If there's one thing Hoosiers know how to do and do well, it's eat great food. These 15 restaurants are the essential Indiana flavors with some fusion thrown in for good measure. Order up!
Who doesn't love an authentic Italian meal? That's the specialty at Milano's. You're in for a fine dining experience of gourmet Italian cuisine that serves whatever you have a taste for: vegetables, surf, turf—Milano's does it all. Milano's can be your party hall for a large gathering or your romantic spot for two, or even your food-and-fun destination on Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Night for a deliciously challenging game to pair with your vintage. Having been rescued from near-failure by its current owners, Milano's is going full steam ahead and ready to fill your tummy and your heart with the real Italian gourmet experience.
Since 1902, St. Elmo's has been an Indianapolis institution. The longest-standing steakhouse in Indiana, St. Elmo's still warms its original location that was originally a gentlemen's retreat. Already famed for their superb steak and seafood dishes, St. Elmo's is now famed for its legacy as a professional, well-oiled machine, and a fusion of old and new that gives honor to the immediately-post-Victorian beginnings while bringing in the trendy crowds that have just spend a day at nearby Circle Center Mall and wish for a more modern fare. Many restaurants come and go, but St. Elmo's has stood the test of time.
If you're in Indiana and you have a hankering for pizza, there is no question—you must try Pizza King. Indiana has been very selfish with our Royal Feast … Pizza King is considered a chain restaurant, but every single location is in northeast central Indiana. When they say a large pizza, they mean a large pizza, and it … is … loaded. The Royal Feast, Pizza King's signature “everything” pizza, is unbelievably heavy and chock full of their own blend of pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. The unique feature of Pizza King pizza, besides the minced ingredients that allow for the perfect bite every time, is the square cut of the pie. Two-inch squares make the consumption much easier, and allow you to eat ten pieces of pizza without feeling guilty. Patrons come literally from across the nation for Pizza King pizza. It's an Indiana institution that you'll only get in the Hoosier State.
With two locations in Indiana, Jonathan Byrd's is now more than a high-end cafeteria. They're a banquet hall and catering service as well. Their sit-down menu (“the nest”) is a delicious collection of made-from-scratch “burger joint” foods with a gourmet twist for a fine finger food dining experience. Since 1988, after having owned five successful Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, Jonathan Byrd and his wife Ginny have been refining and perfecting their menu and their quality of service, making for a professional family-owned establishment that they are proud to call their very own dream restaurant.
For those who “bleed blue,” the Colts Grille in the heart of Indianapolis Colts territory is the restaurant. Local ingredients purchased daily and (almost) every menu item made from scratch in-house every single day make for the freshest of American dining experience. Dietary concerns? No problem. The kitchen staff are very accommodating. American comfort food is brought to a whole new level by the chefs at the bluest restaurant in Indiana: The menu is Colts-themed with hearty options to satisfy every craving and appetite. Located in Circle Center Mall, the Colts Grille is a great place for a time-out after an all-day running play in the shops and stores.
According to Yelp.com, Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, said that the Mississippi Belle was one of his favorite restaurants. Southern soul food is served in its full glory, fresh every day. The sweet tea is sweet, the mac-and-cheese is real, and the fried chicken rivals the Colonel's. You're not coming for the décor and atmosphere, you're coming for the out-of-this-world food and the endearing charm of the wait staff. Patrons have recalled catching a glimpse into the kitchen and seeing a tiny little grandma stirring a pot that was almost as big as she was. For comfort food of the Southern soul flavor, Mississippi Belle is the place to be.
For higher-end Irish-American fare, Murphy's @ Flynn's is the place. Although ownership, name, and location has changed four times since 1958, the quality and homecoming feel have not changed. It's not a bargain basement by any stretch of the imagination, but the food is well worth the price. Steak, seafood, gourmet salads, and expertly crafted side dishes (such as real onion rings battered in what else … Irish beer!) make for a hearty meal that'll stick to ye ribs!
It's definitely on the ritzy side, but that sort of happens when you're the only rooftop revolving restaurant in the state! The Eagle's Nest, a restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, is a fine dining restaurant and lounge only open for dinner service. Named by OpenTable as one of the “Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America” and “Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants in America” for 2013 and 2014, the Eagle's Nest is both an intimate dinner-for-two atmosphere and a very upscale gathering place for private parties. Catering is available. It may be connected to the hotel, but there's no eating in your pajamas in this dining room, so dress business casual. Reservations only!
Chopsticks ready … your chef at the Fujiyama Steak House of Japan is not just a chef, he's an entertainer. Who doesn't love pulling your chair up to a table whose centerpiece is a hibachi with a culinary acrobat who can crack an egg on the side of his spatula? This is not your typical Oriental takeout house, it's much more. You're surrounded by the atmosphere of fusion between ancient and modern Japan, the aroma of fresh cooking in the kitchen-dining room, and the excited gasps and laughs as the chef prepares your meal in masterful artistry. If you love Japanese cuisine, you'll love Fujiyama Steak House of Japan.
Get your Irish on! While it isn't unique to Indiana, Mo's Irish Pub only has five locations nationally, and only one within Hoosier borders. Located in Hamilton Town Center, Mo's is a rich experience of Irish culture and food. From whiskey burgers to beer-battered appetizers to perfectly paired brews, combined with regular live music and Irish pub décor, this restaurant and public house is sure to get your toes a-tappin' and your tastebuds a-reelin'. Reasonably priced plates allow you to fill up without depleting your beer money (designated drivers can enjoy softer drinks such as their freshly brewed iced tea and Coke products). Everything is, just like your great-great-great-great-grandma made it back in the motherland, made from scratch. Thinking of wearing your kilt or hilarious shamrock sweater? Go ahead … you'll fit right in.
Located in the Sheraton on Monument Circle of Indianapolis, Alexander's is a ritzier version of “burgers and beer.” The casual atmosphere paired with the rich dark wood and mood lighting provides an intimate hotel dining experience for one or several. They prepare everything fresh daily and offer some unique fare that isn't often seen on Midwest menus, namely the Southwest Bison Burger, cod, and prawns. They don't have an official website or Facebook page, but it's the only one in Indiana. Find the Monument Circle Sheraton and you'll find Alexander's.
The king and queen of Gospel music, Bill and Gloria Gaither, call Alexandria, Indiana, their hometown. Their Indiana studio, resource room and gift shop, and The Latte Cafe sit just down State Road 9 from Bill's childhood home. The Latte Café is a cozy little diner with a homey feel and superb service. Freshly made dishes, dessert, and coffee are paired with the soft tunes of the Gaither music legacy and friendly staff. After your meal, stroll through the gift shop and find treasures for yourself or loved ones, even browse the entire collection of albums, videos, and Gaither Homecoming programs at your leisure. It's a Smalltown USA institution that draws Gospel music lovers and hole-in-the-wall restaurant diners from across the nation.
Formerly Welliver's, Willie and Red's Smorgasbord in Hagerstown, Indiana, is an atmospheric restaurant with a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach. Buffet-style bars of comfort food paired with more modern fare combines with the charming interior for a truly unique meal. The newly-renovated Smorgasbord sports the Mill Room, a dining room featuring a working water wheel, as well as samples of visual art giving splashes of color to the warm blonde wood planking that clothes the walls. The restaurant affectionately known by its long-time patrons as “the Hagerstown Smorgasbord” is an east-central Indiana community fixture that continues to win over the hearts of its diners.
Looking for something edgy, unique, trendy, and delicious? Pangea Kitchen in the southern tip of the state features the freshest local, seasonal ingredients to prepare “clean” meals that actually don't taste like cardboard spritzed with grass-infused vinegar. Pasta is prepared fresh in-house as is the freshest of mozzarella for their elegantly simple pizza pies and light-and-bright options. This “Global Soul Food Market” is an innovation in fusion cuisine that, as the name suggests, brings all continents together onto one plate for an altogether out-of-this-world dining experience.
The former roadside inn (we're talking horse-and-buggy era) has been redressed inside and out, with a charming garden in back complete with a stone fountain and lush moss. The interior is both quaint and luxurious, with rich 19th century decorating accented by period art, antiques, and period-style furniture. Nooks and crannies have been built into the interior of the restaurant and stocked with curio to give your eyes something to find while you dine on the absolutely delicious meal brought to you by period-dressed servers. The Kopper Kettle is more than a family-style hole-in-the-wall … it's an upscale dining experience warmed by the charm of a cozy bed and breakfast. Located on the historic Route 52 leading to the great West, the Kopper Kettle is on the national gourmet map for a very delicious reason!