There’s nothing flashy or upscale about Peppy Grill in the historic Fountain Square district of Indianapolis. In fact, the small, old-style diner, which is open 24 hours a day, specializes in easygoing charm rather than an eloquent experience. The majority of the main dining area’s seating options position guests literally next to the facility’s kitchen and grill, separated from food prep by nothing more than a countertop. And while haughtier eateries might label this as chef’s counter seating, Peppy Grill is much simpler, with an all-day breakfast menu that leans heavily on eggs and potatoes. Of course, there are hamburgers on offer, and if you’re in the mood to split a sizzling steak tenderloin with a loved one, it’s possible to grab a more discreet table opposite the kitchen and cash register counter.
The griddle at Bearcats Restaurant releases sizzling applause beneath eggs, sausage, pancakes, and hot sandwiches. At the vintage booths and counters, the clatter of silverware punctuates sound from a 52-inch screen TV broadcasting football games or security-camera footage from accident-prone toupee shops. The eatery also carries a selection of wine and beer, including draughts from Indianapolis’ own Sun King Brewery.
The Egg & I offers a separate menu for their Chicago Heights and Tinley Park locations, each stocked with breakfast and lunch options, piling plates high with egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, and salads. The mexican skillet’s spicy chorizo sausage is served alongside tomatoes and onions under melted cheddar, sour cream, and salsa ($7.25–$8.74), and arrives with pancakes and toast just like The Egg & I’s other skillets and especially friendly census takers. Three crepes burst with strawberries under a dusting of powdered sugar that helps nab the fingerprints of criminally tasty fruit before an optional dollop of whipped cream flies in for a sweet landing ($6.50–$7.84). Fruit fiends will also enjoy the double-blueberry waffle, featuring a warm belgian discus saddled with a heap of fresh berries or compote ($6.95–$8.14). Lunchtime diners lay out a welcome mat for the blackened-salmon-fillet salad, adorned with crumbled blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, and walnuts ($7.95–$9.74). Prices vary by location.
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the "International House of Pancakes." Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
In business for 25 years and renowned for its slow-cooked barbecue ribs, the family-owned Nick's Barbecue maintains a culinary stable of more than 100 equally tempting items on its menu. Fall-off-the-bone barbecue baby back ribs cover fingers in a sweet signature sauce, dinner’s perfect complement to stylish sauce-colored outfits ($10.99). The barbecue pulled pork ($7.59) and half-chicken dinner ($7.45) team up tender white meats with three down-home sides, including mac ‘n’ cheese, potato wedges, barbecue baked beans, or mixed veggies. Two items that are as authentically Chicago as a silver bean riding the L train—the italian beef sandwich ($4.69) and the vienna all-beef hot dog ($2.15)—do their city proud as they tame the windiest of appetites.