On my husband’s birthday, we ate at Milktooth for the first time. I say “the first time” because all it took was one meal at the garage-turned-diner for us to add it to our rotation of favorite brunch spots. Crunchy, sweet tea–glazed chicken nestled up with a biscuit and gravy that did my Southern soul good. Ham and melted Gruyere atop a fluffy cornmeal pancake. Sweet-potato doughnuts, nuggets of sugary goodness that momentarily caused my heart to stop—then rejoice. It’s no wonder that IM’s dining editors chose the recent Fletcher Place arrival as one of this year’s best new restaurants.
Starting any business is tough, but a dining venture seems extra tricky—a portion of your product gets dumped onto the scrap heap at the end of each night. But since 2012, the last time we crowned the best new places to eat, only one of the 10 we picked then has closed. The meteoric evolution of Indy’s food scene surely helps the local survival rate, along with other benefits. I think it could be argued, for instance, that Fletcher Place—until a few years ago, a somewhat forlorn stretch between downtown and Fountain Square—would not have taken off as it has if not for food and drink, from the pioneering James Beard–semifinalist Bluebeard to Hotel Tango craft distillery to Milktooth. These days, it seems, a restaurant opening has become reason enough to visit parts of the city outside of our natural circles.
This August, New York will get a taste of what I’m talking about. For the first time, Indy chefs—including Milktooth’s Jonathan Brooks and Smoking Goose’s Chris Eley (recently named one of America’s top 20 food artisans by Food & Wine)—will host a dinner at the famed James Beard House there. The courses they prepare will be their chance to show the culinary world what we already know: Indy chefs and restaurants are worthy of national attention. Want a preview? Join us at our Best New Restaurants Event on April 23, when toques from the newly honored spots will whip up appetizers and dishes in Ivy Tech’s lovely penthouse dining room. I’m crossing my fingers that fried chicken from Milktooth might make an appearance.
Amanda Heckert is the editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly.