Finding good seafood in the Midwest used to be a challenge, with fast food or a chain featuring a crimson crustacean the only option. Indiana is still land-locked, but the following southside restaurants have opened their menus to a wide variety of seafood. Here, an international pick from Southeast Asia, mollusks from a Canadian province and a traditional Hoosier favorite.
by Jennifer Uhl
Fish tacos at Repeal
630 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, repealrestaurant.com
» Diners have a plethora of inventive restaurants to choose from in Fletcher Place, the historic district southeast of Fountain Square, but none has such a kick-up-your-heels feeling as Repeal. The interior of the former Virginia Avenue bank is worthy of Jay Gatsby, where chandeliers, deep booths and Art Deco details back the thoughtful menu of (surprise!) Southern cuisine.
Church potluck fare this is not: Owners Bill and Teresa Webster have elevated the best dishes of the South with fun twists on old classics, like deviled eggs topped with hickory smoked bacon, a green bean salad with boiled peanuts, and plenty of seafood options besides shrimp and grits. That Southern tradish (with barbecued shrimp) is on the menu; so is NOLA-inspired Cajun shrimp, tossed in fettuccine Alfredo or sauteed in a brown butter sauce and plated with two sides, like the Brussels sprouts cooked in duck fat (yes, please). But if Teresa had to choose a favorite, she’d pick the fish tacos, with fried basa (a species of catfish from Southeast Asia), the house salsa, cabbage, cilantro and jalapeno sour cream tucked into soft corn tortillas and served with a decidedly southern side of hominy.
Here, your drink order is the toughest choice you’ll make: Repeal also owns 1205, the next-door distillery named for the month and day the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933, making the vodka, four whiskeys, gin and rhubarb liquor blessedly legal. Before you choose, be sure to check out the cocktail menu, which changes theme every three months. A recent list featured cheekily named drinks that paid homage to Monty Python films.
Mussels at Taxman Brewing Co.
13 S. Baldwin St., Bargersville, taxmanbrewing.com
» Ever since the craft beer darling of the southside opened two years ago, plenty of north-siders have made the trek down I-465 to fill their growlers at the award-winning brewery, and their devotion is about to be rewarded. A second location is set to open in Fortville before summer. And like the Bargersville location, Taxman President Nate Huelsebusch has utilized what was already in place, choosing to restore three vacant buildings on Fortville’s Main Street. Taxman No. 2 will also feature the modern-industrial style of its southside counterpart, the grinning, bow-tied skull (in a reference Huelsebusch’s former career and Ben Franklin’s famous quote about death and taxes) and the farm-to-table gastropub menu that local foodies have come to enjoy as much as the Belgian-style beer.
Entrees change seasonally, but one constant is the “mussels or mac,” which offers diners a choice of adding buffalo sauce, chorizo or a seasonal edge to their dish. (The most recent offering included braised short rib with barbecue sauce and fried sweet potatoes.) Sous chef Ryan Kernodle says it’s a toss-up as to which style is more popular with the mac, but the mussels are usually split between the two standby additions of spicy chorizo with black beans, jalapeno and corn, or the housemade buffalo sauce with blue cheese and celery. In either case, all bowls include three to four cups of prime Prince Edward Island mussels, cooked in a housemade chicken stock with a generous amount of butter and garlic. If your favorite take on seafood looks more fish-like and is less tricky to eat, Taxman also keeps a rotation of salmon on the menu, as well as regular seafood specials, like locally farmed white trout from Seymour.
Fish and chips at Tried & True Alehouse
2800 S. State Road 135, Greenwood, triedandtruealehouse.com
» This southside newcomer prides itself on “scratch food, cool sounds and cold beer,” and the catchphrase rings true so far. Tried & True opened Jan. 9, but before that, owner John Gladish gave the building a bar-to-backroom makeover that reads industrial cool with smoky blue and mustard-colored walls and artwork detailing the patents for different instruments, like the treble cleft/guitar that stands in for the restaurant’s ampersand. The expanded bar area features a garage door window that opens to the 21-and-over patio, and per the alehouse moniker, you’ll find more than 20 draft beers on tap, including those from local breweries like Taxman, Mashcraft and Sun King.
The all-American menu features a smart and not too overwhelming selection of starters (thumbs up to the take on chicken and waffles), salads, sandwiches, burgers and dinner entrees, including a silver tray of cod fried in a stout beer batter. Of course, it’s a hard sell not to opt for the fried version of anything — firm white fish included — but if you’re trying to stick to seafood’s good-for-you au naturel state, go for the cod sandwich. It’s also available seared. Just don’t pass up the side of seasoned crinkle cut fries; they’re some of the best we’ve found on the southside.
Photography by Jennifer Dummett