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 Dustin Heller (find him on Instagram @eatindywatchindie)
Was it Plato or maybe Aristotle that uttered these brilliant words: “I’m on a seafood diet, I see food and I eat it.” Obviously, that quote doesn’t come from one of the greatest minds of all time, but I’m guessing all of the foodies out there can relate to it.
While we’re on the topic of seafood, this week we’re paying a visit to The Oceanaire Seafood Room, located right in the heart of downtown Indy at 30 South Meridian Street. The Oceanaire is a first-class establishment from top to bottom and has been serving Indy some of the freshest seafood in town for over 15 years. The franchise originated in Minneapolis some 20 years ago and they currently have 12 locations nationwide. I’m thankful Indianapolis happens to be one of those cities.
The interior of the restaurant is very elegant and sophisticated, whereas the décor makes you feel like you’re on vacation. It almost has an Atlantis feel with the giant white columns and exotic fish mounted on the walls. Everything about the place is classy from the pristine white tablecloths to the professional wait staff; just sit back and let yourself be pampered for a while. Couldn’t we all use a vacation now that summer is over?
When it comes to the food at The Oceanaire, fresh seafood takes center stage and it really stands out in both appearance and taste. They are so committed to freshness that they have their seafood delivered to the restaurant six days a week from the world’s most reputable suppliers. The menu, overseen by Executive Chef Adam Waldrip, is chock full of all kinds of goodies. For starters, they have an extensive Oyster and Raw Bar along with a tantalizing list of appetizers. From there, it’s on to the delicious entrees! If seafood isn’t your thing, they also have a nice selection of prime steaks.
Finally, don’t skip over the decadent dessert menu, but more on that below. Without further ado, let’s get into my favorite part of the column: my “can’t miss” picks from The Oceanaire:
Shrimp & Grits: I’m guessing you weren’t expecting a soul food classic on the list for a fine dining establishment like The Oceanaire. Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting it either, but there was no denying it once I sank my teeth in. Let me start with the shrimp: big, succulent and oh-so-fresh! It really is a treat to have fresh seafood in the heart of the Midwest. The shrimp are fabulous, but they’re not the star of the show–that honor belongs to the melt-in-your-mouth grits. I can almost promise that you’ve never had grits like these before. They’re creamy and cheesy and the Cajun butter sauce puts them on a different level. Even if you think you don’t like grits, order this dish. Your taste buds will thank you.
Chesapeake Bay Style Crab Cakes: The crab cake that gets its name from the ever-popular Bay in Maryland and Virginia. Most people would say that you haven’t had a real crab cake until you’ve had one fresh from coast, but The Oceanaire right here in Indy might have something to say about that. Their crab cake is packed full of sweet and juicy lump crab meat and seasoned perfectly. It is served with a side of creamy mustard mayonnaise for dipping. Believe me when I say they are perfect just the way they are!
Chicken Fried Lobster: Being a native Hoosier, I’m a huge fan of chicken fried chicken and chicken fried steak, but never before had I heard of chicken fried lobster. What a brilliant idea! They start by breading their meaty lobster tails and into the fryer they go. They come out with a golden brown crust that is delightfully light and crunchy. To make this a true Southern fried dish, they serve the lobster with truffled honey, cheesy grits, and, of course, hot sauce. I will say this about The Oceanaire: they are not afraid of a little heat. That hot sauce has some bite, but it is ever so delicious.
Baked Alaska: According to legend, this dessert dates back to 1867 when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. That’s about the only thing the dessert has in common with Alaska, unless you think it looks like a glacier (I do!). Baked Alaska is simply cake and ice cream engulfed in toasted meringue. The ice cream of choice in The Oceanaire version is spumoni, and it comes from Indiana’s very own Sundae’s Homemade Ice Cream. The meringue is toasted tableside with flaming Bacardi 151 and amaretto. It is not only fun to watch, but it is a blast to eat. Pro tip: plan on sharing, because this dessert is a behemoth.