Downtown Delights

By Sarah Murrell

Dining in downtown Indianapolis is all about adventure, whether you want to try some chorizo in your poutine or some chili pepper in your cocktail. If you want to get a taste of the future of food in the capital city, the easiest way is to start at the circle before moving east and south. Even if you don’t manage to hit every restaurant on this list, it’s still highly likely you’ll find plenty to savor.

» Chef Alan Sternberg might get some light chiding from his fellow chefs for his delicate and intricate platings, but the national dining scene is taking notice of the young chef’s skills. He was recently named as a Rising Star by the James Beard Foundation, a revered institution of culinary beatification — “the Oscars of Food” as they’re known. Sternberg’s plates are not just for show, becoming stages to show off his keen sense of quality and thought without anything being too fussy. If you need an impressive date or a dinner that will wow a client, look no further than the clean, sculpted interior of Cerulean. 339 S. Delaware St., Indianapolis,

Kuma’s Corner
» Chicago’s favorite heavy metal burger shop finally has a second home here in Indianapolis, and the restaurant’s huge opening proved the Circle City was ready for the invasion. Just like the original, Kuma’s serves massive meat patties stacked high with an extra few inches of toppings before you even get to the bun. Kuma’s also recently started testing delivery for the area surrounding the restaurant, meaning home values in Fountain Square are only going to get, ahem, beefier over the next few years. If you’re outside of Fountain Square but would rather enjoy your Kuma’s in your PJs, servers will box your order for takeout convenience. 1127 Prospect St., Indianapolis,

» Chef John Adams has left his mark all over the Indy dining scene, and now he’s back mashing up Asian cooking with traditions born of soul food from the Deep South. Diners are swooning over his take on ribs and mac and cheese, but the food really shines when the chef gets back to his ingredients-first roots with the seasonal specials. If you go, go now, when the menu is full of fresh summer ingredients, and order at least one elixir off the cocktail menu. Better yet, keep your attention firmly trained on Marrow’s social media feeds and wait until the restaurant is having a wine or liquor tasting. Not only can you have a great meal, but you can learn something while you eat. 1106 Prospect St., Indianapolis,

» Nada is bringing a vibrant and fresh version of Mexican fare dining to Indy’s downtown. With about 30 offerings, Nada offers a perfectly focused menu that puts a traditional Mexican spin on some regular pub favorites like poutine. The restaurant also hones in on Indy’s burgeoning brunch craze with a menu devoted entirely to Mexican-style breakfast favorites and a list of tacos tailored to red-eyed dining. Margarita mavens will be lined up to taste the flavor options, which come with twists like prickly pear and a punchy chili-lime flavor for the more adventurous drinkers. If you’re not a tequila fan, don’t worry; you can switch to a regular beer or go for something even further along the exotic continuum like a Brazilian caipirinha. 11 W. Maryland St., Indianapolis,

»Chefs Bryan Kanne and Justin Eiteljorg run this kitchen in Fountain Square, the name of which comes from the Pioneer Fountain in front of the restaurant. The opening team went all out revamping the iconic building’s interior to make it suitable for both dining service and as a live music venue, which it has already become. When summer weather arrives, al fresco diners have access to the restaurant’s expansive patio space. If you’re a big fan of pasta, be aware that Bettini Pasta, the fresh pasta maker known for supplying Bluebeard with its noodles, also supplies the house pasta for Pioneer. The two chefs, however, prefer the term “Alpine” when describing their menu’s region, combining influences from Italy, Germany and France. 1110 Shelby St., Indianapolis,

»Native southsider Ed Rudisell’s family of restaurants have all found plenty of their own success, but none stands out quite like Rook. With a menu full of Filipino-style fare that draws from various Asian dining cultures, the restaurant recently moved into new digs. Now chef Carlos Salazar has room for an incredible bar program and wine list, and Rudisell and Salazar have tricked out the eatery’s open kitchen concept with sleek decor and a ramen shop-style bar. If that’s not enough, Rook’s big new blueprint has plenty of room for large groups. 501 Virginia Ave., No. 101, Indianapolis,

Spice Box
» When Rook moved out of its former space on Virginia Avenue, the restaurant made room for another eatery to move in. Enter Spice Box, once a beloved food truck, now a brick-and-mortar standout. Spice Box is perhaps best known for its buttery tikka and channa, both of which come in sauces that are heavier on flavor than they are on canola. Spice Box hustled its way through the world of dining on wheels to arrive at the new location, where easy-going, modern takes on Indian classics continue to be served. 719 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis,

 Three Carrots
» Leading the vegan revolution in Indianapolis, Three Carrots is expanding from its stall in Indianapolis City Market to a full-scale location on Virginia Avenue later this year. The new space will offer more back-of-the-house square feet, which means more room to create a much heftier vegetable-focused menu for guests. In the meantime, stop by the restaurant’s current location in City Market and see why BuzzFeed heralded Three Carrots as one of the 20 best vegetarian restaurants in the country. 222 Market St., Indianapolis,

» Cunningham Group brings a new eatery to life in the old Amici’s space on New York Street just east of Monument Circle. Chef Layton Roberts is back to helm what promises to be another hit for the hospitality group. Roberts describes his food has having a litany of global influences, most of which will come home to roost on Vida’s menu. The restaurant offers a formidable charcuterie program, with cured meats incorporated into dishes rather than being relegated to a board. Vida has another trick up its sleeve in the form of a huge wall of living greens, which are started off-site before finishing their growing cycle moments before being harvested. It doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than putting a vertical farm right in your restaurant. 601 E. New York St., Indianapolis,