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Don’t roll up to Indianapolis expecting it to live up to its nickname of Naptown. It might have a history of being a sleepy city, but U.S. News & World Report says that job opportunities and low cost of living are attracting energetic millennials. With the influx of young people, the vibe is definitely changing- especially on the Indianapolis restaurant scene where local chefs are offering creative concepts, authentic ethnic cuisine, and doing it with a bounty of local ingredients. Condé Nast Traveler even put local cafe Milktooth on its world’s best list.

And of course, the spirit of change has spread to Indianapolis catering, where you’ll find nationwide chain restaurants mingling with local chef-driven cuisine.

Greetings from the Indianapolis catering scene

Eating in the Railroad City

The diversity in cuisine all adds up to a lot to choices in places to eat. Travis Sealls, creator and owner of Punch Burger notes that in 2017, the Indianapolis restaurant scene “saw a slew of closings, but there is no shortage of new restaurants opening up.” Sealls says there’s a sense of newness in Indianapolis catering. He explains, “The city loves its chains but also has a lot of talented local chefs making a go of it.” Which means you can find national favorites like Boston Market or Buco di Beppo, alongside of likes of Rook, a modern Asian fusion restaurant, and trendy new American fare spot, Bluebeard. And of course, there are also the old school restaurant owners like Martha Hoover, whose company, Patachou, Inc., has run several different restaurants in the area for thirty years, including their latest, a fried chicken shop called Crispy Bird.

Whether you pick a new spot or an old establishment, here are a few of the hottest trends to watch out for in Indianapolis catering:

  • Twists on homey dishes As Jonathan Brooks, owner of Milktooth, told Condé Nast Traveler, “We don’t have a huge cuisine of our own, though there’s a lot of Midwestern comfort food.” But comfort food can be exciting, thanks in part to chefs like Brooks, who puts out cozy dishes with surprising touches like his wild rice biscuits with persimmon butter. At Food Guys Catering you’ll find their City Market Buffet is packed with hearty traditions that take a surprising spin like braised chicken topped with apricot sauce and slow roasted pork drizzled with a sumptuous mushroom demi-glaze. Healthy sides like boiled potatoes with asparagus and spinach, caprese salad, and delicious fresh-baked dessert pies round out the meal.
  • Locally sourced ingredients One of the biggest trends in the Indianapolis restaurant scene, which you’ll find everywhere from fine dining restaurants to fast casual concepts, is emphasis on local ingredients, say Sealls. His fast casual restaurant, Punch Burger, prides itself on serving the highest quality burger for the best price around. This includes sourcing their beef from Fischer Farms in Jasper, Indiana, which produces humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic-free meat. “We use ingredients in line with some of the best fine dining restaurants (in Indianapolis), which is how we stand out,” Sealls shared. At Milktooth, Brooks gets produce from Full Hand Farms and his lamb from Viking farm, both local producers.
  • International Flavors Flavors from around the globe have been another big trend in the Indianapolis catering scene. Carlos Arechiga, co-owner of the fast casual Mexican restaurant, Salsa Verde, believes that this is especially true of Mexican cuisine. “Tacos are becoming an everyday thing for people- it’s no longer seen as exotic,” he shared. Sealls concurs, noting the popularity of restaurants like chef Neal Brown’s Ukiyo, a Japanese-inspired restaurant with foraged and local ingredients. Brooks spoke highly of Rook in Conde Nast Traveler, a street food inspired contemporary Asian restaurant with Filipino touches.

Salsa Verde Catering

Check out these caterers

In Indy, there are plenty of beloved restaurants that run catering outfits. Indy Fresh Catering offers a huge range, everything from breakfast to Italian to barbecue. Their fresh smoked ham with pineapple and cherry glaze is a favorite, and customers love the Italian lunch catering package, which makes ordering a cinch. Choose from pastas like cavatappi with tomato vodka cream sauce or linguine with lemon caper sauce. And whatever you do, don’t miss South of Chicago Pizza, whose Chicago delicacies like italian beef sandwiches and chicken Parmesan with garlic bread make mouths water all over town.

If you’re looking to break the rut and try something new, the Indianapolis restaurant scene has no shortage of authentic ethnic spots. Start with Kalakutah Republic Grill, a Nigerian restaurant where customers love the ogbono, a soup made with ground shrimp and ground mango seeds. At Oso’s Republic, you’ll find delicious Dominican food, including chicken mofongo, fried plantains mashed with chicken. For tasty Turkish cuisine, check out Bosphorus Istanbul Cafe, where customers rave about their doner kebab, ground beef and lamb patties with red bell pepper, skewered and spiced.

Lesson learned: Indy is way more than a Naptown. When it comes to eating, change is in the air. Whether you hit up a popular chain or try a local spot, you’ll see it isn’t such a sleepy place after all.

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Leena Trivedi-Grenier

Written by:

Leena Trivedi-Grenier

Leena Trivedi-Grenier is a food and culture writer based in San Francisco. You can read her work online here, and find her on Twitter as @Leena_Eats and on Instagram as @leenaeats.

Posted in: Trends in FoodNeed to Know

Tagged with: Asian, Burgers, Catering, Food Trends, IN, Indianapolis, Lunch