3 restaurant newcomers make splash in Hamilton County

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explore_restaurants.jpgFor foodies, there’s nothing like a “coming soon” sign in the window to build an appetite for new dining options. And the longer the wait, the greater the anticipation.

So it’s no wonder diners have flocked to a trio of Hamilton County newcomers that opened their doors this summer:

Anthony’s Chophouse
201 W. Main St., Carmel
(317) 740-0900
Located along the popular Monon Greenway just south of Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream, this upscale steakhouse anchors the new Monon & Main mixed-use development in downtown Carmel. The multimillion-dollar Monon & Main project, announced in 2016, is the latest brainchild of Carmel’s Lazzara family.

The eatery is named for Anthony Lazzara, whose father, Chuck, owns the Ritz Charles event venue and catering service. Anthony developed the business plan for his family’s fine-dining establishment as part of the entrepreneurship program at Ball State University.

Anthony’s Chophouse is a stunning example of what’s possible when a restaurant is designed from the ground up. The main dining room features 20-foot ceilings and a wall of windows overlooking the Monon. On the second floor, diners might recognize the original mahogany bar from The Glass Chimney, an elegant Carmel eatery that closed in 2008.

Still, the main attraction is Executive Chef Justin Miller’s protein-packed menu—and the solicitous, well-trained staff that helps diners navigate it.

We took our server’s advice and started with the Duroc Pork Belly ($16), which was braised to perfection before welcoming a subtle bourbon and cider glaze, and we added the Pickled Tempura Cauliflower ($12) in an effort to balance the nutritional scales. Pickling softens the cauliflower and gives it a bit of tang, while the light tempura breading supplies a satisfying crunch.

Although the handful of salad options was intriguing—think Watermelon Citrus ($10) and Tableside Caesar for Two ($19)—we opted to go straight to the red meat on Anthony’s Butcher Block.

Almost all the steaks are hand-selected cuts of USDA prime Black Angus beef from national meat purveyor Halperns’, but the Flight of Beef ($94) features three distinctively different filets for the well-trained palate: 4 ounces of prime, 4 ounces of grass-fed and 4 ounces of Masami Wagyu. Our palates are still in training, so we chose the Petite Filet ($34), 6 ounces of well-seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

For those who don’t want to order steak at a steakhouse, other options include Hot Fried Chicken ($32), a Soy Braised Short Rib ($35) and Faroe Island Scottish Salmon ($37). Sides, which run the gamut from house-made Gnocchi ($14) and Brussels Au Gratin ($12) to Creamy Mac and Cheese ($14) and Garlic Frites ($9), are big enough to share.

Unexpected surprise: the complimentary whipped pimiento cheese butter served with focaccia and challah. Where has this been all my life?

Grindstone Public House
101 N. 10th St., Noblesville
(317) 774-5740
Located in a historic building just off Noblesville’s courthouse square, this casual-yet-classy restaurant is the latest entry from Noblesville’s Fogelsong family, whose Clancy’s Inc. also owns Grindstone Charley’s, Michaelangelo’s Italian Bistro, and Clancy’s Hamburgers.

The menu reads like a “best of” compilation from all the eateries, including the famous double-decker Clancy’s Topper ($9). The Topper features two hearty burgers melded together with American cheese, and topped with shredded lettuce and house tartar sauce. Try a side of sweet potato fries (included) to distinguish this local concoction from its well-known McCompetitor.

Grindstone Public House is working with local suppliers to further set itself apart. Fischer Farms, Miller Poultry Farm, Tyner Pond Farms, Noble Coffee and Triple XXX Root Beer are among the purveyors listed on the menu.

We also tried the Indiana Pork Tenderloin ($11) on our lunch visit, delighting in the thick-cut, hand-breaded Hoosier staple served on a brioche bun. The meat was juicy, the breading crunchy, and the bun substantial enough to carry its cargo. The companion mac and cheese was a creamy delight.

Pro tip: Save room for dessert—or order it to go. Zionsville’s My Sugar Pie provides both the towering Six-Layer Chocolate Cake ($7), topped with ganache icing and a scoop of Graeter’s ice cream, and the creamy-yet-substantial Sugar Cream Pie ($6).

Sun King Spirits
351 Monon Trail, Carmel
(317) 843-6250
Less than three blocks south of Anthony’s on the opposite side of the Monon, this two-story craft distillery and tap room is the newest entry from Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing Co. And while Sun King’s new line of spirits gets top billing, the casual atmosphere and unusual take on food service are also sure to make it a family favorite.

Rather than run a restaurant of its own, Sun King stuck with liquid refreshments (including alcoholic slushies, people!) and built four, 100-square-foot stalls for established eateries to sell their specialties.

Diners can choose Mexican favorites from La Margarita, upscale meats and cheeses from Oca, pizza from food-truck operator Pi, and American comfort food from The Den by Foxgardin.

Seating is first-come, first-served, so grab a table and order a drink from your server while you consider your dining options. Each stall operates independently, so you have to make the rounds if you want to sample a little of everything, as we did. Pro tip: The more stalls you visit, the larger your table should be. Food is served on metal trays, and they can quickly overwhelm a four-top.

The Den by Foxgardin wasn’t open yet on our visit. We started at La Margarita, ordering Guacamole ($6) and Sunlight Jalapeno Beer Queso ($5), each served with a mound of hand-cut tortilla chips. The guacamole was a flavorful blend of avocado and its usual companions, but for the price, we expected more than we got in a plastic cup. The same goes for the cheese dip made with Sun King’s signature cream ale: It tasted great but left us wanting more.

Next up was a visit to Oca, a Goose the Market/Smoking Goose spinoff that also operates a stall at Sun King’s downtown Indianapolis tasting room. (Oca means goose in Spanish.) Its menu is heavy on cured meats and fine cheeses, with some quality sausages thrown in for good measure.

We tried the Tour ($24), a generous sampling of charcuterie and cheese served with olives, pickled vegetables, preserves and crusty bread. It was a wonderful combination of flavors—and there was enough to take home for a snack later—but we had no idea what specific meats and cheeses we were eating.

The most popular of our food choices was also the most risky: Corn Pi ($12), a 10-inch pizza featuring a white “garlic heaven” sauce, and topped with mozzarella, corn, sausage, spinach, caramelized onions, sliced jalapenos and provolone cheese. One of my 9-year-old companions wrinkled his nose upon hearing the ingredients, then wolfed down three pieces once he got a taste.

Pro tip: Pi’s menu includes suggested Sun King beer pairings with several of its pies. The Corn Pi calls out for Sunlight Cream Ale, for example, while the Figgy Piggy (mozzarella, goat cheese, fig jam, bacon, prosciutto, mushrooms and arugula) goes well with Osiris Pale Ale.•

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