indianapolis restaurants

Niki’s Guide to Indy: Dining at #NASPA16

Hello folks! I’m excited for my first ever NASPA Conference (after 3 years, I had to miss ACPA this year due to alternative break conflicts) and I’m thrilled that it’s in Indianapolis! After working in NW Ohio for five years, I moved to Indiana almost four years ago for my graduate program and have been working in Indianapolis since June 2014. It’s a great city and I’d love to share some local tips!

Today’s focus: Food! At preferably inexpensive and local restaurants! Or if it requires two money signs ($$) or more, I’ll recommend your mid-level/SSAO-type mentor take you here! (and if you, Gentle Reader, are a mid-level/SSAO-type and are looking to feed mentor a nice new-ish #SApro, please say hello!).

new girl - eating - winston

As a Yelp Elite I’m quite the foodie and love to give my opinion! 🙂 The list will be ordered from closet to the Convention Center (100 S. Capital St) to farthest; it will likely be raining during most of #NASPA *womp*womp* Note that distances is in minutes walked; I use this term because I can’t think of a better term although I know not all folks are able to walk/walk at the speed GoogleMaps uses, and may move across distances in other ways.

Downtown Restaurants (Less than 1 Mile from Convention/20 minutes walking/traveling via sidewalk)

  • Giorgio’s Pizza: Dudes. You have to go here. Only 11 minute walk and it’s right off of Monument Circle (aka the most beautiful part of downtown Indy), it’s been open for 26 years, and more than likely Giorgio is working (and singing in Italian). Get slices of pizza (try the stuffed pizza!), the AMAZING MARINA SAUCE, and get a cannoli. Then, if it’s not raining, I want you to walk the two minutes to the Monument and (if you’re able) go up the steps, sit down, snack, and revel in the city sights around you.
  • Ali Baba’s Cafe: First, the food is GOOD and inexpensive. Second, go here because during a #BlackLivesMatter march (in the wake of Ferguson) from Monument Circle to the Capital, the employees cheered on the protesters, Now my friend and I always hit them up when we’re around. #solidarity #solidaritywithhummus #butforrealyouneedtogetthishummus
  • Indianapolis City Market: Walk north 15 minutes to Market/Deleware to find a larger building with at least two dozen different shops inside. A meal is generally around $10; less if you are just getting a couple items. There’s Three Carrots for my veg friends, Spice Box if you want some quick Indian, and many other places. See a map of shops on their website.
  • Subito: A 12-minute walk NE is a fairly new sub/soup spot open 10am-3pm. Already pretty popular. There are $8 sandwiches and fairly cheap add-ons like soup and salad on the menu.
  • Pearings Cafe & Frozen Yogurt: One of my favorite places! At only 8 minutes away, this is a great destination for froyo, CREPES, and tasty paninis. Most of the paninis use meat from a local place and they are only $6 – a bit small but tend to make for happy tummies. There’s also ice water set up by the door if you need many refills from all the walking! The froyo is expensive, but what do you expect downtown and across from the mall?
  • BARcelona: Are you feelin’ fancy? This Spanish restaurant is two money signs ($$) and 16-minutes away, but can be a fun adventure with friends (small plates = try all the things). Check out the drink specials, eat some of the goat cheese in marina, and pretend you’re an SSAO for a day!
  • Bangkok Restaurant & Jazz Bar: Same with BARcelona – GREAT food but two money signs ($$). Perfect place for your mid-level/SSAO mentor to take you! Plus, jazz! Only a 17-minute walk!
  • The center city mall is also nearby and a swell of chain and local restaurants. There are plenty of options – the ones above are just some of my favs!

Mass Ave Restaurants (1-1.8 miles away/20-38 minutes away) – check out one of Indy’s popular cultural districts! This is where the Indy Pride Parade starts every year and after RFRA the businesses all had rainbow flags in their windows. It’s a bit bougie (all two money signs here, folks) and definitely is popular with the ‘young professional/hipster crowd that loves pay $10 for trendy tacos’ crowd. If that’s you, woohoo! If not, (like me!) there are lots of other cool spots.

  • Forty-Five Degrees: Do you love half-off sushi? Come here anytime on Sundays! Or, no matter what day you come, the sushi is good, the drinks are strong, and their salad dressing is thebomb.com
  • Bazbeaux Pizza: First, it sounds like a French word (even tho it’s not) so you could eat here to quell the jealousy in your heart from folks kicking it at #ACPA16 in Montreal. Second, the pizza is really, really good. Don’t get a boring pizza (like pepperoni – simple pies aren’t great here). I recommend the Mediterranean. It’s so good your tastebuds will do a dance of joy.
  • Sub-Zero Ice Cream: Do you like ice cream, SCIENCE, and an ability to have dairy-free ice cream treats? This place has all of that! Pick your ingredients and they Hogwarts it together to make your own specialized ice cream. And by Hogwarts, I mean liquid nitrogen. #science
  • AVOID: Bakersfield (‘street tacos’) and The Eagle (‘soul food/southern’). I’m not a fan of any places own by White mini-restaurant moguls who use the recipes of other cultures to make a profit (#somanymoneysigns), especially when we already got kickass latino (so.many.places!) and soul food (Kountry Kitchen!!) restaurants.
  • DO: Visit non-food places like Global Gifts (fair trade from around the world!), Silver in the City (always vote the #1 local shop!), the Small Mall, Midland Arts & Antiques Market (I bought a gavel there once. Just because), Indy Reads Bookstore (it’s a nonprofit and funds literacy programs!), and many other local shops!

Interested in a long walk and/or driving to a destination?

  • Panorama Grill: Want some awesome Dominican food? Or maybe middle eastern food? Have both! Only 1.3 miles away (26 minute walk) and right across the street from our amazing central library is this food fusion place. I wasn’t a huge fan of the hummus but the DR food is on point. The mofongo provides a party in my mouth!
  • Kountry Kitchen Soulfood Place: PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS HERE. And for $10 you can eat your little heart out on the finest fried chicken in the city + sweet tea, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc. Go here. You will thank me. It is only 3 miles away  on 19th/N College- 9 minute drive or 51 minute walk (actually – you might want the walk leading up to this meal!)
  • Mama Irma’s: Either a 15-minute bike ride or fairly quick drive to Fountain Square, and you can eat some AMAZING PERUVIAN FOOD. Plus owner Hilda Cano is always around and so friendly. If you’re in this area, walk around to the many other restaurants, bars, and shops, including some of my faves: comics and geekery at Hero House Comics (this is where my paychecks go!), play board games at Game Paradise, coffee and art at Funkyard, and so much more!!
  • You have to drive 20 minutes to the International Market District aka Lafayette Square area. Ethiopian, Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Peruvian,Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, etc. Check out the website or scan the Yelp results for this area.

Like what you read? Have a suggestion? Tweet me at @NikiMessmore! I may write up a few more recommendation lists (coffee, drinks, breakfast, outdoors, etc), so surely feel free to propose a topic.

Hope to see you at #NASPA16!

***

For more guides on Indy, check out these NASPA-related blogs + Indy resources