In this era where fantasy statistics are reported on as much during Sunday football as the actual players, consider a few interesting gridiron-related numbers: Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in single-day food consumption in this country. This year, experts predict 70 million pounds of avocadoes will be smashed and 1.25 billion chicken wings will be consumed. Additionally, 3.5 percent of the annual total for beer sold occurs on this weekend.
It is a serious food and drink weekend to be sure. And that’s all well and good for the armchair quarterbacks snacking and guzzling in the comfort of their own homes, but what about the thousands of people who flood into host cities each year without a clue where to grab grub before kickoff? And what if these football fans are discerning gourmands who desire something beyond mediocre hotel fare and restaurants that end in “eesecake factory”?
Thankfully, Super Bowl XLVI is being held in New Orleans, one of the greatest dining…wait, what? That’s next year? Where is it this year? Indianapolis? Where is that? Near Idaho, right?
Quick, what comes to your mind when you think of Indianapolis and food? Nothing. (And don’t you dare say, “Race Car Cake.”)
As a proud Hoosier (yes, that means someone from Indiana) and a native of its capital city, I’ve created the following all-too-brief walk-through of some of the best restaurants and markets in downtown Indianapolis. For the most part, I limited the choices to places within walking distance of downtown Indy, which is oriented around a large roundabout (“the circle”) and is very easy to navigate. As an unwitting tourist to my beloved city, it is crucial to note how spread out the rest of Indy is, and how nonexistent public transportation is. Don’t even count on cabs. If you flew in and couldn’t secure a rental car, stick close to the circle or your feet will soon regret it. In the song “Indianapolis,” alt-country troubadours The Bottle Rockets summed up this frustration best with their lyric “Is this Hell or Indianapolis/With no way to get around.”
I will start with the obvious. Indianapolis’ most famous restaurant is St. Elmo Steak House. It has been in the same location for more than 100 years. They have this legendarily spicy shrimp cocktail and the most extensive wine list in town. It is truly a beautiful restaurant — waiters in tuxes, Jack Dempsey’s autograph on the wall, the whole nine yards. However, it is also right in the geographic epicenter of the upcoming football festivities. Considering it’s impossible to even get near the place when there is just an electronics convention in town, I should think they might be a little busy next weekend. So put your name on the wait list, they’ll call you in March. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Intiaz Rahim)
However, if a restaurant with a little history does interest you, then head a few blocks northeast of the circle. Kurt Vonnegut’s family used to run this town, and their legacy is best preserved in The Rathskeller, a massive and ornate German social hall and gymnasium that his grandfather designed in the late 1800s. It’s a handsome facility that contains both a great Bavarian-style restaurant and an authentic biergarten.