As if cooking for a roomful of strangers weren’t enough, any restaurant that opens in this climate of social-media oversharing has to do so at its most flattering angles, too. This year’s crop of newcomers makes it look easy, smashing burgers, muddling cocktails, and locally sourcing their hearts out like they’ve been doing it forever.
Here, we honor a host of fresh starts, from the top ice cream shop to a coffeehouse almost too perfect for its own good.
From our 2019 Best New Restaurants feature.
Downtown Steakhouse: Tony’s of Indianapolis
110 W. Washington St., 317-638-8669
Leave it to this sophisticated Cincinnati import to prove that a saturated steakhouse scene could squeeze in one more option. Here, mounded crab cakes soar above a swath of mustard aioli, and sea bass gets an earthy treatment on a bed of barley with shaved Brussels sprouts and hints of maple and sage. For traditionalists, Tony’s dry-aged steaks deliver the tender, juicy bites of the best chophouses, and the friendly staff makes sure diners are pampered at every step.
New Digs: Hoagies & Hops
4155 Boulevard Pl., 317-426-5731
They aren’t exactly sandwiches, at least not to the devout. Nor are they subs. No—they are properly known as Philly Cheesesteaks, and they form the backbone of the menu at Hoagies & Hops, which just moved into a more intimate Butler-Tarkington spot with Chilly Water Tap Room. Blink as you drive through this mostly residential neighborhood at night, and you’ll miss the whole operation, which would cut you out of not only any cheesesteak choices, but cold hoagies and Nathan’s All-Beef Hot Dogs as well. The bread comes from South Jersey, and the meat, pickles, and chips from Philly and Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The beer? Totally Indy.
Private Kitchen: Studio C
1051 E. 54th St.
It was hard to get a bead on exactly what chef Greg Hardesty was up to with his newest project, “a place to play, create, and curate one-of-a-kind experiences.” Maybe the multiple James Beard nominee, who last wooed diners at his prix-fixe hit Recess (which closed in 2017), is purposely leaving the details fuzzy. All the better to curate unique adventures like the interactive cooking classes he leads and the private chef’s-table dinners he hosts. He also stocks a small market of restaurant-quality ingredients for home cooks and even pours a good cup of Tinker Coffee out of the open-concept space. It will come in a to-go cup, so take the hint. Hardesty is perfectly clear on one point: This is his space.
Doughnut Shop: Rebellion Doughnuts
City Market; 17677 Cumberland Rd., Noblesville, 317-219-6504
We love that we can stuff one of these sweet, pillowy delights down our maws and actually feel kind of badass. Maybe it’s all the Star Wars quotes on Rebellion’s Facebook page that have us feeling like members of the revolution just for downing a Dreamsicle orange-frosted. Or maybe it’s giveaways like the free dozen bestowed upon a guy spotted ice-skating on the frozen-over Canal, “just for being a Rebel.” Think doughnut fans are a bunch of Homer Simpsons? We’re striking back.
City Market Vendor: Gomez BBQ
City Market, 317-414-7661
Can’t spare 13 hours to smoke perfectly tender meat? Leave it to Gomez BBQ, where pulled pork and brisket, piled on a Circle City Sweets bun, are dressed simply with pickles and a drizzle of sauce, and a thick curl of bacon on a wooden skewer wears a coating of blueberry-caramel syrup.
Food Court: Sun King Spirits
351 Monon Blvd., Carmel, 317-843-6250
It’s time to embrace the eatatorium, especially when the options are as delicious and diverse as the lineup Clay Robinson assembled when he opened Sun King Spirits in Carmel last summer. Swing by Oca for a sandwich (hello, muffaletta on a sesame bun), La Margarita for some nachos (order extra queso made with Sunlight Cream Ale), Pi Indy for a pizza (get the Figgy Piggy, with prosciutto, bacon, and fig jam), and, for dessert, The Den by FoxGardin (the gooey butter pie is famous for a reason).
Revival: Mayfair Taproom
2032 E. 10th St., 317-419-2393
The 125-year-old building housing the new Mayfair Taproom on East 10th Street is like that grizzled bartender with story after story in his back pocket: It began as a drugstore in 1894 and was a restaurant by the mid-1930s. What became Mayfair Tavern hosted jazz greats like Wes Montgomery, and the notorious Mustang Sally’s bar whooped it up for nearly 30 years through the 1980s. Then the doors closed from 1995 until about two years ago, when John and Nancy Hill, longtime owners of the Broad Ripple Brewpub, decided it would make a great neighborhood bar again. The family—including son Alec, who moved back from Oakland to run the kitchen while girlfriend Hilary Powers oversees the bar—put in the work to preserve a historic, everybody-knows-your-name feel of a corner pub. This time around, the landmark watering hole might become known for its classic burger, shepherd’s pie, and vegan Sloppy Joe.
Global Cuisine: Jamaican Breeze Sports Bar & Grill
4189 N. Keystone. Ave., 317-426-4045
Just when it seemed as if the old Murphy’s Steakhouse location on Keystone Avenue (a major player during Indy’s drive-in heyday) would stay shuttered indefinitely, news came in early 2019 that it would be reborn as a Jamaican sports bar. While much of the nostalgic charm of the onetime Frisch’s Big Boy has been lost, a funkier, more global vibe pervades this energetic spot, where folks with island roots quaff Red Stripes and lines of locals wait for takeout orders of jerk chicken, goat curry, and servings of fall-off-the-bone oxtails and butter beans. Do not miss the flaky, perfectly seasoned beef patty, and come back for daily specials such as Sunday’s jerk pot roast or Thursday’s brown stew chicken, served with an eye-popping mound of spicy rice and beans—and a side of midcentury cool.
Pie Shop: Pots & Pans Pie Co.
4915 N. College Ave., 317-600-3475
How good are the pies at Clarissa Morley’s cozy, wallpapered, restaurant-that-also-feels-like-a-hug business? She had to double production almost as soon as she opened last winter. Pot pies (Thai chicken curry, meatball, taco truck, chicken) fly out the door as quickly as they come out of the oven. You can take it home hot, or pick up a frozen one and bake it later. Don’t forget dessert. The top-selling sugar crème brûlée is a delicious take on a traditional sugar cream pie, with caramelized sugar on top and a flaky crust made with butter and fresh local leaf lard.
1101 E. 16th St., 317-550-5685
The latte is high art here. Not just any latte, but foam-crowned beet root, iced pistachio, and ginger with a swoosh of powdered turmeric. In fact, the photo-ready coffeehouse inside the near-eastside’s Tinker House Events proved a little too buzzy, creating a standing-room-only pileup of fans of long-drink cocktails, nitro cold brews, and succulents. So the handsome offshoot of Coat Check Coffee came up with a compromise. Weekends are now laptop-free between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and customers must drop a minimum $5 per hour—basically putting their money where their mouth is.
Ice Cream Shop: TeeJay’s Sweet Tooth
8660 Purdue Rd., 317-744-9764
More than just an ice cream counter scooping up locally churned flavors like Graham Central, LemOreo, and Strawberry Road, this tiny northside business is a fountain of youth. Who wouldn’t feel like a giddy, post-softball-game third-grader while tearing into an ice cream sandwich of Jolly Rancher ice cream crammed inside two Fruity Pebble treats (Rice Krispie Treat’s Technicolor cousin)and rolled in rainbow sprinkles? Or a Cookie Monster milkshake with a crushed-Oreo rim? Or just a really good scoop of vanilla wedged inside a warm sugar yeast doughnut? Owners Taylor DeBruce and Jerome Tiah are both full-time dental hygienists, of all things, which explains its odd evening hours. Call it job security, because they can have all of our allowance money.
Pub: Krueger’s Tavern
323 N. Delaware St., 317-790-3660
One of three Cincinnati imports from the Thunderdome Restaurant Group to take on Mass Ave’s bustling dining scene, this German-inflected newcomer brings beer and housemade sausages to the strip’s nonstop block party. Like its neighboring siblings, Bakersfield and The Eagle, Krueger’s is a crowd-pleaser. Snag one of the coveted barstools to sip Rhinegeist on tap or a crushable sweet German radler, or drink the night away on the back patio—where a house sazerac goes down nicely—until all the sauerkraut balls, beer cheese, and pretzels are gone.
Sushi Bar: Blue Sushi Sake Grill
2721 E. 86th St., 317-489-3151
You won’t find stoic sushi chefs or solemn omakase protocol at this raw bar lit up like Vegas, with Godzilla imagery, Asian pop art, and a flock of giant origami cranes in flight over the dining room. The elaborate rolls are addictively fresh, crunchy, and swathed in sauce, with catchy names like Shiitake to Me and Spanish Fly. As if that’s not fun enough, Happy Hour features all the $5.50 maki you can wash down with $3.50 sake bombs.
Coming Soon: Keep an eye on these restaurants still in the oven at press time.
301 N. Pennsylvania St.
What We Know: You’ll be downing ’80s- and ’90s-themed cocktails like Pac-Man gulps pellets when this bar and arcade opens for business. Its parent company is also planning to unveil Pins Mechanical Company—a bar featuring more hands-on games like pinball, duckpin bowling, and pingpong—sometime in 2020.
Target Opening: Late spring 2019
Carmel City Center
What We Know: Gwendolyn Rogers is doing it again: waving her magic wand and creating a second Cake Bake Shop location that’s nearly twice the size of the beloved Broad Ripple original, but with the cozy, fairytale charm of her iconic white bungalow. Expect to tuck into a full lunch-and-dinner menu with some new extras. Construction has been taking its time, down to the last Swarovski crystal on the final chandelier, but is drawing to a close at last.
Target Opening: Spring 2019
1572 N. College Ave.
What We Know: The second location of Gallery Pastry Shop is to be located in the Old Northside neighborhood—an inviting, classic experience with a focus on European sensibilities. Like the original, it will feature Old World pastries like French macarons and opera cake. Onsite construction of the building began in March.
Target Opening: None yet
Midtown All Day
215 E. 38th St.
What We Know: Restaurateur Neal Brown envisions his new Midtown All Day as a neighborhood cafe where you can wake up with coffee and pancakes, have a meeting over a light lunch, and keep things going into the evening hours with wine and a full dinner menu, all inside the iconic Indiana National Bank. The building was most recently used as a Chase Bank branch and will be transformed into a comfortable, semi-casual dining space with some of the original bank’s architecture, vaults, and even safety-deposit boxes intact.
Target Opening: None yet
310 S. Delaware St.
What We Know: The folks behind Taxman Brewing Co., which has locations in both Bargersville and Fortville, are opening a family-friendly gastropub in downtown Indy that will feature a seasonal menu highlighting local and regional farmers and artisans. Taxman CityWay was slated to begin renovations on a mid-1800s livery building in March.
Target Opening: Fall 2019
Two Chicks and a Hammer Bar + Store
1531 S. East St.
What We Know: Karen E Laine and Mina Starsiak, the mother-daughter stars of HGTV’s Good Bones, are teaming up for yet another venture: a combination store and bar in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood. Expect goodies and sandwiches from nearby Wildwood Market, which you can munch on while lounging in the bar with a glass of wine or shopping for local home goods of the kind you’ve wanted to steal from their show.
Target Opening: Summer 2019
What We Know: The burger-joint chain owned by actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their chef brother, Paul, is set to arrive somewhere in Indianapolis this summer. They say we’ll need to grab a few extra napkins on the way to the table before hunkering down with Mom’s Sloppy Joe or the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger (Marky Mark’s recommendation). This may be the only restaurant in ‘merica that not only piles its patties with “government cheese,” but italicizes the ingredient proudly on the menu.
Target Opening: Summer 2019
What We Know: If you build an Ikea, they will come. Between the home-goods behemoth and the perpetually packed Topgolf across 116th Street, Fishers District will wedge in this 120,000-square-foot playground of restaurants, shops, and other diversions. Its dining area will include 1933 Lounge, Sangiovese, Sun King Brewery, Kincaid’s Meat Market, and Nicey Treat. The Kitchen Table is shaping up as an immersive dining experience for cooking classes and private events.
Target Opening: Late Fall 2019