Fountain Square watering hole Thunderbird (1127 Shelby St., 317-974-9580) had its big reveal last week, and what this snug hideaway lacked in signage (just look for the “T” on the front door), it made up for in gritty-chic charm. The warm, Nikki Sutton–designed (and Kipp Normand–inflected) space is trimmed in mortar-dusted brick and a mosaic of upcycled timber with playful touches galore, like a partially disassembled piano embedded in the front wall and a tangle of bare bulbs lighting the side tables. Most visible among Thunderbird’s all-star cast of backers was Joshua Gonzales, a mixologist customers will recognize from his former jobs at The Ball & Biscuit and The Libertine Liquor Bar, who politely worked the room while his staff of bartenders mixed and stirred potent cocktails with names like Day of the Deadringer, Bourbon Redemption, and Corpus Callosum. Gonzalas joins partners restaurateur Ed Rudisell (of Siam Square, Black Market, and Rook), chef Carlos Salazar (Rook, Oakleys Bistro, Tulip Noir), and developer Jonathan Altman.
A menu of taverned-down Southern dishes ranges from a fried-hominy snack to a surprisingly luxurious bowl of shrimp and grits with the added tang of tomatillo. Don’t miss the chicken hoecake sandwich—a spicy-fried strip of chicken tucked inside savory pancakes. For dessert, it’s sugar-dusted beignets, of course.