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The new owner of a landmark Fountain Square building envisioned the space that would become Pioneer mainly as a music club. Thankfully, a compromise was made. Food was clearly the headline act when this Alpine-themed restaurant with frequent live music opened last fall—a sexy, streamlined hangout with a sidewalk-side beer garden, scruffy-chic bar, and what will surely become one of the most coveted tables-with-a-view in town: one framed in French windows that open onto the night-lit fountain at the buzzing intersection of Virginia Avenue, Prospect Avenue, and Shelby Street. Chefs Bryan Kanne and Justin Eiteljorge, both formerly of Bluebeard, are in charge of a kitchen that is just as comfortable turning out whole roasted chicken with kale and caramelized onions as it is plating housemade sausages over pomme puree and turning old-man standards—like chicken-liver mousse with schmaltz and pickles, or house-cured salmon atop little sauerkraut pancakes—into the next big thing.

TIP: Wine drinkers, skip the glass. Bottle prices are so competitive that you end up with two free glasses at the end of your pour. 

DON’T MISS: The SM57 cocktail, Pioneer’s crisp, sweet, sky-blue version of the classic Aviation.   

1110 E. Shelby St., 986-6761,

See all 25 Best Restaurants here.

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.