Before Milktooth debuted its brunch-only concept two and a half years ago, Indianapolis had no idea it was suffering from a dearth of first-world porridges and absinthe-washed espressos. Nobody had ever said, “You know what this town needs? More kimchi-pork breakfast wontons prepped by ruggedly good-looking cooks behind a counter wrapped in flowered wallpaper.” It wasn’t until Jonathan and Ashley Brooks opened their 2,800-square-foot modern diner in a former Fletcher Place auto shop, complete with concrete-block walls and a retractable overhead door, that we realized that, yes, we really were missing a restaurant that surprises us every day with dishes we’ve either never heard of (smoked-eel kedgeree) or had completely forgotten about (unapologetically starchy shredded-potato latkes crisped in a skillet). Sometimes a good restaurant tells us exactly what we’re hungry for—instead of the other way around—and delivers the message with the confidence of a “modifications politely declined” note at the bottom of its menu. Those words still give us the back-of-the-classroom giggles, but here’s what wipes the smirk off our faces: gourmet Dutch babies cradling glazed beets, lamb patty melts, and Granny plates heaped with biscuits and gravy framed in sweet-tea fried chicken. Even without the validation from Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and the James Beard Foundation—all of which have sung the praises of the “transcendent, internationally influenced dishes” and “precious tchotchkes” at the “quirky breakfast-and-lunch spot” in the past year—we knew Milktooth was a winner. This year, everyone else figured it out, too.

TIP: Sit at the counter for a front-row view of the food prep.

DON’T MISS: Thick, sticky slabs of sorghum-glazed bacon—the essential side order.

534 Virginia Ave., 986-5131, milktoothindy.com

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A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.