One trend that is beginning to define the Indianapolis dining scene is the farm-to-table movement. When it comes to dining out in Indianapolis, the farms that dot the Indiana landscape present a huge advantage and offer restaurants in Indianapolis a wonderful, fresh source of ingredients. Beyond corn, farmers are growing all sorts of tasty produce and the innovative chefs who are leading Indy's culinary scene are utilizing these fresh ingredients to create amazing cuisine.
While there are a ton of restaurants in the city that are taking part in the farm-to-table movement, below are a few local eateries that are taking the farm-to-table concept to new heights:
1. The Loft - Traders Point Creamery, the state's only organic dairy farm, has its own restaurant (in a barn, no less) and is located just 25 minutes from downtown hotels and even closer to the west and north sides of the city. The Loft's lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus feature mainly ingredients grown, raised and produced just a few feet from the kitchen. The chili bar and inventive soups are perfect cold-weather offerings while the dairy bar presents the freshest ice creams, yogurt and milk to cool you in the warm months.
What to order: Cheese pizza made with the creamery's award-winning Fleur de la Terre, or a thick burger of 100-percent grass-fed beef and a double-chocolate milkshake.
2. Cafe Patachou - When Martha Hoover opened Cafe Patachou 20 years ago, her goal was to serve the best local ingredients prepared in the freshest ways possible. Her viewpoint proved successful: there are seven Patachou-branded eateries in the Indianapolis metro area, including one inside the airport. Known for hearty, organic dishes as well as quick, light options for breakfast and lunch, Patachou restaurants serve made-to-order omelets (from local, free-range eggs), thick toast oozing with cinnamon and sugar, homemade soups and sandwiches, beef, greens, vegetables and baked goods from area vendors.
What to order: A broken-yolk sandwich, made with eggs from free-range chickens on Indiana farms.
3. R bistro - With an eclectic menu heavy on delicious seasonal creations, Regina Mehallick, chef/owner of R bistro and a James Beard Award nominee, has amassed a loyal following of foodie fans. By changing her lunch and dinner menus weekly, Mehallick can feature local produce at the peak of its flavor and freshness. Spices and vegetables are grown in a garden that literally sits next to the restaurant and another in the owner's backyard. "You don't have to cover fresh produce with a heavy sauce. You serve it simply, and people get to experience its true taste," she explains.
What to order: Roasted butternut squash and toffee apple pecan tart.
4. Goose the Market - The Atlantic magazine calls the Goose "a deli worth the trip" while Bon Appetit declares it one of America's top 10 sandwich shops. An innovative menu pairs perfectly with the Old World style and craftsmanship with which the owners select and prepare ingredients. Dry-aged beef comes from Fischer Farms in southern Indiana, succulent lamb arrives fresh from Viking Lamb in eastern Indiana while free-range chickens, turkey, duck and pork are brought in from Gunthorp Farms in northern Indiana. Artisan breads, farmstead cheeses, olives, fresh herbs and spices, grains, gelato, and a selection of Italian and French specialty dry goods stock the shelves, as well as wonderful wines and craft brews in the cellar. If that weren't enough, they offer a bacon of the month club and a program called "A Dozen Cheeses Before You Die."
What to order: The Batali is a standout here featuring coppa, soppressata, capocollo, provolone cheese and tomato preserves.
5. Recess - Dedicated to giving diners memorable and satisfying meals, Recess features four-course, prix fixe menus that change every few days to reflect the best local ingredients available at the time as well as the personal preferences of Chef Greg Hardesty. Minimalist decor keeps diners concentrating on the artwork on their plates in addition to the carefully selected beers and wines that make the list. Hardesty calls this his "culinary playground" and you should come prepared for an evening of unrivaled recreation. Recess, along with Bluebeard and Late Harvest Kitchen, was named on Zagat's list of Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants, making Indy one of only two cities to have three restaurants make the cut.
What to order: Crispy pork belly with marinated vegetables, if it's available when you visit.
6. Pogues Run Grocer/Indy Food Co-Op - This community-owned market just east of downtown Indianapolis brings local, organic, fresh produce to shoppers at reasonable prices. In addition to food, you can also purchase personal care items, local pet products and more. All products are intended to support a healthier lifestyle for those who shop here. The grocer also hosts budget cooking and nutrition classes as well as other neighborhood events. Check out www.indyfoodcoop.org for more information.
What to order: Nearly famous five-bean chili is made from scratch in the deli. Try it with a three-cheese grilled cheese panini featuring house-made artichoke cheese spread.
Here are a few more restaurants that also support the farm-to-table movement:
City Cafe, 120 West Market, Earth House Cafe, Oceanaire, Pure Eatery and the Villa (downtown); H2O Sushi and Meridian Restaurant (Broad Ripple/north).
If you want to take Indiana's outstanding farm products home, visit our Insider’s Guide to Farmers Markets in Indianapolis to learn more about amazing farmers markets in the Circle City.