Over the past few years, Indianapolis has managed to climb its way to the top of several “best food cities” lists in the United States, including being named one of the 26 hottest food cities of 2016 and 2017 by national restaurant guide Zagat, one of Food & Wine’s Favorite Food Cities in America, and America’s Most Underrated Food City by Condé Nast Traveler. In 2017 alone, nearly 30 restaurants opened in downtown Indy — and there’s been a lot more since — which has meant enhanced experiences for large groups who meet there.
“Our chefs are doing incredible things here, and there’s a really collaborative spirit among them,” said Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager for Visit Indy. “They’re taking advantage of the rich agriculture of our region and coming up with unique new concepts, creating a really vibrant scene.”
As a result of this food renaissance — in addition to Indy’s convenient downtown connectivity and dedication to eco-friendly infrastructures — the city broke visitor records last year. “Our visitor numbers are up, our convention numbers are up,” Wallace said, “and all of those people are demanding great places to eat. Thankfully, our chefs are answering the call.”
Some local spots that are perfect for private parties include Vida, which earned AAA’s coveted Four Diamond designation and offers custom event menus in two unique spaces — an upstairs private dining area and a semi-private wine room. In addition, there’s Union 50, a chef-driven restaurant that provides the perfect space for live music; Livery, a restored 1890’s building serving Latin cuisine; Bluebeard, which sources its ingredients from local farms; and Spoke & Steele, which offers six unique private dining spaces, including the muscle car-inspired McQueen Room.
The newly opened Hedge Row also provides another great private dining space for event planners. Owned by Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal, the restaurant sources from local farms in the Indianapolis area. Also as a part of his green initiative, Kimbal installed 31 learning gardens throughout Indy that teach kids how to grow their own food. About his philosophy compared to his brother’s, Kimbal told the Indy Star: “He’s sort of ‘let’s take the world to new frontier’ and mine is about ‘let’s look after the frontier we have.’” His 130-seat restaurant includes a full bar overlooking a 50-seat patio, ideal for intimate outdoor events.
Indy is also home to several major culinary events every year, including Rev at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, held May 5, which kicked off the Month of May celebrations in Indy leading up to the city’s premiere event, the Indy 500. This year, 63 of the destination’s hottest chefs cooked up their signature dishes at the festival. Attendees sampled the cuisine while mingling with IndyCar drivers and racing legends. There’s also Zoobilation, held at the Indianapolis Zoo on June 8 that features live music, wine tastings, and samplings from more than 70 restaurants throughout the city.
“People are traveling for food, and attendees are seeking out the local flavor,” Wallace said. “Planners can appeal to their attendees by incorporating local cuisine and providing opportunities to experience the destination. Visit Indy is more than happy to help planners make that happen.”