Best Indianapolis Eats for Super Bowl XLVI

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Where to find the best local cuisine in this year’s Super Bowl host city

Indianapolis

As you pass the dining room to walk up to the courtyard to grab a liter of Spaten Optimator, you walk through a woody, high-ceilinged barroom draped in the historic flags of Deutschland.  On your right you will see a gorgeous ballroom that has hosted generations of weddings, family reunions, and much more during its 100-plus years in existence as a place where Indianapolis eats, drinks, and celebrates. And after next weekend, that long list of celebrations will also include…ahem… "Jim McMahon’s Swang N’ Super Bowl Bash." Yes, that Jim McMahon.

Speaking of beer, you would be remiss to not enjoy a cold one or two from Sun King Brewery Company. Though still a very young company, I’ve never seen a city embrace a brewery like Indianapolis has done with Sun King over the past few years. Their Sunlight Cream Ale is poured all over town, and is in just about every home fridge. It will be easy to find around town (some restaurants even pour their own exclusive Sun King brews), but should you desire to see the operation up close, the brewery is located just a few blocks south of the Athenaeum. All week long, Sun King is hosting tent parties outside their tasting room. Though I don’t believe the parties will feature any stars of the original “Super Bowl Shuffle” video, if that’s a dealbreaker.

Every town has a decent microbrew, but not every town has a good micro-yogurt. See, it’s easy to be a serious locavore in Indianapolis. It may be a city of a million people, but it's surrounded by farmland. If you are blessed with a car this trip, you can get from the circle to Trader’s Point Creamery, a working organic dairy farm, in the time it takes to listen to the first four songs off the Jackson 5’s "Back to Indiana" album. Once there, you’ll savor rich, decadent ice cream and drink

chocolate milk that tastes as good as the way chocolate milk used to look on TV commercials. Then, the clerk will attempt to pass you a sample of their cottage cheese. You will refuse, because you hate cottage cheese. But she will be persuasive, so you will humor her. Two hours later, you will still be standing there, in complete shock that something as simple as curds could taste so good. Then the clerk will ask you to leave, because they are closing. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/jasonpearce)

As far as our reputed Indiana pork goes, I know a great hog farm I could take you to, but I promise you it’s nowhere near as whimsical as Charlotte’s Web. The farmers mostly just stand around and talk about tax breaks. You are better off checking out Goose: The Market. This amazing little gastronomic paradise is located on a quiet street corner in the middle of Fall Creek Place, a beautiful neighborhood located about a mile north of downtown, built on a former stretch of vacant lots. In just 10 years, the area went from a bombed-out crime zone the police referred to as “Dodge City” to an actual neighborhood of new homes built in a neo-Victorian style.

Goose is the center of community life in Fall Creek Place. Inside the shop, the city’s best butcher trims Wagyu beef, local duck, and other delicacies. The shop is also home to a serious in-house charcuterie program, which can be enjoyed along with a glass of red douro. Everything they cure is spectacular, but the Sassaka, or Slovenian “bacon butter,” cannot be missed — chopped-up pork belly mixed with garlic, onion, and peppercorn, then spread on top of hot toast so that the bacon fat starts to render on the plate. By this point, you’ve forgotten all about the horrible potato skins you had at last year’s Super Bowl party.

Though Indiana has been in the driver seat of the bacon revolution, most food fads creep slowly inland from the coasts and are usually passé by the time they arrive. BBQ chicken pizza was stale by the time California Pizza Kitchen finally arrived in 1995. We got our first cupcake shop a year before the first Sex and the City movie premiered. And Starbucks even opened a location in Kuwait before they set up shop in Indy.

One recent trend that’s currently oversaturated in major markets is the speakeasy, signified by waxed mustaches, homemade bitters, and an ersatz nostalgia for a better time, when men had to buy shirt collars separately and only lived to be 43.

Thankfully, when the Ball & Biscuit opened on hip Massachusetts Avenue a year and a half ago, they eschewed all the Katzenjammer corniness of the movement and embraced what made it exciting in the first place — damn good cocktails. At B & B, you can get a perfectly prepared Aviation (with Death’s Door, a fabulous Midwestern gin) and chitchat with the bartender, not once having him mention that he makes his own suspenders. But above all this, the most appealing features of the Ball & Biscuit may be that they have no TV and one cannot smoke within its walls, two of the three ubiquitous Hoosier bar features. The third is the jukebox playing John Cougar Mellencamp’s "American Fool" album on repeat.