IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball definitely knows his way around good food. It's no surprise, of course, as the 30-year-old driver has made his way around the globe on various teams before signing with Chip Ganassi racing in 2010. The driver of #83 has made his home in Indianapolis for six years now, and has become one of the city's biggest fans. In fact, when he and his wife got married last fall, they held their ceremony in Indianapolis as a way to show off their adopted hometown to friends and family, although the couple are both from Southern California.
While the rest of us choose our restaurants and meals based mostly on taste, Kimball has one more unique criterion to meet: His have to be compatible with a diabetic diet.
Since his diagnosis in 2007, Kimball has become a vocal advocate for diabetes awareness. He's also become quite the discerning foodie, as well as a season-loving Hoosier. The SoCal boy learned to love seasonality through the great farm-to-fork food Indiana is known for, and discovered that the minimally-processed foods coming out of Indy kitchens helped manage his condition.
"You have meals and menu items that reflect that. You have the winter vegetables and the stews, and spring salads and all of those things. You definitely get to enjoy soup season and salad season, and I enjoy pairing that cuisine with the seasons."
Kimball also appreciates that Hoosiers do not let the first signs of spring go uncelebrated.
"You don't enjoy when the whether is good as much. Here, when you first get that first pop of sun, everyone's out enjoying it. As a city, everyone embraces it. When the weather's good, everyone makes the most of it," he said.
And while the rest of us enjoy central Indiana's all-star produce for their flavor, Kimball and diabetes patients like him depend on the slow-digesting carbs in fresh fruits and vegetables to keep their blood sugar stable.
"One of the things that makes it easier is getting fresh, clean food. Non-processed and non-stored, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Meals that are just built off of good ingredients. That makes it easier for my management. Very rarely are fresh, farm-to-table meals high in fat content, and processed food."
Diagnosed in his early 20s, Kimball became the first IndyCar driver with diabetes. The manufacturers of Kimball's insulin pen and products, Novo Nordisk, came on as a full-time sponsor for the driver in 2011.
Diabetes patients like Kimball calculate how much insulin they'll need based on the number of carbs they intend to consume and, in Kimball's case, injects himself with an insulin pen. If they give themselves more insulin than they need, their blood sugar may drop causing a loss of consciousness or even death, so Kimball has to take his carb counts seriously.
"I still sometimes misjudge my carb counts. I think everyone with diabetes knows it's just a learning curve. Every meal can be a learning experience, but at the same time, I know I can get good nutrition when I'm eating locally. I do enjoy the local scene rather than chain restaurants. My wife will do anything in her power not to go to a chain restaurant. I will admit, I do, every now and again, go to a chain restaurant," Kimball said. "We've lived in Indiana for just over six years now, and to be able to see that food scene grow, really over the last three or four years, has been spectacular."
Right now, Kimball is stoked to get into new downtown brewery St. Joseph's, which he loves as a potent combination of "fresh, great local beer and 100 years of history."
In Kimball, you'll find a huge fan of Indianapolis as a city. "VisitIndy has done a fantastic job of bringing people to town. Indiana Sports Corp with the Super Bowl, the Final Four. Some friends and I biked down and walked around during the Final Four, and what an incredible atmosphere!" He's a known haunter of local music venues like Old National Centre among others.
"I think people think because it's in the Midwest, it doesn't have a lot of culture, and that's a mistake," he says of his adopted hometown.
But before he can get behind the wheel or mosh so hard at Deluxe, the man has to eat, and his picks for essential Indy dining are pole-position-worthy for sure.