Dazzling Desserts

Savor the season with sweets that outshine the holiday lights
By Sara McAninch  //  Photography by Jana Jones

No matter what holidays you celebrate or observe, this time of year typically has a lot happening. You rarely take time to pause and enjoy something decadent “just because.” Give yourself permission to take a break from your hectic holiday schedule, save some room after your meal and indulge in these delicious desserts from four of Indy’s southside eateries.

Taxman Brewing Co.
Cookies n’ Milk
13 S. Baldwin St., Bargersville, (317) 458-0210, taxmanbrewing.com

Taxman Brewing Co. opened in 2014 and quickly established itself with its Indiana-made craft beer. Styled after the breweries and eateries in Belgium — where owners Nathan and Leah Huelsebusch lived for a few years — this “gastronomic destination” is family-friendly and only about 30 minutes from downtown Indianapolis.

“Our menus do have a Belgian slant, like our Belgian-style mussels and our Belgian frites, but we’re known for our grass-fed burgers,” says Leah Huelsebusch. She says that “in Belgium the food was always excellent” when paired with the beers. The brewery offers the same vibe: tasty craft beer and food, neither of which will compromise the flavor of the other.

While sipping your after-dinner beverage of choice, check out Taxman’s Cookies n’ Milk. Sourced from 4 Birds Bakery in Indy, the two cookies you get in this dish feature sweetness from a lot of chocolate and a little bit of salt to balance it, says head chef Nick Murray.

While you can dunk your cookies in the milk accompaniment, be prepared for a kind of whipped cream instead of your standard 2%. Topped with a drizzle of Belgian chocolate, this revised version of a classic dessert will give you the calming comfort you need right now.

Main Street Grille
Fried Biscuits
200 S. Emerson Ave., Greenwood, (317) 215-4326, mainstgrillegreenwood.com

During the cold winter months, cozying up to a fire is the ideal way to chase away the chill. At Main Street Grille in Greenwood, you get a fire and eat from it, too.

“We have a wood-fire pizza oven that grabs people’s attention when they walk up,” says owner Craig Spencer. “You’ll smell the wood burning. It does really kind of make a nice impression as soon as people walk in.”

The family-friendly establishment prides itself on its “hardworking and committed staff” who offer a bit of Southern hospitality in mid-Indiana. It’s evident in the way they will speak to customers, including a friendly hello upon entering the restaurant and making food and beverage recommendations to anyone who asks. In addition to a friendly staff, the pub and grill type establishment is known for its pork tenderloin, warm pretzel breadsticks served with a house-made cheese sauce, and, of course, the wood-fired pizzas, which draw positive comments from visitors hailing from around the country.

But take some of your entrée home with you; you’ll want to save room for the fried biscuits. Cinnamon and sugar are popular holiday ingredients, and you get 10 warm biscuits coated in them. The biscuits are paired with a cool apple butter for dipping and are perfectly shareable, if you feel generous.

Ann’s Restaurant
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and Peach Cobbler
77 W. Monroe St., Franklin, (317) 736-5421, annsrestaurant.com

When you eat at Ann’s Restaurant, you’re treated like a family friend. Maybe that’s because it’s been a family business since it opened as Alta’s Place in 1952. When Ann Daugherty became sole proprietor in 1966, after sister Alta Spicer retired, the name of the place changed to Ann’s Restaurant. The family feeling remained. Today, the restaurant is managed by Ann’s daughter, Diana, and general manager Jim Klein. Another daughter, Theresa, is the chief executive officer of partner business, Tara Treatment Center.

Opened in 1952, this landmark restaurant is now a nonprofit business. After expenses, proceeds go toward helping those who cannot afford addiction treatment at Tara. People going through one of Tara’s programs can volunteer or work at the restaurant.

“What that means for us here is that we basically will put them through treatment, and they can come here to work as a volunteer first. If they’re looking for a job, then we can hire them,” says Klein. He goes on to say that the goal is to help them “get their lives back together.”

If you’re a first-timer and not sure what to order, the regulars and wait staff are happy to give recommendations. An $8.49 daily special consists of a meat, two sides and bread and is always a good choice. Klein recommends a little down-home after-meal decadence: the made-to-order cinnamon roll pancake. Although you might think of pancakes as a breakfast or brunch entrée, this dish doubles as dessert and features a homemade cinnamon swirl and cream cheese frosting. Topped with butter and cinnamon sugar, the pancake can have a little crunch added with candied pecans.

“It almost tastes like you’re eating cinnamon rolls with the texture of a nice warm pancake,” Klein says.

Or try the cobbler. Though peaches aren’t typically a winter food, the homemade peach cobbler is such a nostalgic dish for the restaurant’s customers that it’s made year-round. Fresh peaches are combined with cinnamon, butter and sugar, then cooked down to pie filling. Topped with an oatmeal crumb consisting of brown sugar, sugar, butter and oats, the cobbler is made daily and served warm with or without ice cream. The dish is so popular that the restaurant typically runs out of it by the lunch shift, so plan accordingly if you want a mouthful of this crustless confection.

Sassafras Lunch & Tea Room
Bread Pudding
229 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood, (317) 888-8449, sassafrastearoom.com

Inside a repurposed old home with hardwood floors and a decorative, non-working fireplace, Sassafras Lunch & Tea Room has the warm, inviting and comforting feel you crave during the holidays. In business for 10 years come January, the tearoom offers a unique experience served in “fancy china cups,” linen napkins, stemware and tiers of tasty home goodies, according to owner Cheryl Domi.

“We want them to come in and feel welcomed and rested and treated special, because they are,” she says.

Whether you dine solo or with a group, there’s a warm cup of tea waiting for you. After enjoying lunch or afternoon tea, including finger sandwiches, seasonal fresh fruit, scones and sweets, take time to savor a serving of warm bread pudding.

The mixture of bread, cream, eggs and cinnamon is a mouthful of nostalgia if you grew up eating your grandma’s bread pudding. Topped with caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream, this dessert will bring back memories of the sweet, doughy concoction from your childhood.

If bread pudding isn’t your thing, Sassafras offers a chocolate mousse and red velvet cake parfait that is served in a clear stem container so you can see each delicious layer. The subtle chocolate notes in the moist cake, combined with the smooth chocolatey mousse, “has a nice mellow flavor to it that’s really good,” says Domi.