Every time I tell someone new that I'm the food writer for NUVO, they immediately express sympathy for my plight. "Not much to the culinary landscape here," the rhetoric goes. I get it worse when I admit that I'm not from Indy.
It's hard to see what you have growing in your own backyard.
I come from a land of chicken fried steak, Shiner Bock, ridiculously good Tex-Mex drive-thrus and myriad margaritas. Never did I ever think I'd miss any of these - except for the Shiner.
And then I came to Indy, and found a world of Midwest craft beer unparalleled in the South. (At least in terms of breweries per area.) And pork tenderloin (though I'd never really cared for the CFS counterpart back home). And Kentucky bourbon (I'd always settled for Jack Daniels).
Back home, brewpubs called themselves brewpubs, not gastropubs. And all the haute, popular, long-lasting restaurants have a distinctly Southwestern flavor - all steak and Mexican influenced: Bohanan's steakhouse. Mi Tierra. The Lodge.
Conversely, Indy has some quite formidable American, new American and American fusion restaurants - all jargon to convey the idea that they interpret local, distinctly American ingredients in innovative dishes.
This describes Euphoria's down-home, New York-ese (sweet potato gnocchi! Hamhattans!); Meridian's neighborhood cosmopolitanism; R. Bistro's locally sourced but world-referenced plates.
I could go on. The point is, locally owned heavy hitters sprawl across the city, and we should thank old and new with our patronization.
Hoosiers also love their ethnic food, with a well-organized and directive Web site, www.indyethnicfood.com, to show for it. (Some new ones to try, if you haven't: Majors, a new Ethiopian restaurant downtown; Siam Square in Fountain Square; Thai Papaya at 96th and Michigan streets; and Miyagi's on 96th, for a "French-Japanese" experience.)
New restaurants open all the time, too many to list here. But you still want to know something new. How 'bout the local wish list?
Speaking of sushi joints: I know from perusing her food blog daily that Feed Me/Drink Me author Renee Wilmeth covets an izakaya-type sushi joint here in Indy.
Izakaya: Think neighborhood British pub, but with all the propriety the Japanese context demands. Tatami mats, wet towels, sake, beer, plum wine and skewered yakitori are all part of a typical experience. Note: The local namesake restaurant on 96th Street does not quite fit this experience. That's not to say it isn't good.
Master sommelier candidate Arthur Black says he'd like to see a dim-sum restaurant added to local Asian options.
And more tapas-style restaurants. Not necessarily Spanish-centric, as at Barcelona Tapas, but more like Zing or Aftertaste's (Taste's dinner venture) eclectic small plates - at least, that's my interpretation of Black's words. His interpretation: "Small portions of different flavors from various food genres, whether classic, ethnic or fusion, at the whim of the chef or proprietor ... sort of like the old Snax restaurant that was a part of Something Different Restaurant (that sadly closed about six years ago)."
My recent friend, local photographer and Europhile John Bragg would like to see "something with more of a European flavoring and ambience ... Maybe along the lines of a small, cozy place (so Rathskeller is out) that serves tarte flambe or interesting cheese and sausage pairings as well as schnitzel and spaetzle. Plus, they would have a great selection of European beer and wine."
I'm simpler. I would like a Persian restaurant, please.
And for our locally-owneds to tap the art of the great happy hour special. That should help turn our middle-class city onto the restaurant scene, one small plate and reduced-priced martini at a time. Zing runs lots of weekday drink specials, and it usually seems to work well for them.
And a Taco Cabana in place of every Taco Bell.
And for every place with an extensive craft beer lineup NOT to go under, no matter how mediocre the food is.
And for every great restaurant not to close for lack of patronage. Cheers.
What would you like?