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 Cot? (Evelyn's daughter) can recommend a wine for any occasion thanks to her years of study with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
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.
Cuisine Type: American
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 11?25
Parking: Free street parking
Most popular offering: Burgers, wings, pork chops, and fish
Alcohol: Full bar
Delivery / Take-out Available: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Alfonso Mack's journey to becoming a chef and restaurateur was hardly a straight line. Though he spent time in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, taste testing and analyzing family recipes, he didn't really embrace cooking as a career option until college. As a basketball player, he often found himself hungry after a late practice, without anywhere to go to get a basket of fries to continue dunking basketballs into. He started making quick meals for the other players, and soon realized that he loved seeing friends enjoy his food as much as he loved cooking it. So, after graduating college, he founded Linden Grill.
Today, Alfonso focuses on preparing "soulful food cooked fast," and his menu reflects that aspiration. He whips up pork chops, burgers, and wings in a blur. He particularly recommends the philly cheesesteak, a gem on his menu he wishes more people ordered.
A brightly colored storefront beckons diners in to Falafel Express, where tables crowd with plates of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Grills sizzle beneath the chicken, beef, and vegetables for sandwiches and platters, which pair with garlic-kissed swirls of hummus or salads customized according to diners’ tastes or tendencies to have nightmares about carrots. A variety of vegetarian dishes eschews meats in favor of falafel and lentils, and flaky Mediterranean pastries brim with ground nuts and brass-hued honey.
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.