salads and sandwiches alongside chic wares and generous slices of the state’s famed sugar cream pie.
For an idle organic meal, Traders Point Creamery sits inside a modernized Zionsville barn where chef Brandon Canfield’s menu showcases wild-caught fish like walleye and grassfed steak with spaghetti squash gratin and roasted garlic spinach. And, inside the Napa Valley-esque farmhouse spot, Vida, chef Layton Robert’s modern American cuisine doles out firsts like scallops with yukon gold potato gnocchi, chestnuts, basil (plucked from the live green wall) and mains like salmon with an “everything crust.” Downtown, Le Méridien’s earthy-toned Spoke and Steele food comes from nearby farms while chef Matt Myers (Blue Hill, Grand Lake Kitchen) recently opened Garden Table –a dreamy Instagram-worthy sprawl of green lettuces, heirloom produce, warm quinoa salads and big burrata ravioli with black garlic bread. And coming soon, the new 135-seat Hedge Row promises farm-to-table fare cooked on a wood fire oven.