What better way to warm your innards when February's chill is creeping into your bones than an outstanding meal? NUVO's food editor Sarah Murrell has done the advance work for you, and here's 11 joints you should try — many are brand spankin' new, others are imports from Da Region, and the last few are eateries she recommends you revisit since they've changed addresses, chefs or menus.
Curiosity finally got the best of me with this January-opened eatery. The concept is exactly as it sounds: you order meatballs and various sides with a few different sauces on the balls. (Also, just get comfortable saying "balls" to a lot of strangers with a straight face before you dine here.) The restaurant is named after the family matriarch whose recipes inspired the menu. And the meatballs themselves are nothing short of the perfect comfort food. Vegetarians can also rejoice: their meat-free option is by far the most interesting and flavorful, which is no burn on the delicious meat versions. The interior is surprisingly swanky, too, with long, graceful glasses and an orchid on each table, the whole place decked out in shades of deep brown. In other words, it's a great new spot to take shelter from the cold weather and treat yourself to a dish you probably haven't had done this well since your last trip to your grandma's house. This one, despite the seemingly odd nature of the business, comes through on a promise of simple comfort food done very well. Sometimes focusing on one thing brings out the best version of that thing.
870 Mass Ave., 737-2625, mimibluemeatballs.com
When I first visited Bent Rail, I wasn't sure if I was there to drink and eat or to see a roller derby tournament. Craig Baker's new spot is absolutely enormous, with diners sharing space with a cordoned-off bar area that includes a pool table. If you have any concern at all that your dining party (or entire little league team, it's not all adults-only) won't fit at the sandwiches-and-beers place you have in mind, skip your usual place and come to this joint. It's pretty cool to eat in the same room as all the huge steel tanks, and the food has that Craig Baker signature of being smart but not overly fussy, with baked goods from 4 Birds and a really great selection of beers on tap. You can relax and get a pint with a big salad or a hot sandwich and chips: easy eating that pairs well with good fresh beer. It's a little hard to find, though, tucked back on Winthrop just west of Momma Carolla's, but you'll see the lighted sign once you turn the corner.
5301 N. Winthrop Ave., 737-2698, facebook.com/BentRailBrewery
Restaurant powerhouse Peter George opened this place to add a little more competition to the wine bar scene, and he seems to have succeeded marvelously. The little house off of 16th is a cozy spot to grab a few glasses and some small plates: casual for the grown and sexy, if you will. The menu is sophisticated and covers a variety of diets, with a whole "Botanicals" menu for vegetarians and vegans — a nice change for the plant-inclined from the usual salads. Not to mention George delivers on his wine promise, bringing one of the best red wine lists I've seen in a place so dressed-down. The restaurant joins a few other spots in the area, like The Thirsty Scholar, who are a part of a huge revitalization movement for the Herron-Morton neighborhood. Finally, residents in that area have another fun spot to spend their dollars on great food and wine.
402 E. 16th St., 925-5000, tinkerstreetindy.com
Now, Indy has a lot of amazing donut shops, I realize, but there is an ideal "butter zone" between price, quality, and creativity that Rocket 88 totally nails. They have all the old classics you could ever want, plus inventive new ones like Vanilla Chai, and none of the 'nuts go for more than $2.25. While I'd still recommend one of the old stalwarts if all you want is a box of plain glazed for a few bucks, this new Fountain Square spot is the new home of the destination craft donut without the huge price tag. You can also grab a cup of the custom-roasted Mile Square coffee created just for the shop in a continuation of the great symbiosis between brewed beans and fried dough. Grab an Assorted dozen for a 20-spot, or get a dressed-down box with all the classics for $15.
874 Virginia Ave., 737-2614, rocket88doughnuts.com
Opened last fall, this is an awesome concept that came to Zionsville and brought with it a whole bunch of miniature desserts. Finally, instead of having to choose between one dessert, you can hop across the continuum of sweet things like Tom Hanks on the Big keyboard. You can get mini macaroons, cupcakes, cake bites, panna cotta cups, and pretty much everything in-between. You can also indulge in a cup of good coffee too, with V60 and espresso options to go with your sweet treat. You can also get a cute little custom cake to take home for a party. Instead of burying yourself in a big dessert, get your fix in a smaller bite at this sweet little dessert bar.
640 S. Main St., 873-1001, bitesdessertbar.com
Fountain Square finally has a walkable market from the neighborhood-named fountain. Since December, Wildwood Market has been selling fresh produce, cured meats, cheeses, shelf-stable goods and sandwiches to the neighorhood. It's basically the Locally Grown Gardens of southeast Indy, complete with refinished car garage space. Wildwood turns out great sandwiches in the vein of Goose the Market, with a new sandwich of the day posted on social media. My favorite section of the store, though, is the basket of free damaged produce, which seems to represent the neighborly feel of the store better than anything else. You can grab any kind of fancy ketchup or relish you may need, and Wildwood will definitely have a lunch or dinner made for a king in some capacity, whether it's one of those sandwiches on Amelia's bread or some good meat in the case.
1015 Virginia Ave., 737-2653, wildwoodmarket.com
Tastes of Chicago
This one is the franchised offspring of the famous heavy metal Chicago burger joint. While it hasn't opened yet, the thick, meaty Kuma's burger is well worth the trip to the Windy City — yes, even now — to taste this absolute masterpiece of beef-meets-bun. Whether or not they've named a burger after your favorite band is yet to be seen, and we'll keep you all updated on the exact opening date as we get closer to it, but this is going to be a welcome addition to the Fletcher Place food scene.
1127 Prospect St., kumascorner.com
About three times a year, I wake up with the unexplainable, insatiable craving for Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Apparently, I'm not alone, as lines into this new Northside pizza joint stretched out the door at the opening. If you need fix of that thick casserole of a pizza pie, now Indianapolis residents have a place to get a for-real fix. Rumor has it they're planning multiple locations in the area.
4110 E. 82nd St., 348-4085, giordanos.com
The Libertine's move under Pizzology also included a menu revamp along with all the new light fixtures and projection screens. Plates are smaller and a bit more dressed-down, but still offering signature sophistication in the form of things like roasted octopus. The drinks are just as they were, though, with Libertine's be-vested drink slingers making some of the most delicious social lubricants in the city. If you felt like the old Libertine was just ever so slightly above your pay grade, check out the new one. It's a little more relaxed with more room to spread out and stay awhile, and the new small plates menu is meant for a relaxing round of cocktails in low light and good company.
608 Mass Ave., 631-3333, libertineindy.com
Plow & Anchor
One of the most exciting chef shifts in town has been Plow & Anchor's aquisition of Toby Moreno, former sous chef at Tallent, arguably the best restaurant in the state. He's joining the seafood house (owned by Bent Rail's Craig Baker) and has already started to add his influence to he fabulous menu built by John Adams. If you have avoided seafood in Indianapolis because you've had bad experiences, please leave those in the past and try this spot to get your mind completely changed. This is one place that absolutely knocks it out of the park with seafood, and it's worth a second visit to meet Chef Moreno.
43 W. 9th St., 964-0538, plowandanchor.com
Recess's Comfort Tuesdays
Greg Hardesty hasn't ever stopped being one of the city's fabulous chefs. Recess has always been known as his "playground," and now he's getting into a different kind of fun: cooking down-home comfort food, often departing from his pre-fixe model and serving a-la-carte options. I highly, highly suggest following Hardesty on Instagram to get the most current updates on the menu, which Hardesty regularly plays with (as he has for years). Consider this a call to action for the handful of foodie Millenials who obsessively Instagram the new stream of trendy Indy food to pay homage to one of the originators of true culinary genius in the city. Now, no matter if you want sophisticated fare or homestyle comfort food, you can get them prepared by (current rock star) Jonathan Brooks' mentor.
4907 N. College Ave., 925-7529, recessindy.com