Dining wise, it seems what’s old is new again, with familiar spaces reopening with new ownership or entirely new concepts.
A more than century-old brand returned after two years off the scene. A new partnership is breathing life back into the space that had housed a longtime bar in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium. And there’s a lot of hot chicken headed our way.
Check out some of the restaurants that should be on your radar in May.
Empire Street Bar & Grille
419 S. West St., Indianapolis, 317-426-4976, empirestreetgrille.com
Looking for a great burger? The space that had been home to Basey’s Downtown Grill softly opened in April with a limited menu that includes a juicy $7 quarter-pound cheeseburger, as well as nachos, tacos and flatbread.
Steve Geisler, co-owner of neighbor Tavern on South, launched the more informal concept with partner Kenny Gardner; and they’re still feeling out hours.
The menu is expanding the menu with chili, chili cheese fries, dogs and a blackened whitefish po’boy.
The Inferno Room
902 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, 317-426-2343, theinfernoroom.com
Chef Adam Ditter has taken over the kitchen here, now that former Black Market chef and partner Micah Frank’s temporary stint is up at the tiki bar.
Ditter, who was a line cook at Black Market and ran the kitchen at Rook after chef Carlos Salazar left, has gone with a Chinese takeout theme to complement the cocktail program. The menu stars are the General Tso’s chicken with thighs marinated and dredged in rice flour and house-made sauce, and spicy and savory green beans seasoned with tamari (a Japanese-style soy sauce), dried peppers, garlic and jalapenos.
Spam sliders are here, but tweaked with Chinese mustard and American cheese.
Iozzo’s Garden of Italy
946 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis, 317-974-1100, iozzos.com
Executive chef Alan Sternberg put his stamp on the menu, first with a nine-item lineup of desserts, including a rich chocolate budino with sea salt and vanilla cream, then with his crab tortelli and other homemade pastas. Now, after about a year and a half he’s moving on.
Sternberg, a two-time James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist, hasn’t announced his next move, so anyone who wants to guarantee an opportunity to dine on his creations in the next few weeks should make reservations before his departure at the end of May.
John’s Famous Stew
1146 Kentucky Ave., Indianapolis, 317-636-6212, facebook.com/Johnsfamousstew
We thought the sun had permanently set on the more than 100-year-old business when in July 2020 it announced it would not reopen after halting service that March. But it was back in full swing under new ownership in April 2022.
Most of the menu, including the signature stew and breaded tenderloin, is the same, as the stew recipe was included in the sale of the business and some long-time employees returned.
It’s family-friendly now though, with kids meals — and no bar.
World Famous Hotboys
1004 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, worldfamoushotboys.com
The project has been in the works for a while and is finally close to opening so that Hoosiers can sample what Yelp named the best fried chicken sandwich in California.
There also will be wings, loaded crinkle cut fries and alcoholic frozen chocolate drinks.
World Famous Hotboys is opening in the landmark spot that had been home to Peppy Grill. Local restaurant manager Aaron Tann and Kyle Roberts, executive chef at Four Day Ray Brewing, are partners with Hotboys co-founders Victor Ghaben and Berk Gibbs.
It’s one of several hot chicken concepts opening in the area in the span of weeks.