Amidst the challenges 2020 has brought the local restaurant community, Hamilton County’s food scene continues to grow. Restaurants and cafés have quietly opened for business – and many to rave reviews. We’ve highlighted a number of noteworthy new businesses that opened just before or during the COVID-19 pandemic that you may have missed.
Methodology: This is a collection of 2020 business openings in Hamilton County zip codes, according to Yelp. The "hot & new" businesses algorithm looks at a number of different factors, including ratings and how recently the business opened. Businesses cannot request or pay to be featured and they do not have to be advertising with Yelp.
Located at 146th Street and River Road in Carmel, Bae Latin Food opened its doors in March 2020, just two days before the shelter-in-place orders. This Venezuelan eatery gets rave reviews for its steak pepitos, nachos, tacolanos, arepas and more.
Yelper Hanna-col P. writes, “I discovered this spot by chance on Instagram and they have been fulfilling all of my fried plantain cravings ever since. The fried plantains, the arepas, and their bowls are incredibly delicious. As someone who is gluten-free, it is amazing to have so many options to choose from that are naturally gluten-free. Definitely check them out for all your Latin food cravings.”
This is Java House’s second location – you can find the other brick-and-mortar coffee bar at Clay Terrace. Java House is known for its smooth cold brew and seasonal coffee beverages. Find this coffee shop in Midtown Carmel, just steps off the Monon Trail.
Yelper Rachel A. says, “I have enjoyed a couple specialty cold coffee drinks here but my new favorite is this coconut hibiscus concoction. It's not overly sweet, just utterly delightful. Take drinks to go and walk around the Monon or sit inside the comfortable, trendy shop and enjoy!”
Owner Rachel Priddy officially got the keys to her coffee shop on March 16, 2020 - the same day restaurants were ordered to close their doors for dine-in. Luckily, Rose & Lois has built a loyal following thanks to its convenient drive-thru and delicious coffee and tea drinks.
Yelper Alexander B. writes, “This is a rather new coffee shop which I discovered thanks to Yelp. We've been here a few times since then and we have nothing but good things to say. Great coffee and tea selection, plus, you can treat yourself with locally made brownies or with other, non-sweet breakfast menu items. The staff is very friendly and it's pretty cozy inside if you decide to sit in.”
The owners of Mammamia Gelato have transformed the gelato shop into a larger concept store, featuring Italian foods and specialty items. Stacco House serves sandwiches, meatballs, lasagna, pastries, breads, coffee, wine, olive oils, specialty meats, cheeses and more.
Yelper Anita A. says, “I decided to take a different route home and it was pure luck that I saw this place! I wasn't sure what it was, but was intrigued by the name. It is my favorite new pastry place! I got a slice of tortas della nonna and a pistachio cannoli. They fill the cannolis to order. I will definitely be coming back and trying their savory items!”
Vivante French Eatery
You don’t need to be a guest at Hotel Carmichael to enjoy the approachable French-inspired fare at Vivante French Eatery. Executive Chef Joseph Hsu brings 25 years of culinary experience to the table, with thoughtful dishes like steak tartare and tuna Niçoise salad.
Yelper Natasha G. writes, “Service, food & atmosphere were all spot on and fabulous. Can't wait to go back and have another Amore on the Monon! I recommend the French onion soup as well-best I've ever had.”
Fishers Test Kitchen opened just before the pandemic began. This space hosts three culinary entrepreneurs who are launching their restaurant concepts from built-out kitchens adjacent to the Sun King Innovation Brewery. The chefs will only be in the Test Kitchen food hall for one or two years as they test their concept, refine their menus and build a following. Check out the current lineup below.
Korave Korean BBQ
Originally from South Korea, Chef Jon and Chef Kim are brothers serving traditional dishes with familiar foods like tacos, poutine and rice bowls. The unique and flavorful menu at Korave includes Mee-Chin Nachos, Bibimbop and Bulgogi Poutine.
Yelper Sabrina M. writes, “Omg. This was my first time having anything close to Korean BBQ. After a visit here, I am a total fan! We took our food to go, and had to pull over to eat it...yes, it tasted that good. This is about 45 mins from my house, but I'd drive there time and time again. The tacos and fries stole my heart.”
Chef Carlos Salazar’s global street food menu at Lil' Dumplings is a nod to his Filipino heritage and his love of late-night fare from around the world. Order a warm bowl of ramen or steamed buns.
Yelper Brittany S. says, “...this eatery serves up a taste of several countries' cuisines and given the price point, you could easily order one of everything on the menu…Carlos and team, you’ve nailed it. I can’t wait for my next visit and for more folks to catch wind of what you have created.”
You might know Chef Neal Brown from his iconic local restaurants like Pizzology Craft Pizza and Pub, Libertine Liquor Bar and Ukiyo. His newest concept, One Trick Pony, focuses on hot, fresh, smashed burgers that are diner-style, made to order and pressed on a hot griddle.
Yelper Niki B. writes, “I took one bite into my cheesy fries and was awakened to the fact that I've truly never had crispy fries before until the ones I got here. The crinkly fries were so perfectly crispy, hot and tasty that I really felt like I had a fry awakening. You can choose fries or onion rings, then have them cheesy style (cheese on top), three-way (cheese, chili, roasted chiles), four-way (cheese, chili, roasted chiles, sour cream) or oui oui (garlic French onion gravy).”
Rachel and Samir Mohammad had to put their bistro concept on hold when the pandemic began and pivoted to take-home meals. Loyal customers of 9th Street Bistro love the “Sunday Supper Club” weekly menus with everything made from scratch.
Yelper Liz F. says, “I had the pleasure of trying many of 9th Street Bistro's prepared meals and grab and go items and I have been blown away. During this time of carry-out, it's hard to find things that travel well, and the meals that Chef Samir and Rachel prepare are perfect! It's really the next best thing from being there and enjoying a meal in person.”
New to the Historic Noblesville Square is Bica Café, a European bakery and café specializing in Portuguese and Italian sweet and savory baked goods, lunch fare and small plates. Customers love the pastels de nata, a classic Portuguese egg tart.
Yelper Jorge C. writes, “I will sing this café’s praises until I can’t sing no more…wow! Noblesville, I’m not sure if you know how great his little spot is yet. You will though.”
Located at 146th Street and Hazel Dell Parkway, Big Woods opened its first Hamilton County location in 2020. Try the signature pulled pork nachos, Busted Knuckle chili made with Quaff ON! marinated beef, or the maple bourbon chicken sandwich.
Yelper Krishna P. says, “Oh my...where to begin! From the beer to the food to the service everything was excellent! We had their Quaff Brewery Strawberry Blonde and Blonde and both were so amazing! I highly recommend getting one of these as they are light and refreshing.”
Yelper Tabatha S. writes, “No matter if it's the downtown location or Noblesville, Livery is unmatched. Everything I've ever tried has been absolutely delicious. Huge fan of all of their empanadas. As for entrees, I love the paella. It's definitely spicy but absolutely incredible. Service is also always top-notch!”
Noblesville’s newest eatery is The Nesst, a high-end steakhouse with steaks and seafood. Or, take a global adventure and try international dishes like Greek moussaka, Austrian wiener schnitzel or cevapi from the Balkans.
Yelper Sydni H says, “This place is absolutely amazing! The food is easily five-star quality and so different from a typical steakhouse. They have multiple dishes from all across the globe such as Russia, Italy, Germany! If you want a classy place for dinner in Hamilton County, this is easily a go-to place!”
As Ben’s website says, “Good things come to those who wait.” Here, they barbeque meats the old-fashioned way on a smoker with aged hickory and cherry wood. Visit the charming black and white shack on State Road 32 in Westfield – but note that Ben’s BBQ Shack is only open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Yelper Jon. E writes, “If you were looking for the best barbecue in the state, look no further. The brisket, pork, ribs are phenomenal. You can taste the difference in this BBQ! He does it the right way!”
Here, you can create your own donut. Vanilla cake donuts are made fresh each day (gluten-free also available upon request) and customers select icing and toppings to make it unique. Quack Daddy Donuts supports local and serves coffee from Indie Coffee Roasters and milk from Dandy Breeze Creamery.
Yelper Jessica B. says, “One of the novelties of this shop, is watching your doughnuts being made, iced and topped. This is a popular new business in the area so expect a wait and order more doughnuts than you think you'll eat because...truthfully you'll eat more.”
This British pub has opened a second location in the former Grand Junction Brewing Co. space on Union Street. The Union Jack menu includes pub favorites like Fish & Chips, Double Decker BLT, Battalion Tenderloin Sandwich and Patty Melts.
Yelper Windy J. writes, “I'm now sooo in trouble after discovering a British pub in my hometown. The atmosphere is perfect…the food was completely amazing. And the bartender made one of the best Irish coffees that I've ever had. I think I've found my new favorite spot!”
Dark Side is a specialty coffee roaster based in Cicero with a new brick-and-mortar coffee shop. Owners Matt and Vanessa had their first date at a coffee shop (how sweet!) and began roasting at home before turning their hobby into a business.
Yelper Zeke T. says, “The coffee options are on point, and they've also some added bakery items, breakfast choices and other nice treats. Given how delicious their roast coffee is, it's not unexpected they would do a great job with the coffee shop. And, they have! Well done.”
In 2019, the owners of Remnant transformed the old Hedgehog Music Hall building into a welcoming coffee shop on Main Street in Arcadia. In addition to coffee, Remnant Coffee Shop serves breakfast sandwiches and bakery items. Plus, they give back: all tips go toward their current service project.
Yelper Sam R. writes, “Color me surprised that this cute coffee shop has taken up residence in Arcadia, Indiana! Most people probably would not have had reason to come to Arcadia, a town of under 2,000 people, but Remnant is here to change that.”
Known for its delectable donuts like the Pershing, Titus Bakery and Deli opened its third central Indiana location inside Reynold’s Farm Equipment on US-31 in the space formerly occupied by Combine Café.
Yelper Missi R. says, “Truly a hidden gem in Atlanta, Indiana, just north of Westfield…Amazing (and huge) breakfast sandwiches, fresh donuts, cookies, popcorn, cupcakes and assorted other baked goods and snacks…Donut pudding! Need I say more?”