Best Restaurants 2022: Come As You Are

Chicken from Root & Bone

Root & Bone

TEA-BRINED fried chicken, butter-slathered biscuits, and house pickle jars served at rustic wood tables are such emblems of the last decade’s Southern obsession as to be practically quaint in 2022. So it takes skill to keep the trend relevant. Top Chef alums Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis bring a sincerity, precision, and modest scope (with projects in just Miami and Indianapolis) to their SoBro spot. That approach has made Root & Bone a neighborhood institution known for its beet-blushed deviled eggs, cheddar-studded hush puppies, generously dressed wedge salad, and reengineered shrimp and grits that would impress visitors from the Low Country. And with limited hipster trappings (a wall of wooden cutting boards, an Old Fashioned with bacon-washed bourbon), it’s as much a comfy hang for snacks and cocktails as it is a celebration place for feasting on eye-popping pork chops or dinosaur-sized ribs with a host of buttoned-up comforting sides, including a corn souffle that would make your grandmother ask the chef for the recipe. 4601 N. College Ave., 317-602-8672,

Scarlet Lane soup

Scarlet Lane Gastropub

THE MENU MAY have been standardized recently with familiar brewpub categories of pizzas, sandwiches, and salads at this well-established Kennedy-King corner taproom (where a portrait of legendary Indy horror movie host Sammy Terry hangs on the exposed bricks to reference the frighteningly named house beers created at Scarlet Lane’s McCordsville brewery). But with chef Erin Kem’s years of talent informing that menu, there’s little here that one could call standard. Kem’s signature bar mix is still a beguiling melange of nuts, matzo crackers, and aromatic garam masala, sweetened with cocoa nibs, and her meat-and-cheese board is plenty to satisfy a crowd with a few pints. Scarlet Lane’s salads feature local produce of the moment, nowhere better than in a hearty roasted-vegetable version with fork-tender roots, goat cheese, and whole heads of Little Gem lettuce dressed in a lemony pomegranate vinaigrette. A knockout lamb meatball sub is essentially a redux of Kem’s long-popular Turkish wet burger, with a zesty tomato sauce and feta on a baguette, served sensibly alongside greens tossed with couscous. Pizzas come on rustic, crunchy crusts that highlight toppings, such as the smoked sausage, onion jam, and blue cheese on the diabolically named Specter. And Kem’s finesse with sweets is noted in seasonal frozen treats such as lemon-blueberry semifreddo or a chocolatey, gooey Bellefontaine Billionaire Bar that will leave you feeling like, well, a billion bucks. 1702 Bellefontaine St., 317-602-7730,

Chicken Scratch wings

Chicken Scratch

FLATS AND DRUMETTES are dropped to order at this sibling of the Cajun-inspired Chef Tia and Co. restaurant. Most orders are placed via an online flowchart menu: Pick your wing style (naked or breaded); sauce (from teriyaki to spicy jerk barbecue); coverage (drizzled, drenched, or drowned); and dip (ranch or blue cheese). The flavors pack a punch, especially the signature mango habanero that hits you like a jump scare. The naked pieces are crispy and meaty, while the breaded ones have the perfect balance of crunch and sauce—equally impressive inside the Honey Hot Chicken Club that comes dressed with pepper jack cheese and Cajun aioli. It’s carryout-only, and customers who order at the counter will have a 20-minute wait. But they can run down the clock by claiming a seat in the industrial fan’s full blast, sipping a lemonade while the fryers just beyond the cash register provide a sizzling soundtrack. 5308 N. Keystone Ave., 317-426-3457,

Festiva tacos


When fusion-taco star George Muñoz took over Festiva in 2018, having shuttered his popular stand-up taqueria in Broad Ripple the year before, this vibrantly painted, patio-and-booth Latin pleaser on East 16th Street slowly took on a new character, with Muñoz often at the front and adding regional favorites from his recipe files to the menu. He has since returned to stuffing tortillas at La Chinita Poblana’s revival inside The Garage Food Hall at Bottleworks, but that hasn’t been a distraction. Thankfully, the city’s most impressive carne asada platter and spicy-sweet ribs are as enjoyable as ever. The brunch huevos motuleños with black bean tostadas, ham, and plantains continue to impress, as do the accompanying margaritas and palomas. And nightly specials of steamed braised beef, cilantro-marinated scallops, and an eye-popping achiote-seasoned pork chop make each visit all the more surprising and special. 1217 E. 16th St., 317-635-4444,

HC Tavern + Kitchen

HC Tavern + Kitchen

The gleaming dining room of Huse Culinary Group’s Fishers District establishment has spectacularly high ceilings and industrial-chic detail work that includes a wine room framed in glass that looks like something you’d see on an architectural tour. Take it all in as you settle into a deep booth as the person filling your water glass explains, “I will be assisting your server tonight.” Or, ascend the dramatic curve of stairs to the second level and its breezy deck that makes the Wagyu corndogs and lobster cargot (served bubbling hot on a snails plate, under a mantle of butter and melted cheese) taste all the more indulgent. Menu highlights range from sweet-tea fried chicken to a thick-cut Berkshire pork chop with peach jam to the elusive spinalis cut of ribeye as exquisite as the double layer of service. But then, should we expect anything less impressive from a place that has a little bit of St. Elmo in its DNA? The Yard at Fishers District, 317-530-4242,

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