Ravenous is a column powered by our friends at ZESCO—and it’s always incredibly delicious.
There are so many amazing dishes in Indianapolis that it’s nearly impossible to narrow the list down to one favorite, but these eleven local women gamely did their best to try and choose their most memorable meal in the city.
KYLIE CONWAY, DAYBREAK ANCHOR/REPORTER FOR WISH-TV
This was SO hard for me! I decided to go with my very first visit to Beholder. It was my husband’s bday and Beholder was brand new at the time, so we decided to give it a try. It was unreal. We started with a crudo that was probably one of the most flavorful bites of food I’ve ever had in my life … mouth explosion! We followed with grilled octopus, a bigoli pasta with dried chicken flakes and a few other courses—it was polished off with a dessert we ordered and then a bonus one from the chef. We were there for like two and a half hours. The server was so kind to go over the menu extensively and there was NO rush to get out of there. It was exactly what you’d want in a dining experience. Extremely close seconds were meals at Bluebeard, Tinker Street, Vida, Goose the Market and Festiva. Eeeeeeek … So. Hard.
JAN BUGHER, WINE DIRECTOR/SOMMELIER AT BLUEBEARD/AMELIA’S
This goes way back, but the OGs in the room will remember Drew and Susan Goss’s restaurant Something Different, one of the first, if not THE first, chef-driven restaurants in Indianapolis. (P.S.—and a female chef at that!) To go really far back, I’m talking the original location on Keystone, in what is now Sahm’s. My husband and I were a young newly married couple, neither of us came from ‘foodie’ families (far from it!), and we had very amateurish palates, for both food and wine. But we discovered Something Different, and it really changed the trajectory of our lives, I believe. Susan’s amazing way of putting together flavors and ingredients, and Drew’s wonderfully curated wine list introduced us to a whole new culinary world. Every meal we had, and there were many, was memorable. I really believe I would not be where I am today without discovering Something Different at an early age. And although Drew and Susan left for Chicago many years ago (and have since moved to New Orleans), their legacy lives on in those who worked for them including Arthur Black, the only Advanced Sommelier in Indiana, Tony Hanslits of Nicole Taylor’s (and many previous posts), David Poore of St. Elmo Steak House, Simon O’Grady of Sahm’s Restaurant Group, and Steve Oakley & Chris Hopkins of Oakleys Bistro.
CHEF WHITNEY BARNETT, OWNER OF CIBO CATERING & EVENTS AND CREATOR OF THE POSITIVE FOODIE VIBES BLOG
As a chef, I love trying all the amazing food Indy has to offer. We have everything from gourmet dishes to prime cut steaks and deli sandwiches. I would say the best meal I have ever had in Indy was at Oakleys Bistro. Before the pandemic I would frequent there, and during the lockdown my family and I ordered carryout. I got a slow cooked short rib and it was so tender and delicious! The texture on every piece of vegetable was perfection! Any meal from Oakleys is divine, and it is definitely my favorite local spot.
ANDRÉA HOMOYA, FOUNDER AND CEO OF ASH & ELM CIDER CO.
My favorite meal in Indy was at Bluebeard way back in 2012. My husband and I had just gotten engaged and had a celebratory dinner with both of our families. While everything was great, the standout was skate wing with a brown butter and lemon sauce, capers, and parsley. I hadn’t had skate wing before and it was a revelation! Melt-in-your-mouth, crispy on the outside, and the sauce was perfect … we ended up having a tiny wedding and did the reception in our home with local chef Brad Gates making an amazing dinner for our 16 guests—our only request was that he include a similar dish on the menu, and once again it didn’t disappoint!
V. TAYBRON, BAKER, FOOD BLOGGER AND OWNER OF SAVOR V
One of the best places I have eaten has been Milktooth Indy. That cornbread waffle has been truly blessed by the gods! I could honestly eat the buttermilk whip with a spoon if someone wasn’t looking at me. Sitting outside during this season is great due to social distancing. My family and I really enjoy this place.
JENNA UNRUE, OWNER AND CHEF OF 4 BIRDS BAKERY
Choosing a favorite meal might be the hardest thing ever! One that holds a special place in my heart is the Dan Dan noodle dish at Rook. The Sichuan pepper leaves a delicious, tingly sensation in your mouth, the egg yolk creates a creamy sauce and the spices are always just enough to keep you wanting more! The fresh veggies are a nice crunchy balance to the perfectly cooked noodles and there is a toasted flavor that I just can’t get enough of.
ASIA COFFEE, CAKE ARTIST AND OWNER OF CAKES BY COFFEE
I had the pleasure of going to Mimi Blue for the first time several months ago, where I had the best meal I’ve eaten in Indy. I tried the four (meat)balls, and instantly fell in love with the turkey ball with sriracha aioli sauce! It was so good that I ended up back at Mimi Blue the following week for more turkey/sriracha aioli meatballs!
MANDY SELKE & CARLY SWIFT, CO-FOUNDERS AND OWNERS OF JUST POP IN!
We love the Thai Café in Broad Ripple! It’s a staple with loads of vegan options. We always know that we are going to get a delicious, hot and consistent meal. It’s a true treasure in our little village! Our favorite dishes are the Yum Tofu Salad and the Padd Prik Bai Horapa.
RENEE WILMETH, BOOK EDITOR, WINE WRITER, AND NATIONAL OFFICER, CHAINE DES ROTISSEURS
Every year around New Year’s, a friend and I compile our personal “top 10 meals of the year” list. For me, a great meal is a combination of the atmosphere, the company, the service, and, of course, a great chef. A best meal for my personal top 10 list is one that leaves us still thinking or talking about it the next day. My best meal in Indianapolis? So many good ones! We’ve had so many great ones at the old L’Explorateur, Recess, Vida, Nesso, Late Harvest Kitchen, and these days, Beholder.
And while I’d say I couldn’t pinpoint one “best meal” in Indy, I’d say a few recent standouts in the past year have been at Beholder and at Late Harvest Kitchen. Chef Ryan Nelson is incredibly talented. He created a private Spanish-themed lunch for us BC (before COVID) and it was truly one of the best meals I’ve had in this city. And for me, dinner at Beholder is the total package. Inventive food that works (or at least provides for great discussion), a great wine program, service that’s dialed in, and an interesting space with a cool vibe. A recent fave? New Year’s Eve with all the trimmings, plus caviar and French fries!
AMANDA VAN HORN, PERSONAL CHEF AND OWNER OF THE LILAC KITCHEN
The best meal I’ve ever had in Indiana has to be the experience of Bonge’s Tavern. We tailgate, with cocktails and snacks in the parking lot, then go inside and feast on crab cakes, wedge salads, and Perkinsville Pork. I think I’ve only been able to have desserts a couple of times because we are so stuffed by the end! It’s truly one of my favorite places to meet friends.
Sidenote: I have to include this for pure nostalgia, but I’ll never turn down a meal at MCL. My grandparents took me there from the time I could chew until they both passed on from this world. I can’t smell fried chicken without tearing up. Just biting into a warm cinnamon roll makes my heart ache for them.
CAROL EAKIN, GENERAL MANAGER OF FOH OPERATIONS FOR THE FLYING CUPCAKE
The best meal I’ve ever had was at The Lemon Bar. I started with their top seller—Thai chili Brussels sprouts. This is the perfect app to share … or enjoy for yourself, which I definitely did! Fresh Brussels sprouts are fried so they are crispy, and then tossed with a Thai chili sauce that is sweet, spicy and keeps you wanting more. Then I moved on to the Chicken Salad Sandwich, which is the absolute best I’ve ever had. Chicken is mixed with pistachios, goat cheese, grapes, and fresh tarragon. The combination of fresh herbs, nuts, and tangy goat cheese is so delicious, and feels very light and refreshing. This is not your mother’s chicken salad! And of course, to finish the meal I had to get a slice of The Flying Cupcake’s Lemon Prosecco Cake. A light, fruity cake with a layer of cheesecake decorated in swirls of pink and yellow lemon buttercream, it was the perfect end to a perfect meal. I cannot wait for them to re-open in the near future so I can relive this special meal.