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ROAD TRIP: 18 on the Square

Over the past several months, we’ve shared a couple of out-of-town restaurants worth the drive, like Franklin’s Indigo Duck and Batesville’s Butcher Shoppe. Shelbyville’s 18 on the Square (18 Public Square, Shelbyville, 317-398-7373)—a warm and ambitious restaurant located in an old hardware store—definitely deserves consideration.

A pressed-tin ceiling, cayenne-hued walls, and white-clothed tables convey relaxed sophistication. As soon as you arrive, kindhearted owner Paul Dillow—decked out in jeans, cowboy boots, and a button-down dress shirt—greets your table. Under the guidance of executive chef Joseph Martin, a South Carolina transplant, the restaurant’s fare feels special and familiar all at once. Fresh, quality ingredients are apparent with every bite. “With the exception of the ketchup and some of the mustards, we practically make everything from scratch,” says Martin.

Start with the fried green tomatoes resting on pimento cheese, finished with a sweet-and-spicy pepper jam. Then go to charcuterie—the pates, salamis, and sausages are made in house. What’s next? You can't really go wrong with shrimp served over heirloom-grain Anson Mills grits, prepared with smoked Andouille sausage, spicy tasso, sweet onions, and peppers. (Just how south have we gone?) Dessert menus aren’t distributed (and the menu rotates often), but ask for the homemade marshmallows—the chewy golden cubes come with a flecked candied shell.