Seven of Indiana’s top culinary dogs are strutting their stuff as 2013 James Beard Foundation nominees, selected from more than 44,000 online entries in 20 categories. Last week, the foundation unveiled its "long list" (421) of the year's semifinalists—which will be cut down to the final list of nominees on March 18 during a press brunch in Charleston, SC. (NOTE: nominations will also be announced live via the Foundation’s Twitter feed.)
We were smitten the moment we walked through the door of Bloomington newcomer Topo’s 403 (403 N. Walnut St., 812-676-8676). The grand entry of this restored 1870s townhouse has the kind of amber, Art Deco glow that could put Instagram out of business, for starters. Then there is the high clustered chandelier illuminating deep-blue wallpaper festooned with stylized jellyfish and the whitewashed spindles of the stairway, and the hallway that opens onto high-ceilinged dining rooms with white tablecloths, tall windows, and refurbished fireplace mantels. It’s an elegant entry point for a restaurant that seems to have put just as much meticulous thought into its Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Dave Tallent, of Bloomington’s Restaurant Tallent fame, helped craft the menu, which takes some creative liberties with Greek favorites such as spanakopita (done inside a filleted rainbow trout) and skewered meat (pork souvlaki plated with plump, creamy gigante beans). Even the little gratis dish of house-marinated olives—tender and oily—are herb-flecked gems.