No. 4 — Room Four

4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529, recessindy.com

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In a roughly 500-square-foot space that opened in June next to sibling fixed-price restaurant Recess, owner Greg Hardesty’s team doles out twists on global and Hoosier fare, like a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, heartily prepared with extra fried pork, and a Mexican-inspired pork carnitas tortilla soup with avocado, queso fresco, and cilantro.

Hardesty, who got his start more than 20 years ago at the now-shuttered Glass Chimney, serves up clean-tasting, boldly textured foods in this, his fourth restaurant. As each dish arrives, Hardesty reminds us that comfort food doesn’t have to be predictable.

What impresses you first is the intricate layering of flavor—with sauces that are so good, you want to tilt the bowl to get every drop. Standout starters have included a crisp and buttery seared moonfish nestled in a pool of Maggi pan sauce, and crisp browned salmon cake that comes topped with a bright Meyer lemon sauce and crowned with a tussle of arugula. Notable among the entrees is a Fischer Farms cheeseburger that combines burliness with creaminess on a crusty sesame roll. A hunky breaded skate-wing sandwich with avocado, pickled jalapeños, and pepper-jack cheese comes with a just-like-Mom’s elbow macaroni salad and represents everything irresistible about Hardesty’s playful style.

>> SIMILAR TASTES

Other scaled-down epicurean spots include Northside Social (6525 N. College Ave., 253-0111, northsidesocial.com), which prepares its mac ’n’cheese with bacon, pancetta, and prosciutto > Taste Cafe (5164 N. College Ave., 925-2233, tastecafeandmarketplace.com) serves approachable gourmet > Oakleys Bistro (1464 W. 86th St., 824-1231, oakleysbistro.com) keeps us entertained with upscale versions of (shrimp) corndogs and (goat cheese and fig marmalade) pizza.

>> SIDE STORY: The Candy Bar Cookie at Room Four

Originally, Greg Hardesty wanted to serve candy bars as the exclusive dessert at Room Four. People never just sit down and enjoy that candy freak sensation, he felt. But after stocking up, he noticed that no one was buying them. Not wanting the bars to go to waste, he crushed them, mixed them into cookie dough, and offered fresh-from-the-oven cookies for dessert one night. They were such a hit that, while the Room Four menu changes daily, candy bar cookies are always available.

Photos by Eric Lubrick.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.

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