Monon Trail Eater's Guide: Best Food on the Path

One of the best reasons to hit the trail? The eats. Arrive hungry to these neighborhoods along the way.

SoBro: The Impromptu Picnic

You won’t have to bring a thing to the Monon’s 54th Street intersection. The cluster of restaurants and markets there has all the provisions for a proper al fresco lunch (even silverware, if you insist), and the lively location adds a generous side of people-watching. Locally Grown Gardens will deliver entrees on real dishes to the tables in its parking lot and next to the trail, though you might be slightly embarrassed to receive the colossal open-faced barbecue sandwich in front of an audience. Smoky-sweet sauce dresses a four-inch-tall, half-to-full–pound mountain of pork on a slab of stout Texas toast, white or wheat. Order one to share. If you’re not famished, ask for a washed piece of fresh fruit to go with a bottle of Orange Crush or English ginger beer infused with herbs. To assemble a more traditional picnic, start with a package of seeded flatbread or homemade potato chips from Zest! Exciting Food Creations (plus a salted-caramel brownie) with gooey frosting for later); add European San Benedetto mineral water, Italian meats, and aged cheese from Nicole-Taylor’s Pasta and Market. Stocked up, you can count on finding a spot on the Monon’s grassy bank even if the picnic tables are occupied.


Broad Ripple: The Moveable Feast

Sure, you could sit on a restaurant’s patio and watch the trail crowd from a distance, or you could hit a to-go counter and join it. La Chinita Poblana, a wee taqueria at the Westfield Boulevard intersection, serves gourmet creations in a cardboard boat for easy carryout. Try a small carton of sweet-potato fries under queso fresco, mole, and crema and the best-selling pork carnitas taco; if you have a free hand, use it for an oversized cup of piña-colada bubble tea, blended with your choice of small or large pebbles of chewy tapioca. Along Cornell Avenue’s Monon frontage, Perk Up Cafe’s German specialties include bratwurst and sauerkraut on a long, skinny pretzel bun, and for dessert, Brics scoops out addictive chocolate-pretzel ice cream along with cones and dishes of classic summertime flavors.


Carmel: The Snack Attack

North of 96th Street, everyone wakes up early on Saturdays for a walking waffle at the Carmel Farmers Market. Belgian sugar mixed into the batter caramelizes as it cooks, creating enough sweetness to stand in for syrup. Order one plain or topped with berries, chocolate, or cinnamon-pecan honey. There’s an ice-cream throwdown happening at the family-favorite Main Street intersection. Bub’s Cafe has terrific cookies-and-cream ice cream, Huddles keeps its cooler stocked with reasonably portioned cups of pink-lemonade sorbet, and Auntie Em’s offers all the classic flavors but compels you to switch gears and order a cake pop instead. Craving something salty? Locally made beef jerky at Joe’s Butcher Shop delivers a surprising lemon-peppery kick.


Illustration by Ryan Snook

This article appeared in the June 2013 issue.