Bluebeard’s Abbi Merriss, Our July Foodie

Breakout Role: From the head spot at Bluebeard to a new multimedia project, Abbi Merriss is Indy cuisine’s leading lady.
Abbi Merriss has been an object of the national food media’s affection since 2012, when she opened Bluebeard with Tom and Edward Battista in Fletcher Place and it promptly became a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in America. Then the glossies came calling. Food & Wine? Been there. Bon Appétit? Done that. But Merriss isn’t one to seek the spotlight. While high-profile restaurant projects opened and closed, she focused on comforting seasonal menus with an ace hospitality team and watched the customers—and more Beard nominations—roll in (including three for herself in 2016, 2017, and 2018). “It was like, Holy moly, this is much bigger than we thought it would be,” says Merriss.

Merriss’s next project with the Battistas: a restaurant and art cinema in Windsor Park slated to open in 2019. Menu design, kitchen layout, and staffing decisions are all on her to-do list, and she’s taking a thoughtful approach to food that’s deliciously executed, without gimmicks. “I don’t want to be too cheeky about pairing food with the movies,” she says.

A key to Merriss’s success has been generosity with her time. “Sometimes I call this place Bluebeard Academy,” she says. “I bring in people, train them, and encourage them to move on. I don’t get angry if they want to continue their careers elsewhere. You have to have growth in this business, right?” Spoken like a Best Chef in a Supporting Role.

Get Abbi’s recipe for Asparagus-and-leek bruschetta with Saint-André cheese in tomorrow’s The Dish newsletter.