The risk with a long-awaited restaurant opening is that it won’t live up to the anticipatory buzz. No such problem with Festiva. Crowds fill the space and Instagram overflows with exclamation points about Rachel Hoover’s food and Jason Foust’s cocktails in the Mexican follow-up to Peter George and Thomas Main’s popular Tinker Street. Hoover came to Festiva from her post as sous chef at Tinker, and she brought with her a love of authentic Mexican cuisine, fostered by time in the kitchen with her Pueblan mother-in-law, Amelia.
This is not a suburban Tex-Mex joint. In fact, if Hoover couldn’t replicate a family recipe for a dish, she left it off the menu, no matter its status as classic Mexican. “I wanted to do a chile relleno,” says Hoover, “but it didn’t translate to the professional kitchen.” Thus, the poblano fundido was born, a hybrid of a chile relleno and queso fundido, where chorizo fills a charred poblano pepper, and the smoky, rich combo is topped with grilled fresh cheese. Hoover’s signature pozole dish, a hominy stew with pulled chicken and radishes, is praiseworthy, but you’re just as likely to drool over the guacamole, a balance of creamy avocado and acidic lime juice, garnished with serrano peppers, pomegranate, pepitas, and radishes. If you’re with a crowd, order pitchers of the house margaritas. Don’t even think about leaving without dessert, and trust us when we point you in the direction of the flan. This thick, traditional custard is steeped in a fruit-forward caramel sauce so luscious you’ll start plotting your return before the plate is clean. 1217 E. 16th St., 317-635-4444, festivaindy.com