Okay, so maybe nothing at the mall appealed to your taste. That's okay, because we have plenty of quick and delicious spots to grab a bite when you're done with your shopping. From Nora to Castleton, you can get on 86th street and drive left or right (and then onto 82nd street) and find a whole bunch of great dining. Here are a few highlights from three shopping hot zones on the Northside of the city.
You can eat just about every fish in the sea at this spot, even specialties like sea urchin (uni). Though it's slightly off the beaten path and, yes, in a strip mall, we think this spot would give any of the other downtown sushi bars a run for their money. And before you start shopping around at any new ramen spot, start with the bowls they serve here. Truly excellent, authentic Japanese food.
6414 E. 82nd St., 576-0556
The wings and the beer! Get all the wings and all the beer! And get a pizza to share because it's really, really good here. Ale Emporium is also home to one of the most insane beer lists in the city, and yes, you guessed it, it's in a strip mall. This one seems to be especially well-placed, as it's nestled between several furniture and craft stores. These places are known to wreak havoc on the average shopper's sanity, so you'll want as many beverage choices as you can get.
8617 Allisonville Road, 842-1333, ale-emporium.com
They serve just about any food you could want. They've got a thousand beers to offer you, and they'll mix you just about any cocktail from the full bar. This is your ultimate crowd-pleasing, completely delicious, independently-owned bar to get both food and a healthy holiday buzz on. It's just off of the strip, too, so you're unlikely to encounter as many crowds as you would closer to the mall.
7381 Shadeland Ave., 841-7427, alibisgrill.com
It's obvious that you can make anything more delicious by putting it inside a crepe. Here, you can get the traditional stuff like cheese, ham and mushrooms. You can also indulge in a pizza crepe or get one filled with, of course, Nutella. We love the decor of this cute little joint across the street from Castleton Mall.
5955 E. 82nd St., 913-9797, crepeguys.com
You have to try this lunch buffet. You have to. It's Afghani- and Himalayan-style meat kabobs and a whole bunch of Middle Eastern sides and condiments. I promise if you exit the mall and just walk across the parking lot, you'll find a new cuisine you might not have encountered before. Kabobs aren't just cubes of meat on a stick. They're a larger part of a delicious food culture that is a thousand times better at anything you'll find in the mall.
6066 82nd St., 577-9610, himalayakabobkorner.com
Harry & Izzy's
We love our hometown St. Elmo's sibling, and you can now get your steak and shrimp on at their Northside location. They remade the beautiful, red-and-leather interior with the same gorgeous bar. We also remind weary shoppers that they make a great martini or four, because you've almost certainly just been fighting over deals at Nordstrom Rack.
4050 E. 82nd St., 915-8045, harryandizzys.com
The District Tap
Holy variety, Batman! You can get 60 different beers and food from a menu a mile long. More importantly, they have a nice mix with plenty of local taps and national macrobrews mixed in. If someone can't find something they like to drink here, they're simply impossible to please. They will definitely be returning your gifts.
3720 E. 82nd St., 288-8251, thedistrictindy.com
Taiwan Tea House
If you need a quick and simple bite, Taiwan Tea House provides veggie-heavy Asian fare in another dressed-down strip mall setting. Again, this is not to be overlooked just because there is an office supply store attached. The food is really good, we promise, and yes, the tea is really good too.
3746 E. 82nd St., 598-9733
Big Lug Canteen
If you've been waiting for an excuse to check this place out, now is the time. Once you've completed your shopping in Nora or at the Fashion Mall, you're really going to want a beer. Luckily, Big Lug is turning out some really delicious microbrews along with fancy twists on comforting pub food. This would be at the top of our collective list when it comes to food and drinks
1435 E. 86th St., 672-3503, biglugcanteen.com
The North End BBQ
This might be the most beautiful restaurant to ever employ a pitmaster. You can get so many delicious smoked meats here and you get to choose your sauce. Or if you've literally fought someone for a doll or game, you're going to want to give some else your keys and indulge in some of Jason Foust's amazing cocktails. Like, a lot of them. Drink a lot of them.
1250 E. 86th St., 614-7427, thenorthendbbq.com
Ocean World is one of the unsung heros of the sushi game in Indianapolis. It's what we lovingly call "weeknight sushi" — it's not extravagant and it never breaks the bank. That said, it's really good, especially for what you pay. Lunch during the week is pretty quiet if you have the opportunity to skip the weekend rush.
1206 W. 86th St., 848-8901, oceanworldsushi.com
This is the reigning king of Thai food across the city of Indianapolis. After a lot of slogging around crowded malls in search of various sweaters and socks, you're going to want to wake up your palate with some Thai spices. This is another case where we'd beg you to not be a strip mall snob and stop in to try this place. We'd highly recommend the pad thai.
1222 W. 86th St., 844-9451