Downtown Dining

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Burger Study Makes The Grade

On Monday, the St. Elmo family matriculates Burger Study with plenty of pomp and circumstance. The intimate downtown nook tucks in next door to Harry & Izzy’s on Georgia Street in a corner of the former Circle Centre Nordstrom space, allowing entrance from both the mall and the street. Decor skews manly, evoking an Ivy […]

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Swoon List: Pho No. 1, LouVino, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, And More

Gossamer-skinned shrimp spring rolls packed tight with meat and cool veggies that will tide you over until the noodles arrive at Pho No. 1 (4540 S. Emerson Ave., 317-787-2225). The Garden Table‘s (342 Massachusetts Ave., 317-638-0321) basil-infused espresso drink, Pablo Honey, sweetened with pepper honey for a smooth finish. The dramatic shrimp cocktail at Hyde Park […]

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Swoon List: Black Market, Tried & True Alehouse, And More

Fruit as dessert has been redeemed.

CharBlue venison
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Selling the Sizzle: A Review of CharBlue

CharBlue exudes a sexy confidence in the former Georgia Reese’s spot.

Loaded fried at Bluebeard
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Swoon List: The Vanguard, Super Bowl Pho, Milktooth, and More

Warm up with loaded fries at Bluebeard, pancakes at Super Bowl Pho, and combat holiday sweets with a kale power salad.

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Swoon List: Nada, Vida, and More

From a breakfast cereal–topped casserole at Spoke & Steele to late-night dessert at Peppy Grill, this week’s Swoon List satisfies round-the-clock cravings.

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Devour Downtown Highlights

Whether you’re participating in Devour Downtown for the first time or the 11th, be sure to take a few friends along to sample as much Indy cuisine as possible.

Photo by Tony Valainis
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Back for Seconds: A Review of Tinker Street

Peter George opens a neighborhood spot for fine dining.

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In a hotel with eye-popping art installations such as a flock of birds carved out of old LPs and a portrait of Madam Walker made from combs, the dishes at this restaurant are the real attraction.

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Libertine Liquor Bar

Chef Paul Haveck’s ability to interpret otherwise intimidating dishes, like Southern-fried sweetbreads and roasted bone marrow, into table favorites keeps us coming back.

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The Oceanaire Seafood Room

Showstoppers among the ultra-fresh fish include Maine scallops, striped bass, and grouper. Fresh oysters are a must.

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St. Elmo Steak House

After work, folks head upstairs to the 1933 Lounge, where they tuck into plates of mini bone-in filet chops, like caveman finger food. Even that famous cocktail sauce is now available by the bottle.

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NEW IN TOWN: Ralston’s Drafthouse

Now that Massachusetts Avenue has become an unofficial district of pubs and taverns, it’s nice to have one that’s doing something a bit different. But “curious” was the word we used the most as we dug into chef Roger Martin’s decidedly more precious and lighter-than-expected bar-food creations on our two recent visits to Ralston’s Drafthouse (635 Massachusetts Avenue, 317-493-1143). Owned by the same folks who brought the perennially popular Chatham Tap not only to Mass. Ave. but to Fishers as well, Ralston’s has revitalized the long-dormant former Agio space with a straightforward decor that emphasizes the pub’s focus on hard-to-find craft suds. Framed vintage beer labels decorate the far wall of the dining room, colorful bottle caps tile the bathroom doors, and a curtain of old beer cans dresses the host stand as you enter. Dart boards, a sleek shuffleboard table, and plentiful screens for game watching all point toward a place that’s a little more geared toward late-night quaffing than fine dining.


But none of that could explain the esoteric menu of fruit-drizzled and nut-crusted fancies that Martin is putting out for his customers. Whereas the menu at Chatham Tap has settled in to a sensible yet varied selection of fried pickles, pub pizza, hearty sandwiches, burgers, and fish and chips, Martin’s menu at Ralston’s wants to update and refresh those classics with flatbreads, sweeter sauces, and healthier sides—an homage more to the taverns of Copenhagen than Liverpool. As our sensible and fluent waitress suggested the first night we dropped in, Martin aims to pair his dishes more with the beers on offer, much in the way that chefs pair foods with wine, with an emphasis on fruit and cheese.


At times, it works. The Holyoke Sliders (available in both meat and soy, though we chose meat) are possibly the juiciest meatballs in town, literally oozing broth as you sink into the closest thing to a burger on the menu. Marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella avoid the heft you might expect in a meatball sandwich. A delectable mettwurst sausage wrapped in a crepe is another highlight whose fruit sauce doesn’t overpower the flavors. The Weizen Fish, on the other hand, is a jangling combo of blackened trout with a tangy raspberry reduction, rich pecans, and goat cheese (a cardinal sin to some chefs who rarely mix dairy with seafood).

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NEW IN TOWN: The Diplomat at the Ambassador

If you’ve been following the saga of all the startups trying to make a go of it on the ground floor of the recently renovated Ambassador building downtown, you may have been surprised to see an “Open” sign lit in the front window for the last few weeks. In the very beginning, after Yats owner Joe Vuskovich “stepped away” from the original Bar Yats concept just as the place was opening in September of 2010, the bar morphed into The Bar at the Ambassador with real promise serving authentic Cajun dishes and top-notch cocktails, including excellent Sazeracs and Vieux Carres. But slow, understaffed service and a dwindling crowd caused the place to change concepts, then close, until it reopened briefly in January of this year as Azul, with a curious menu of Mexican-inspired dishes though minimal decor changes. The doors darkened just a few weeks later, with little hope of a bar or eatery coming back to this seemingly prime downtown location just north of Central Library, amid a host of downtown apartment complexes.


But in mid-August, the place opened again as The Diplomat at the Ambassador (43 E. 9th St., 317-602-4433), the name clearly hoping to restore some of the style and elegance that the historic space promises. With a streamlined menu that features everything from crab cakes and fish tacos to affordable stick-to-your ribs dinners such as pot roast ($12) and duck with a Port and berry reduction ($14), the place has promise to do what its forebears didn’t: provide straightforward bar eats and solid drinks to a downtown block with somewhat of a dearth of dining choices.

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Burning Desire: A Review of Coal Pizza Company

If you have spent any time at all with an East Coast expat, you’ve probably been apprised of the embarrassing state of pizza in Indianapolis—our dearth of pizzaioli dusted in doppio zero flour, dough spiked with mineral-rich water, and slices that fold neatly down the middle. But when a place like downtown’s Coal Pizza Company comes along, cooking its pies in a 900-degree oven in the big-shouldered tradition of America’s first pizzerias, redemption is served by the slice.