Erin Edds, Indianapolis food and drink master, on the best things to eat, drink and do in Naptown. (Photo: Tony Valainis/Indianapolis Monthly)
Erin Edds has been an entrepreneurial fixture on the Indianapolis food and drink scene for more than 15 years. First, she ran a business called Country Mouse City Mouse that sold artisan dips, spreads and salad dressing. Then, she co-founded a popular vegan, gluten-free craft bloody Mary mix company called Hoosier Mama, heralded by the L.A. Times and Serious Eats. And now, she and her husband, Stephen, are in the midst of launching their latest business, Garden Party Botanical Hard Sodas. Two flavors of the all-natural boozy sodas will hit Indianapolis retail establishments and restaurants in mid-August: Garden Party Ruby, a ginger soda with notes of hibiscus and pomegranate, and Garden Party Violet, a lemon soda with hints of lavender and blackberry.
In the meantime, Edds has been doing plenty of culinary research around town, on the lookout for the next big trend. She took the time to share some of her go-to spots in Indianapolis for food, drinks, relaxing and more.
For laid-back patio and drinks: Flatwater Restaurant. “This is one of the few places in Indy that’s actually on the water,” says Edds. A huge patio overlooks a canal, so you can sit, sip and people watch for hours. Sunday is one of the best times to go, when there’s a bloody Mary bar and a DJ.
For fancy cocktails: Libertine Liquor Bar. Edds gives this place props as one of the first craft mixology bars in the city. She says you can’t go wrong with the Velvet Underground: “a kind of tiki-inspired rum and coke,” with tropical fruit juices.
For crowd-pleasing bites, including vegan options: City Market. This downtown space includes a year-round farmers market and about two dozen food stalls, bakeries, shops and more. For vegan food, check out Three Carrots, which serves up gyros, bahn mi and BLTs, all made from seitan. “It’s a great spot if you have a lot of people looking for different things,” says Edds. There’s tamales, French pastries, juice, kombucha and more. For a beer, head upstairs to Tomlinson Tap Room, which serves craft brew from around the state.
For a celebratory meal: Meridian Restaurant and Bar. Edds refers to Executive Chef Dean Sample as an “extremely talented up-and-coming chef,” preparing upscale American food with some daring twists (like grilled pork tenderloin with roasted jowl, glazed cheek, bacon jam, collards and grits). She also loves the ambiance: the restaurant is located in an old house with “rustic log-cabin charm,” says Edds.
For fun: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Indy is home to the world’s largest children’s museum, located right in the heart of the city. “It is absolutely magical,” says Edds, who takes her 9-year-old son there. She says her family especially loves the dinosaur pavilion, which is a dome that changes throughout the day, with thunderstorms, sunrise and sunset altering the mood. “It’s just one of the best places in Indy,” she says.
For souvenir shopping: Homespun: Modern Handmade. This is a must for funky gifts, clothing, handmade goods and artisanal food from across the Midwest. “It’s a one-stop-shop if you want to pick up something Indiana-centric,” says Edds.
For sunshine and exercise: The Monon Trail. This former train line is now a walking/biking path. The 18.1 mile trail runs from Carmel, Indiana, all the way downtown. “People can make a day of riding up the Monon,” she says. Visitors can even rent a bike from the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare program and hop on the trail.