This year, we've had all manner of new restaurants open, from the casual to the fancy-schmancy. Now you can find everything from raw and vegan fare to Tex-Mex in Zionsville and playful, refined dining in Greenwood. These are our picks for great places to try when you're making those last few checks on your eating bucket list for 2014.
Click through for full reviews from myself and Jolene Ketzenberger.
You can read Jolene's entire review of The Salty Cowboy at the link, but her overall impression was "kitschy and uncomplicated but definitely appealing." The new Tex-Mex joint opened shop in downtown of Zionsville, bringing with them a new kind of southwestern offerings. They do the standard Tex-Mex thing, with margaritas and guac and all those favorites. But it's the Texas influence that puts them on the map with a variety of smoked meats, like brisket and pulled pork. The location has the colorful decor of a border town, and many dishes come in those quaint quilted glass jars.
55 E. Oak St. (Zionsville), 344-0926
A sister restaurant to Late Harvest Kitchen, this new northside barbecue joint brings everything from smoked meat and fish to homestyle plates with johnny cakes and pimento spread. It's halfway between a southern backyard barbecue and a sophisticated, high-end eatery. Don't be put off by its location among a sea of stripmalls: they're not serving freezer-to-fryer Sam's Club appetizers, but big plates of Texas brisket and baby back ribs. The best part is North End is the Switzerland of barbecue sauce traditions, offering four different varieties from mustard to molasses-based. Jolene reviewed their perfectly-cooked ribs and found the place to be worthy of a second visit.
1250 E. 86th St., 614-7427, thenorthendbbq.com
There is brunch food, and then there is mothahfuckin' brunch food. Yeah, so there are kids there in flannel and sock hats, and there's a garden out front. Drop your hipster judgy face for five friggin' seconds and go enjoy a completely different take on the most glorious meal of the day. Milktooth ain't your standard-issue greasy spoon, so bring with you a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something you never have before. Also, get there early to avoid long waits. Actually, don't: the longer you wait the more you'll be able to consume amazing coffee and cocktails. This is definitely a "special occasion" kind of brunch.
534 Virginia Ave., 986-5131, milktoothindy.com
The midwest is not generally known for being a hotspot of high-quality seafood and seafood chefs. John Adams, chef at the newly-opened Plow & Anchor, is trying to change that with a menu devoted to the fruits of the sea. With a fabulous wine program, Plow & Anchor is going the way of the high-end seafood house, and downtown residents couldn't be more pleased. They also host a variety of tasting dinners with winemakers and other partners. Check them out on social media to stay on top of the event schedule.
43 W. 9th St., 964-0538, plowandanchor.com
As part of the Patachou family of restaurants, Public Greens will be turning out the fresh, thoughtful fare that Martha Hoover's family of restaurants is known for. There's a twist though: All of the profits from the restaurant will go to fund their charitable Patachou Foundation, which feeds meals to food-insecure kids around the city. The self-service location has a staff farmer and sources from their micro farm just across the Monon from the restaurant. The location also has a knockout patio, which will be used for live music and seating in the warmer months. But no matter what you order on the menu or from the beer taps (yes, it has those, too), you'll be helping feed hungry central Indiana kids.
Monon Trail (Broad Ripple), 202-0765, publicgreensurbankitchen.com
Greenwood's newest restaurant is one big circus — which, we think, it's a great thing. The restaurant is pairing sophisticated menu items with playful service (you can draw on the tables at this adults-only location) and a heavy infusion of humor and fun. Everyone gets a bite of cotton candy, because who has ever bitten into cotton candy and not been transported back to a circus show or fair ride? No one, that's who. If you're looking for a dining experience that is serious about the menu items only, head down to Greenwood and have a little playtime at this new joint.
290 W. Main St. (Greenwood), 215-4164, reverygreenwood.com
Ezra's opened over the summer in Broad Ripple, bringing a whole foods, raw vegan revolution with it. They serve everything from pizza to soup, all of it organic and minimally processed. To call it "superfood" is the understatement of the century, and even the most "rabbit food"-opposed diner can find something they like at Ezra's. During cold season, we highly recommend making regular stops to the juice bar to power up your immune system. They've got the edible cure for what ails you.
6516 Ferguson St., 255-3972, ezrasenlightenedcafe.com
The Irish-centric bar on the corner of Mass and East is both enormous and jam-packed with old-fashioned Irish menu options. Corned beef? Check. Guinness? Check. It's all there. The bar program is also great at keeping small local breweries in rotation, so there's something local to drink with your across-the-pond noshes. Whether you're just getting on the Struggle Bus or getting off at the end of a long night, they've got something that will fill you up and smooth you out.
575 Mass Ave., 964-0990, nineirishbrothers.com
This town certainly loves to drink beer and eat delicious bar food. For that, you can't go wrong with HopCat. We hear that the secret to the Crack Fries is a little brown sugar, but we can't be sure. Jolene's review found it to be a better drinking destination (have you seen all the taps?!) than for food. But their offerings pair perfectly with a few pints with friends—simple, not fussy or overthought. If you need a new spot to just hang out, watch a game, and relax, there's no better place.
6280 N. College Ave., 317-565-4236; hopcat.com/broad-ripple
It's been a good year for the Cunningham Restaurant group. Layton Roberts, Cunningham's all-star roving head chef, has created an incredible menu, with updated favorites like kimchi meatballs and old favorites like their New York Strip served with celery root puree. It's a great spot that splits the difference between experimentation and familiarity, which makes the updates all the more refreshing. The interior is stunning, with an outstanding bar program to accompany the enormous variety of dishes available, from a charcuterie plate to a big ol' slab of beef. Check it out in the old Trowel Arts building next time you're searching for a new place on Mass Ave.
620 East St., 610-0234, union-50.com
Delicia's little cantina sibling opened this past year, and Jolene found it to be a wonderfully relaxed version of Delicia's upscale fare. You can grab some tacos for lunch or a salad, or go for something a little more traditional, like a tamale or a pambazo, a sauce-slathered cousin to the torta. They serve dinner, too, with an equally relaxed vibe and lower prices (most things are under ten bucks) than its next-door neighbor.
5215 N. College Ave., 925-0677, lamulitaindy.com
This young bar has been upping Fountain Square's cocktail and food scene. We've covered them so much lately, we almost forgot to add them to this list—seems like they've been around a lot longer than 10 months. We heartily encourage you to visit them for either Chef Whitmoyer's new southern fare or the all-star bar program, which owner Joshua Gonzales has poured a lot of time and education into, and that care comes through in every tumbler and plate.
1127 Shelby St., 974-9580, thunderbirdindy.com