Born Hoosier or do you consider yourself an honorary because you have traveled to the Indianapolis 500 for as far as you can remember? Then there are iconic Indiana foods you must eat and restaurants you must visit to get them.
Indiana is the country of meat and carbohydrate lovers. Put it in a sauce and stack it high. The buzzwords here are “hearty” and “humble”. No crazy seasoning mixes, no tweezers to place tiny peas on a mini lettuce painted with a five-cent sauce.
Earn your Hoosier credit by checking off these Indiana classics.
Sugar Cream Pie is so ingrained in Indiana culture that Hoosiers went ahead and put their name on it. The creamy custard filling, a hint of nutmeg sprinkled on top, has been a staple since NC Quakers introduced the recipe to Indiana in the early 1800s. Seventy-five years Wick’s Pies in Winchester is supposed to bake the most sugar cream pies anywhere. Don’t miss the burnt sugar cream pie at Pie Co. in Indianapolis either. The flamed sugar crackle filling sinks into the heavy cream at the touch of a fork.
History of the Hoosier pie:What you didn’t know about Indiana Sugar Cream Pie (and a darling recipe)
Breaded filet mignon
King of all of Hoosierland’s signature foods, the Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich has everything Indiana loves: a fried slice of meat, mild seasoning, and lots of fuss for one simple thing. Pork loin is the cut required, but some people want it cut into thick slices and cubes. Others prefer the ultra-thin, pizza-big pounded pork. Flavor the breadcrumbs with more than just salt and pepper and you’ll be avoided. Mustard on the bun, maybe mayonnaise, and a few slices of pickle is okay, but ask for lettuce, tomato, cheese or whatever and your Hoosier status will be revoked. Name the best net at your own risk. Everyone has an opinion (psst… 111 years old Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington. Founder Nick Freienstein is considered the father of breaded fillets, first selling them in a cart in 1904).
Best tenderloins:Where’s Indiana’s Favorite Sandwich
Chicken and noodles
“Carbohydrate load like you’re running a road race every day” might be Hoosier’s mantra. It’s a legacy of hard work on the farm and in the factory. Strips of dough cut so thick it could almost be called dumplings dominate the cooked chicken or beef. The Hooisers don’t stop there. They like to serve the noodles over mashed potatoes and maybe with a side of corn cut on the cob. Gray Brothers cafeteria in Mooresville, we make chicken and noodles like Grandma’s. To try Steer-In in Indianapolis for beef and noodles.
Just a hot roast beef sandwich? Yes. Found in hundreds of diners from South Dakota to Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota, points north, south, east and west, even New York City, where it allegedly took off in the early 1900s? Certainly. But legend has it that patrons at an Indianapolis restaurant first called it a Manhattan Beef in the 1940s. That’s enough for Hoosiers to own it. Demand a ton of chunky roast beef between two slices of white bread. A scoop of mashed potatoes belongs to the corner of the two sandwich halves. Next comes a rich, dark beef sauce. Some of the best Beef Manhattans can be found at the Gray Brothers Cafeteria in Mooresville, MacNiven’s on Mass Avenue in Indianapolis, and MCL Restaurants and Bakeries in Central Indiana.
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Fried Brain Sandwich
When world-famous chef René Redzepi cooked duck brains in butter and spices and served it in a duck’s head, restaurant critics considered him a genius. But in 2017, Thrillist billed Indiana’s Fried Pork Brain Sandwiches on Indiana’s coarsest food. Breaded and Fried Brains are crispy on the outside and have a delicate flavor and texture you might compare to tofu or scrambled eggs on the inside. Hilltop Inn in Evansville is fried-brain-sandwich-central in Indiana. The restaurant makes a giant brain sandwich, but rookies may want to start with sliders – extra pickles and onions.
Sliced thin, hot on the grill, juicy, tender and placed in a chewy white bun is the steak sandwich the masses at the Indiana State Fair go crazy for. Two vendors sell Hoosier rib eye sandwiches at the fair, one of them being the Indiana Beef Cattle Association. The organization peaked in 2019 when it topped the steak sandwich with a load of smoked beef brisket.
So many places in Indiana have mastered burgers pressed on a hotplate until their edges become umami crisp, but the undeniable # 1 place for our people’s burger is The Worker’s Friend in Indianapolis. Ground chuck patties get their lace rings after being mashed up on the same griddle that has been seasoned over decades in the 101-year-old restaurant, only in cash.
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Saint-Elme shrimp cocktail
St. Elmo Steak House is Indiana’s most famous restaurant, and its flaming sinus shrimp cocktail is a rite of passage for newcomers to Indianapolis. You’ll know you’ve earned your Honorary Hoosier citizenship when it’s your turn to laugh at a newbie with horseradish tears. Basically with the hot stuff, the St. Elmo Cocktail Sauce covers four giant shrimp, which isn’t a sweat for real Hoosiers. One of them took down all four in 13 seconds during a shrimp cocktail tasting competition in St. Elmo during a 2019 Indiana Pacers game.
The Hoosiers are known for closely following the tugs of this intensely hopped lager from Indiana’s famed 3 Floyds Brewing in Munster. Back then, Zombie Dust was made in more limited quantities, which meant it was hard to find. Since then, 3 Floyds has increased its production by Zombie Dust continues to win accolades. In 2018, it was ranked in Zymurgy magazine’s top 10 best American beers.
Fried cookies and apple butter
Granted, these are very small donuts, although some Hooisers do fry canned cookies for the cinnamon-sugar coated puffs. Always enjoy them warm in a deep fryer and coated with apple butter, preferably homemade. Head south for Nashville General Store and Bakery in Nashville, Indiana, for fried cookies.
If fall in Indiana had any flavor, it would be a spicy and sweet persimmon pudding. The chewy texture falls somewhere between pound cake and chewy brownies. The only places to get it are the Hoosier Family Kitchens, the September Persimmon Festival in Mitchell, and the Hilltop Family Style Restaurant in Spencer. The recipes are so sacred in Indiana that Ro Pettiner, a native of Mitchell, felt compelled to call the New York Times about a recipe published by the newspaper in 2014, when the newspaper discovered that persimmon pudding was Indiana’s Most Wanted Thanksgiving Recipe. The Times recommended firm, tangy Fuyu persimmons. TTT … TTT. Good choices are the squishy, super soft and wild American persimmons picked up from the ground under the persimmons.
Famous Persimmon Pudding:This family recipe is 150 years old
Hoosiers chuckle and shake their heads when they see foodies paying $ 50 or more a pound for mid-spring morels. They could roll their eyes at the chefs’ fine morel dishes. Hoosiers don’t buy the distinctive canvas hat mushrooms; they forage for them. The hunting grounds are top secret, but during the fair rainy seasons, morels appear in the backyards. The nutty flavor of the mushroom shines when dusted with flour and – can you guess? – fried.
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Indiana produces over a billion bushels of corn a year, and Hoosiers never seem to tire of corn pudding, corn casserole, popcorn (Orville Redenbacher was a Hoosier), corn and a myriad of other corn dishes. If they could only have one corn dish for the rest of their life, they would likely pick Sweet Corn on the Cob. Corn dripping with butter on a stick rivals roast turkey thighs at the Indiana State Fair, where Hoosiers invade the Lion’s Club corn tent and Wilson’s roasted sweet corn. At farmers’ markets, they look for my dad’s sweet corn from Tipton. At home, the corn cob shares the plate with slices of summer tomatoes and cooked green beans.