Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Q: Best Restaurants in Indianapolis

It's been pretty quiet around here lately. Could be the few days I took off or the hard loss on Sunday. Either way, let's get things going again! Here's one sure to stir up some discussion:

What do you think are the five best restaurants in town? Oakleys? Elements? St. Elmos? What are tops in your books in terms of food, service, atmosphere, and overall experience? Let's hear it!


keith said...

My humble opinions:

Best Fish/Most Creative: L'explorateur

Best Value/Most Consistent: Oakley's

Best Meal of Late: Elements

Best Mexican: Adobo

Best Service: Elements/Capital Grill

CorrND said...

Best Steak: Ruth's Chris

Best Seafood: The Oceanaire

Best Beer and Wings: Shallos Antique Restaurant

Best Value (and variety): R Bistro

Best Gatropub: Brugge Brasserie

Phil said...

Mama Carolla's, Brugge, Zest!, Hollyhock Hill, St. Elmos.

Those are my top 5. Yum, I'm hungry now!

braingirl said...
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braingirl said...

I was going to weigh-in on my five, but you all are doing a fine job.

sgillie said...

Great question, braingirl.

My fav 5: Oceanaire, Eleements, Taste Cafe, Santorini's Greek Kitchen, Peppy's Grill.

I haven't been to R Bistro or L'explorateur, but professional and knowledgeable eaters favor those two.

I know I harp on the subject, but steakhouses are not restaurants. They're bars with better drunkfood.

braingirl said...

Peterson's is on my list -- steakhouse or not, I challenge you to find a better all around chef in town than Karl Benko. Steaks are just a small part of what he does, although his ribeye is one of the best I've ever had.

And if you're looking at overall service and quality of experience, you can't rule out a great steakhouse dinner. Ruth's, Capital Grille, even Mo's all count for me.

Karissa said...

My non-professional but food-loving tastebuds...

Mama Carolla's
St. Elmo
14 West

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely not a chef, but here's my two cents: Brugge, Rathskellar, Petersons, 14 W, and R Bistro.

Donald said...
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Donald said...

Peterson's, Oakley's, Ichiban, Taste Cafe, Brugge

I'll agree with a few things posted above:
1. The dry-aged ribeye at Peterson's is the best hunk of beef I've had outside of Kobe and Matsusaka beef (the real thing - not the stuff that's passed off as Kobe in the states).
2. Shallos is fantastic for wings and beer

Christopher said...

My two cents:

Overall Dining Experience: L'explorateur

Best Meal close to my house: Elements

Saturday Brunch: City Cafe (I usually start looking forward to that meal sometime around Wednesday afternoon)

Late night treats: Old Point

Best Steak House when you just want to nibble: St. Elmos (just sit at the bar and get a shrimp cocktail and a bread pudding and you're in heaven!)

Michelle said...

I don't live in Indy anymore but I still visit on occasion and still have a few favorites up there.

Petite Chou I miss this place like crazy. Good food and coffee in a nice setting, it's just totally comfortable. Every time we visit Indy we have breakfast or brunch here with friends. No matter what else is on the agenda we go here.

R Bistro I never had a bad meal or bad service there. The menu is always interesting and gives me something new to try.

Brugge Never had anything better than passable service there but the food was so yummy I never really cared that much.

Erik Deckers said...

Best Steak: St. Elmo's

Best Seafood: H20 Sushi

Best Hamburger: Ram

Best Pizza: Jockamo

Best Beer: Brugge Brasserie

Anonymous said...

City Cafe
Elbow Room

I've had excellent meals elsewhere, but those four are my staples.

K said...

Oakley's, Elements, L'Explorateur, and R Bistro are consistently mentioned as the best fine dining experiences in the city (I can't comment on them because I've only been the the latter). Aren't they all essentially nouveau American cuisine? I'm sure there is lots of variation between them (and the menus of most of them change frequently), but nouveau American is my least favorite cuisine.

There are many great ethnic restaurants in Indianapolis, but they usually aren't considered to be contenders for the "best overall experience" title. I really wish we had some ethnic restaurants (like Rasika, Zaytinya, or Oyamel in DC) that would be considered destinations. Whenever someone asks where to take their wife for an anniversary dinner, or where to go for a business lunch on an expense account, general consensus (on Chowhound, for example) is R Bistro/Elements/L'Ex/Oakleys. Sure, people can go to Shalimar or Ocean World on their anniversary (I have!) but it's not seen as a special occasion type of place.

Jim said...

Brugge, Yats, R Bistro, ShelBi Street Cafe/Rooftop Garden, Santorini's Greek Kitchen

Honorable mention: Luxor, Khouri's, Bazbeaux's, Cafe Patachou, Naked Tchopstix

Brendan said...

Just 5? I'm just going to list my five favorite Asian Restaurants:

Best value for the money: Saigon

Best Indian buffet: Garam Masala Grill (egads! It's closed! Make it a tie between Udupi & Amber, then. And have a moment of silence for India Chaat House).

Best Chinese Takeout: Oriental Inn--not a shred of authenticity, but very well-prepared.

Best Chinese sit-down: Shanghai Lil (I may be on hostile territory for this choice, but I'll eat the hot & sour soup, dan dan noodles, and owner's lamb special any day)

Best restaurant where you may suffer at the hands of the dragon lady: Mama's

SCUBAchef said...

brendan said:
"Best restaurant where you may suffer at the hands of the dragon lady: Mama's"

For this category, I'll go with Ambrosia in Broad Ripple. In fact, my wife refuses to go back after getting the "evil eye" from the restaurant's Matriarch too many times. I've told her not to take it personally; she seems to give everyone the "stink eye" equally. ;-)

IndyIndie said...

Caveat: I have only included restaurants I have been to.

Best Overall: Elements

Best Value: Shelbi Street Cafe

Best Ethnic: Santorini's

Best Bar Food: Ralph's Great Divide

Best New Restaurant: BARcelona Tapas

Kevin said...

Since I have always a hard time narrowing down lists, 5 Favorite Ethnic restaurants. None of these have been mentioned yet, which of course makes me paranoid that I have horrible taste.

Village Kitchen - Pakistani
Greek Islands - Greek (for atmosphere, sure, can't help but love a place that fun)
Vaquero Chicano - Mexican
Bosphorus - Turkish
Sawasdee - Thai

Honorable mention to every Indian place in town. Probably the type of ethnic food that I eat the most often. Also to the Rathskeller to feel at one with my ancestry. Plus Machu Picchu and their ceviche. Plus El Morocco and sitting on big pillows. Also the Russia House and their subtle reminders of mom's cooking. I could go on.

Sarah said...

My top 5 currently - things have been known to change depending on the cravings:

Sakura (even if I have to wait)
Naked Tchopstix
Mama Carolla's

JNC said...

I'll go top 3 Breakfast Spots:


As for Sara's mention of Sakura... anyone else think the service is painfully slow? We went tonight and could have gone grocery shopping between miso and sushi.

Donald said...


The slow service at Sakura is part of the reason my wife and I go to Ichiban instead. The drive is about the same for us, plus better sushi and much better service.

Anonymous said...

Sakura's waitstaff stands around talking amongst themselves, while you starve. Love the food, but hate to go there because their service just plain sucks.

I'm surprised at the popularity of Mama Carolla's. Haven't been to Elements or L'Ex yet, but hope to soon, after reading such great things here.

Anonymous said...

Any list of the best restaurants has to include R Bistro. I'd also add Oakley's, Peterson's and Cafe Patachou. I'm saving a spot for L'Explorateur, because I've been drooling over the menus but haven't made my way over there yet.

Zappatista said...

Mama Carolla's, Yats, Thai Cafe, THE Country Kitchen, and by far, the best burger in town is Mr. Dans!

Kirsten said...

My favorites (mostly "ethnic" because I agree with k):
City Cafe for breakfast & the most wonderful eggs benedict (sub tomato for ham in my case)
Naked Tchopstix for the Korean dishes
Sakura for the sushi - I'd wait an hour, if I had to for Sakura.
Sawasdee for just being really yummy all the time
Zest for their extreme care with food

Other contenders (5 is so hard!): Yats, R Bistro, La Margarita (Friday night specials are good!), Santorini's, Sesame

SCUBAchef said...

Kirsten said:
"Naked Tchopstix for the Korean dishes"

Can't forget MaMa's (Korean) on Pendleton Pike. Their bulgogi can't be beat - so tender and flavorful, plus a table full of pan chan (little side dishes). Itty-bitty dried fish and peppers; don't be askeered, they're tasty. Anyone ever try the Korean place a few blocks away (Bando)?

k said...

Mine are:

1) City Cafe, because the French toast and potatoes with cajun ketchup rocks
2) Wasabi, for their inventive maki rolls (I love the Jolly Hot cream cheese-stuffed tempura fried jalapeno pepper wrapped in rice and nori)
3) India Garden - downtown location for dinner, not the lunch buffet
4) Yats - the food is amazing and they excel at customer service
5) Petite Chou

Anonymous said...

SCUBAchef said...
Kirsten said:
"Naked Tchopstix for the Korean dishes"

Can't forget MaMa's (Korean) on Pendleton Pike. Their bulgogi can't be beat - so tender and flavorful, plus a table full of pan chan (little side dishes). Itty-bitty dried fish and peppers; don't be askeered, they're tasty. Anyone ever try the Korean place a few blocks away (Bando)?

Yes! I was a long time Mama's fan, tried Bando and have not been back. Though they both are great for Korean- Bando's bulgogi is much better. I usually get the bebimbop dolsot, wintertime comfort food for me. I do miss the little dried fish at Mama's, Bando does not have them.

Kirsten said...

SCUBachef - Is MaMa's veggie-friendly? That's part of what I love about Naked Tchopstix, that and the ginger cooler.

Just wondering...

SCUBAchef said...

kirsten said:
"Is MaMa's veggie-friendly?"

Well, pretty much all the dozen or so little side dishes you get are variations on pickles/kimchi and tofu. I know they have some good soups, including miso. I can't think of any non-meat entrees, but I bet they could do something, they seem very accommodating.

Anonymous said...

I have heard the rumor that Karl is leaving Peterson's along with one of the managers. Anyone else heard that yet? He will be missed, unless he stays and does something else, PLEASE.

Donald said...

How could Karl "leave" Peterson's? I thought he owned it?

braingirl said...

Benko isn't an owner at Peterson's. (His father-in-law is.)

Donald said...


Thanks for that clarification.

If he is leaving, I hope to hell he's staying around here.

Anonymous said...

The website says he is chef/co-owner.

DBurrL said...

India Garden (Broad Ripple location)

Greek Food Lover said...

Best Mediterranean (Greek): Santorini in Fountain Square

We selected Santorini based on the internet reviews to cater a big surprise party the weekend of the Brickyard in 2006. Jeanette was very very easy to work with and ensured that everything was absolutely perfect. The food turned out to be absolutely fresh and flavorful. The selection was classic Greek with wonderful house specialties and generous portions. Our guests raved about the food. We look forward to many return visits to Santorini the next time we’re in Indianapolis.

We highly recommend this restaurant!