Editor’s Note: These listings are not ranked. They reflect a collection of the best offerings in town.
1. Big Fella’s
3469 N. College Ave., 317-672-7536, bigfellas.biz
Its spacious dining room has some elegant touches, but the sunny corner restaurant at Fairfield and College avenues focuses on the humble, down-home standards of Southern cooking. Cornmeal-dredged Basa catfish and sauce-glossed rib tips stand out.
2. Mama Wood’s Soul Food Restaurant
1217 E. 16th St., 317-600-3483
Fresh, tart fried green tomatoes are sturdy enough to eat with your hands, and the soupy “Brown Beans” go fast. But the macaroni and cheese—stirred to bits in a cheese base thick enough to stand a spoon on end—steals the show.
3. Maxine’s Chicken & Waffles
132 N. East St., 317-423-3300, maxineschicken.com
As the name implies, a big focus is on the savory-sweet combination of fried chicken wings on a thick, plate-spanning waffle slathered in peach butter. But the menu holds so many other lovingly prepared treats, like collard greens topped with a slice of tomato and a blackened catfish sandwich that holds its own against the fried standard.
4. Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place
1831 N. College Ave., 317-926-4476, kountrykitchenindy.com
The dramatically sloped floors and hand-lettered signs are part of the charm at this beloved soul-food spot. The servers are strikingly sweet, delivering canned Cokes alongside jelly-jar glasses and hauling out trays loaded with two-meat, two-sides combo meals.
5. Southern Kitchen
7854 E. 96th St., Fishers, 317-288-0202, yoursouthernkitchen.com
Grab a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot at the checkout of this cafeteria-style spot run by Debra and Fred Slack. Fred’s late mother is the inspiration for the homestyle dishes, from sweet candied yams that melt in your mouth to extra-crispy–skinned fried chicken.
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue.