4022 Shelby St., 317-602-2001
Joshua Gonzales’ second reimagining of a vintage bar channels the dives of decades past at this resurrected cinderblock storefront on Indy’s near-southeast side. Indoor graffiti, latch-hook rugs, and pleather seating lend an intentionally retro feel that matches a tattooed, black-clad clientele sipping $6 whiskey sours and white Russians. The Southside Fizz is a particularly refreshing elixir that mixes gin, lime, and soda. A menu of kid-friendly cuisine surprises with some fancy adult touches such as a fried bologna sandwich with chipotle ketchup and an especially tasty meatloaf sandwich crowned with one of the city’s best onion rings. A straight-up burger is basic at its best (and delicious), and dogs, sloppy Joes, and a gooey grilled cheese dolled up with arugula and caramelized onions show that the rustic veneer at this always-packed spot only goes skin deep. Lunch and dinner daily.
2032 E. 10th St., 317-419-2393
Housed in a 120-year-old structure with a colorful past (old-timers might recall the 1960s-era Mayfair Tavern days, when its sign hung intentionally upside-down), this 2018 eastside addition has the timeless feel of a well-loved neighborhood pub. Walk-ins can relax over pints of beer at the bar, right next to a family-friendly dining room with window-seat booths and local art on the walls. The menu is brief and sandwich-heavy, with equal love given to the thick and cheesy Mayfair burger and daily vegan breakouts like the spicy seitan sloppy Joe and the massive bean burger. The sweet potato fries are addictively crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and creamy brown gravy is the essential condiment for the French fries. Brunch, lunch, and dinner daily.
6368 E. 82nd St., 317-863-8058
Large bowls of hand-pulled Chinese la mian noodles and fragrant, brothy ramen garnished with the traditional Japanese-style slivers of meat make up the bulk of the menu at this sleek restaurant located deep in a Castleton strip mall. The seafood-laden spicy ramen has a sting, and stir-fried teriyaki sauce deepens the flavor of another option. But the non-noodle starters and extras, like grilled and chopped calamari, black fungus salad, a plate of warm Takoyaki balls filled with diced octopus and topped with dancing bonita, and even the tiny bowl of warm, soy-braised peanuts that appears on the table when you sit down, add some à la carte elegance to the slurp fest. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon.
Vegan City Juice Bar
Dinner Wed.–Fri. 2442 Central Ave., 317-415-3469
Fans of this establishment that pops up three evenings a week inside Indy’s Kitchen seem happy to adhere to the “hurry up and wait” rule. The tables fill up early with regulars who know that their favorite menu item might sell out. And though the vegan burgers, slathered in sautéed onions and tangy special sauce, are as juicy and charred as the backyard standard, and the piles of faux chili-cheese fries topped with seasoned lentils instead of ground meat are a finger-licking flavor bomb tucked inside a Styrofoam clamshell—this is not fast food. The 100-percent plant-based selections are cooked to order, which means Vegan City often plays to a full house of customers patiently sipping sweet strawberry lemonade as they wait for their orders to emerge from the kitchen, sharing the laminated menu with newbies who walk in the door and assuring them that it’s worth the wait. Dinner Wed.–Fri.