The Best Food and Drink in Indiana for 2018 from The Best Food and Drink in Indiana for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Indiana for 2018 Gallery
Photos Modified: istockphoto.com
The Best Food and Drink in Indiana for 2018
In Indiana, there’s never a shortage of sports events to watch. It’s the home of the Pacers and the Colts — two huge national sports teams based in Indianapolis. The state attracts racing fans, as well, home to the famous Indy 500. And that’s not to mention major college sports programs at Indiana University, Purdue University, and of course Notre Dame. Where there are sports, there’s beer and food — and in Indiana’s case, it’s some of the best. We’ve rounded up the best of the state’s eats as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
While Indiana does have some of the best sports bars in America, it has lots of non-sports-inspired fare, as well. Being a state in the heart of the Midwest, Indiana is spattered with the usual Midwestern restaurant favorites, like Applebee’s and Arby’s. But in the two metropolises of the otherwise farm-dominated state, there are many impressive and delectable dishes. Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are Indiana’s most populous urban areas, home to many of the items on this list.
Indianapolis has an emerging food scene and showcases some surprisingly good eats. Its best steakhouse was recently named by the Travel Channel as the "world's spiciest food." In 2012, the same establishment was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as one of "America's Classics." Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and farmers markets to its best dive bar and craft brewery in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state.
Facebook/Red Key Tavern
Best Bar: Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis)
The Red Key Tavern is an institution that has been in the Settle family since 1951, and it truly is a family establishment. The bar’s late proprietor, Russ Settle, was famous for his list of “the rules” that every patron had to follow. His wife Dollia has been the bartender for decades now, and along with her son Jim and granddaughter Leslie, she continues to enforce them today: no feet on the furniture, no chairs in the aisle, cash only, hang up your coat and hat, use your indoor voice, don’t swear, and, most importantly, the bartender is always right! Frequented by locals, touring musicians, and writers, the bar is known for its ice-cold bottled beer and straightforward cocktails. The place itself is a throwback. From the neon sign over the door (four musical notes depict the old boozy song “How Dry I Am”) to the post-war selection of 45s on the jukebox to the original 1950s Formica tables and straight-back chairs, the bar’s décor has remained virtually untouched since the day Settle bought the place. The linoleum-tiled floor has a path worn between the jukebox and restrooms, and there’s plenty of kitsch here, too, like the stuffed antelope head behind the bar and the World War II-era model planes hanging from the ceiling. Don’t miss the cheeseburgers — cooked on a flattop grill — or Dollie’s potato salad.
Courtesy of 3 Floyds
Best Beer: 3 Floyds Brewing Company
3 Floyds Brewing Company releases its Dark Lord every year at the April Dark Lord Day festival. Those lucky enough to procure a bottle will embrace the dark side with a dense, velvety mouthfeel and dark fruit and chocolate flavors. It’s our 18th best beer in the world.
Best Burger: Double Cheeseburger, Workingman's Friend, Indianapolis
In business since 1918, this Indianapolis old-timer reportedly got its name because owner Louis Stamatkin allowed regulars to run a tab until payday; the fact he supplied them with homemade whiskey probably didn’t hurt, either. Nowadays its run by Louis’ granddaughter Becky, and it’s turning out stellar burgers that haven’t changed since day one, still cooked on the original grill. Patties are hand-formed from fresh ground chuck and smashed down on the grill until they’re essentially all crust, deep and dark and salty and loaded with umami. Order a double and you’ll receive two cheese-topped patties stacked on top of each other, with a segment of bun in between to absorb some of the juice. It’s a beaut.
Best Chicken and Waffles: Maxine's Chicken & Waffles, Indianapolis
The chicken and waffles at the lively Maxine’s are things of beauty — a waffle (which you can also order filled with blueberry or sweet potato) balances three huge savory fried chicken wings, and house-made peach butter ties it all together. If that’s not “a taste of love in every bite,” as the restaurant promises, we’re not sure what is.
Photo by David B. via Yelp
Best Chinese Restaurant: Asian Snack, Indianapolis
One of Indianapolis’ biggest hidden culinary gems, Asian Snack is hiding in plain sight inside an international grocery store, Saraga Market. Find more details on Asian Snack here.
Just a small counter with a few seats, Asian Snack caters primarily to Chinese shoppers and serves home-style food that’s unadulterated for the American palate. Beef pancakes, mung bean cakes, Tianjin pork buns, sesame balls, braised duck wings, sautéed pig kidney, Geleshan-style spicy chicken, Xiangjiang-style fried chicken chop... If you’re looking for real Chinese food in Indianapolis, this is where to go.
Three Floyds Brewing Company
Best Craft Brewery: Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster
Three Floyds Brewing Company is well known not just for what’s in the bottle, but for the amazing label artwork as well. Two of their most famous brews, Zombie Dust and Dark Lord Imperial Stout, regularly land on best beer lists around the world. The super-hopped Zombie Dust, a pale ale, “will be the only respite after the zombie apocalypse.” Dark Lord Imperial Stout is available at the brewery only one day a year, Dark Lord Day (May 13 this year).
Best Cupcake: The Flying Cupcake, Indianapolis
With a striking signature pastel color palette, The Flying Cupcake will fly away with your heart after just one nibble. The cupcakes are delectably labeled with creative names that will entice you to keep trying more. Try the It's Not a HoHo, a chocolate cupcake filled with vanilla cream and covered in chocolate ganache, or the Chocolate Snoball, a chocolate cupcake with coconut cream, topped with chocolate cream cheese and coconut. For the slightly less decadent, but equally delicious Coconut Snowball Cupcake recipe, click here.
Best Dive Bar: The Red Key Tavern
The Red Key Tavern in Indianapolis has a few rules you need to follow. Hang up your coat and hat, use your indoor voice, don’t swear, and, most importantly, the bartender is always right. If you can handle all of that, enjoy the ice cold bottles of beer and cheeseburgers cooked on a flattop grill.
Photo by Melanie P. via Yelp
Best Doughnut: Long’s Bakery, Indianapolis
Best Fried Chicken Place: Hollyhock Hill, Indianapolis
Since it opened in 1928, Hollyhock Hill has grown from a 30-guest restaurant to one that holds 70 patrons to, finally, its current 150-seat location in Indianapolis. But while the seating count has changed multiple times, the "Hoosier pan-fried chicken" recipe has stayed the same. This four-ingredient chicken is cut through the breast crosswise instead of lengthwise, leaving the wishbone intact.
Facebook/ Fresh City Market-West Lafayette
Best Grocery Store: The Fresh Market
A national chain, yes, but the stores always seem to settle in with the local community at each location. This store is the consistent favorite throughout the state, but in Indianapolis, the local Fresh Market has been voted in the top five best grocery stores for eight years running. The stores that bested it were smaller, more expensive, specialty food markets.
Best Italian Restaurant: Diavola, Indianapolis
This upscale pizzeria and wine bar has been keeping the locals happy with some spectacular wood-fired pizzas since 2015. Just like in Naples, the pizzas cook in an 800-degree oven and come out bubbling and blistered after 90 seconds. The oven is also turning out some excellent pita bread, as one of the owners is Egyptian. There are 17 different pizza styles on offer, but the best one to sample is the Margherita, with simple tomato sauce, high-quality mozzarella (make it burrata for an extra $2.50), and basil; two different crust styles (original and thin crust) are also available. (As you might expect, we highlighted Diavola as the best pizza in the state for 2017 as well.) Other must-trys include house-made polpette, seafood ravioli, and whatever the calzone of the day is.
Best Jewish Deli: Shapiro’s, Indianapolis
Shapiro’s Delicatessen and Cafeteria has been serving loyal customers in Indianapolis since 1905. Best known for its cured meats and sandwiches piled high on rye or egg buns, it’s also world famous for its smoked pickled tongue. Their corned beef is sourced from Vienna Beef in Chicago and the pastrami is shipped in from Brooklyn. Their most famous creation, however, is the peppered beef, which is made by salting, washing, curing, peppering, smoking, and seasoning lean beef, and it’s a must-order.
Most Expensive Restaurant: St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, Indianapolis
This Indianapolis landmark has been going strong since 1902, but prices have gone up just a little bit since then. The least expensive steak on the menu, a 14-ounce rib-eye, costs $39, and the bone-in porterhouse tips the scales at $59. If you want to pair your filet with a lobster tail, be prepared to drop $79.
Best Pasta Dish: Mama Carolla’s, Indianapolis: Spaghetti and Meatballs
If you’re looking for a big serving of hearty Italian fare in Indianapolis, look no further than the warm and inviting Mama Carolla’s. Built as a model home in the 1920s and still boasting plenty of original fixtures, the family-run restaurant is currently celebrating its 20th year turning out consistently delicious classic red-sauce fare. Start with the popular garlic cheese bread, and then try the spaghetti and meatballs, a twist of perfectly sauced spaghetti topped with two house-made meatballs and an extra ladle of chunky sauce.
Best Soup: Soupremacy, Indianapolis
This low-key Monument Circle storefront is a haven for in-the-know locals, who flock here on their lunch hour to see what soups will be on offer that week (more than 100 are served over the course of a year). Only fresh, all-natural ingredients go into their soups, and favorites include Italian kale parmesan with homemade Italian sausage, creamy chicken velvet, and sherry-kicked lobster bisque.
Best Steakhouse: St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis
Setting foot into St. Elmo is like stepping back in time — to 1902, to be exact. The saloon-style décor hasn’t changed save for a '90s-era expansion, and neither has the menu: There’s a wide selection of wet-aged steaks and chops, a classic shrimp cocktail with sinus-clearing cocktail sauce and saltines, a wedge salad, and a loaded baked potato, all served with the professionalism you’d expect from a place that’s been doing it for more than 100 years (one waiter has been on-staff since 1976). St. Elmo is steakhouse-meets-comfort food, an inviting place where time really stands still. However, that commitment to keeping the past alive doesn’t mean that quality suffers; the menu proudly displays the names of 17 local sources for the food served.
Photo by Allison F. via Yelp
Best Taco: Indy Tacos, Indianapolis: Mole
Behind perhaps the most unassuming storefront in Indy hide the best tacos in the state — naturally, at the best Mexican restaurant in the state — and the daily line out the door during the lunch rush proves it. The menu is simple and straightforward, but it changes often to allow for some creative spins like mango chicken, steak poblano, and fish tacos. But when the chicken mole taco is available, don’t miss it: The chicken is juicy and flavorful, and the homemade mole negro is top-notch. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.