An independently owned restaurant that has been building its open-establishment reputation for nearly four decades, The Carriage House Dining Room & Gardens has cemented its status as Indiana's destination restaurant. For 24 years, it has received the AAA Four Diamond Award (one of only four Midwestern restaurants to accomplish this). And for the past 28 years, Wine Spectator has praised its cellar, most recently with a Best of Award of Excellence in 2013.
These achievements would be impressive on the strength of a single menu, but The Carriage House changes up its board of fare every season. Prepared in traditional French style—in accordance with the vision of the restaurant's founder, Indiana Restaurant Association Hall-of-Famer Evelyn C. George—each dish is made fresh from gourmet ingredients. These selections infuse the dishes and cocktails, which might include caramelized apple crepe with creme fraiche, grilled sirloin steak with horseradish-cream sauce or eggs benedict with pancetta, asparagus, and basil hollandaise. The restaurant also hosts a gourmet selection of breakfast, lunch, and delectable European-style pastries.
The impeccable presentation doesn't stop at the dinner plate's edge. It encompasses the main dining room's hand-hewn walnut beams (unchanged since The Carriage House was first built as a church in 1851) where live classical guitar can be heard ruminating in the air and its showcase of Indiana Hoosier Salon paintings dating from the early 20th century. No matter the season, sommelier Judith Coté (Evelyn's daughter) can recommend a wine for any occasion thanks to her years of study with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
In 1981, Gelormo and Elvira Parisi saw their dreams become a reality with the opening of Parisi's Ristorante Italiano, an intimate, traditional eatery celebrating their Calabrian legacy. Today, their son, Roberto Parisi, continues his parents' commitment to quality by serving a menu filled with recipes originating with Roberto's grandmother and a handful of magic beans. Chef Ken Bealor adds a slight Irish lilt to the preparation of the dishes, which include homemade pastas and sauces made from scratch. The chef also has the pleasure of working with the freshest herbs and vegetables as the restaurant grows many of their own, and often cooks with meat and seafood bought locally. For a complete Italian dining experience, Roberto has gathered a fine selection of wines from across the globe that, despite their varying allegiances to country, get along quiet well with each other.
In "The Court," diners imbibe views of the University of Notre Dame, or they can opt to enjoy a romantic meal in the dining room where pianist Christoforos Kostantinos Griveas twinkles the ivories to a medley of musical styles. During clement skies, the restaurant keeps the French doors to their patio open, which plays host to a Mediterranean garden, numerous TVs, and a full bar.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Even pancake fanatics could get overwhelmed at American Pancake House. Twenty varieties of the expertly flipped discs fill the menu, their numbers bolstered by a lengthy list of crepes, blintzes, waffles, and french toast. Fresh pecans are swirled into the diner's special pancake batter, emerging from the oven slathered in a cinnamon-sugar glaze, whereas chocolate pancakes blur the lines between breakfast, dessert, and feeding frenzy. Not to be outdone, the diner's menu of savory breakfast dishes and lunch plates dazzle in syrup-free glory, from the mediterranean frittata that pairs smoked sausage with onions and feta to the a classic diner reuben stacked on perfectly toasted rye.
In a restaurant decorated with festively warm colors and grainy wooden tables, La Rivera aims to summon the cuisine and atmosphere of a Mexican street fair. Each day, the eatery's kitchen dishes out their specialty—sizzling fajitas made with steak, shrimp, or chicken, accompanied by rice, beans, sautéed onions, and peppers. Plates of carne asada arrive fresh from the grill coated in sauce, with tortillas for sopping up every last morsel. Chiles rellenos harbor beef or cheese, and huge burritos hide treasure troves of rice, beans, veggies, and a slightly tinier burrito.
Bob's 19th Hole, opened in 1976 by Robert and Vickie Schroeder, boasts an eclectic menu of classic family eats and a panoply of fresh, handmade burgers. Take a swing at a basic hamburger (a $6.29 value) or cheeseburger (a $6.99 value), or power-up with a patty covered in sautéed mushrooms and melted swiss cheese (a $7.99 value), perfect for postmatch hunger busting or for use as a bargaining chip with a course ranger. The nacho burger—10 ounces of ground chuck beef slathered in nacho cheese (an $8.99 value)—excites timid taste buds, and the Ultimate burger glides to gullets topped with crisp fried onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, bacon, and Bob's special sauce (an $8.99 value). All burger platters arrive at tables sporting a dapper fez and flanked by a choice of potato and a side dish, such as baked beans, applesauce, or coleslaw.