It's far too easy to fall into the same sad box of pad thai when cooking is just not an option after a long week. Chris Blinde, executive chef at Upland Brewing, is here to save you. He curated this list of some of the best little known spots around our part of Indiana.
Tucked into the back of a Latin market on Pike Plaza Rd., the Restaurant Guanajuato serves some of the best Mexican food in Indy. If burritos and tacos are your thing, then you will not be disappointed. The real highlights are the traditional coastal dishes. The oysters, seafood cocktails, and ceviche make the perfect appetizer, and the Molcajetes de Mariscos, a hot rock bowl filled with snow crab legs, prawns, shrimp, and tilapia is enough to feed two. Although the portions are large, the prices are low (the Molcajetes sells for $19.99). For those who enjoy margaritas, there is a full bar with top shelf tequilas, and for the beer drinkers a selection of Mexican and domestic.
5210 West Pike Plaza Road, Indianapolis
Walking into Pho 36 you may be struck by the simplicity: A counter and a few tables fill the small room, and the walls are practically bare. The food however, is anything but simple. The complex flavors of the pho broth, which is prepared for days, and served with noodles and your choice of meats and vegetables, are mind-blowing, and worth the trip to the west side. Accompanied by bean sprouts, fresh mint, and cilantro, a small portion sells for $6.99 and is perfect for one.
Although the Pho is the obvious star, the Bahn Mi deserve equal praise. With beef, pork, and chicken options, these sandwiches are topped with carrots, jalapeños, cilantro, and chicken pate'. This is one of the best sandwiches in Indy, and at $3.75 for a six-inch, one of the best deals.
9655 East Highway 36, Avon
I know not everyone is willing to drive an hour for a good pizza, but for those who share my unconditional love for a good pie, this is a drive you should make! While most places are trying to find "the next big thing" in gourmet pizza, Perillo's, in New Salem, is serving the classics to perfection. Available in NY style and deep dish Sicilian, the pizzas are a throwback to east coast pizzerias of old.
The cozy dining room is homey and welcoming, and is the perfect place for a date night. If you're not in the mood for pizza, the oven baked sandwiches and pastas are equally as delicious, and make sure to save room for a cannoli. Beer and wine are available with a rotating selection of locals, domestics and imports.
5 S. Broadway St., North Salem
Hands down the best Cuban sandwich in Indy. Seriously. Havana Café, located at 38th and Moller, specializes in Cuban and Caribbean favorites such as fried plantains, fried yucca, oxtail, and empanadas. The slow-roasted pork, used for the Cuban sandwich, is as juicy and flavorful as any I've ever tasted, and the rice and beans are cooked and seasoned to perfection. Everything on the menu is delicious, and with an average entrée price of $10 or less, makes it totally worth it. After enjoying a wonderful meal, be sure to indulge in one of their specialty coffees, the perfect way to end a fine Cuban meal.
3839 Moller Rd., Indianapolis
From the décor to the flaming Saganaki, Opa!, Avon's new Greek restaurant screams authenticity. The large menu ranges from Mediterranean favorites such as gyros, dolmades, hummus, and calamari, to savory greek pastries, and house specialties featuring lamb, beef, and chicken. For the pickier eaters, otherwise known as children, there are a number of American offerings, such as a cheeseburger with fries, making this a perfect family dining destination. To pair with the food offerings, beer and wine are offered, as well as coffee drinks for after dinner.
7900 US-36, Avon
My Thai Café
Bloomington is full of amazing Asian restaurants, and My Thai Café is one of the best. The pork dumplings, served fried or steamed, are perfect every time, so too are the spring rolls, and the chicken satay with cucumber and peanut sauce. The flavorful curries have balance between the coconut milk and spice, and the Tom Yum is amazing, with flavors of Lemongrass, Galangal root and Kafir Lime leaves.
Most dishes are available with chicken, pork, or tofu making the menu extremely vegetarian friendly, and for the drinkers, beer and wine are available. Thai iced teas and coffees are also available and the average dinner with a drink is less than twenty bucks.
402 E. 4th St., Bloomington
Falafel's Middle Eastern Grill
Falafels blends a number of Middle Eastern cuisines, representing the different cultures and flavors found in Jerusalem. The Hummus with olive oil, tahini, and paprika, served with freshly baked pita is an obvious choice, but the Babganush, the eggplant version, is every bit as delicious. The shawarma (available in chicken, or beef and lamb) is cooked on a rotisserie making it juicy and tender. All of the proteins are seasoned to perfection and are served either as an entrée with asparagus and a side or as a pita sandwich. For dessert there's gelato and house baklava, but best of all is the Turkish coffee. The aroma of the cardamom, that bittersweet flavor, definitely a place for lovers of the Turkish brew.
430 E. Kirkwood Ave.,
Rush Hour Station
There are always plenty of sandwich shops in college towns, but not many like this. Rush Hour station fuses Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese flavors to create a wide variety of proteins and sauces, with which to create your own sandwich. Beef, chicken, pork and even Spam are among the pristinely prepared proteins, and the sauces range from lemongrass to BBQ. The Pho is also amazing, and if you're having a bad day, try the anger management, a spicy broth made with soy and chili, served with peanuts and a protein of your choice.
There are a variety of noodle and salad entrees available, and I'm sure they're amazing, but I've never made it past the sandwiches! Vietnamese and Thai iced coffees and teas are available.
421 E. 3rd St., Bloomington
No Coast Reserve
While people in Bloomington know all about No Coast, It won't be their secret for long. Opened in 2013, but recently relocated to a beautiful spot on the square, the goal is to highlight fresh ingredients available in Bloomington. Under the umbrella of the Butchers Block Butcher Shop, they are able to source fantastic fresh seafood, such as oysters, clams, and crab legs, and with the new smokehouse operation, are curing their own meats. The menu changes with availability of ingredients, and there is a rotating list of beers and wines to compliment any dish. Prices are great, but this is not a budget dinner, this is destination dining.
105 N. College Ave,
King Dough Pizza
In a town that's knows its pizza, there's a new king. After moving into the spot vacated by the closing of Max's, King Dough has certainly filled the void. The wood fired pizzas come in many unique and delicious varieties such as "Stinky Pete" with olive oil, cherry tomato, garlic, and four different cheeses or "Grape and Gorgonzola" with grapes, gorgonzola, prosciutto, arugula, and honey. All of the ingredients are made fresh daily, and it shows in the final result.
Starting out of a makeshift food truck their concept has always been simple, "pizza is pizza; but at the end of the day you can still do something special with it!" And that's exactly what they do.
108 W. 6th St., Bloomington
New to the Bloomington scene is this wonderful sushi spot. Although it's not large, the food speaks volumes. The fish is some of the freshest I've had in Bloomington, and the menu varies from basic rolls and Sashimi, to chefs specials like eel steak and salmon. There is private seating available, but the joy for me is to watch the chefs at work behind the sushi bar. These experts greet every guest who enters, while craftily slicing and arranging fish in beautiful geometries on the plates.
A very nice selection of beer, wine, and sake complement the menu well, and prices are great as far as sushi goes.
309 E. 3rd St., Bloomington