By Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star 

Eating your way through the Indianapolis area's hundreds of restaurants is an overwhelming ambition. A new restaurant tour makes it fun and easy starting in November.

Carmel-based Small Potatoes catering and event planning hosts its first Indie Indy Foodie Tours Nov. 13 and 20 in Carmel, owner Karen Kennedy said.

Tours expand to Fishers and Noblesville in January 2015 and then all of Hamilton County plus Broad Ripple and Mass Ave later in 2015.

The 6 p.m. Carmel tours are four-course meals that hit four spots over four hours. Attendees drive themselves to the first restaurant, Jersey's, where they sample Tomato Florentine Soup, the Pinelands Cranberry Salad and housemade focaccia with olive oil.

From there, a motor coach carries guests to the next three destinations and then back to their cars. The tour stops at J. Razzo's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar for housemade meatballs, risotto balls with spicy tomato cream sauce and sausage-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates; Upland Brewing Co. for fish tacos with borracho beans and blistered corn salsa; and Chocolate for the Spirit for truffles.

At each landing, diners discover restaurant highlights, say the story of a signature dish or how the kitchen creates menus. They may also meet chefs and/or restaurant owners.

A restaurant industry professional who has trained dining room staff and operated her own restaurants, Kennedy launched the tours to market Indy restaurants and expose people to offerings outside their local communities.

 While living in Chicago, Kennedy noticed people drove 45 minutes or more to try a restaurant. She was among them. When the Huntington, Ind., native moved to Indianapolis a couple years ago, she found her friends and acquaintances disinclined to leave their local communities, especially if they had busy schedules. With just one or two nights a week available to dine out, they stuck to the familiar rather than risk the unknown, Kennedy said.

"I figured how can we get people to think outside of their areas, culinarily, get people out of their bubbles."

 "One of our goals is to make sure everyone has a great time, and one of the ways we're going to do this is to have the tour host introducing people to each other, helping people discover common interests and encouraging folks to sit next to someone new at each stop," Kennedy said.

 

A big part of Kennedy's mission is to help independent restaurants. A self-proclaimed foodie who dines out often, she selects restaurants that meet her standards for quality food, service and atmosphere. Bringing guests to those restaurants not only increases the businesses' bottom lines but also public awareness about the passion owners and staffs give their establishments.

"I know how much work goes into it," Kennedy said of the restaurant business. "I'm kind of on a mission."

The Carmel tours cost $95 per person and include tips, taxes and transportation but not beverages. Gift certificates for future tours are available this holiday season. For details, visit www.smallpotatoesindy.com or call (317) 863-8257