Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the hottest food cities in America. A destination for true foodies who are interested in everything from fine dining to food trucks. This column will put the spotlight on one of these local hot spots to help get the word out and share in the love of all things food.
Review by CBS4Indy.com contributor Dustin Heller
Have you ever dreamed of a picturesque dinner at one of those quaint little cafés hidden along the coast of the Mediterranean? Well, what if I told you that you could experience the next best thing right here in downtown Indy. Stella is the new Southern European restaurant from local legend (and all-around good guy), Neal Brown, and the place feels like something you’d find on the cobblestone streets of France or Italy. The restaurant is located in prime foodie real estate at the six point intersection of East St, North St, and Mass Ave in downtown. Neal Brown is a two-time James Beard Award nominee, has been voted “Best Chef” by Indianapolis Monthly, and was awarded with the IBJ’s “Forty under 40” award…needless to say, the man is a food icon. Fun fact I learned about Neal Brown…he spent two summers touring with The Grateful Dead and he supported himself through his cooking while on the road. Now that is real talent!
“It’s not work, it’s a way of life.” This quote is written on one of the walls at Stella and really captures the vibe of the place. The interior of the restaurant is immaculate and warm with an open kitchen concept that features a gorgeous wood oven. Encased by windows, the dining area is filled with sunshine during the day giving it a true seaside feel. At night, soft lighting paired with the rustic décor gives the place a very relaxed ambience. The menu is seasonal and ever-changing, and to be honest, I had such a hard time trying to narrow my “can’t-miss” items down to only four. Truly, every single dish was out-of-this-world delish! Since I only allow myself four, here we go…
- Bread and Butter…I know, I know, how can bread and butter make a can’t-miss list for a fine dining restaurant. I’ll tell you how, house-made sourdough with house-made butter that changes daily. You’re going to want this before, during, and after your meal!
- Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Hummus…I really wanted to say all of the “small plates”, which are the best prepared veggies in the city. The flavors in this dish are mind-blowing! I could order two plates of this and nothing else and be perfectly happy.
- Early Beet Risotto…whether you like beets or not, please just order this dish and thank me later.
- Roasted Loup de Mer…European bass served with the head on, just as they do it in Europe. Tons of flavor and an absolutely gorgeous presentation.
I asked Neal Brown why he decided to close a popular spot like Pizzology to open a Southern European restaurant, his answer was quite simple…”because this is what I want to eat!” He said he would eat this food everyday if he could, and I couldn’t agree with him more. Not only for me, but I’d wish for everyone to be able to eat like this every day! Stella is a true culinary experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Tell Dustin your thoughts about Stella. You can follow him on Instagram @eatindywatchindie.
Check out more restaurants featured in our Foodie Spotlight section.