A decade ago, Kirklin’s Main Street had little more than a post office and a few stop signs. Now, this Clinton County burg boasts bona fide Neapolitan-style pizza, thanks to Alex McClelland, a native of nearby Frankfort who returned after 15 years on the West Coast to open Empire Pizzeria. Creamy housemade mozzarella, ingredients from the likes of Saint Adrian Meats & Sausage in neighboring Lebanon, and fresh-baked cannoli hint at McClelland’s culinary-school cred and years of industry experience, most recently at Bandon Dunes Golf Course along the Pacific coast.
McClelland pays homage to his parents’ popular Milky Way drive-in with hearty meatballs based on the Frankfort landmark’s meatloaf mix. But a simply dressed pizza called The Bruce is the must-order, showcasing all of Empire’s top-shelf components: surprisingly complex mozzarella, yeasty crust with a gentle chew, and quality prosciutto, topped off with a farm egg. 106 S. Main St., Kirklin, 765-279-8220, empire-pizzeria.com