Review: Nyla’s

Scott and Nyla Wolf bring sweet sentimentality to new steakhouse speakeasy.

BEFORE THEY had five “northern woods–inspired” grills, three speakeasy-style cocktail lounges, a neighborhood trattoria, and, for good measure, a college-town sports bar, avid travelers and self-proclaimed foodies Nyla and Scott Wolf were just getting their feet under them in the restaurant business. This was the early days of the locavore movement in the 1990s, and Nyla wanted to start a farmers market to offer fresh produce, plants, Christmas trees, and, eventually, a few morning food offerings. So, the couple opened Hillsdale Farmers Market.

They followed this up with the self-named Nyla’s Market and Cafe, located in a onetime gas station in Noblesville, where they served breakfast and homey lunch sandwiches. Both Hillsdale and the original Nyla’s closed in 2004, but the earlier Nyla’s menu comes as a novelty postcard with your bill at the Wolfs’ newest effort—also called Nyla’s. The cute parting gift also arrives with a note of clarification from the staff: You can’t order a Round Up Club or a chicken salad plate anymore.

That’s because the new Nyla’s represents just how far the Wolfs have come in their appreciation of food in the two decades since the original cafe closed. And, perhaps more tellingly, it represents the maturing culinary tastes of their clientele. The Wolfs first branched out from family-friendly fare when they opened The Italian House on Park Street, the secluded, unofficial restaurant row of Old Town Westfield, in 2017. Nyla’s, which made its debut in antique dealer Bob Beauchamp’s meticulously restored red barn next door to The Italian House last spring, raises the stakes. “We wanted a bigger language for our food,” says the Wolfs’ son Alec. “We needed a place to showcase our family’s true passion.”

Expanding their menu meant flying Honduran-born chef Esli Alfaro to Naples, Florida, one of the Wolfs’ frequent vacation stops, as well as having him stop in at classic steakhouses in Chicago and Louisville to try some of the family’s favorite dishes as the restaurant’s concept was coming together. Alfaro and fellow chef Sarah Sinclair, both borrowed from the kitchen at The Italian House, drew on the Wolfs’ tastes for their chophouse menu with a Southern accent, best expressed in perfectly crunchy, tender, cornmeal-crusted oysters with a lush red pepper remoulade. Other hits among starters include deviled eggs that come with both bits of candied bacon and whole slices of thick-cut bacon on top, a decadent touch that risks spoiling your dinner. And while a plate of tender filet tips with crostini and crisp pickled onions makes a nice light supper on its own, the accompanying fondue has a slightly muted punch of Gorgonzola.

All these dolled-up rustic plates feel utterly at home in one of the coziest, old-meets-new dining rooms you’ll find in the modern sprawl of Indy’s suburban north side. Just approaching Nyla’s from the outside, with its spot set back from the shady street and its strands of twinkling lights, will take you to earlier times. With several other dining options on the block—not to mention the Wolfs’ next venture, a cocktail and cold plate spot called The Swanky Mule, opening this month in a former flower shop on the street—parking can be scarce. So, too, are reservations at the 60-seat eatery. Despite its size, Nyla’s will charm you. The small but well-stocked bar just inside the door shakes up especially balanced and restrained cocktails, including a smooth rum old fashioned and a not-too-bracing espresso martini.

Alfaro and Sinclair put together artful entrees out of the palette of ingredients they’re working with in the adjacent kitchen, which was previously ice cream shop Cone + Crumb and is now connected via a breezeway. Well-seasoned, juicy fried chicken pairs with creamy gravy and horseradish-scented mashed potatoes. A trio of double-bone lamp chops are succulent and meaty, and while steaks live up to the Wolfs’ standards from other cities, a thick-cut bone-in pork chop lavished with bacon jam may outscore the beef. Don’t leave without a slice of the signature chocolate cake with strawberry sauce and ice cream, a sweet finish you might not need but that will let you lounge for a while longer as you drink in more of the atmosphere.

NYLA’S 211 Park St., Westfield 317-763-5412  HOURS Tue–Thu 5–10 p.m., Fri –Sat 4–10 p.mVIBE Rustic chophouse  TASTING NOTES Classic steakhouse fare with new American twists like miso-marinated sea bass and a veggie Wellington  NEIGHBORHOOD Downtown Westfield  MUST-ORDER Crisp and succulent fried oysters, a generous pork chop with bacon jam, and juicy, lighter-than-expected fried chicken with country gravy.