Elise (my better half to those unfamiliar) and I make it a point to try as many of Indianapolis’ locally owned restaurants as possible. Those that follow comprise some of my personal favorites among the many we’ve visited, and revisited, over the years. If you live in or are visiting Indy, click any of the bolded names and check out their Facebook pages. With the exception of Ichiban’s, they all offer a nice overview of the restaurants themselves, along with the food that got them into this blog post.
Mama Carolla’s & Napoli Villa – I should probably play favorites here, as I’m friends with the family that owns Napoli Villa. In reality, though, both of these restaurants offer excellent Italian food. A Broad Ripple mainstay, Mama Carolla’s makes excellent use of space in a quaint, renovated house, along with offering seating on the wraparound porch and rear courtyard, weather-permitting. Napoli Villa calls Beech Grove home and recent remodeling gives it a classic, yet contemporary feel. Either will leave you fully satisfied when in the mood for a quiet evening of Italian fare.
Top recommendations: Walnut-encrusted tilapia with blackberry sauce at Mama Carolla’s and angel hair pasta with spicy vodka sauce at Napoli Villa
Ichiban Noodles – Most sushi lovers of Indianapolis know of Sakura. Far fewer know of the follow-up endeavor of its former head chef. Featuring the same high level of quality that made Sakura such a success, Ichiban offers a much quieter (and less expensive) experience, with limited seating in a small, there’s-no-way-that’s-a-restaurant building in the Castleton area. Expect quick and courteous service and top notch sushi.
Top recommendation: the Bob roll
Shapiro’s Deli – People who love reubens may want to stay away from Shapiro’s. Especially people who don’t live in Indy. They’ll ruin every other reuben for you. The best example of this I know of comes via the owners of a wonderful Victorian B&B that Elise and I stayed at in the historic district of Louisville several years ago. Once a month, the owners make the four-hour round trip, for the sole purpose of having reubens at Shapiro’s. They’re that good.
Only recommendation: a reuben (Seriously, no matter how good anything else there is, trying something else means you’re not having a reuben. Which is a crime.)
The Rathskeller – Best known for its large outdoor biergarten and top selection of beers, the Rathskeller also offers excellent traditional German cuisine. If you want wurst, schnitzel or sauerbraten in Indy, this is the place to go. A popular venue for wedding receptions, in addition to the biergarten, it offers a substantial dining area in the historic Athaneaeum building.
Top recommendation: Jaegerschnitzel
South of Chicago Pizza & Bazbeaux – Pizza’s diverse enough to need multiple entries. For Chicago deep dish in Indy, South of Chicago can’t be beat. A very recent addition to our city, it’s the best pizza I’ve had here and it ought to soon become a mainstay. Bazbeaux, on the other hand, is an Indianapolis staple with locations downtown and in Broad Ripple. It can’t be beat for thinner crust pizza.
Top recommendations: Deep dish with Italian sausage at South of Chicago and quattro formaggio at Bazbeaux.
Mudbugs Cajun Cafe – In the interest of full disclosure, Elise’s parents and sister own Mudbugs. That has no effect on my claim that it’s the best authentic Cajun food in the metropolitan area. If you want a true Cajun experience, you simply must attend one of their crawfish boils or alligator days during the summer. And for those thinking that they don’t like spicy food, most authentic Cajun food isn’t spicy unless you want to put some sauce on it, just fyi!
Top recommendations: 2 lbs of crawfish when available, pick-3 platter with jambalya, gumbo and red beans & rice, if not a crawfish day