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New in Town: Milktooth

You don’t have to be tattooed or stock your wardrobe from the local vintage shop. But if you want to stand out at Milktooth (534 Virginia Ave., 317-986-5131), Jonathan and Ashley Brooks’s eclectic brunch cafe that opened last Wednesday in the former Downtown Car Care on Virginia Avenue, you’ll at least want to channel your inner hipster. Thankfully, the friendly staff will make you feel at home no matter your guise, and the mechanic shop–turned–retro diner vibe will have you flashing back to younger days stopping at the local breakfast joint to watch the cooks in white hats flipping your pancakes.
Given that the well-traveled Brookses are long-time food industry dabblers and the underground chefs behind Dented Ladle Dining, their menu at Milktooth, which they’ve dressed in an eclectic mix of vintage kitchen gear and fitted with a diner-style counter and stools, is a lot more daring than the one at your typical greasy spoon. “Classics” include a host of homey breakfast dishes such as a Belgian waffle with plums and cocoa nibs or a Dutch baby with berries and creme fraiche. But “Divergent” dishes stray much farther from the griddle with a spelt and berry porridge and a steaming bowl of miso soup garnished with beech mushrooms and sea beans.
The list of cheeky brunch cocktails will have you wishing you had the afternoon off—or that the boss won’t notice you knocked one back at lunch. One not-too-potent potable is the Blood Meridian, an ultra-smooth mix of 10-year port, Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka, smoked nutmeg, egg white, and a touch of spiced-rum vinegar. It proved a perfect way to kick off a Friday afternoon—and to take in the crowd.
While most things on the opening menu—from an impressively thick strip of bacon glazed with sorghum to a simple picture-frame egg with melted fontina and bacon jam—are hitting the mark, the real surprise of the day came in the form of a patty melt riff, the diner standard reimagined here with tender ground Viking lamb. Served on generous slabs of Amelia’s semolina bread grilled to a feathery crispness, this deluxe burger came with a restrained topping of white American cheese and a pickle-studded, creamy smear of house-made “special sauce” that a certain fast-food juggernaut could take a lesson from. Along with a refreshingly modest serving of perfectly crispy shoestring fries, this was diner cuisine for the thinking crowd.
A sweet finale of chocolate potato doughnuts—doughnut holes with just the right balance of sweetness and spice—were notable as much for the tangy peach jam and creme fraiche as for their crisp crust and delightfully cakey interior. Local diners may have waited a few extra months for Milktooth to open, but it’s already filling a niche in the independent, farm-to-table brunch scene that Indy has long needed.

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.