Foodie Spotlight: Pioneer

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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 contributor Dustin Heller

This week we find ourselves right in the heart of hipster central, Fountain Square, for a visit to one of the coolest joints in the entire city.   Pioneer is located at the crossroads of Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue and is serving up the food of Northern Italy, Austria, Germany, and their Alpine neighbors (with their own American twist, of course).  Head Chef, Lane Milburn, came to Pioneer via San Francisco, where he honed his craft in the city’s vibrant culinary scene.  He took the reins at Pioneer in September 2016 and has been churning out mouthwatering dishes ever since.

The 114 year old building in which the restaurant resides (formerly Deano’s Vino…love that name!) underwent a total renovation before Pioneer’s opening…without sacrificing any of its character or charm.  Wanna talk about cool, the main dining area breaks down every Friday night and turns into a concert venue complete with a professional lighting rig and awesome sound system.  What other restaurant does that?  If only those brick walls could speak.  Not to be outdone, though, is the ultra-hip outdoor patio area which boasts an incredible view of Fountain Square (good luck finding a table if the weather is nice).

We all know by now that Fountain Square and Pioneer are both superfly, but let’s get to the real reason we’re here…the food.  The eclectic, seasonally rotating menu celebrates locally sourced products and contains a wide variety of culinary delights.  Not to mention they make all of their sausage, pasta, and cheese right there in-house (uh…amazing!).  As you could imagine, picking only four dishes for my “can’t miss” section wasn’t an easy task, but here goes nothing:

1. Neapolitan Meatballs…Okay, so these meatballs are listed on the “Starters” section of the menu, but why stop there?  I want them for my main course and dessert as well.  Its all about the “Sunday Supper Sauce”!  I think I’d actually bathe in it if I could.  I know, I should probably seek professional help.

2. Giardiniera…Talk about a beautiful dish!  Not always does a dish taste as good as it looks, but I’m here to tell you that this one definitely does, which is saying a lot (just look at that picture!).  If you’re really into fresh, delicious veggies…who am I kidding, everyone is going to love this plate.

3. Farro Cavatelli…Perfectly cooked pasta with Indiana grown chanterelle mushrooms and house-made crème fraiche.  Where do I sign up?  This dish is full of flavor and, I don’t know how else to put it, fun to eat.

4. California White Bass…I think Seabass sometimes gets a bad rap, but I can almost guarantee that’s not referring to California White Seabass.  This Bass is light, flaky and oh, so delectable!  Put it on top of tomato braised summer squash and serve it with a garlic crostino and you might just have a perfect dish.

I liken Pioneer as the Christopher Walken of the Indy food scene; a little different (but in a good way), hip and cool without even trying, and overall just makes you feel better about yourself.  If you are a food lover and haven’t been to Pioneer yet, bump it straight to the top of the list.  We could all use a little more cool in our lives!


Tell Dustin your thoughts about Pioneer. You can follow him on Instagram @eatindywatchindie.

Check out more restaurants featured in our Foodie Spotlight section.

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