a very good place to start

Some spots to try for the most important meal of the day
By Clint Smith  //  Photography by Jana Jones

Although often beloved, breakfast joints are ubiquitous institutions. But for some southside restaurants, the ceremony of breakfast means more than a meal —it’s a time-honored tradition. Here, some southside options when you’re ready to break your fast.

Four Seasons Family Restaurant’s The Southern Skillet
1140 N. State Road 135, Greenwood | (317) 859-1985 | facebook.com/fourseasonssouth

Cooking experiences in the Greek diners of Chicago proved formative for George Potamousis, owner of Four Seasons Family Restaurant, and shaped the expansive menu that diners enjoy today.

“Four Seasons is special because it is one of the oldest family-style diners in Indianapolis,” says Nicholas Potamousis, George’s son, who, as manager, is now carrying on his father’s nearly 30-year-old enterprise. “One thing that makes us unique is our sense of community that our customers have with our family and our employees.” Potamousis adds that some individuals have remained loyal employees with Four Seasons for decades.

The southern skillet has been a staple from the restaurant’s inception. “It starts like all our skillets,” explains Potamousis, “with a layer of home-fried potatoes” (which are made fresh each day).

The potatoes are then blanketed by a layer of grilled onions and green peppers before being topped by chopped, country-fried steak, “what they call chicken-fried steak in the South,” he says. The skillet is then enriched with the addition of homemade sausage gravy.

“Finally we add a slice of American [cheese] and a slice of Swiss cheese.” As the cheeses melt, two cooked-to-order eggs are added to the skillet. “I think the dish is so popular because it has everything you could want from breakfast all in one,” says Potamousis.

“Our customers love all our breakfast foods,” he says, “from our omelets to our French toast, and of course our biscuits and gravy.”

It would be simple to attribute the restaurant’s large menu of, as he puts it, “good old-fashioned comfort food” as the source of Four Seasons’ popularity, but for Potamousis, the longevity is really about a reciprocity of loyalty.

“We credit our success to our most loyal customers who rarely miss a day, even during this past hectic year,” he says, referencing the abundant challenges that emerged for the food service industry in 2020. “We consider ourselves so lucky to still be in business, and we really thank each and every one of our customers for their support.”

Metro Diner’s Fried Chicken & Waffles
7225 S. U.S. 31, | Unit A06, Indianapolis | (317) 285-0149 | metrodiner.com

When appraising what makes Metro Diner such a unique concept, Erik Marks, managing partner of the Greenwood location, submits a quote from Guy Fieri’s 10th-season episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”: “Diners across the world have to take a lesson from this one.”

Yes, Guy Fieri visited a Metro Diner. Not, we must note, the one in Greenwood, but the chain’s three decades of success, Marks suggests, can be attributed to a philosophy of hospitality, what he calls “the Metro way.”

Guests, he says, should be “greeted with a warm welcome, a hot cup of coffee and passionate service from start to finish.” It’s a macro-concept that’s extended on the macro-scale of the southside.

“We are very thankful for our local guests and believe they have embraced Metro Diner because of the home-cooked comfort food,” says Marks, encouraging patrons to “come as you are, eat what you love, linger and laugh as long as you’d like.”

One of the dishes that compels a certain amount of lingering is the fried chicken and waffles. Implemented in 2010 by owner and culinary coordinator Mark Davoli, Metro Diner’s fried chicken and waffles consists of a fluffy Belgian waffle, capped with strawberry butter, then topped — and bear in mind Metro Diner prides itself on generous portion sizes — with half a fried chicken. The dish is then punctuated with a signature sweet-and-spicy syrup.

The result is a pleasing contrast between sweet and savory, crunchy and delicate. “With a 48-hour preparation process,” Marks says, “we take pride in every order to ensure each plate is served just right.”

Beyond this steadfast classic, there are several notable contenders that draw diners’ attention (the Iron City meatloaf will have to wait for a dinner-centric discussion). Loved locally, Marks says, is the steak and scramble bowl, consisting of seared sirloin steak, scrambled eggs, served over hash-brown potatoes and finished with blistered grape tomatoes and rich hollandaise sauce.

And although Metro Diner certainly possesses the atmosphere of a classic breakfast diner, Marks encourages guests to check out the latest lunch and dinner menus, all of which are available for curbside pickup and delivery.

Ann’s Restaurant’s Blazing Jalapeno Omelet
77 W. Monroe St., Franklin | (317) 736-5421 | annsrestaurant.com

The header on the menu at Ann’s Restaurant in Franklin reads, “Family Tradition,” and it’s evident from its dedication to the town of Franklin that the word “family” extends to the community itself. Inducted into the Franklin Hall of Fame in 2019, Ann’s Restaurant is the city’s oldest restaurant. But the relationship with the town, according to general manager Jim Klein, is connected to something beyond breakfast but equally nourishing.

“We are … a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Tara Treatment Center,” Klein explains. “One hundred percent of our profits after expenses goes directly to them.” Tara, a holistic treatment facility specializing in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, was founded by Ann Dougherty, the namesake for Ann’s Restaurant.

One of Ann’s signature dishes is the blazing jalapeno omelet. Created for patrons seeking an extra kick, the omelet is the only breakfast item featuring jalapenos, a trio of cheeses, and a choice of ham, bacon or sausage (though Klein says many customers request to substitute taco-spiced ground beef or chicken). He notes, “One [customer] in particular loves the omelet drizzled with our spicy ranch sauce,” adding that there are few breakfast places where diners can enjoy this combination of flavors in an omelet.

But Klein admits there are menu item contenders that compete as crowd-pleasers. Quite popular is the meat lovers omelet: a trio of sausage, ham and bacon, followed by the addition of American cheese and finished with sausage gravy. And on the sweet side, there’s the cinnamon roll French toast, what he calls a huge seller.

During the spring and in response to the increased popularity of salads on the menu, Klein shares his eagerness to return to a season that accentuates the unique dining experience. “We have outdoor seating in the front, out back and on a balcony,” he says. “Customers in downtown Franklin love outdoor dining.”

Yiayia’s House of Pancakes’ Greenwood Crepes
1694 W. Main St., Greenwood | (317) 888-6800 | facebook.com/YiayiasPancakes

A neighborhood restaurant: It’s a distinction that Yiayia’s House of Pancakes strives to respect. “I feel Yiayia’s is a special restaurant because we have amazing owners that truly care about their employees and our customers,” says manager Rebecca Kapitany, who notes with affection the loyalty of their regulars who visit “like clockwork,” going on to say these devoted diners “are more like family than customers.” Kapitany, who this spring celebrates five years with Yiayia’s, sums up this customer-service calculus as such: “We make sure that our food is hot and tasty, and that everyone is happy and full when they leave Yiayia’s.”

The combination of local loyalty and culinary consistency is showcased in a menu item that has remained an unwavering fave for the past seven years. The aptly named Greenwood crepes feature three delicate, golden-brown disks, stuffed with sweet mascarpone cheese; the thin layers are then covered with cherry glaze, powdered sugar and whipped cream. And while Yiayia’s boasts more than a dozen crepe combinations, it’s the Greenwood crepes that hold the title as the repetitive crowd-pleaser. “Customers just love the taste of it all together,” says Kapitany.

Vying, too, for the attention of hungry customers is the banana nut bread French toast, served with two cooked-to-order eggs and a choice of bacon or sausage. Oh yeah, she adds, “Customers also love our biscuits and homemade gravy.”

In addition to the easily approachable breakfast menu, Yiayia’s offers more savory options with those in a lunch or dinner mood. “Our specials change weekly,” says Kapitany, noting the rotating popularity of atypical items, such as a lighter avocado toast plate or something as hearty as a California burger.

And like so many establishments that have nimbly responded to safety alterations for in-person dining, she urges local loyals to check out Yiayia’s carryout options. “We also offer curbside, to-go, Grubhub and DoorDash for those who are not comfortable coming to dine in.”