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NUVO at 25: International dining comes into its own

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I moved to Indianapolis just shy of ten years ago, so my qualifications as an Indy historian are slim at best. Nonetheless, in that almost-decade, I think I've honed in on what makes so many people stick around our mis-labeled "flyover city." For many people, Indianapolis has become a home away from home many thousands of miles from their birthplace. The evidence is in how many thriving immigrant-owned and international businesses dot our map in every direction.

There is something in the particular sweetness of Hoosier hospitality that brings people from across the country and world, and for the last 25 years, many of the best international restaurants have not only survived but thrived and expanded. Like arms and legs jutting outward toward the corners of the metropolis, you can go down Pendleton Pike, Michigan Road, and both ends of Washington Street to find immigrant-owned eateries that survive by feeding their neighbors the much-missed tastes of home.

I called my parents, themselves former transplants some 30 years ago, to talk about the selection of international dining when they last lived within city limits.

"There were...a few decent Mexican restaurants, I think. And Chinese?" was what they came up with. In other words, not much to speak of. For authentic international food, they said, you had to travel at least to Chicago or an equally large market. These days, it's hard not to choke on the glut of options when you type in "ethnic food Indianapolis" into Google.

In the last year, Mayor Ballard wised up to the importance of having cultural centers, naming the area around Lafayette Square the "International Marketplace." Long before Three Carrots was slinging seitan food at City Market, Spice Nation was serving a completely meat-free menu to the city's vegetarians. Before Indianapolis knew what an authentic street taco was, you could grab one at El Rodeo.

And last year, the folks at Manthan International Market decided it was time for downtowners to have access to all this international fare, so they put together an old world-style bazaar that combines food and community on the corner of College and St. Clair.

Our own Kyle Long wisely said that, in terms of cultural exchange, "people are often more willing to eat international food than they are to even listen to a song." And in a city with several immigrant populations so big that you cannot find a larger group outside of their home country, there is no better time to come to the table, meet your neighbors, and eat something you've never tried before.

Use our map to make your way through as many food cultures as you can, but know that it's not exhaustive by any means. For that, you'll have to return to these cultural hot spots more than once, and you owe it to yourself to celebrate 25 years of cultural exchange one plate at a time.

International restaurants by region

38th & Georgetown

Saigon

4760 W. 38th St.

Abyssinia

5352 W 38th St.

Machu Picchu — Peruvian

Honey Creek Mall, 5356 W. 38th St.

Taquera El Maguey

Northwest Plaza Shopping Center, 5629 W. 38th St.

Carniceria Guanajuato

5210 W. Pike Plaza Road

India Palace

4213 Lafayette Road

Spice Nation

4225 Lafayette Road

Saraga International Grocery

Lafayette Place Shopping Center, 3605 Commercial Dr.

Szechwan Garden

3649 Lafayette Road

Ming Jiang

3806 N. High School Road

La Fiesta

5116 W. 38th St.

El Sol Azteca

5354 W. 38th St.

El Pollo Tapatio

4112 N. High School Road # A

Los Chilaquiles

4930 Lafayette Road

Pendleton Pike

El Rincon Jarocho

7985 Plummer St.

Regio's Taqueria

4632 N. Post Road

Restaurant Y Taqueria Don Marcos

4779 N. Post Road

Los Rancheros

7437 Pendleton Pike

MaMa's House Korean Restaurant

8867 Pendleton Pike

Bando Restaurant

Pendleton Pike Shoppes Shopping Center, 8015 Pendleton Pike

Foon Ying Restaurant

3770 Shadeland Ave.

Sandra Rice & Noodles

Indian Creek Commons, 10625 Pendleton Pike A11

East Wasthington

Javier's Hacienda

2444 E. Washington St.

Tlaolli

2830 E. Washington St.

Savor Bohemio

4002 E. Washington St.

La Hacienda

Irvington Plaza, 6429 E. Washington St.

La Parada Restaurant

1638 E. New York St.

La Escollera

5834 E. Washington St.

El Camatron Mexican Restaurant

8315 E. Washington St.

West Washington

Soriano's Mexican Restaurant

2541 W. Washington St.

La Poderosa

3745 W. Washington St.

The Tamale Place

5226 Rockville Road

Mucho Gusto

6447 W. Washington St.

La Canasta Grocery

64 S. Girls School Road

El Meson Mexican Restaurant

8218 Rockville Road

El Rodeo

8128 E. US Hwy 36

Michigan Road & Northwest

Los Portales Restaurant

Plaza 71 Shopping Center, 2989 W. 71st St.

Alonso Taqueria

7363 Michigan Road

El Pastorcito

7876 Michigan Road

La Casa De Los Mariscos

7940 Michigan Road

Tamaleria Lupitas

8335 Michigan Road

China Kitchen

7143 Michigan Road

Wah Wah Chinese Restaurant

2732 W. 71st St.

Yen Ching

9150 Michigan Road

Chang Fu Restaurant

3905 W. 96th St. #400

Sarah Murrell is food editor and lover of travel, both by plane and by plate.


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