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Trip Report A short visit to Indiana

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I spent a few days last week in Indianapolis and Bloomington. After getting some helpful advice about restaurants I thought I would report back in case anyone else is headed that way. This trip was partly about some busines I had to do in Indianapolis followed by a trip down to Indiana University to visit a friend who recently started teaching there.

I flew Delta, non-stop, Boston-Indy. It was a pleasant flight. Actually, the plane was more comfortable than I expected. Both flights were full, both left on time and landed a few minutes early. I left on Sunday and was happy to escape before thunderstorms or tornados screwed things up.

I picked up a rental car from Hertz (my company's supplier of choice) and upgraded myself from a tiny Yaris to an Avalon. Nice car.

In Indy I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. Company rate includes wifi and breakfast. This is a nice quiet hotel, well located downtown. The buffet breakfast is better than average, including an omelet station, and nice fresh fruit. At $15 it would be a decent deal for hotel breakfast. Included in the room rate, it was a great bargain. Rooms at the Hyatt are well soundproofed. I know this because there were a couple of marching bands staying during a competition at Lucas Oil Stadium. There were 4 young men in the room adjoining mine. I never heard them (I only know they were there because there were name tags on the outside of the doors with band members in them).

Dining in Indianapolis...
This area of downtown, by the convention center and stadium, really seems chock full of bad chains and expensive steakhouses. i think the nice, small, independent restaurants are some distance away. And when I'm alone I always stick close to my hotel. I know its just a short cabride to find better food, but I'm weird that way. I wouldn't hesitate if I were with a travel companion, but alone I just want to step out, find someplace, and eat quickly. So I stuck to the several block radius around my hotel.

Napolese was recommended here, and I knew going there would push my low-carb requirements, but it was the most appealing of the options I found on my first night. It has a nice vibe, a few people inside, but not crowded, a comfortable looking bar to sit at. I had a fall salad of brussel sprouts, dried cherries, apples, marcona almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette. Then I order a BLT pizza, where the BLT stands for bacon, leek and tallegio. Both were absolutely delicious. I only ate half the pizza to limit my carbs. Took the rest back to my room and ate a slice for lunch later in the week. Yum, even cold!

Next night, I was dressed in my best business clothes, so I decided to go to one of the steakhouses. I went to St Elmos and found a seat at the bar. This is the most busy place I would go to, and really very nice. Plenty of other solo diners, or pairs of business men sitting at the bar to dine. The shrimp cocktail lives up to its reputation...that cocktail sauce is seriously fiery and definitely opens up the sinuses. The lobster bisque is awesome. The filet steak is good, and perfectly cooked, but seems not very special (and given the pricetag, I feel like it should be somehow better). It comes with awesome mashed potatoes, of which I eatonly a small portion. but they sure are tasty. The bread basket looks yummy too, but I ask the bartender to take it away for fear I will snarf down those flatbreads.

Thursday night, I'm eating a little later, just before 8PM. I decided it would be entertaining to have dinner at the Indianapolis Colts Grill, since the Colts will be playing at 8. I found a seat at the bar here, although it was very full. the fried chicken, served with mashed potatoes (argh! i forgot to ask to skip these. i will not eat them!!!), spinach and corn is actually very tasty. And I have a local beer as well, I think it was Flat 12 4 Barrel brown ale. Its quite good. Malty, not terribly bitter. And the atmosphere is fun, lots of blue and white, and people having fun. Well, until Tennessee takes a 14-0 lead. I try not to let on that I'm a Patriots fan, and secretly rooting for the Titans.

I had a little time for sightseeing on Thursday, although its split because I have a meeting at 2PM. So in the morning I take a long walk around downtown with my camera. Its actually a spectacular day, sunny, breezy, cool. I walked the cultural trail, down to the river, past the museums and the NCAA headquarter, then up through the middle of town and the veterans memorial. I would have visited one of the museums, but didn't have a lot of time, and it was so nice outside, I thought I would just walk.

After my meeting I realized that the Indianapolis Museum of Art is open late Thursdays, and it has a Matisse exhibit I was interested in, so I drove up there. it is a nice museum. Bigger than I expected. The Matisse exhibit had a few nice paintings, but wasn't really compelling. The permanent collections do have some very nice pieces. JMW Turner is my favorite, and they have a particularly nice painting of his, I hadn't expected. By itself it was enough to make the visit worthwhile. I enjoyed a couple of hours there, then headed back to downtown for my last night in Indy.

Friday morning -- Bloomington...to be continued.

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    Thanks for the update. I'm glad you liked Napolese!

    My understanding is that you may have to travel to Indy in the future. If you do, I would urge you--weather and, perhaps sunlight permitting, to venture just a few blocks more to the east. Some of the places I mentioned on Mass. Ave really aren't that much farther away, and the route is perfectly safe during the evening. But I understand your hesitation if you choose to stick closer to your hotel. I'll try to think of a few additional places that are worth visiting within a few blocks of teh Hyatt. You are correct that chain resaurants dominate the immediate downtown area though.

    Looking forward to your Bloomington report. My husband and I just spent a night there ourselves after seeing David Sedaris at the I.U. Auditorium. I lived there from 1988-96 for school, and it remains one of my designated happy places.

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    I liked Bloomington quite a bit as well. I'm sure my friend is going to be happy there, in his new job. I toured the music school's new state of the art building where his studio is located, and its pretty fantastic. I also visited the IU Art museum, and the IM Pei building was nice. The collection is quite good for a university museum. Actually, they had a temporary exhibit which was art that the government bought in the 50's, and was then going to sent around to various eastern European countries as a way of promoting democracy and American cultural values during the cold war. However, the exhibitions were cancelled due to various controversies, and the art was sold at auction. Much of it was sold to universities. The collection is interesting, and its history quite fascinating. If you are nearby I highly recommend checking it out.

    For more on that exhibit, check this link: http://www.artinterrupted.org/

    An interesting side note, after this traveling art exhibition was cancelled, the US government found it more practical to send American symphony orchestras instead, so several of them took long tours of Eastern Europe and the far East again, to promote "American Cultural values", whatever that is supposed to mean.

    I also attended a performance of the student opera, Humperdink's "Hansel and Gretel". As we discussed in my older thread, the students here are of such high quality, the opera certainly reflected that. I particularly thought the soprano playing Gretel had a sweet voice. the orchestra was flawless :) (I have to say that, I was sitting with professor of viola, professor of clarinet, and the wife of the music director :) :) )


    I stayed at an inn in Bloomington called the Showers Inn. Its very conveniently located between campus and downtown, and an easy walk to several restaurants. My room was on a corner overlooking the garden and with a little bit of a view looking over trees towards the campus. It was very charming (without being loaded with extra pillows, doilies or tschotskes). Also, had the most comfy bed imaginable. I had originally planned to stay in a cheaper room in one fo the chain hotels, but all were booked...probably full of basketball fans. But I was glad. This was not too pricy at $165/night, it was very quiet, comfy, and breakfast was good. Definitely recommended.

    We had 2 nice dinners out. One night we went to Tallent. I had a roasted root vegetable salad, with pistachio butter and goat cheese. Then a nice piece of sauteed walleye served over lobster risotto. Cheese tray for dessert. They also had some very good wines by the glass.

    The second night we went to a Greek restaurant called Topo's, right in downtown, just 2 blocks from my inn. The mezedes were my favorite part, which is so often the case at Greek places. We had saganaki (pan fried haloumi cheese), and grilled octopus and shrimp. My main was moussaka which was good, but I was a little disappointed to realize it was meatless. I hadn't realized from the menu, and wasn't what I had in mind. It was very flavorful though.

    One lunch at the Scholar's Inn bakehouse. Half sandwich and salad was nice. When I do eat bread, I like it to be really good bread, and this place qualified. I bet they have really good breakfasts too.

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    Indyhiker, you remember correctly, it is likely I will be going back in 3-6 months, and maybe regularly thereafter. I don't know why I'm always so hesitant to venture further out. On the Thursday night, I was even driving back to the hotel, I could easily have driven to that part of town and parked somewhere. Its not like driving or parking in downtown Indy is particularly difficult. So next time I will try to venture further. R Bistro and Libertine both tempted me greatly. But I'll also appreciate any further recommendations. I would probably try Harry and Izzy's, although as an offshoot of St Elmo's it didn't have much that really grabbed me on the menu. I was a little curious about Palomino, but it was so very empty. I hate going in a place that is totally empty. I was also a bit curious about Granite City Brewery, wonder if they have good food?

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    Thanks for the write up of the exhibit. We had planned to go there that day, but didn't end up making it. I've seen many wonderful operas at IU. Their music program is just so fantastic and adds much to campus and the community.

    R Bistro and Blackbeard are definite musts for a return visit! I like Libertine's cocktails. I'm not familiar with Granite City Brewery; I'll have to check it out.

    I've made note of your inn. We usually stay at the Hilton Garden Inn because I can sometimes access a special rate, but it's hit or miss.

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    Thanks for the trip report! Love to hear people enjoying our fine city! Like Indyhiker I would encourage you to try any of the Mass Ave restaurants you listed. Mesh is also another one on Mass Ave that is very good and locally owned.

    Palomino's is a chain - but a good one - not sure why there wasn't anyone in there. Admittedly I haven't eaten in there in awhile so not sure if the food and service is still good.

    Granite City is Midwestern chain that is new to Indy - it is pretty good - but your normal brewpub chain food.

    As you can see - Indy is a very chain restaurant city...

    To escape this head up to Mass Ave or the Fountain Square area!

    Safe travels!

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    Palomino has been in Indy for a while; I think it's appeal has largely worn off for the downtown crowd. I actually liked the place for a time, but I haven't been there in ages. When it first opened, there just weren't that many choices, but the local scene had grown since then.

    If and when you're here during warmer weather, both Mass Ave and Fountain Square make for a nice (and safe) stroll. I used to live in Fountain Square and it's grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years (after I sold my home :( ). Indy's "Cultural Trail" runs through it now. That's in reality a glorified sidewalk but it makes for an attractive and safer streetscape through there. Lots of locally owned restaurants and bars. It's about a 15-20 minute walk to the heart of downtown, a route I've walked many a time. I would not worry about safety, at least during day light hours. Frankly, I think it's safe at night, too; it's just a little deserted and, therefore, a bit spooky. Parking is readily available though.

    Mass. Ave is a more heavily travelled area and has lots to offer, too. I can't tell you what a difference those two areas have made to downtown Indy.

    During the day, you might check out the City Market. In the interest of full disclosure, there are still a lot of food stands there that aren't worth your money, but there are some good ones, too, and it's kind of a fun environment. In the summer, there's a farmer's market outside on Wednesdays. It's fun to grab lunch and walk around. Music is offered, too. There's a great brew tap room at the Market, too, featuring only Indiana craft beers. That may not jive with your low carb diet, but I thought I'd mention it.

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