After writing my post on my favorite NYC restaurants at the moment, I got to thinking about all my fave eats in my hometown, Indianapolis. I’m actually flying home this weekend for my cousin’s wedding, and have been making a mental list of all the places I hope to hit up before flying back to the Big Apple.
Having spent the first 22 years of my life in the Indy suburbs, I’m pretty confident I know my way around its food scene. The following list includes some of the best Indianpolis restaurants for anyone who loves good food for decent prices. While these eateries don’t all serve meals under $10 or anything like that, they’re relatively affordable and serve incredible food.
While the tamales at The Tamale Place are great, their pork tacos are where it’s at. There’s something about the simple ingredients that come together to create—dare I say it?—the best taco I’ve ever had, period. The salsa and guac are both good here, and they come in sharing sizes, so I wouldn’t recommend ordering a side of chips and guac for yourself. Also, avoid the sweet corn tamale. It tastes just like corn casserole, which isn’t a bad thing, but why eat corn casserole when you could have a tamale, you know?
The number of times I’ve eaten at Yats is sickening. And you know what? I’ll keep going back. Yats serves tasty Creole food inspired by New Orleans’ most popular dishes. The drunken chicken is a classic (chicken, beer, and lots of spices), and the maque choux is also fab (carmelized corn and chicken). Their portion sizes are very generous and all entrees are served with a pile of rice and the world’s best buttery garlic bread. Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to drool on my keyboard.
Smokehouse on Shelby isn’t super fancy, but the best BBQ restaurants rarely are. The brisket here is phenomenal, but the spicy baked beans give it a run for its money. I remember loving the baked beans at a BBQ joint in Nashville—I think the key to having a top notch BBQ restaurant is to have sides as good as the meat.
Don’t even think about finishing your plate. The portions here are massive (are you noticing a trend with Midwestern cooking yet?) and I’m sure nothing good can come of consuming that much BBQ sauce in one sitting.
Three words: Baja fish taco. The food here is life changing, at least for a Hoosier girl who had never had quality Mexican food in Indiana before (minus the pork tacos at The Tamale Place, of course). The salsa trio is also a steal. I know salsa sounds rather underwhelming, but the trio comes with three house made salsas and a pile of freshly made tortilla chips, all for $5. I personally like visiting Nada for lunch so I can order one of their lunch boxes. You get to try more food this way and you get dessert!
Bazbeaux has a selection of salads and sandwiches on its menu—skip those and go straight for the pizza. The Mediterranean pizza is my fave (the house made chorizo really takes it to the next level), but weirdly enough I can’t put my finger on what makes their pizza so dang good. It’s a combination of the perfect crust, fresh toppings, and magic, I think. Bazbeaux is an Indianapolis classic, and you simply can’t visit the city without trying it.
If you’re into posh brunch spreads and hot chocolates the size of a cereal bowl, Café Patachou is your place. I almost always order the croissant French toast, but I like to sneak a few bites of my mom’s omelet and toast too. The toast here is unreal—thick-cut, toasted perfectly, and easily customized. Toast is usually the most boring brunch item, but the toast here is great.
If you don’t drizzle The Eagle’s spicy honey over their fried chicken, you’re doing it wrong. The chicken here is insanely good, and the sides are equally delicious. They come in mini cast iron skillets, which are adorable and encourage sharing with friends. The mac and cheese here is good, as are the sweet potatoes.
I would normally never recommend going to a place that sells $12 cake slices, but the Cake Bake Shop is really that good. I came here last year for my birthday and left absolutely stuffed with leftovers to spare. If you’re coming for an entire meal, expect a hefty bill. If you’re coming for just a piece of cake, you’re better off splitting one with a friend and maybe grabbing something smaller (and cheaper) from their display case of goodies to snack on later.
The Millionaire cake is superb (chocolate, caramel, and shortbread bits), as is their berry pie. As a bonus, this place is decked to the nines and is an Instagrammer’s dream. So come with your camera at the ready and snap away. The employees are really nice about letting you take photos!
Growing up, The Rathskellar was the only German cuisine I had nearby. Since then, I’ve eaten lots of yummy German food (in Germany, no less) and I still love this restaurant. The schnitzel here is really good, and I’d recommend ordering it plain (i.e. no gravy or anything else on top) with extra lemon wedges on the side. There’s also a beer garden out back, which is nice in the warmer months. The inside is quite cool as well. It’s in a basement and looks very old timey.
If the Cake Bake Shop isn’t within your budget, then the Flying Cupcake is just what you need. If you’re visiting for the first time, try one of their filled cupcakes (I prefer the one filled with chocolate ganache). Some of their non-filled cupcakes can be a touch too sweet or too dry, but the filled ones have always been perfect for me. The Flying Cupcake is another Indy standby and is a favorite of many. The interior is quirky and it’s a nice place to sit down for a bit and catch up with friends.
I have a sinking feeling I’ll maybe get to eat at one of these places when I’m back home this weekend. Luckily for me, Indianapolis isn’t moving anywhere anytime soon so I’ll be able to hit up my favorites eateries for a while yet. But if you do happen to be in the area, do me a favor and try a restaurant on this list you’ve never been to. You won’t be disappointed!