Best Of Indianapolis: Dining

Did you eat yet? Dig into a fish & chips showstopper. Sample the national dish of Brazil. And find out where to get a pinkies-out gourmet hot dog.


Photo by Tony Valainis

Occupying a corner storefront tucked deep inside a Southport strip mall, Paradise Mx dips out a delightful introduction to the sweet tradition of Mexican ice cream parlors. Jumbo scoops of dense guava, tequila, and Ferrero Rocher flavors are gateway treats at this spacious spot that covers a lot of dairy-based territory with ice cream–topped crepes and waffles, mangonadas spiked with chamoy, and the Chango Mango filled with fruit and topped with slivered almonds. 7045 Emblem Dr., 317-743-8942


The ham and cheese croissant at Landlocked Baking Company is perfect for those who prefer a savory start to their day. It wraps buttery, flaky pastry dough around Gruyere and prosciutto, then adds a sprinkle of dill. The flavors combine and complement each other to create the ideal bite of meat and cheese in a puffy cloud of bread. 118 S. Audubon Rd., 317-559-3231


Rivet Coffee’s Spiced Apple Pie Waffle is what happiness tastes like. The Liege monstrosity is made with classic jumbo pearl sugar that caramelizes into chewy bites and eliminates the need for syrup. Instead, it gives you homemade apple pie filling, the perfect gooey complement to the dollop of whipped cream on top. Every bite tastes like a hunk of mom’s apple pie still warm from the oven. 337 Jersey St., Westfield, 317-763-0007


It is an acquired taste, sure. But once you acquire the taste, this savory-salty-sweet delicacy is the ultimate example of IYKYK. We found an off-the-charts version at Broad Ripple’s 317 Burger. The Strawberry Hill features a juicy patty sandwiched between habanero-ghost pepper cheese, spicy strawberry compote, and gooey peanut butter. Add your favorite brew and some tater tots to make it an adult happy meal. 915 E. Westfield Blvd., 317-251-1317


Hailing from Central Morocco, Youssef Boudarine worked at bakeries in Casablanca, Spain, and France (including the famed Ladurée in Paris) before moving to Indianapolis. His quirky constructions have graced the dessert menus of The Cake Bake Shop, Gallery Pastry Shop, Anthony’s Chophouse, and Bluebeard. But Boudarine has nearly broken the internet on several occasions with his Instagram grid of pure whimsy, like a square of babka brownie decorated to look like a plot of soil with blades of grass sprouting out of it, to be eaten with a miniature shovel; TikTok trendy circular croissants spiraled with cream; and wee edible white chocolate crates filled with fresh fruit.


It always sounds like a great idea, but somehow we never get around to it. Luxury Picnics takes the “Where?” and “What do we bring?” out of picnicking. Just choose one of their themes, like Amor, Tropical, or Zen, and show up. A bespoke picnic will be waiting, laid out with real silverware and glasses, candles, an outdoor rug, cushy pillows, and—perfect for proposals—an arch festooned with flowers. Sip sparkling cider, nibble from a Brie & Bartlett charcuterie box, and play cornhole or giant Jenga. The LP team even handles cleanup.


There isn’t much action going on at Leonardo’s Mexican Food early in the day, but after the sun goes down, the 24-hour drive-thru gets busy. The menu features typical Mexican American fare with some crinkle-cut fries thrown in for good measure. But it’s the Super Steak Nachos that win the prize. Practically an entire bag of tortilla chips makes the base of this behemoth, with layers of refried beans, shredded cheese, fresh guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, and a truckload of grilled steak piled on top. It’s enough for the whole family, probably, but who wants to share? 8431 N. Michigan Rd., 317-337-9022


Other bars would be smart to take notice of the non-alcoholic cocktail menu at Natural State Provisions. The nostalgic restaurant has swiftly developed a reputation for its inventive yet comforting menu of Arkansas-leaning comfort foods, but its best kept secret is its rotating list of no-ABV cocktails developed by the entire team behind the bar, according to co-owner Alicia Sweet. “It’s really about what we’re thinking about or interested in right now,” she says of the creative effort. Influences as broad as one person’s memory of a UK soda or a change in the weather have led to new and interesting drinks. When Sweet has time, she hopes to start developing her own zero-proof spirits rather than using ones made by outside companies. “That way, we can really get creative,” she says. 414 Dorman St., 317-492-9887


GoldLeaf Savory & Sweet thinks outside the bun every Monday night. That’s when the popular SoBro hangout packs the house for Don & Viv’s Hot Dog Emporium. The “celebration of encased meats” takes its name from the fun, fictional Boca Raton alter egos of owners JC and Kristine Bockman and features a roster of $6 boutique dogs tucked into soft lobster roll–style split buns. Options include the Deep Ellum (loaded with Texas-style chili), the Half Moon Bay (vegan cheese, crispy fried onions, and sport peppers), and masterful one-offs, such as the Funky Chicken (built around a brat from Old Major Market) and the Oh, My Aching Banana (a garlic–ghost pepper sausage topped with refried beans, plantain chips, and pico). 1901 E. 46th St., 317-600- 3542


Craving croissants? Wistful Francophiles will do well to reserve a space in Cindy Hawkins’ laminated doughs class at Circle City Sweets. After a couple hours of chef-led demos and hands-on activities—including an opportunity to roll slabs of dough through the “Ally Sheety” machine—you’ll come away with recipes and a box of butter, chocolate, and ham-and-cheese pastries big enough to start your own patisserie. 1220 Waterway Blvd., 317-632- 3644


In a quest to concoct the perfect cocktail, mixologist Brett W. Butler started tinkering around with recipes for craft elixirs during the pandemic. His Alcomy efforts have since blossomed into a product lineup of 10 farm-to-glass potions (available at local farmers markets), each boasting its own unique flavor profile of fruit, herbs, and spices. The Blackberry Lavender Mojito is the best seller, but we’re partial to the spicy-sweet Bee Sting made with honey from Eagle Creek Apiary. 818-738-3489


Inside A Cup of Chai, warm jewel tones and the aroma of cardamom combine with a patient, friendly staff to draw you in and make you want to stay for a while. The Fountain Square tea shop pours the perfect cup of chai—smooth, not too sweet, and full of flavor. According to owner Pravy Nijjar, chai drinkers like to have their cups prepared in very specific ways, which is why her menu includes chai variations to suit everyone’s preference. Whether you are a masala chai fan, a ginger lover, or someone who prefers a more peppery punch in your cup. A Cup of Chai is the place to go pinkies up. 1028 Shelby St., 317-998-4463


Photo by Tony Valainis

At Julieta Taco Shop, a counter-service nook in the Stutz building, chefs Esteban Rosas and Gabriel Sañudo nail every detail of a Mexican taqueria, right down to the pastor meat roasted on a spit. Fresh tortillas are made in the back using several varieties of corn to ensure the right shell for each recipe. 1060 N. Capitol Ave.


Isn’t everything better with bubbles? The husband-and-wife team of Brent and Frances Kumfer opened The Rejoicing Vine this summer near Eagle Creek, sourcing regional grapes from Indiana and Michigan vineyards to inform an all-sparkling product lineup that includes fizzy whites, reds, and the bestselling dry Regenerative Rosé. With their emphasis on sustainability, environmental stewardship, and benevolent service, the couple donates 10 percent of the operation’s profits back to the community. 8440 W. 82nd St.


The meticulous tarts, gorgeous galettes, and gleaming croquembouche towers that pastry chef Chantell Kayyod includes in her Beurre Sec pop-up collections would not look out of place in the window of any Parisian patisserie. That’s no mere coincidence. The Ball State grad who majored in advertising and minored in French eventually followed a sugar-sprinkled path to Paris, where she completed a six-month intensive training program at Le Cordon Bleu. Back in Indy, she launched her solo business selling limited- supply Vienoisseries out of Lulu’s Coffee & Bakehouse, where she quickly amassed a frenzied following, usually selling out in under an hour.


A two-story Spanish-style building in downtown Plainfield that began life as Prewitt’s Motor Sales and became a movie theater in 1920 entered its most fabulous era last year, when it was lovingly restored and reopened as The Prewitt, an upscale restaurant serving 12-ounce ribeyes and espresso martinis against a backdrop of distressed brick. The makeover, which took nearly two and a half years to complete and folded the 1909 building next door into the design, caters to diners in a majestic main room that still sports a stage (for live performances) and screen (which lights up on special movie nights). The upper level brims with Old Hollywood glamour, and a private dining room peeks over the marquee. 121 W. Main St., Plainfield, 317-203-5240


It isn’t the most visually stunning entree at Fernando’s Mexican & Brazilian Cuisine (formerly Nando’s)— a plate of porky black bean stew piled next to steamed rice, sauteed collard greens topped with orange slices, pico de gallo with a pop of white vinegar, and a tiny bowl of farofa made from toasted casava flour. But feijoada, the national dish of Brazil, is one of the most satisfying combinations of flavors and textures that crossed our lips this year. Fernando’s bustling kitchen boasts not only the owner’s Brazilian mother’s version—but also his actual mother. 834 E. 64th St., 317-377-4779


Hunks of Icelandic cod are fried to a lacy crunch in beef tallow supplied by a local butcher. The chips—don’t you dare call them french fries—still wear their skins, along with a generous sprinkle of black pepper. This British dish with street vendor roots gets a proper sit-down treatment at Cheeky Bastards. 11210 Fall Creek Rd., 317-288-9739


No longer tied to the tap, craft beer enthusiasts have embraced the convenience and (some claim) superiority of their favorite local brews chugged from a can instead of a glass. We sampled six of the year’s freshest pours.* All cans available at SoBro Spirits, 1721 E. 52nd St., 317- 255-7038


Photo by Tony Valainis

Indiana Flyer by Four Day Ray
Light and crisp with hints of sweet corn
CRACK ONE OPEN: After mowing the lawn on a hot day
Go For Launch by Daredevil Brewing Co.
Vibrant, herby, and “aggressively hopped,” as advertised
CRACK ONE OPEN: On pizza night
Atomic Armadillo by Sun King
Full-bodied and almost creamy, with a citrus-forward sharpness
CRACK ONE OPEN: By the pool
Good Boy by Metazoa Brewing Co.
Bright floral flavor with golden malt undertones
CRACK ONE OPEN: At the dog park
Sabbath by Bier Brewery
Rich and smoky coffee notes with a crisp finish
CRACK ONE OPEN: Beneath the moon
Hoosier Game Day by Upland Brewing Co.
Toasty and earthy with rich caramel base notes
CRACK ONE OPEN: Five hours before kickoff