Thursday, October 09, 2008

Indianapolis: More Cool Dining Trends

So, the other day, calls me and asks about dining trends. (Check out Is Indy Cool for my answers.) They were already wed to dining in the dark which was pretty much over by the time CSI did an episode on it two years ago. But, I love the street vendor cart idea (Hello, King David Dogs?) and, as usually happens, thought of a few others after I talked to the fabulous Jenny Elig. What cool dining trends could work in Indianapolis?

* Prix fixe menus: Just today, Michael Bauer at the SF Chron has a blog post on how popular fixed price menus are becoming. They help a restaurant control costs and run a better operation, and if you love food and the chef, give you some treats they might not normally serve.

* One-night-only restaurants: Right now, the hottest reservation in New York is Tom: Tuesday Dinner. Tom Collichio wanted to open a small NY-style restaurant but the economics didn't work, so he's opening his own "restaurant" once every two weeks in the private dining room at Craft. He's blocked out every other Tuesday until the end of this year and will serve dinner for 40 at $150-$250 per person. It's brilliant, really. In a world where so many of our best chefs are successful because they can run great restaurants and teach staff to recreate their dishes, it's even more alluring to have those same great chefs actually cooking as if they ran a small neighborhood joint. Think this would work here? You bet it would. Get Greg Hardesty or Karl Benko into a restaurant kitchen doing dinner a couple of nights a month, put the word out, and watch the reservations board light up! (Collichio posts his menu on the website when it's ready.)

* Izakaya: I'm still waiting for someone to execute izakaya -- the original Japanese salaryman bar concept. Sakes, beer, sushi, small plates, in a casual Japanese-style pub environment. What's not to like?

Unlike some of the commenters over at, I don't think these trends haven't wondered to Indy because we Midwesterners want something of substance. I think it's yet another symptom in our somewhat stagnant food scene. Nothing's going to change if we, the food lovers, don't demand better from our chefs and restaurants. Come on, people! Let's get creative -- what are some other hot -- and smart -- food trends we should be seeing in Indianapolis?


Greg said...

I was once laughed at for my Hot Dog cart idea.

I love the food trend from Toronto, where they cook their 1/2 lb sausages on an open flame, this made the carts warm to approach in colder weather and they tasted way better than any other street hot dog I've ever had.

I'd want the hot dogs to be gourmet, and hand created, much like Hot Dougs in Chicago or chef Eley at Goose the Market. The condiments would be much more exotic as well. (this sadly cannot be under current laws, because our venders are placed via a lottery system and therefore you'd have to change location from season to season)

My other trend is more of a bar. I think Indianapolis needs a bar that celebrates their Gangster past.

Dillinger was rumored to have shot up the basement of the slippery noodle.

We need a bar that's a speakeasy, much like Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco. This place requires you to make reservations in order to get in with the current password, and if you want to just hang out in the hidden library - just tell them the password for the library, which never changes.

Jim said...

I would *kill* to have an izakaya-style restaurant in Indy, preferably downtown. Some of my favorite dining experiences have been at this type of restaurant on the LES of Manhattan.

bjhawk said...

FYI . . .

King David Dogs has a brand new grill cart to offer our gourmet 1/4 lb. all beef hot dogs and we are working on finding the right location for it.

On a side note as well as a shameless plug, the cart is also available for private parties and/or events of any size.

Our favorite food trend besides tubed meat is the recent resurgence of Steak Tartare.

Country Mouse City Mouse Indy said...

I know a certain chef that owns a certain restaurant who has a special appreciation for sake. I can see him doing a really bang up job of an Izakaya joint! Plant THAT bug in his ear!

silver said...

I don't know how the economics/logistics/staff/prep/etc would work, but I thought that "rotating chef" idea would be awesome for the Puck's space. Just dinner 2-3 nights a week with a featured chef every night.

One trend I'd like to see isn't a trend at all. Why isn't there one single bistro? Just one. One little, tiny French bistro, maybe a few cafe tables on a sidewalk. I'm not asking for much.

braingirl said...

re: rotating chef/Puck's space.

I agree 100% but they'd need to ensure they used chefs who are a draw. Frankly, just getting a really top notch chef driven fine dining restaurant in that space would make it more of a destination than Puck's ever was.