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Indianapolis dining

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NEW IN TOWN: Ralston’s Drafthouse

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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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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

The cheesy bacon au gratin potatoes from The Oceanaire Seafood Room (30 S. Meridian St., 317-955-2277). A pear almond tarte that showed up on the prix fixe menu at Recess (4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529

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NEW IN TOWN: Gelo

The latest addition to Cafe Patachou owner Martha Hoover’s family of eateries is Gelo, an Italian-style gelato shop adjacent to her pizzaria, Napolese (114 E. 49th St., 317-925-0765). Gelo opened on Oct. 5, inspired by “the tiny dessert shops in Europe,” says Hoover.

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Taste of Italy: The Return of the Italian Street Festival

Italians and Italian food-lovers had heavy hearts (and empty stomachs) this June when the city’s annual Italian Street Festival was canceled in the absence of anyone to coordinate the event. Unwilling to accept a year without an Italian heritage celebration, Virginia Iozzo, of the Iozzo’s Garden of Italy family (946 S. Meridian St., 317-974-1100), began planning a different festival to tide the community over until the 29-year-old institution returns next June. Hosted by Iozzo’s, Taste of Italy will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 13 at Holy Rosary Parish (520 Stevens St.). The free event will feature the bands Indy Nile and South Six 5. Here, Iozzo tells us how the  festival got a second chance.

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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

A meaty squid salad at the SEO-friendly Sushi Bar Broad Ripple (911 Broad Ripple Ave., 317-257-7289). Carefully assembled to provide the perfect ratio of grated cheese to dressing per bite, the cherry tomato salad from Room Four (4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529). The shrimp and grits appetizer at

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NEW IN TOWN: Bluebeard

Since January, Indianapolis Monthly has been following the progress of Bluebeard (653 Virginia Ave.). So this past Friday, our forks were at the ready for the restaurant’s soft opening. Fans of Abbi Merriss Adams and John Adams were happy to see the pair back in the kitchen (right behind the bar), plating everything from white-bean salad with chorizo, zucchini, and radicchio fleur to a sharable whole snapper with house giardiniera.

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COMING SOON: DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines

This New York sub chain is making its way to Indy. On June 6, DiBella’s Old Fashioned Submarines opens a location in Traders Point (5650 W. 86th St.). A second will open in early fall near IUPUI (910 W. 10th St.). Billed as a higher end, fast-casual sub shop—think more Panera, less Subway—it assembles sandwiches such as the Godfather sub (with salami, capicola, and spicy ham) and the Dagwood (with turkey, ham, and corned beef). The medium sandwiches will put you back $7. But during Wednesday’s grand opening, the first wave of 25 diners through the door will get a year’s worth of free subs. 

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A King’s Breakfast

King David Dogs (135 N. Pennsylvania St., 317-632-3647), Indy’s original all-beef quarter-pound hot dog spot, is now serving breakfast from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Nothing costs more than $4, and menu items include breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, breakfast burritos, Intelligentsia coffee, and the Top Dog–biscuits topped with gravy made from King David hot dogs.

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The House That Yats Built

Yats lovers, rejoice: The Cajun/Creole mini-chain has opened its fifth location, up north at 12545 Old Meridian Street in Carmel. The new place offers the same etouffee goodness that gave Joe Vuskovich’s delightful 10-year-old eatery a cult-like following. The 1,400-square-foot location, while in a fancier part of town, will still allow customers to order New Orleans cooking from a chalkboard menu and savor the delicious bread slathered in melted butter. Even though the food will be the same, Vuskovich says they are experimenting with some new items to serve at all five locations. “We’re trying to rebrand ourselves as more New Orleans inspired,” he says, “instead of just Cajun or Creole.”

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Mother's Day Brunches

Give your mother the day off this Sunday and treat her to brunch at one of Indy’s restaurants that bridge the breakfast/lunch gap in style.

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Clarification: Kelties Restaurant

In our weekly e-newsletter this past Tuesday, we noted that Kelties in Westfield has closed. That is not the case, though the owner intends to close in September if she does not sell the restaurant. This news means that diners who relish high-quality comfort food should make their way post haste to Westfield.

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Q&A with Layton Roberts of Meridian Restaurant & Bar

Newly appointed as the head chef of Meridian Restaurant & Bar (5694 N. Meridian St., 317-466-1111) Layton Roberts brings some lusty, low-country cooking to Meridian-Kessler. (SPOILER ALERT: That means the return of the fried chicken dinner.) The 30-year-old toque, who started his career in Louisville before arriving in Indianapolis five years ago, headed up the kitchen at 14 West and most recently served as chef de cuisine at Mesh on Mass—an impressive resume in its own right. Using a dog-eared Meridian menu heavily annotated with handwritten notes as his show-and-tell, Roberts gives us a preview of what he has planned for one of Indy’s longest-standing eateries.  

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Swoon List: 5 Things We Adore Right Now

Crisp and browned salmon cake at Room Four (4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529), topped with a bright Meyer lemon sauce. The Mixiote at El Sol de Tal

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The Ripple Effect

My brain is a sieve when it comes to details of meals gone by. Was that black or green cardamom? Chive or cilantro?

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