The daily chalkboard menu at this cheery Mass Ave shrine to kitsch decor can seem a bit like culinary improv, as if Love Handle’s brilliantly mischievous owner, Chris Benedyk, just makes it up as he goes along. Steak fries buried in peppery sausage gravy. A Buffalo shrimp po’ boy piled with remoulade, slaw, and cheese inside thick slabs of toasted bread. Hunks of brisket atop three-cheese jalapeño grits. A waffle scattered with salmon caviar. Does it matter that we never know quite what to expect when we walk in the door? For seven years (starting when Benedyk and his wife, Ally, introduced Indy to jellied egg yolk, beef tongue, and other forms of sandwichery at a tiny spot on East 10th Street), this place has been our go-to destination for mouthwatering, off-the-cuff food you can’t get anywhere else in town. Hopefully, it never runs out of material. 877 Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1102, luvhandy.com
The nationally known Fletcher Place eatery named seven years ago as one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants is continuing to do what it does best with no sign of stopping. Milktooth is stretching, settling, growing roots, and gaining regulars as it enters its eighth year, blossoming into what it set out to be: a true neighborhood diner unlike any that came before it. On a recent Sunday, the patio was filled with local families, couples, friends, and plenty of out-of-towners contentedly killing time, sipping Micheladas and nitro espresso-spiked horchata as they waited the requisite hour for a table—in a drizzle—with hardly a blink. Once seated, the standard Milktooth menu outline is a comfort for regulars as they once again engage the table in the sweet-versus-savory Dutch baby debate. Meanwhile, across the dining room, the same menu is delighting a newbie silently Googling “Dutch baby” under the table. 534 Virginia Ave., 317-986-5131, milktoothindy.com
Bar One Fourteen
AT MARTHA HOOVER’S 16-seat cocktail bar and listening room in Meridian-Kessler, subtle has never been on the menu. Earning praise from national media before a long pandemic pause, Bar One Fourteen reopened as the multisensory experience its devotees remember: loud, dark, and deliciously provocative, with a different vibe every night thanks to a varied vinyl lineup. Head chef Ben Barnas made some updates to the summer offerings, where guests can try out two new caviar services. The menu is noticeably Japanese-influenced, and the service leans that way too—the bar experience mirrors izakaya culture, Japan’s version of post-work drinks and bar fare.
The short list of must-tries: house sourdough with a rotating compound butter, julienned potato with a creamy beurre blanc and miso-cured lox, the rightfully hyped “Fancy AF” burger wrapped in foil and served with shaved black truffle, and the Shoga—a gingery drink that manager and cocktail director Daimien Weems calls his current favorite. Reservations are another must, and guests would be wise to arrive promptly as the table is yours for a two-hour window only. If you bump up against your time limit, there’s a chance of drifting to one of the patio tables, where drink service is available. 114 E. 49th St., 317-946-0114, baronefourteen.com
COLLECTING LOADS of accolades since it set up shop in 2015, this bantam Herron-Morton mainstay delivers refined fare without ever coming off as fussy or intimidating. The restaurant’s intimate, 80-seat setting offers approachable, globally inspired dishes. So go ahead and get cozy with a complimentary taste of champagne while chef Tyler Shortt showcases an ever-evolving menu bolstered by an exquisite (yet affordable) wine list curated by sommelier Ashlee Nemeth. Veggie-centered options abound with starters like the daily, always-vegan soup or the delicate Korean fried mushrooms on a scallion pancake, brightened by pickled daikon radish and housemade kimchi. Vegan dishes elevated to entree status include a bowl of pillowy lemon cappelletti filled with summery peas and mushrooms over fennel broth. Heartier appetites will savor the rotating large plates, such as braised short ribs perched on a bed of masa, and complex mole verde, dotted with poblano mornay and pickled red onions. 402 E. 16th St., 317-925-5000, tinkerstreetrestaurant.com
AT THE WINDSOR PARK den of Modwestern cooking that firebrand chef Jonathan Brooks and sommelier Josh Mazanowski have built over the past four years, every ingredient makes perfect sense, the nightly bar burger is a sexy beast, and wild experimentation comes with the territory. The 70-seat restaurant is deceivingly sedate, save that one wall that bears a reproduction of the Jules Muck bunny mural that adorned the building’s exterior for about 40 contentious hours in 2018. Grab one of the high tops in the more relaxed bar area for the full gourmand experience, whether you’re there to claim something from Mazanowski’s roster of reserve wines (recognized by the James Beard Foundation and Wine Enthusiast) or sample the menu from top (carrots roasted like candy and arranged over a creamy hollandaise with little “citrus caviar” pops of finger lime pulp) to bottom (velvety slices of dry-aged ribeye and a halo halo–like bowl of fruity shaved ice layered with cherry Jell-O and whipped cream). 1844 E. 10th St., 317-419-3471, beholderindy.com