DePalma’s, 7410 E. Washington St., (317) 359-1000. Maybe it’s because it’s located in an old Pizza Hut, but this new, family-run Italian restaurant looks like it’s been here forever. Traditional pastas come with hot, fresh garlic rolls. The dining room’s energy makes it a not-so-ideal spot for a quiet romantic dinner, but if you want to feel like you’re part of a festive family reunion, this is the place. Lunch, dinner.
Papa Roux (shown here), 8950 E. 10th St., paparouxindy.com. When you see the building with a big goateed face, you’re in the right place: 800 square feet of owner Art Bouvier’s native New Orleans, dropped into Indy’s Eastside. Up at the counter, choose a po-boy, maybe hot Cajun sausage, gulf shrimp, roast pork, alligator sausage, the day’s special. Pick your sides — red beans and rice, cornbread, etouffee. Bouvier and his wife, Colleen Kenna, are on a mission: “In New Orleans, people live to eat, and people here haven’t caught on to how much fun eating can be.”
Rock-Cola 50s Café, 5730 Brookville Road, rockcolacafe.com. “Happy Days” are here again at this nostalgic cafe run by two best friends. Beat feet for Philly cheese steaks, heavenly hash browns, gigantic onion rings and original Choc-ola drinks. The walls are covered in Americana and old news clippings, like one from the Fairmount News announcing the death of Hoosier-boy-turned-Hollywood-star James Dean. Breakfast, lunch, early dinner.
Served, 4638 E. 10th St., (317) 359-3000. Chef’s Academy graduate Justin Cowan opened his small sandwich shop in 2010 with big plans: to create a dance space for classes and performances, an art gallery, a plot for community gardening and cooking demonstrations. But for now, sandwiches are king: $6 gets you an inventive creation (think honey-cured pork loin with Swiss cheese, strawberries and port-wine syrup) on thick-sliced, freshly baked bread with just-fried chips on the side. Brunch, lunch, dinner.
Steer Inn, 5130 E. 10th St., steerin.net. When Guy Fieri visited Indy to film episodes for “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” this Irvington-area icon made the cut. The Steer Inn’s menu is a fun mess of omelets, mimosas and stuffed pizza, and its walls are equally jumbled with Eastside bric-a-brac and Scecina High School memorabilia. Voted Best Breakfast by Metromix users in 2010.