25 Best Restaurants

The Fountain Room

Photo By Tony Valainis

Dress up. Wear the cocktail number or the cuff links. Get a blowout or a proper shave. Arrive early for a drink and ask the babysitter to stay late. The Fountain Room makes the effort to radiate glamour and fun, and you should, too. Its aspiration is downright motivational, encouraging diners to elevate their standards for a night out to remember. A vintage reel-to-reel sound system behind the host stand fills the room with swingy music to match the polished flair of Art Deco and midcentury modern design. Big windows overlook the busiest, twinkliest corner at Bottleworks, incorporating the energy of downtown’s hottest hangout. From the terrazzo floors to the massive chandeliers, the Fountain Room drips with the style of a Wisconsin supper club’s fancy city cousin. What a surprise to find out that this confident downtown showstopper comes from Indy’s Clancy’s Hospitality, the home of humbler concepts like Grindstone Charley’s and a throwback burger joint. The menu takes cues from the steakhouse mold with big precision cuts of beef and simple seafood entrees, accompanied by family-style sides like bourbon-glazed carrots and skillet corn pudding fortified with polenta. The chicken and dumplings—fat, crunchy thighs walling in three biscuits and a pool of corn-studded gravy—makes the extravagant, old-school point decadently and deliciously. 830 Massachusetts Ave., 463-238-3800

Cheeky Bastards

Well-traveled chef and entrepreneur Robert Carmack already had a strong presence in Indy’s food scene as the founder of Indiana Pickle Co. and an operating partner of the popular Italian food truck The Twisted Sicilian. But a sojourn near Birmingham, England, last year gave him a new passion for a much-maligned world cuisine and inspired the idea behind Cheeky Bastards, the British brunch and dinner spot on Fall Creek Road that he operates with gallery owner Michael Rypel. Taking great pains to impress even the most persnickety expats, he found a local farmer to supply beef tallow for frying chips and searched high and low for back bacon and true English bangers. Scones and house-made clotted cream with tea are musts for breakfast, alongside sausage rolls and “baps.” Dinner service showcases Carmack’s earthy, rich shepherd’s pie with a bit of pecorino in the mash, and a reservations-only, once-a-month Sunday roast makes for the true British experience. 11210 Fall Creek Rd., 317-288-9739


Of all the local mid-pandemic restaurant openings of 2021, few impressed as much as Vinita Singh’s Aroma, located in the former Rook location in Fletcher Place. Moving local Indian cuisine from the buffet cart and presenting it with painterly plating, Singh focused on aromatic dishes rarely seen in Central Indiana. She quickly followed that up with a second SoBro location on College Avenue. Then, late last year, Singh converted Smee’s Place, the longtime 86th Street watering hole she owned, into Amara. She could have easily made it another clone of Aroma, but Amara offers even more ambition and a wider array of dishes from around the Indian subcontinent, making it one of the sleeper hits of the last few months. Chaat-inspired starters like lusciously crispy eggplant and kale fritters with vibrant drizzles of tangy sauces immediately announce the kitchen’s skill, and Amara’s take on Chennai’s legendary Chicken 65, showered with curry leaves and warm spices, will be your new favorite Asian cocktail snack. But don’t pass up the provocatively named Juicy Drums of Heaven or classic southern Indian curries such as the deeply savory lamb chettinad, perfect with crispy, light-as-air naan. Amara is also one of the few places to try uttapam, a thicker, softer, South Indian take on the dosa, served with chutneys and tangy rasam. And intriguing Indochinese dishes, such as Manchurian chicken and kung pao shrimp, ensure you’ll have an Asian experience like none other in the city. 1454 W. 86th St., 317-884-6982

Julieta Taco Shop

Photo By Tony Valainis

Don’t let the size and straightforward approach of this long-awaited taco shop in The Stutz fool you. Esteban Rosas and Gabriel Sañudo’s tiny takeout taqueria, which opened in late July, pays homage to recipes of their ancestors, including Sañudo’s grandmother (who lent the shop its name), but their exacting approach to the humble fold is decidedly contemporary. You’ll notice this most in the slightly thicker, heartier blue corn tortillas, which arrive with a seductively subtle crisped edge. Slow-braised, griddle-finished fillings such as juicy pollo asada and fall-apart carnitas are as engineered for flavor as they are satisfying. Most exciting to Mexican cuisine purists should be the chewy, deeply browned crust on the lashes of pork in the tacos al pastor, shaved right off the spit. Yet the brisket-like suadero is a rich and earthy option you won’t find in even the most authentic Latin joints. Best of all is getting to enjoy your tacos with a highball or martini next door at Eddie Sahm’s vintage emporium of a liquor lounge, Turner’s Bar. 1060 N. Capitol Ave.


Photo By Tony Valainis

The arrival of Vicino, Mass Ave’s first full-service Italian restaurant in over a decade, brought with it several reasons for local diners to celebrate in late spring. First, it gave life to the bright and airy former home of Hedge Row, which had sat dark since the first few months of the pandemic. Second, it proved that Houston natives Chris Burton and Gus Vazquez, who perfected A-lister cocktail culture at their nearby clubby spot, The Oakmont, were serious about bringing more than just red sauce and pasta by introducing innovative Mediterranean dishes to their new space. Third, it showed that Burton and Vazquez understood the art of aromatic, easy-drinking Italian aperitivos with bar offerings such as an excellent Negroni, a fun take on the Aperol spritz, and funky coinages like the “Caspian Tea” with rum, iced tea, and Grand Marnier. Most importantly, its kitchen puts forth fun and smartly executed dishes, including some of the best arancini in the city (studded with earthy mushrooms), artfully restrained pizzas, a knockout pan-fried gnocchi with shredded chicken and kale pesto, wood-oven chicken, and perfectly seared branzino plated simply with slices of zucchini and eggplant. A playful tiramisu with spiced rum and coffee “caviar,” is, well, the mascarpone on the cake. 350 Massachusetts Ave., 317-798-2492

Chicken Scratch

The original spot along Keystone Avenue is little more than an open kitchen connected to a waiting area. Ever since Chicken Scratch came to roost here in 2021, that’s all folks have needed in their quest to get their hands on the best gussied-up chicken wings in town. The ordering process is simple and streamlined. Step up to the counter and choose your bird: traditional jumbo bone-in or hand-cut and breaded boneless. Then, decide if you want it naked or fried and either drizzled, drenched, or drowned in up to two sauces that range from classic honey hot to mango habanero. Loaded fries complete the experience and add even more layers of flavor—you can get them sprinkled with truffle oil and Parmesan or piled with chipotle-spiced sirloin. Later this year, Chicken Scratch will debut a downtown satellite on West Maryland Street that will add yet another option—on-site seating. That, and plenty of room to spread its wings. 5308 N. Keystone Ave., 317-426-3457

Root & Bone

Photo By Tony Valainis

Restaurant partners Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis of Top Chef fame, along with executive chef Kellen Prough, have made their family-friendly purveyor of “honest Southern food” a SoBro institution in the three short years since it opened. McInnis grew up on a farm where he learned to conjure up comfort food like nobody’s business but especially took to frying, pickling, and making preserves. (The menu is proof.) Despite being from Florida and Australia, respectively, he and Booth clearly get how serious Hoosiers are about our fried chicken. The pressure-fried Miller’s Amish Chicken, brined in sweet tea for two days and accompanied by hot honey, has that coveted crackle. The Southern sides plated on Root & Bone’s signature Blue Willow china (the South’s favorite tableware also hangs on a wall beneath exposed beams) range from grits gooey with pimento cheese, to real-deal sweet corn soufflé with cheddar and a sour cream tang, to a Watermelon & Pickle Jar bright with citrus. The Smoky Bacon Board is called a small plate, but the heaping pile of pork belly, marinated cheese curds, and house-made mixed pickles topped with crunchy fried pork rinds easily makes a meal. On the off chance you have room for dessert, entertain the peach cobbler, with its fresh fruit crowning a pudding-esque angel food cake coated in glimmery sugar crystals. 4601 N. College Ave., 317-602-8672

King Dough

Photo By Tony Valainis

Even the pickiest pizza aficionados will admit that Indy has upped its pie game in the last few years. Whisper-thin tavern pies, square-cut Detroit slices with crackly edges, and respectable local takes on the venerable Chicago-style deep dish abound in nearly every neighborhood. That Adam and Alicia’s Sweet’s Holy Cross crust shop, brought to Indy from Bloomington in early 2019, still charms as much as ever­ amidst all of its cheesy, oven-fired competition­ is testament to the total experience the Sweets bring to the pizzeria meal. Maybe it’s the pergola-shaded patio that keeps us coming back to sip a bubbly Pink Moon while noshing on the blistered Everything Shishito or the meatballs smothered with ricotta and marinara (or, surprisingly, one of the best burgers around)­—that is, when we can save ourselves from ordering an 18-inch. The Sweets (after having just opened Natural State Provisions less than a year ago) put an equal amount of care into the paintwork, neon accents, and wine cocktail selection at a second location that made its debut in Carmel this summer. Hopefully that means the Arkansas transplants are as smitten with Indy as we are with their fresh, feta-showered Greco salad and their Stinky Pete pie with mushrooms and both gorgonzola and goat cheeses. 452 N. Highland Ave., 317-602-7960; 12505 Old Meridian St., Carmel, 317-669-2201


Photo By Tony Valainis

This funky Fletcher Place “fine diner” put chef Jonathan Brooks on the national dining map when it opened in 2014, landing Bon Appétit Best New Restaurant accolades and Brooks a Best New Chef nod from Food & Wine the following year. The breakfast-into-lunch hot spot’s fundamental ethos hasn’t changed much over the past decade, still proudly rooted in creative interpretations of quality ingredients. The kitchen turns out inimitable small plates that highlight oysters, wings, and beignets, as well as heartier fare like shakshuka, inventive grilled cheese sandwiches, slabs of glazed bacon, and gold-standard sweet and savory Dutch baby pancakes. The beverage program goes above and beyond the expected brunch mimosas (though a cava variation is available) with Bloody Sherries and a vermouth list. Because Milktooth still eschews reservations, expect a wait on the weekends. It will be worth it. 534 Virginia Ave., 317-986-5131

Field Brewing

There must be something about this stylish suburban brewery that chef Alan Sternberg just can’t quit. Even when Sternberg took an extended hiatus from the spacious open kitchen to pursue other avenues, his influence ran deep in the crisp, deeply browned Brussels sprouts with bacon and maple gastrique, the textbook chicken sandwich with honey mustard and butterkäse cheese, and the addictive dips and lush salads that elevate the offerings beyond what you find at most brewpubs. He’s been back since late 2022 (and who doesn’t love a good reunion?), and his refined approach to seasonal cuisine shows. Sternberg’s evolving skill with pasta is most evident in recent specials, like gnocchi with summer squash and seafood-rich cavatelli with kicky nduja, tender squid, tuna, shrimp, fried basil, and meltingly soft confit tomatoes. There is also Middle Eastern spice-rubbed flank steak with tahini-rich yogurt, puffed quinoa, and carrots, as well as one of the best pork chops in the city, here served with brown-butter pineapple and Thai basil. They are all good reasons to stop by while this chef is still in the kitchen, even if most of the other customers are eating burgers. 303 E. Main St., Westfield, 317-804-9780


Photo By Tony Valainis

When Fletcher Place–based Bluebeard debuted in 2012, it quickly achieved dining-darling status for two reasons—the innovative leadership of chef Abbi Merriss and the ethereal contributions of its Amelia’s Bread counterpart. Named after a Kurt Vonnegut novel, the low-key yet elegant eatery keeps a grilled bread appetizer presented with several oils and spreads for dipping and, well, spreading, on permanent offer. It’s the perfect prelude to a constantly shape-shifting lineup of soups, salads, and shareable entrees with special emphasis on greatest hits like the house spaghetti dressed in crème fraiche, parmesan, and gremolata; the spicy dragon shrimp; and tender octopus elevated with pancetta and grilled kimchi. On the beverage side, wine, beer, and spirits all receive their due respect, as does the exquisite dessert menu conceived by pastry chef Youssef Boudarine. If you want to linger a little longer after a weekend dinner, head upstairs to the cozy speakeasy above the restaurant for a nightcap. 653 Virginia Ave., 317-686-1580

Oakleys Bistro 

For more than 20 years, chef Steve Oakley has consistently satisfied a clientele that continues to crave his inventive, wine-friendly riffs on traditional American/Midwestern cuisine. A perfect case in point—the whimsical shrimp corndogs that beat Bobby Flay tend to attract new waves of diners every time the Food Network episode re-airs. Under Oakley’s capable leadership, his unassuming strip-mall bistro has proven to be a solid training ground for many aspiring local chefs. Amid the warm and welcoming dining vibes, beautifully presented dishes like a lobster waffle accented with sauteed zucchini and tomato jam, sous-vide duck with seasonal accompaniments, and Stanley’s Meatloaf (a tribute to Oakley’s grandfather) served with potato puree and crispy Vidalia onions deliver on their visual promise and high expectations, tasting every bit as good as they look on the plate. “I like to serve things that are familiar and approachable but still creative,” Oakley says. We like it, too. 1464 W. 86th St., 317-824-1231


Photo By Tony Valainis

There are certainly more authentic, by-the-book Thai restaurants in town, but none of them feel as imaginative as this perennially vibrant escape at the north end of Mass Ave. In a tiny, magical space (the one formerly occupied by Ed Rudisell’s much-missed Black Market), diners dig into shallow bowls of braised-beef panang curry, plates of shatteringly crisp spring rolls fried to order by an actual grandma, sticky-sweet tamarind tofu, and piles of fresh laab salad as bright as confetti. Every dish on Bodhi’s menu, crafted by three generations of Thai women, is a gorgeous feast for the eyes adorned with edible flowers, slivers of citrus, and artfully placed sprigs of green. The tropical-leaning cocktails—impeccably garnished, of course—go down nicely when sipped on Bodhi’s vine-covered pergola on a warm summer night. 922 Massachusetts Ave., 317-941-6595

St. Elmo Steak House

What can we say about our city’s most storied restaurant that hasn’t been said before? The sinus-blistering shrimp cocktail, the aged-to-perfection Black Angus beef, the wine collection, the top-shelf cocktails (tip: savvy bourbon drinkers should ask to see the “Brown Book”), the outstanding service provided by tuxedoed waitstaff. We could go on, but the sum of St. Elmo’s parts reliably lands it on local best restaurant lists year after year. Initially founded as a humble tavern in 1902—nine years before the first Indianapolis 500—and still in its original digs, this fine-tuned establishment embraces tradition while still keeping pace with times and trends. Owner Craig Huse says more than half of all guests opt to start their meals with the shrimp cocktail, most of whom follow it up with a hand-trimmed steak washed down by an “Elmo Cola,” a miniature glass bottle of Coke charmingly presented alongside the restaurant’s branded cherry-vanilla whiskey. 127 S. Illinois St., 317-635-0636

Tinker Street

Photo By Tony Valainis

Originally conceived as a neighborhood restaurant for the people, Tinker Street breathed new life into the East 16th Street corridor when it opened eight years ago, skillfully blending elements of both fast casual and fine dining. The beloved eatery is nothing if not a survivor, reemerging from bouts of controversy and the Covid-19 pandemic with a renewed sense of purpose and grace. The exemplary hospitality and a chef-driven selection of small and large plates complemented by thoughtfully curated wine offerings remain the cornerstones of the convivial establishment thanks to the combined efforts of executive chef Tyler Shortt in the kitchen, sommelier Ashlee Nemeth, and bar manager Jess Johnson. The menu changes often to reflect seasonality; in summer, expect fanciful spins on summer tomatoes, corn, peaches, oysters, mushrooms, pastas, and pork. You can’t go wrong with the weekly burger specials. Even better, stop in on Sunday nights for gorgeous wood-fired pizzas. 402 E. 16th St., 317-925-5000


Photo By Tony Valainis

Chef and owner Jonathan Brooks, a gifted boundary-pusher, unleashes his creative impulses at this sexy converted car mechanic’s shop on the edge of Windsor Park. Take a seat in the central room, which is flanked by a performance prep kitchen (where plates—on one recent night ranging from fresh pasta rags with wagyu beef tongue to halibut over fermented potato and snap pea hash—come together in a creative frenzy) and a full-service bar, whence your craft cocktail comes. Those high-top tables and bar-side chairs are the best seats in town for a show starring quirky, of-the-moment ingredients. The menu is brief but fine-tuned, laid out with the smaller morsels on top, larger plates toward the bottom, and a few artisanal ice creams for dessert—making it easy to order a meal with a perfect beginning, middle, and end. 1844 E. 10th St., 317-419-3471

Nando’s Mexican & Brazilian Cuisine

Photo By Tony Valainis

Owner Cristiano Rodrigues came to the states from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. His wife-to-be, Elizabeth Fernandez, is Mexican. Their native cuisines combine in so many delicious ways at their new restaurant in Broad Ripple, where classic Brazilian comfort dishes such as bolinho de bacalhau (crispy salt cod croquettes) and moqueca de peixe (white fish and coconut milk stew) share the table with arroz con pollo made with Miller Farm chicken and bottom-cut steak fajitas. The space is tiny, a sexy do-over of the original Sangrita Saloon, with a cozy bar and roomy side patio that are both nice spots to explore a caipirinha flight or sip a margarita-style riff on the fruity-spicy mangollada, which comes with a tangy Tajín and chamoy rim. 834 E. 64th St., 317-377-4779


Instead of standard chips and salsa, the pre-meal snack at George Muñoz’s colorful corner restaurant on East 16th Street is a little skillet of puffed wheat duros drizzled with hot sauce. They’re addictively salty, spiced with chili and lemon—your first clue that Festiva is a different kind of Mexican restaurant. Muñoz (who also owns La Chinita Poblana, the walk-up taqueria that once served mini street tacos on Broad Ripple Avenue, now living on inside The Garage food hall) makes every dish a celebration. The callos de hacha—pan-seared scallops with charred esquites and creamy poblano mashed potatoes—first appeared as a special but proved popular enough to earn a permanent spot on the menu. The braised pork ribs are prepared with an adobo dry rub and served ready to fall apart with agave-guajillo glaze and chipotle crema. The whole-roasted Poblano Fundido is reminiscent of a relleno but oozing with chorizo and ranchera salsa that you scoop up with tortillas. If you crave sopes, overstuffed empanadas, or gorditas filled with crispy pork rinds, check out the rotating Masa of the Day selection. Cocktails are especially thirst-quenching on days when you can sit in the open-air porch or grab a stool at the indoor/outdoor bar that feels like a resort. If you still miss your standard-issue basket of tortilla chips, Muñoz serves his alongside guacamole studded with pumpkin seeds and bright pops of pomegranate. 1217 E. 16th St., 317-635-4444


The home base of 2022 James Beard Best Chef semifinalist Thomas Melvin provides an appropriately stylish playground for experimenting and perfecting. The four- and six-course tasting menus, the main mode of dining at this Cunningham Restaurant Group showstopper, lets diners play a satisfying game of multiple choice. Will it be delicate slivers of bluefin tuna or beef tartare with preserved lemon and quail egg? The scallops or decadent foie gras brightened with strawberry and Fresno chile jam? The grass-fed Niman Ranch ribeye or harissa shrimp? Dining with a group of people who like to share is the best way to sample everything. But when the dessert course rolls around, expect some competition for the pillowy ricotta doughnuts slicked with bourbon maple glaze and plated with candied bacon, maple cream, brown butter crumble, and sea salt caramel ice cream—one of the menu’s few holdouts from its original incarnation. 601 E. New York St., 317-420-2323

9th Street Bistro

Photo By Tony Valainis

We can no longer kid ourselves that Samir and Rachel Firestone Mohammad’s tiny Noblesville restaurant is still our little secret. The James Beard Foundation made it official this year when it named Samir a Best Chef semifinalist in the Great Lakes region. Still, the shotgun-style space that made its debut during the Covid-19 shutdown of 2021 is the essence of cozy. The tables—all nine of them—line up sweetly along exposed brick and robin’s egg–blue walls in a dining room festooned with thoughtful bric-a-brac. A vintage pottery vase of flowers here. A complete set of Childcraft encyclopedias there. The decor sets the perfect playfully quaint scene for grilled artichokes, bison meatballs, eggplant caponata, and pork chops with pimento cheese risotto. Samir focuses on fresh local ingredients, and the close-to-home references don’t stop there. “The Old Towners” cocktail list takes inspiration from Noblesville notables and friends of the restaurant. Employees pick recipients for the donations collected from “Pay It Forward” jars in the bathrooms. Every few months, the owners scoot the tables into one long row for a prix fixe family-style Community Dinner highlighting the chef’s current obsessions—a wonderful demonstration of how this husband-and-wife team have built more than just a restaurant. They’ve built a community. 56 S. 9th St., Noblesville, 317- 774-5065

Anthony’s Chophouse

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A natural choice for special occasions and other big nights out, Main Street Carmel’s modern cathedral of decorative brick and three-story windows knows how to indulge diners with the best food and drink. On-point servers could do their own TED Talks on high-end steaks and the exquisitely marbled cuts outlined on the Butcher Block section of Anthony’s menu. True carnivores are treated to well-pedigreed steaks, including the elusive spinalis and an Australian wagyu beef Wellington. Sides of twice-broiled Yukons and lobster au gratin are served in family-style portions proportional to the large-format proteins. Desserts that look like works of pop art arrive as an after-dinner bonus round. 201 W. Main St., Carmel, 317-740-0900

Trax BBQ

Owner Andrew Klein puts his own spin on barbecue at this no-frills smokehouse just off the railroad tracks in McCordsville. One glance at the menu posted on the wall makes this clear. Beyond the hickory-smoked pulled pork, the brisket sliced to incorporate both lean and fatty bits, the smoked spareribs, and the bone-in smoked chicken quarters, you can see where Klein, a veteran of local steakhouses, shows his creative grit. The Trax PBLT adds pulled pork and the house Bama Blanco sauce to a Texas toast BLT. There’s a sausage roll with beer cheese and caramelized onions. And The Willie (Klein’s favorite sandwich) crams a heap of tender brisket into a brioche bun and adds liquid cheese and slaw. You can order meat combos by the sheet pan and even get your Polaroid on the entryway wall if you polish one off in competitive-eating mode. Just don’t miss the month’s featured bread pudding. 7724 Depot St., McCordsville, 317-335-7675

Our Table American Bistro

Photo By Tony Valainis

This warm slice of Americana in Bargersville exudes a sweet charm that aligns with its cornfield-adjacent location on the southern outskirts. The low-lit coziness gets a boost from a fireplace that flickers in one corner of the room and a glassed-in wine room that doubles as a dining room, often filled with long tables of folks celebrating some kind of special occasion. The family-friendly ambience blends seamlessly with some fine-tuned flourishes of upscale dining—expect both fried chicken sliders and wine suggestions. The menu doesn’t dive too deep; there is a steak (an 8-ounce filet that you can enhance with a gorgonzola crust, mushrooms, or chili hollandaise), a shrimp pasta, a char-crusted double smashburger that’s really good, and some deliciously gussied-up fish. But first, individual loaves of crusty hot-from-the-oven bread with rosemary-flecked butter appear as soon as you sit down, like a heartfelt welcome. And yes, you will want to sit and stay for a while. 5080 State Rd. 135, Bargersville, 317-530-2624

Love Handle

This isn’t your typical breakfast-to-brunch spot. The regular quiche-nibblers and mimosa-sippers might feel a little out of place gazing up at Chris and Ally Benedyk’s chalkboard menu, a meandering scrawl of decadent savories: loaded lox home fries, surf-and-turf breakfast sando, Bang Bang shrimp egg roll, country-fried catfish breakfast. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Just don’t dawdle. An additional note under the day’s offerings warns, “We got it, til we don’t.” But also, every time you visit Love Handle, with its kitschy-core art and old-school beer case, the options have switched over to equally out-there concoctions (do not sleep on the gravy, though). Every visit is a new adventure, so buckle—or maybe unbuckle?—up. 877 Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1102

Late Harvest Kitchen

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The allure of Ryan Nelson’s northside restaurant has been working its magic on us for a while. That crispy Potatoes Minneapolis hashbrown as fat as a throw pillow, the shaved Brussels sprouts salad with sieved egg, the chicken schnitzel, and the classic sticky toffee pudding belong in Indy’s culinary hall of fame. The menu rarely strays from its original globally influenced, locally sourced sensibilities, thank goodness. The crew of spiffy servers never miss a mark. But sometimes Nelson surprises us with seasonal one-offs like the ephemeral goat cheese–stuffed squash blossom or a lemon icebox cake as sweet as the summer day is long, and we are reminded why we fell in love with Late Harvest Kitchen in the first place. 8605 River Crossing Blvd., 317-663-8063