Take Comfort: Local Food-Lovers Play the Either/Or Game

What classic dishes are nearest and dearest to the hearts of local food-lovers?

Editor’s Note: When we hunger for clever twists on the classics we grew up with, we take to these savvy restaurants, where everything old is newfangled again. Say hello to the Best New Comfort Foods.

Beef Manhattan or Chicken and Dumplings?

Team Beef Manhattan

» “I remember when I was a kid and my mom used to take me to Mann’s Grille, undoubtedly the best Manhattan in the city.” —Ricky Hatfield, Peterson’s Restaurant

» “I would choose our Pot Roast Manhattan with short rib gravy. We make that for a lunch special sometimes during the cold weather months.” —Valerie Vanderpool, Zest! Exciting Food Creations

» “Beef and gravy all the way. And the white-bread sponge!” —Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections

Team Chicken and Dumplings

» “Just the smell of chicken and dumplings cooking makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.” Chris Eley, Goose the Market

» “Though I grew up a vegetarian, in my adult life I have grown to love this … especially served over mashed potatoes!” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group

Rusty Bucket’s Sticky Bun Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding or Persimmon Pudding?

Team Bread Pudding

» “One of the best bread puddings in Indiana is at Bonge’s Tavern. But I have to say that the Sticky Toffee Pudding at Late Harvest Kitchen takes bread pudding to a whole new level.” Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

Team Persimmon Pudding

» “I hate that we have such a great persimmon harvest here yet very little persimmon pudding available. I feel like it should be offered everywhere you go.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market

» “My mom always made persimmon pudding in the fall, so this is a very nostalgic (and very rich!) dish for me.” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group


Mashed Potatoes or Fried Potatoes?

Team Mashed Potatoes

» “I’m a mashed-potato guy. But usually I need them doctored up in some way. Give me some horseradish mashed or some twice-baked mashed, souffled with butter, cheese, and sour cream. Ruth’s Chris is one of my favorite places for mashed-potato side dishes.” —Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

» “I could eat them every day for any meal!” Valerie Vanderpool, Zest! Exciting Food Creations

Team Fried Potatoes

» “Fresh bluegill with some fried potatoes are some of my favorite childhood memories after a day of fishing with my dad.” —Ricky Hatfield, Peterson’s

» “I specifically like mine baked over salt, crushed and then fried.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market

» “Texture is key here. Even burnt is better.” Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections

18 on the Square’s Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes or Fried Okra?

Team Fried Green Tomatoes (the unanimous winner)

» “I like Kountry Kitchen’s. I am not even sure if they have them all the time, but the one time I had them there, they were just right.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market

» “A true Indiana boy is raised with a basketball in one hand and an ear of corn or field tomato in the other.” —Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

» “Possibly one of my favorite things in the world! Love them with fresh burrata or incorporated into a caprese. In the summer months, there is always a version on the Pizzology menu.” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group

» “We use them for canapes and on our BLT in the summer months sometimes.” —Valerie Vanderpool, Zest! Exciting Food Creations

» “Ralston’s DraftHouse has a great one.” —Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections

 Eat + Drink’s Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs or Potato Salad?

Team Deviled Eggs

» “While there are many different twists to both deviled eggs and potato salad, the deviled egg would win this death match. When anyone shows up at the house with deviled eggs, the eggs are eaten immediately. When people sit down after going through a buffet line, no one has deviled eggs on their plate because they ate them in line. When the staff meal at the restaurant includes deviled eggs, you know the crew is going to be happy and it’s going to be a great shift. Sorry, potato salad.” —Mark Marlar, Oceanaire

Team Potato Salad

» “Of course my mom’s potato salad is the best in the world.” —Ricky Hatfield, Peterson’s

10-01 Food & Drink’s Grilled Cheese Nostalgia and Tomato Bisque Soup

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup or Bean Soup and Cornbread?

Team Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

» “Grilled cheese dipped in hot, homemade tomato soup, for sure.” —Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

» “This is definitely a go-to for me when the weather starts to drop … my favorite version no longer exists but was on the short-lived lunch menu at L’Explorateur, R.I.P.” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group

» “This is a tough one, as I grew up eating (and loving) both. However, I could never turn down a crunchy, gooey grilled cheese with some delicious tomato soup to go with. I think Sangiovese has some of the most delicious tomato soup I’ve had.” —Valerie Vanderpool, Zest! Exciting Food Creations

» “Total nostalgia.” —Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections

Team Bean Soup and Cornbread

» “There’s nothing better on a cold winter day than a pot full of Great Northern Beans steeping with a smoked ham hock and some of my jalapeño-and-white-cheddar cornbread.” —Ricky Hatfield, Peterson’s

» “A good alternative is the cassoulet at Napolese.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market

Divvy’s Creamed Corn Brulee

Green Bean Casserole or Creamed Corn?

Team GBC

» “If it’s done right, I would go with green bean casserole.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market

» “But only on Thanksgiving.” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group

Team Creamed Corn

» “Sullivan’s Steakhouse makes a mean side dish of creamed corn. Pair that with a nice bone-in filet and a glass of Cab, and fuh-get about it.” —Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

» “Creamed corn all the way. So simple. Butter, cream, seasonings. Can we just do this to all veggies?” —Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections    


(l-r) Southern Kitchen’s Fried Chicken & Tick Tock Lounge’s Breaded Tenderloin

Fried Chicken or Breaded Tenderloin?

Team Fried Chicken

» “I grew up in Muncie, so Burkie’s Drive-In was always where the bar was set on incredible tenderloins. But, I gotta say that in this tough category of choosing my favorite, I would probably have to go with fried chicken as my personal favorite. I would start with an order of Scotty’s Crispy Double-Fried Chicken Wings and then move on to Neal Brown’s Libertine Chicken Wing dish. I have usually only said good ribs have ‘fall-off-the-bone’ meat … but, Libertine’s wings are crispy fried, and the meat literally falls of the bone. I would follow this up with a good friend of mine’s dad from Batesville, Indiana. His secret recipe for his fried chicken is Fall City Beer and ash from his cigar into the batter. I actually think he got some of his techniques from the best fried chicken in the state at the Fireside Inn in Enochsberg.” —Scott Wise, Scotty’s Brewhouse

» “Paired with Champagne.” —Lindy Brown, Neal Brown Hospitality Group

» “There are lots of places that do this so well. I would rather buy this than make it. I would pay any amount for delicious, fresh, fried chicken. I’m a huge fan of rendered fats.” —Carrie Abbott, Newfangled Confections

Team Fried Tenderloin

» “I feel like if you grow up in Indiana, you have to go with the tenderloin. My spot has always been Sahm’s, because that’s what I came up eating.” —Chris Eley, Goose the Market


See more on Indy’s New Comfort Foods in the January 2014 issue.