Gluten-Free Pizza
Wheat a minute! Celiac sufferers can get in on the Neapolitan-pizza craze? Yep—Napolese Pizzeria offers a tasty gluten-free crust for no upcharge. The imported flour (a combination of tapioca and rice and potato starches) makes a thinner, paler, denser pie. It’s crispier than the other wheatless pizzas around, and the fresh, creative toppings will have you reaching for a second slice. >> 114 E. 49th St., 925-0765, napolesepizzeria.com.

Craft Cocktail Mixer
Most likely, your dusty bottle of pomegranate syrup (a.k.a. grenadine) doesn’t contain any real juice, but plenty of corn syrup, artificial flavoring, and Red Dye No. 40. It doesn’t have to be that way. Wilks & Wilson, a local purveyor of fine elixirs, has a killer handcrafted grenadine made with pressed California pomegranates, organic cane juice, and four-times-filtered reverse-osmosis water (in English, that means it’s extra pure). Both tart and sweet, it’s perfect for a virgin Roy Rogers or, better yet, a strong Tequila Sunrise. >> Sold at Goose the Market and Vine & Table, wilksandwilson.com.

The variety of frozen pops inside the Nicey Treat cart-about-town ranges from pineapple-basil to avocado, but we will chase the thing down the street to get one of the sweet, milk-based cajeta ice pops with whispers of caramel and vanilla. Owner Jeff Patrick has been using cows’ milk in his traditional Mexican recipe, but he plans to taste-test batches with goats’ milk for more tang. >> $3 each,  niceytreat.com.

Graham Crackers
The homemade brown squares from The Measuring Cup have hints of honey, cinnamon, and clove. They’re great as crusts in holiday desserts—or as an afternoon snack. And celiac sufferers, take note: The crackers are made with certified gluten-free oat flour. Get them at the Indy Winter Farmers Market at City Market. Just get there early—these grahams go fast, even at $10 for a 20-pack. >> gfmeasuringcup.com.

Delivery Service
In theory, with Three Wise Men Brewing Co.’s beer delivery, you’ll never have to leave the couch again—just move the sofa close to the front door so you can open it without standing up. You pay 20 bucks for a large pizza and a growler refill, any day of the week, and delivery runs from 5 to 11 p.m. (So be sure to save a slice for brunch.) >> 1021 Broad Ripple Ave., 255-5151, thr3ewisemen.com.

Indiana’s newest goat dairy, Caprini Creamery, makes a maple-cinnamon chevre (or fresh goat cheese) with a rich texture and mild taste that’s decadent enough to count as dessert. Substitute this fresh fromage for that schmear of Philly on your bagel, and you have a creamy, sweet breakfast treat. >> Available at Goose the Market, L.E. Kincaid & Sons Meat Market, Traders Point Creamery, Good Earth Natural Food Company, and Pogue’s Run Grocer; caprinicreamery.com.

Pristine blue-eyed salmon from the crystal-clear waters off of Vancouver Island arrive at The Oceanaire Seafood Room on ice. We recommend ordering it black and bleu—mild and firm blackened fish atop sweet caramelized onions, with a topping of bleu-cheese butter. >> 30 S. Meridian St., 955-2277, theoceanaire.com.

Bloody Mary Bar
Every Sunday afternoon, Flatwater Restaurant sets out a Bloody Mary bar with 30 enhancements, such as bacon crumbles, pickled asparagus, and scallions. After a few $5 veggie-skewered drinks made with Indiana Vodka and Hoosier Momma’s Bloody Mary Maker, it could be an early night. >> 832 E. Westfield Blvd., 257-5466, flatwaterbroadripple.com.

Can we spoon? Here’s IM dining editor Julia Spalding’s take on Ocean Prime, the winner for Best French Onion Soup.

Restaurant Makeover
Last year, the Eagle’s Nest ditched its dated decor in favor of haute champagne hues, white leather seating, and rich wood details. Now the hip drinks-and-dinner atmosphere commands almost as much attention as the twinkling lights extending to the horizon. >> 1 S. Capitol Ave., 616-6170, indianapolis.hyatt.com.

Veggie Sandwich
Flavors and textures play off of each other in Blu Moon Cafe’s ratatouille sandwich, encased in sourdough. Sweet balsamic tomato relish balances the peppery arugula, and an entire cornucopia of seasonal vegetables is cooked to the perfect point of caramelized breakdown, just soft enough to bite into. The gooey provolone works, though goat cheese and bacon, the gateway meat, can be added for an extra cost. >> 200 S. Range Line Rd., Carmel, 844-8310.

Doughnut Holes
We like to think of Famous Bub Holes at Bub’s Cafe as the “doughnut course”—and a reason to stretch out our time at the candy-colored eatery. A trio of these cakey starters sized like cue balls costs just $2.25. Can’t decide between cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or thick glaze? Choose two—a double order goes for only $4. >> 220 2nd St. SW, Carmel, 844-2822, bubsburgersandicecream.com.

Wine Room
With more than 450 bottles in stock, Vino Villa is a southside wine force to be reckoned with. Shoppers can troll the aisles in this rambling Victorian home in search of the perfect pinot, and then retire to the cozy second-floor Red Room to sip from the just-purchased bottles—or any of the two dozen wines by the glass. Cheeses, olives, desserts, and swanky small plates (duck breast with goat cheese and honey, anyone?) provide further incentive to raise a glass. >> 200 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood, 882-9463, vinovilla.com.

Fresh Bread
Grilled-cheese sandwiches finally have their slices of choice: the Pullman loaf from Amelia’s, a new commercial bakery affiliated with Bluebeard restaurant. The classic white bread is made with whole milk and butter for an uber-rich flavor that both stands on its own and supports any sandwich topping you can stack on it. Though Amelia’s mainly supplies restaurants, its products retail inside Bluebeard.  >> 653 Virginia Ave., 686-1583, bluebeardindy.com.

Meat Empire
It was only a matter of time until high demand for the dry-cured and fermented charcuterie at Goose the Market spawned an offshoot. The only question now is how to use the sexy cold cuts from Smoking Goose Meatery, located on a side street downtown. Here, some tasty ideas. >> 407 Dorman St., 638-6328, smokinggoose.com.

Rich but light, cut in big, golden squares, and nearly obscured by powdered sugar, the doughnut alternatives at B’s Po Boy could be the best interpretation north of Cafe du Monde. A side of raspberry or chocolate sauce is nice but not necessary. Watching a bocce match on the patio, however, is de rigueur. >> 1261 S. Shelby St., 916-5555, bpoboy.com.

Family-Friendly Gourmet
Too often, farm-to-table eats are a little precious—or pricey—for feeding the flock. But at suburban hotspot The Local Eatery & Pub, kids can dine well from a short but hearty menu of fresher-than-usual favorites—including mac ’n’ cheese adults will want to snitch, and cavatappi pasta in pomodoro sauce. Meanwhile, grownups can enjoy local brews, gourmet burgers, sophisticated sandwiches, and seasonal creations like chicken-fried rabbit and duck confit, all in a relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t scream “birthday pizza party.” >> 14655 N. Gray Rd., Westfield, 218-3786, localeateryandpub.com.

Breakfast Mashup
At Danville’s Bread Basket Cafe and Bakery, the Cinnamon Roll French Toast consists of a 5-inch housemade cinnamon roll sliced horizontally into thirds, coated in batter, and tossed on the griddle. Topped with both cream-cheese icing and maple syrup, this melt-in-your-mouth indulgence is well worth the drive. >> 46 S. Tennessee St., Danville, 718-4800, breadbasketcafe.com.

Mini Desserts
Leave it to spiffy Carmel hotspot Divvy to downsize classic desserts while also ele-vating their flavors, particularly in a tangy square of Key lime pie, an apple-pie bar (pictured), and a deep-dark-chocolate pot de creme dusted with powdered espresso. Nostalgic types will adore the three-bite s’mores brulee, served on a bed of crushed graham crackers. >> City Center, Carmel, 706-0000, divvycarmel.com.

Local Spirit
W. H. Harrison “Governor’s Reserve” Bourbon is an impressively smooth Indiana spirit made with extra rye, packing a peppery and robust finish. This bourbon has a higher barrel proof (114 versus the usual 80), so sip with caution. Founder Jerry Knight has been developing Hoosier bourbons since leaving his job as brand manager for Crown Royal in 2005. And his version proves that bourbon doesn’t have to come from Kentucky to be good. “Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S., as long as it meets the basic requirements,” says Knight. And Indiana’s corn and limestone water make us a great contender. >> harrisonbourbon.com.

Ice Cream
The unconventional flavor combinations that Lick owners Meredith Kong and Kelly Beerbower delight in dreaming up are anything but vanilla, and they’ve netted them a cult-like following. Under the duo’s fearless direction, uncommon marriages of ingredients like chocolate and goat cheese, salted caramel with sage, and Earl Grey peppermint (a winter specialty) not only work, they rock. >> $9 per pint, $4 per cup or organic waffle cone; available at the Indy Winter Farmers Market at City Market, facebook.com/lickicecreamindy.

New Menu
This year, the rotating lineup at Late Harvest Kitchen introduced us to rustic gourmet spreads like chicken-fried ribeye, house-smoked kielbasa with crunchy mustard spaetzle, and whole fish encased in crispy sweet-chili glaze with a toupee of microgreens and carrot shavings. Even the wildest dishes aren’t gimmicky—just solid cooking with a sense of adventure. Now, please pass the poutine. >> 8605 River Crossing, 663-8063, lateharvestkitchen.com.

Bubble Tea
Other Asian eateries may have a bigger selection of boba teas—those colorful, fruity drinks mingled with chewy tapioca balls you suck up through an extra-wide straw. But for the textbook classic, go for the original at K&T Deli, a vibrant Vietnamese spot on Lafayette Road. Co-owner Vin Voong will pour, shake, and seal your bubble tea in one deft motion. Punch your straw through the adorable plastic label and enjoy a sweet indulgence that falls somewhere between complex black tea and the best chocolate milk you’ve ever sipped. >> 3738 Lafayette Rd., 602-2416.

Crab Rangoon
Leave it to a Thai restaurant, not a Chinese takeout, to perfect this ubiquitous Asian appetizer, which can range from light and ethereal to greasy buffet fodder. Among the curries, noodle dishes, and excellent spring rolls at the south side’s Thai Spice, the kiew tod, this spot’s version of crab Rangoon, are a revelation. Real chunks of fresh crab meat, onions, and a lighter-than-expected dab of cream cheese dress up this crisp, golden seafood puff served with a tangy sweet-chili sauce. >> 2220 E. County Line Rd., 881-2243, thaispiceindy.com.

Best Meat Empire: Here, some tasty ideas on how to use the sexy cold cuts from Smoking Goose Meatery.

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
Purists may scoff at mixing dairy with seafood, but La Casa de los Mariscos serves up a convincing exception: delectably sweet and meaty shrimp encased in thick, crisp bacon and oozing creamy white queso. Arriving on a big platter with seasoned fries, rice, and a golden-brown slice of garlic toast, these well-gilded grilled crustaceans lure us in on Sundays, when a full-throttle mariachi band makes the vibrant fish joint even more fun. >> 7940 N. Michigan Rd., Ste. 17, 228-9555.

Counter Seats
If you grab a perch on one of the high stools overlooking the stainless-steel open kitchen at downtown’s new Punch Burger, you get a front-row seat for all of the burger-flipping action. See how the cook carefully maneuvers the corners of the cooking cheeseburgers? That’s the secret to the coveted burnt edges. >> 137 E. Ohio St., 426-5280, punchburger.com.  

Loaded Nachos
You might need a wingman at King David Dogs to polish off The Monster, a bed of French fries and tater tots with so many fixings—melted cheese, bean chili, bacon, onions, and jalapeños, plus anything else from the topping bar that you can handle—the clamshell it comes in feels like a brick. Take your time, though—it never gets soggy. >> 135 N. Pennsylvania St., 632-3647, kingdaviddogs.com.


Photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the December 2012 issue.