Best New Restaurants 2015: Tinker Street

Peter George returns with a tiny-but-mighty winner of a restaurant on the edge of downtown.

A lot has changed in the decade since Peter George left the restaurant business. A generation of innovative chefs and restaurateurs (many of whom got their start in one of George’s enterprises) helped refine a culinary scene that the godfather of chef-driven restaurants once dominated with his trio of eateries (Peter’s, Chops, Bistro 936). But this year, the savvy entrepreneur staged a comeback, partnering with former Puccini’s Smiling Teeth co-owner Tom Main to open a vegetarian-friendly fusion spot in the relative food desert of Herron-Morton, creating a vibe as fun-loving as it is fine-tuned. The mere 36 main dining room seats almost guarantee you will share elbow space with a stranger—or perhaps Main or George themselves, squeezing in to help you navigate Braedon Kellner’s evolving menu of global small plates. The menu emphasizes a light touch and whimsy in “botanicals,” such as a surprisingly robust celeriac steak, and a refreshing ruby grapefruit–and–arugula salad enriched with avocado and deep-purple Forbidden rice. Equally light and balanced is the steelhead trout with Swiss chard, root vegetables, and a bright tangerine sauce, while meatier fare includes lamb cottage pie and a delectable swath of pork belly with housemade kimchi. But playful red-velvet “Twinkies” and a decadent pot de creme s’more paired with vegetable ash prove that the dessert program is just as well-conceived as the mains.

Sound Bites

Concept: Vegetarian gateway

Seats: 36

Owners: Peter George and Tom Main

Chef: Braedon Kellner

Pedigree: In addition to George and Main’s bona fides, Kellner, a Culinary Institute of America grad, most recently was sous chef at Oakleys Bistro but also worked at The Alexander hotel and as a butcher at O’Malia’s.

Try it if you like: R Bistro

Check it out: 402 E. 16th St., 317-925-5000,