something fishy

By Clint Smith  //  Photography by Jana Jones

Whether you’re celebrating the Italian-American tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes (an observation of the abstinence from meat until Christmas Day) or you’re opting for lighter fare for the new year, seafood is a tasty option. Dive into the season and explore some southside seafood offerings.

Crab-crusted Cod at Bonefish Grill
1001 N. State Road 135, Greenwood, (317) 884-3992,

Bonefish Grill continues its long-standing, “polished casual” tenure as a steward for fresh seafood on the southside. And while the menu certainly provides standby staples (the grilled swordfish, in particular, is a steadfast favorite), for the past five years the crab-crusted cod has proven to be a gastronomic go-to.

Bonefish Grill executive chef Justin Fields says, “Our crab-crusted cod encompasses both a great texture and the elevated additions of each lump and jumbo lump crab. We source our cod from the colder Arctic regions, which play into its delicate, flavorful flakiness.” Fields suggests that both the in-demand cod and crab have “calmer” flavors, making for an ideal culinary pairing.

“I remember a guest once telling me that this dish reminded him of his grandmother’s cooking,” says Brian Newlin, Bonefish Grill’s Greenwood managing partner, who admits this is his wife’s favorite entree, saying that “a bite of the crab-crusted cod with the flaky crust, a bit of crab and the tender cod with some garlic mashed potatoes and the lemon butter sauce is just a perfect bite of food.”

While Bonefish’s menu will certainly produce seafood specials apropos for the colder climes, Newlin encourages customers to check out its upcoming cozy potables. “As we look ahead to our winter season,” he says, “Bonefish Grill will be serving up our highly anticipated cocktail of the year, our Winter White Cosmo. This hand-crafted cocktail features Reyka vodka, Cointreau, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, white cranberry juice, fresh lime juice and topped with floating cranberries.”

Seafood al Ajillo at Blue Cactus Tacos & Tequila Bar
188 W. Jefferson St., Franklin, (317) 868-5200,

Since its opening in the summer, guests have certainly converged on Blue Cactus Tacos & Tequila Bar for both the tacos and margaritas (to which I’ll return in a moment), but there’s a menu item that has gained some acclaim from patrons. Served with steamed white rice, seafood al ajillo is a time-honored Mexican dish that can be composed of a variety of ocean edibles; here, Blue Cactus employs succulent, sauteed shrimp in a robust garlic sauce. “It’s just such a rich dish,” says owner Jose Murillo. “Customers just love the secret sauce.”

Though the Murillo family members are no strangers to the restaurant industry, Blue Cactus Tacos & Tequila Bar is their first venture in Indiana. The recipes are created and mastered by Jose’s brother, chef Juan Murillo, in a restaurant in Ohio, then adjusted and standardized specifically for the Blue Cactus aesthetic. And though most chefs hold their recipe cards close to their chest, there is one ingredient in the seafood al ajillo that Murillo admits adds to the magic of the secret sauce: the guajillo chile, a mild pepper known for its multipurpose characteristics. The guajillo chile lends a low-level smokiness — an ideal accompaniment to the tender camarones.

While affectionate about other menu items — noting the classic entree pollo con calavaza (chicken with pumpkin) as well as its extensive list of tacos — Murillo says the margaritas are something to experience. “Nothing is pre-made,” he says. “Our margaritas are all organic, handcrafted with fresh fruit.” As opposed to common, concentrated bases, Murillo’s team uses fresh lime and orange as its libation foundation. “We use real, fresh fruit for each drink,” he says, “and that makes each margarita special.”

Seafood Panang at House of Thai
275 S. State Road 135, Greenwood, (317) 889-0886,

Among the delectable selections on House of Thai’s extensive menu is a riff on a classic, Thai-based dish: panang. “Our version of seafood panang is rich, creamy with thick sweet curry sauce,” says owner Kanlaya Browning, who notes the use of fresh herbs such as galanga, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. As for the seafood characteristics, the dish is composed of a high-quality quartet of shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari. These distinctive ingredients — married with a rich, sweet-and-savory curry-cream — offer a memorable experience for many diners. For other guests it’s downright nostalgic: “It reminds them of Thailand,” Browning says. “Many of our customers have been to Thailand and know about Thai food. We often get comments that it just tastes like the food in Thailand. Not only American people, Thai people who live here always mention this.”

Rivaling the seafood panang in popularity is House of Thai’s Seafood Madness. “People who love spicy food will love this dish,” says Browning of the stir-fry. “Unlike seafood panang, which has a rich, creamy sweet, mild curry sauce, Seafood Madness is spicy basil sauce.”

During the winter season, Browning encourages patrons to keep their eyes peeled on the menu for several seafood specials. “We will have basil soft-shell crab,” she says. “It’s deep-fried soft-shell crab topped with basil sauce. It’s a favorite dish and good for the winter months.”

Porcini-encrusted Scallops at RFD Franklin
55 W Madison St., Franklin, (317) 733-7333,

When the historic 1930s structure that once served as both the Franklin post office and City Hall was being considered for demolition, Lesa Talley says she and her husband really had no choice but to save it. Their solution was to open a restaurant. The Talleys opened RFD Franklin in May 2019 and experienced immediate fanfare from the community. But nearly a year later, the pandemic emerged, significantly afflicting the food service industry.

“When you’re doing business plans,” says Talley, “you’re not expecting to be shut down for an extended period of time.” Despite the setback, she credits the community for its enduring support.

“People are certainly happier after they’ve eaten here,” she says.

In addition to guests enjoying the historic aesthetics of RFD Franklin, a recurring conversation piece from the menu is the porcini-encrusted scallops. “Our chef, Jeff Luzius, thought the earthiness of the porcini mushrooms would enhance the characteristics of the scallops,” says Talley. The mushrooms are dried, ground and dusted on the tops and bottoms of the scallops, giving them a savory, golden-brown exterior. Served alongside sauteed spinach and asparagus, the dish is enhanced with salty notes of pancetta and a touch of citrus with lemon and white wine sauce. And beyond these high-quality bivalves, Talley points out that all beef tenderloins are hand cut in house, yielding customer favorites like filets, steaks and the popular beef tips.

Talley says the Hudson Canyon scallops are flown in fresh, with an underlying, philosophical component of the dish being an adherence to viability and sustainability. “One of our guests said that they’ve eaten scallops all over the world, and our porcini scallops are the best he’s had.”

Blue Crab Cakes at Stone Creek Dining Co.
911 N. State Road 135, Greenwood, (317) 889-1200,

Now exceeding two decades as a member of the southside community, Stone Creek Dining Co. continues to produce food that shows its enduring commitment to its patrons.

Reflecting Stone Creek’s impressive longevity is a menu item that has a steadfast standing: the blue crab cakes. “I think the community embraces the blue crab cake dish,” says Michael Brown, director of operations for Cunningham Restaurant Group, “because it’s not something most of us would prepare at home.”

Served with sauteed leeks, andouille sausage, red pepper, arugula, red wine vinaigrette and lemon beurre blanc, this approachable but complex dish is simply difficult to imitate at home. “People just seem to love the idea of a crab cake,” he says; and although a number of other seafood menu items compete for popularity (blackened mahi-mahi, orange miso salmon), Brown singles out the dish “as something we might not be able to get at many restaurants in this area.”

Line cook Sean Cinnamon provides additional, behind-the-scenes insight. “The blue crab cakes,” he says, “are made in house from Alaskan crab, which we consider to be the edge our dish offers over competitors in the volume of meat to the breading.” Cinnamon suggests the entree’s favorability is owed to, quite simply, high-quality ingredients along with the care and craftsmanship of the dish. Though the crab cakes are an established entree, they’re often requested to be modified into smaller, appetizer portions or as a steak accompaniment.

And though Stone Creek’s main menu isn’t often altered, Cinnamon, who’s entering his first winter with the restaurant, says, “I’m confident patrons can expect hearty specials and soups to accompany the upcoming cold weather.”