INDIANAPOLIS -- If you haven’t noticed, 2016 was a big year for Indianapolis’ dining scene. Several of the city’s restaurants received national recognition, like Milktooth, and the first ever mac and cheese festival sold out not once, but twice in a matter of seconds.
The city was also named one of the hottest food cities of 2016 and Travel and Leisure named Indy one of the best places to travel in 2017 – simply because of the local offerings.
To reflect back on some of Indy’s tasty dishes, we’ve compiled a list of both brand new eateries along with some classics we just can’t get enough of.
Here are the eight best restaurants we ate at in 2016.
Known for its hip Mexican-style cuisine and cocktails, Nada has changed the game for Indy’s restaurant scene. With a packed dining room most nights, this eatery located in the heart of downtown, has the complete package - great food and drinks in a lively, colorful atmosphere. You’ll find traditional items like tacos and margaritas along with those you wouldn’t expect like mac and cheese, fried chicken and French toast on their brunch menu. Oh, and if you’re looking for a morning treat, the Tequila Sunrise on their brunch menu is to die for.
2. Rooster’s Kitchen
As one of the newer additions to the Mass Ave community, Rooster’s Kitchen it making quite the impression. We’re sure by the name you think they’re serving up chicken. Sure they are, but they specialize in smoked meats, particularly brisket and bacon. The real star of the show is Rooster’s “build-ya-own mac and cheese.” Add chopped brisket, diced pork, house made bacon bits, veggies and even a fried egg to your cheesy goodness.
3. Salt on Mass
Chances are when you think of fresh seafood, you certainly don’t think of the Midwest. Well, Salt on Mass will make you think twice. Listed as Mass Ave’s first seafood restaurant, Executive Chief Neil Andrews, former chef at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, kicked off the grand opening with a bang. Salt specializes in intricate dishes like Alder Plank Grilled Copper River Coho Salmon and Spicy Alaskan Crab Dip, all in a polished, casual environment.
Named one of the best restaurants in the world by Conde Nast, and a special favorite by celebrity chef Michael Symon, Milktooth as stolen the hearts of many Hoosiers and those around the country. Described as a brunch-and-lunch-only eatery, this dining room is constantly packed and they don’t accept reservations. So what’s all the fuss about? All we’ve got to say is: Dutch baby pancakes, and sourdough pearl sugar waffles…that’s what all the fuss is about. Diners adore Milktooth’s menu and those with a changing palate will enjoy the “at the moment” menu that rotates often.
5. District Tap
We would love to say District Tap's 60 beer offerings are the only reason we dine there, but this place is more than beer. You’ll find the classics on the menu like hot wings, soft braided pretzels and sliders, but some of their main dishes are loved by many. At District Tap you can try a double bone-in 14 oz center cut pork chop, Cajun spiced chicken and waffles, a variety of tap street tacos and mac and cheese pots. If for some reason you’re not ready for a full meal, take a seat on the outdoor patio, lounge on the couches and sip on your favorite drink with friends.
6. Open Society Public House
At first glance, Open Society at the corner of 49th Street and College Avenue, looks like your typical café. In the summer the floor-to-ceiling windows open to the outdoors to welcome warm temperatures and in the winter you’ll find customers on their laptops sipping on lattes. Once you take a closer look, you’ll learn Open Society is a taste of South America. You’ll find internationally-sourced coffee, tea and wine in addition to crafted dishes like Nino Pobre: a slow-cooked brisket, fried egg and fennel slaw topped with mango cherry barbecue sauce, chipotle mayo, chimichurri, and a Brioche bun. Open Society also offers a separate Sunday brunch menu and vegan options as well.
7. Ezra’s Enlightened Café
Raw, vegan, gluten free and organic is what you’ll find at Ezra’s Enlightened Café in the heart of Broad Ripple. You’ll walk into this petite, brightly painted garage to find large leafy greens ready for smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices, slow cookers melting together delicate flavors and a dessert case – in fact, it’s the mecca of desserts. Each piece of chocolate hazelnut cake and triple chocolate brownies are made without gluten, dairy or processed sugar. And even better than that, they’re organic.
8. Metro Diner
After being featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” Metro Diner has expanded to several cities in Florida, where it was founded. In 2016, the restaurant known for its fast-paced dining room opened two locations in Indiana – on the north side of Indy and in Greenwood. This place screams old-school diner with its black-and-white checkered floors, but serves up a surprise with modern, home-style cuisine. Try traditional favorites like eggs benedict and omelets or exclusive plates you’ll only find at Metro Diner like the Yo Hala on the Square, Charleston Shrimp & Grits or Big Bern’s Fried Pork Sandwich.