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Walk a few blocks in most big cities and it's easy enough to find a slice joint or full-fledged pizzeria, which keeps most of us plodding along our familiar, blinkered pizza routines without wondering might be waiting a little off the beaten paths.
The menu, like the beer, is unapologetically in your face with flavor you can't avoid. What hops are to the beer, salt is to these dishes.
Rocco's, which has made its home near Notre Dame University since 1951, calls itself "the other South Bend tradition" and that's really no exaggeration. Football Fridays are a mob scene for the restaurant's topping-decked pies and massive lasagna.
An hour due south of Indianapolis lies Bloomington, an idyllic hamlet interspersed with rolling hills, limestone quarries, and Indiana University. Though IU's stamp is all over the city, Bloomington (like Ann Arbor in Michigan) is no mere college town. There's more than corn in Indiana, and from burgers and pizza to craft breweries and Tibetan food, there's no shortage of great dining options in Bloomington for both IU students and "townies" alike.
The fact that all pizzas from The Rolling Stonebaker are made in fully operational mid-century Studebakers should be enough to get anyone to try the place once. That the pizzas are delicious and creative is why people keep going back.
For over a century, people of Indianapolis have never (and I suspect I will never) set foot in Indianapolis without going to Shapiro's for a corned beef sandwich. The giant deli is over a century old and deserves a mention in any discussion debating the nation's best.
The burger that gets the most publicity at Triple XXX Family Restaurant is the Duane Purvis All-American, with its slathering of creamy peanut butter on the bottom bun.
Today's AHT reader recommendation comes from Allyn Paul on his favorite local burger joint, Smashmouth.
I expected typical sports bar mediocrity at Scotty's Brewhouse, but instead I got a kick-ass burger in the kind of place I'd actually hang out at if I lived nearby.
Earlier today I got a nice email from John Hartman, a videographer with WISE-TV, the NBC affiliate based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. John hips us to 800 Degrees, a newish wood-oven pizzeria in Fort Wayne.
Napolese is Indianapolis's most recent entry into the world of artisanal pizza. The pizzas are made from an impressive array of high quality ingredients, including some very creative (and tasty) toppings. Unfortunately, the pizzas I tried were pulled from the oven far too soon.
Tipped off by a couple of AHT readers in Indianapolis, I headed to Bub's Burgers and Ice Cream last weekend to see what the big deal is. It turns out, when it comes to the burgers, the hype is definitely justified. Burgers can be made of beef or elk and in both cases, and diners get nicely salted patties served at the desired temperature and full of char-tinged beef flavor.
From the wood-burning oven to delicious housemade toppings to the heavy use of local ingredients, Neal Brown and his team at Pizzology are unquestionably committed to perfecting their craft. A couple of tweaks are still necessary but they're already delivering what a lot of locals say is the best in town.
The story of Indiana pizza is mostly one of regional influence and corporate greed. Indiana is caught between two equally strong forces, which basically carve the state in two. On the north is the strong pull of Chicago and its thin crust, tavern-style pizza. Pizza comes in squares up there, with a strong preference for sausage. Southern Indiana, on the other hand, seems to show a lot of influence from the hands of Papa John's, which originated in the southern town of Jeffersonville, only to multiply into the third biggest chain in the country.
[Photograph: The Rolling Stonebaker] The South Bend Tribune in Indiana reports on the Rolling Stonebaker pizza truck, a decommissioned and retrofitted 1949 Studebaker fire truck. Andrea Georgian and Jim Chaddock of Beverly Shores, Indiana, own the truck. As the article points out, she wanted a pizzeria and he wanted a truck. This was their (brilliant) compromise. "The truck is definitely a big draw, especially the older men. And they can't believe the oven's inside the truck," she says, adding that the siren gets plenty of use. And inside the oven, hungry diners will find classic pizzas such as Margherita,...
Union Jack Pub is located in the Broad Ripple section of Indianapolis and is probably one of the last places you would expect to serve pizza. But they take the pizza seriously enough that they have a separate menu for it—it is printed on a pizza peel. The deep, deep dish pizza is the thing to get there.
The ingredients of the two burgers I sampled from 96th Street Steakburgers were beyond reproach—the vegetables were vibrant and fresh, the bun spongy and plump, and the beef had a clean flavor. Unfortunately, despite all these advantages the burgers I tried were lackluster.
The Tamale Place makes some of the best Mexican food I've had in Indianapolis, and they do it for cheap. While most Mexican places in Indy claim their authenticity with over-sized margaritas and burritos as big as your head, this little storefront on the west side does so by focusing intensely on a particular street food that can get overlooked in the Mexican cuisine conversation—the tamale.
Hamburger documentarian George Motz turned me on to Workingman's Friend, which will be featured in the updated edition of Motz's book Hamburger America, when I told him I was visiting Indianapolis over the winter break. I was planning to write a review, but Daniel beat me to the punch last week. No worries—he did a great job. Instead, I'll supplement his review with a slideshow of photos from Workingman's Friend.