If YOU are, and you’re anywhere near Hamilton County, Indiana, you’re in luck. It doesn’t matter what kind of food you’re in the mood for, or whether or not your kids are picky eaters. There’s something here for everyone.
Sure, you can easily find something delicious in the Carmel Arts and Design District along Main Street, like Bazbeaux Pizza or The Pint Room, or in the posh Carmel City Center, at places like divvy or the glittering new Cake Bake Shop. In Noblesville, a quick stroll around the Historic Noblesville Square will yield a treasure trove of delightful eateries, like Rosie’s Place, Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano or Asian Grill. These are the go-to places for locals and tourists alike. But what if you took the time to dig a little deeper? What hidden culinary gems might you find?
Here are five hidden Hamilton County culinary gems worth taking the time to look for.
1. Café Korea
11003 Allisonville Road, Fishers.
Café Korea has moved up from a tiny mom and pop shop in a strip mall to a huge mom and pop shop in strip mall. Honestly, this space is too big for most any independently owned restaurant, which results in the space looking a bit bare bones. However, you’re not there for the elegant decor. You’re there for really tasty Korean food. The menu can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated, but there are certain classic dishes in Korean cuisine that are “can’t miss” and a sampling of those is the best place to start. You can branch out in future visits. Order the seafood pancake to start, then share the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bop; a classic Korean dish of sticky rice topped with spicy marinated beef (Bulgogi) alongside a variety of vegetables and a fried egg, all served in a screaming hot stone bowl. A spicy red sauce will come on the side. Mix it in judiciously and try to get a bit of everything in each bite. And if you’re a fish lover, you won’t find a more beautifully grilled piece of sea bass anywhere in the greater Indianapolis area.
2. Convivio Italian Artisan Cuisine
11529 Springmill Road, Carmel.
Convivio also has an unassuming facade. Like many of these hidden gems, it’s also tucked in a strip mall. However, as soon as you walk in the door and see the gorgeous strands of freshly made pasta hanging in the display case, and you’ll know this is no ordinary hole-in-the-wall. Start with the eggplant bruschetta, with tomatoes, arugula and Taleggio cheese, then dive into a bowl of homemade gnocchi with a mother lode of mushrooms, including shiitake, oyster, wood ear and porcini, all getting cozy in a dreamy marsala cream sauce.
3. MashCraft Fishers
11069 Allisonville Road, Fishers.
MashCraft originated in Greenwood on Indy’s south side. It’s now expanded to three locations, including one in Fishers. It took over the space previously occupied by the short-lived Heady Hollow Brewing in, (you guessed it,) a strip mall on Allisonville Road. It’s pretty small and it’s definitely a bar… there’s no pretense here. However, you’ll find some of the tastiest food in Fishers. The menu calls itself “elevated pub food”, but they’re short-selling it. The food is fresh and inventive, going beyond the usual suspects of burgers and tacos into lush grain bowls, pastas and charcuterie boards. In the summer, there’s a sweet little outdoor patio.
4. St. Yared Ethiopian Cuisine and Coffeehaus
11210 Fall Creek Road, Fishers.
Owned by husband and wife team Haile and Etenesh Abebe, this cozy little spot tucked away in (well, you know…) is about as authentic as you can get. Etenesh’s mother and sisters, who live in Ethiopia, make the “berbere”, the unique and essential spice for Ethiopian cooking, and ship it to St. Yared once a month. Never tried Ethiopian food? No problem. The staff will happily explain the dishes to you. The Ye-beg Wot is a great choice. It’s a stew, rich with onions, garlic and ginger, available with lamb, chicken or beef. After dinner, you must have the Ethiopian coffee service. That alone is worth the trip.
5. Super Bowl Pho
112 E. Main Street, Westfield.
Located in the heart of Westfield’s historic downtown, Super Bowl Pho is also family-owned. It’s been rated the #1 Vietnamese restaurant in the United States on Yelp. The menu is huge and diverse, offering noodle dishes, spring rolls, banh mi sandwiches and, of course, pho—the savory, rich broth-based dish that’s the hallmark of Vietnamese cuisine. The flavors are bright, the decor is cheerful, and so is the staff. It’s a can’t-miss destination in Westfield.
So there you have it.
This list just barely scratches the surface. Hamilton County is brimming with top-notch, unique, independently owned culinary gems that rival restaurants anywhere in the country. So, whether you’re visiting Hamilton County for two days, or you’ve lived here for 20 years, you’ll be delighted at what you have yet to discover.
Grab a fork and dig in.