Over the last 10 years, Indianapolis has established itself as a place for good eats, carving a sizable footprint in a crowded corner of the Midwest between culinary hubs in Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Detroit. With stiff competition all around, the city has always fought for recognition, but its position has also helped Indy live up to the nickname “the crossroads of America,” attracting cooking talent from across the country, food traditions from around the world, and visitors curious about homegrown dining landmarks.
Update, June 2021:
A year ago, no one knew when, or if, diners would ever get back inside their beloved Indianapolis restaurants, and things haven’t gotten much easier since. The Midwestern winter made it challenging for restaurants to pivot with the sorts of outdoor set-ups that helped sustain businesses elsewhere. Despite Indianapolis hosting the 2021 NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament, a COVID-19 bubble for the 68 teams and staff, restricted fan capacity, and lingering dining restrictions prevented restaurants from capitalizing off the moment. Many businesses, some well-loved and some still up and coming, have closed shop. It’s a common story, but one that still feels deeply personal to the restaurant community in a city known for attracting hundreds of thousands of people each year for conventions and events.
Heading into the summer of 2021, the city and surrounding areas have lifted many COVID-19 restrictions. Restaurants are eager to get back into the full swing of things, with indoor and outdoor spaces ready to host guests again. Here are the essential restaurants of Indianapolis — battered by the pandemic and stronger for it — spots that any local or visitor needs to check out.
Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Indiana State Department of Health.
Mike Gillis is a food and lifestyle journalist. He travels through the city of Indianapolis highlighting new restaurants, dishes, and chefs that help shape the city’s food scene.