Indianapolis has no shortage of great restaurants or talented chefs garnering national attention for their work. While attention on the newest trends and trendsetters is terrific, we encourage you to take the traditional route in 2019, as well.
With histories going back more than 100 years, many Indy restaurants with deep Hoosier roots also happen to serve up damn good food. Here’s a bucket list of old-school places you should try in the new year.
St. Elmo Steak House
- 127 S. Illinois St.
- The most iconic restaurant in the city, St. Elmo’s opened in 1902 and has been a staple of downtown dining since. In 2012, the James Beard Foundation named St. Elmo an “American Classic.” In the 28 years we’ve been polling readers for our Best of Indy awards, St. Elmo has won more than any other restaurant--consistently placing at the top for Best Local Restaurant, Best Service, Best Steak, and Most Romantic Restaurant.
Cafe at the Propylaeum
- 1410 N. Delaware St.
- If a historic setting is your goal, you can do no better than Cafe at the Prop, the small restaurant located inside one of the city’s oldest homes in the Old Northside district. The Propylaeum itself has been home to one of Indy’s oldest women’s organizations since the 1920s. We heartily recommend the Chicken Velvet Soup. If you want something even more delightful, make a reservation for Wednesday teas
- 401 W. Michigan St.
- Housed in the building we now call the Athenaeum, Das Deutsche Haus was designed by architect Bernard Vonnegut (grandfather of writer Kurt Vonnegut) and the epicenter of German arts and cultural for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There has been a beer hall on the premises serving up traditional fare since 1894, and the Rathskeller continues that tradition amply. And while they offer non-Bavarian dishes, we recommend you come for the Sauerbraten, Jäegerschnitzel, or Kassler Ripchen.
- 808 S. Meridian St.
- Since the early 1900s, Shapiro’s Deli has been serving up the best corned beef, pastrami, and brisket sandwiches in the city. This Southside institution continues just as it had when great-grandfather Louis Shapiro opened his doors. Don’t miss homemade dishes like macaroni and cheese and matzo ball soup; and we can testify to the excellence of the cheescake, rye bread, and bagels.
Workingman’s Friend Tavern
- 234 N Belmont Ave
- Originally called The Belmont Lunch when it opened in 1918, the small tavern that began in the front room of Macedonian immigrant Louie Stamatkin home is still in business and still in the family. Becky Stamatkin is now the third generation of her family to deliver their famous smashed burgers, chili, and Big Johns. This burgers are legendary and completely live up to the hype.
Iaria’s Italian Restaurant
- 317 S. College Ave.
- Another family business still going strong, Iaria’s on South College just may be the oldest establishment serving pizza in the city. As early as 1955, the Fletcher Place favorite was advertising “pizza pie” along with their “famous Italian spaghetti” and “Raviola Dinners.” These days, you might also opt for the Veal Osso Bucco Tortellini dinner special. Everything is still made from original family recipes meaning you’re in for some delicious family-style Italian-American classics.
- 8110 N. College Ave.
- One of the few “family-style” restaurants left in the city, Hollyhock Hill serves up a delicious (and affordable) traditional fried chicken dinner complete with salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, sweet corn, and biscuits (with apple butter). Opened in 1928 as a small family restaurant in a “country cottage” with seating for 30 guests, Hollyhock Hill now accommodates up to 150 but has lost none of the charm or homemade flavors.
Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place
- 1831 N. College Ave.
- What opened as a six-seat countertop restaurant in 1988 is now one of the best-known soul food restaurants in the country. Cynthia and Isaac Wilson took over the restaurant in the late 1990s have continued offering southern dishes that attract celebrity diners ranging from Barack Obama to Jimmy Fallon. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the only time we don’t recommend you go is Sunday after church when the lines are long and the wait excruciating on an empty stomach.
Mug ‘n Bun Drive-In Restaurant
- 5211 W. 10th St.
- If you want to eat like a Hoosier, you probably need to eat a giant tenderloin sandwich. While we’d normally recommend a trip to the Indiana State Fair for the best tenderloin sandwich money can buy, that only works two weeks a year. The rest of the year, head to Indy’s oldest drive-in restaurant for a blast from the past and a giant tenderloin sandwich. Since 1960, this Speedway landmark has served hungry diners with very little changes. Aside from the best tenderloin in town, we can also testify to the superiority of the root beer floats.