Iron kettles on wood-burning stoves brought Mother Dapa Strangeff’s stew to a burble in the late 1800s. At that time, she lived in Macedonia and prepared her hearty creations for her nine children, as well as for the farmhands on her family’s plot of land. Two of her sons immigrated to the United States in 1911, bringing with them the recipe for Mother Strangeff’s stew that would be so crucial to opening John's Famous Stew. More than 100 years later, the eatery is still going strong. The menu still features the namesake stew with varying levels of heat—mild, medium, or dragon’s-mouth-after-eating-a-jalapeño-popper—as well as black-angus burgers, sandwiches, and salads. The dessert selection showcases peach, blackberry, and apple cobblers, all of which are homemade—Mother Strangeff wouldn’t have it any other way.
In West Point, Mississippi, Mama Hallie would cook nightly for her nine kids, and often the rest of the neighborhood. Her daughter Gustoria carefully watched her cooking methods, admiring her hawk-eyed focus on the art of presentation. Over the years, Gustoria became a mother herself, raising her kids Calvin, Diane, and John on those same country-style recipes.
In 2009, Diane?or ?DeeDee??began whipping up her grandmother?s recipes in a friend?s kitchen?making her own kitchen seethe with jealousy?with hopes to start her own business. Her success was quick and startling, and with more orders streaming in, Dee solicited the help of her brother Calvin to move into a larger facility. Finally, in 2010, DeeGusto?s opened upon the foundation of three generations of southern-style cooking. In the eatery?s cozy digs, patrons can nosh on John?s juicy smothered pork chops or Diane?s Dee-licious fried chicken, both paired with country sides such as potatoes and yams.
When asked for the secret behind his delicious barbecue dishes by reporters from the LISC Indianapolis Blog, Judge Smith answered, "That's easy. It's time." Judge spent more than 10 years developing his barbecue sauce, experimenting with different recipes and spices to procure the signature tangy taste. Today, he owns his own barbecue joint, where he pairs spicy, medium, and hot versions of his sauce with the meaty sandwiches, ribs, and platters that won him accolades from CityVoter. Judge smokes his meats slowly, sending the zesty aroma of pulled pork and sausages sailing through the restaurant.
Out in the dining room, where colorful sports flags and pendants hang on the walls, diners linger over sips of fresh fruit smoothies and bites of sweet-potato pie. After meals, guests can take home a bottle of Judge's signature sauce to use for making their own barbecue or for hosting the world’s first barbecue-balloon fight.
Bishop's Stadium Tavern opened its doors in 1933, the same year the government repealed Prohibition. The tavern's bartenders still celebrate that historic event by mixing cocktails and serving local craft beers from eight taps. To complement libations, cooks specialize in bar staples such as waffle fries smothered in housemade chili and Football heros, or 10-inch subs with turkey, salami, pepperoni, and provolone. Framed sports jerseys and flat-screen TVs tuned to games decorate the 1900-built space, which also frequently hosts live musicians and karaoke nights.
From the second-story balcony of Tavern On South's century-old building, diners enjoy seasonal menu creations illuminated by a blend of moonlight and the glowing Indianapolis skyline. As noted by Indianapolis Monthly in 2011, the interior's wooden accents and iconic photos of the city "lend the [newly opened] tavern a timeless patina," as diners sip on regional craft beers and thoughtfully selected wines.
Chef Allen Shideler orchestrates the menu and composes its dishes with seasonal ingredients, serving plates such as the chicken pomodoro in accordance with the growing seasons of herbs and the migratory patterns of tomatoes. The tavern is also within walking distance of Lucas Oil Stadium, allowing diners to stroll over to games after dinner.
A traditional Italian experience can be had at Osteria Pronto on the northeast first-floor corner of the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. The restaurant’s main dining area basks in natural lighting thanks to large, east-facing windows that provide guests with a glimpse of Indy’s cityscape. The rest of Osteria Pronto is straight out of Tuscany, with lightly-colored hardwood floors, crème-flavored walls and a classic Italian feel thanks to large, black, wrought iron-caged chandeliers. The main dining area is airy and open, and a private wine room nearby offers more intimate seclusion. Lunch and dinnertime visitors may choose to begin with a simple serving of basil-brushed bruschetta or a variation of calamari, while pizzas and pastas are certainly popular options.