Best New Restaurants 2015: Salty Cowboy

Restaurateur Shari Jenkins puts her family-friendly spin on Margaritaville inside a picket-fenced house in downtown Zionsville.

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Owner Shari Jenkins with The Big Hughey burger.
Owner Shari Jenkins with The Big Hughey burger. Photo by Tony Valainis.

What does it take to kick things up a notch in Zionsville’s idyllic neck of the woods? A little bit of tequila, apparently—as restaurateur Shari Jenkins discovered when she opened her family-friendly take on Margaritaville inside a cute, picket-fenced frame house off the main street. In a vibrant little dining room that looks like Frida Kahlo’s Airbnb, a slate of soft-tortilla tacos offers bedrock combinations like battered cod and cilantro crema, smoked beef and pineapple salsa, and pulled pork with barbecue sauce and sauteed poblanos. Guacamole is smashed tableside with pickly red onions. And thick burgers provide the platform for creative toppings like The Big Hughey’s barbecue sauce, cole slaw, onion straws, and fried jalapeño. But Jenkins found a neighborhood niche by turning the back half of the restaurant into a grownups-only hangout with bartenders swinging bottles of Sparkle Donkey reposado over salt-rimmed Mason jars and juicing limes by the handful, creating boozy, often fruity, cocktails that, like the Salty Cowboy itself, don’t take themselves too seriously.

Sound Bites

Concept: Tacos and tequila

Seats: 90

Owner: Shari Jenkins

Pedigree: Jenkins also owns nearby Noah Grant’s Grill House & Oyster Bar.

Try it if you like: Bakersfield on Mass

Check it out: 55 E. Oak St., Zionsville, 344-0926, saltycowboytequileria.com 

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