Whether you’re exploring Carmel’s Arts & Design District searching for just one more life-size Seward sculpture, biking the Monon Trail, or heading to a concert at the Palladium, you are going to need some sustenance. Carmel, Indiana has some of the best places to eat for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. Here are my top picks for best restaurants in Carmel, IN.
Top 7 Best Restaurants in Carmel, Indiana
Best Brunch in Carmel, IN
51 West City Center Drive // +1-317-660-1616
Chef Larry Hanes is creating a Euro-influenced oasis in the middle of Indiana. Some of his clients joke, “It’s cheaper than a direct flight to Paris.”
Located on the City Center’s north side, Eggshell Bistro has made brunch an art form. One example is the truffled egg brioche, with asparagus, preserved lemon, porcini white truffle oil, fontina cheese, bottarga, and a sous-vide poached hen’s egg served on brioche.
Another favorite is the asparagus strata, an egg and bread cassolette, incorporating double-smoke ham, caramelized onion, Jarlsberg cheese, and basil pesto. A mix of fresh fruit accompanies the dish. The cassolette has tasty bits of caramelization around the edges.
Dukkah is a Middle Eastern spice mixture containing toasted nuts, seeds, and savory spices. At Eggshell, they frequently use hazelnuts and sesame seeds. The spice mix often contains mint, both standard, and black cumin, coriander, anise, fennel, sea salt, and black pepper.
At Eggshell Bistro, they use dukkah to create the shirred dukkah eggs. Add Merguez, a spicy lamb or beef sausage, combined with roasted pearl onions, red pepper, and plumped golden raisins for a touch of sweetness. A hazelnut romesco sits beside the hen’s eggs baked in a cast iron Staub pan. A baguette with stunning grill marks accompanies the eggs.
Chef Larry Hanes’ signature combination of dried and fresh flowers beautifully decorates each dish. It’s no surprise; Chef Hanes was once a graphic designer.
Biscotti is Eggshell’s specialty dessert. The chocolate covered biscotti with sea salt will draw the chocolate lovers. The corn almond biscotti pays homage to Indiana and Italy. Don’t miss these; they’re easily portable for a mid-afternoon snack.
- Substitutions, changes, or additional creativity isn’t supported. If you have allergies to an ingredient, plan to choose a different dish.
- Chef Hanes designed Eggshell Bistro as a relaxed environment. If your schedule is tight, consult with your server for an appropriate selection.
- Eggshell Bistro is only open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Check their website for hours.
Best Breakfasts in Carmel, IN
With two locations in Carmel and six in the Indianapolis area, you aren’t far from a Café Patachou. Founder and owner Martha Hoover is a 2019 semi-finalist in the James Beard awards for Outstanding Restaurateur. In the late 1980s, Hoover couldn’t understand why in the middle of one of the country’s largest agricultural regions, restaurants were serving frozen processed foods. She created Café Patachou as one of the original farm-to-table restaurants.
One example of local ingredients is the use of corn in the Indiana sweet corn cakes. They start with alternating layers of corn cakes and sliced avocado. A pickled beet relish finishes the top. Served alongside the corn cake stack is a pile of arugula salad glistening from the house vinaigrette.
A tribute to the Fall harvest is the pumpkin bread. The dish starts with maple whipped mascarpone and cream cheese layered between two slices of skillet-toasted pumpkin bread. Puffed quinoa and sugared pecans top each layer. The server suggested a sprinkling of fresh berries. The blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries added a pop of color and freshness.
- Once on the waitlist, they text a link to your phone, where you can quickly check the length of your remaining wait.
- Café Patachou only serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Check their website for hours.
1111 Main Street, Suite 100 // +1-317-688-7350
Named for co-owner, Debbi Bourgerie’s paternal grandmother, Rosie, the restaurant uses locally sourced, seasonally prepared ingredients for breakfast and lunch.
For breakfast, in addition to the classic two eggs, toast, and country potatoes, you’ll find more unique offerings. One example is the Spring veggie hash, which is quinoa topped with asparagus, baby red potatoes, Brussel sprouts, red onion, mushrooms, baby spinach, thyme, all topped with two poached eggs. Like an eggs Benedict it’s topped with hollandaise and balsamic drizzle.
Their sandwiches are an excellent lunch option. The hot pastrami sandwich begins with a grilled ciabatta roll piled high with hot pastrami, melted provolone cheese, creamy coleslaw, and Rosie’s special sauce. House-made potato chips accompany the sandwich.
A local sandwich is the pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloins are so prevalent in this area they have an entire trail of restaurants featuring this sandwich. It’s a hand-breaded pork tenderloin topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mayonnaise built on a house-made bun.
The bakery once sold the famous St. Louis gooey butter cakes, and eventually, the cakes morphed into gooey butter cookies so that diners could enjoy them as an afternoon snack. After you’ve visited Rosie’s Place and you’re hooked on the gooey butter cookies, you can get your fix through their online sales.
Servers wear jeans and logo T-shirts with fun sayings on the back, like “Hugs & Quiches” or “Everything’s Coming Up Rosie’s.”
Pro Tip: Buy a treat from the bakery for a snack to enjoy later.
Best Experiential Lunch in Carmel, IN
30 North Range Line Road // +1-317-565-9716
Located in a two-story house with colorful trim, Tina’s Traditional Tea Room & Tavern serves British fare. Of course, you’ll find authentic English high tea at Tina’s Traditional Tea Room & Tavern; but the surprise was the more hearty meals.
The traditional British ploughman’s platter was perfect for sharing. Centered on the wooden plate similar to a charcuterie platter was a bed of greens mixed with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and sliced grapes just waiting for the accompanying vinaigrette. Surrounding the salad were three types of cheese – a yellow Irish Cheddar, Sage Derby with its green color coming from sage, and finally an orange Cheddar. The crustless quiche was a perfect gluten-free bite. A round meat pie filled with spicy beef added just the right amount of zip to the platter. Two savory herb scones, with a hint of sage and thyme, spread with butter, they were moist and flavorful. Finally, the traditional British sausage roll with crispy phyllo dough filled with pork and beef proved the perfect accompaniment to the famous Taddy Porter.
The Coronation chicken salad created for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was another traditional British dish. The salad begins with Spring greens, sliced grape tomatoes, English cucumber, and sliced grapes. Then it’s topped with Tina’s famous coronation chicken salad recipe. What makes this chicken salad recipe unique is that Tina seasons it with mild curry powder and adds dried cranberries.
Tina’s Traditional Tea Room has English high tea and so much more.
Pro Tip: There’s free parking in the rear of the tea room.
Best Fast Casual Restaurant in Carmel, IN
351 Monon Boulevard // +1- 317-671-1640
Located in the Sun King brewery, Oca, Spanish and Italian for the goose, serves meat-focused fare. You purchase their meals via counter service, food court style.
One of my favorite sandwiches is the muffuletta. Layered on a roll, the top encrusted with sesame seeds, is mortadella, cotto salami, city ham, along with provolone, and mozzarella cheese. Then comes the toppings: a mildly spicy giardiniera, an olive salad, and mayo. It’s served warm with the cheese melting down the side.
Pro Tip: Since this is a craft brewery, you can select the perfect craft beer to accompany your meal.
Best Meatballs in Carmel, IN
8702 Keystone Crossing // +1-317-574-1970
Use the markers in the flower vase to order the meatballs like sushi. Next to each meatball type, mark the desired number. Then choose the sauce. Mark your order right on the menu and hand it back to the server.
You can have them any way you want them, and the choices are abundant. It’s a mix and match menu. Choose your meatballs, choose the sauce, and choose your sides. Everything is customizable. Nine different types of sauce offered: marinara, garlic cream, spicy Bolognese, spicy cilantro, honey sriracha, bourbon BBQ, mushroom gravy, sriracha aioli, and a special sauce.
The presentation of the four meatballs was perfectly organized. A square white dish divided into four quadrants that each held one meatball with the appropriate sauce. The small dividers create a barrier so that the sauces from two adjoining meatballs don’t become intermixed, so each taste is pure and unadulterated.
Although meat is in the name, Mimi Blue Meatballs has several vegan options. Options include the veggie, black bean quinoa, and the Wonderball. Pair any of these selections with either the marinara or the spicy cilantro sauce.
Each week Mimi Blue serves one special meatball. For example, falafel with tahini sauce.
For dessert, two words: banana mousse. You must have it. This dessert has three house-made components, the banana mousse, the whipped cream, and white chocolate topping served as crumbles, which are more than crushed nilla wafers. The chef combines house-made nilla wafers with white chocolate to make a brittle-like component that is then crunched and served on the dessert as a crumble.
Pro Tip: If you’re wondering if the honey sriracha will be too spicy for your taste the servers readily offer samples in metal shot cups to be tasted with baby-sized tasting spoons.
Best Burgers in Carmel, IN
210 W Main Street // +1-317-706-2827
Located in a yellow house on the Monon Trail in the Carmel Arts & Design District, Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream is the perfect ice cream stop as you’re biking the trail. Bub was owner Matt Frey’s childhood nickname and the inspiration for the restaurant’s name.
The burgers are hand made from fresh ground chuck, never frozen. Then they are flame grilled to perfection. The buns are house-made daily to fit the burgers exactly. Lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle accompany each burger.
The Big Ugly one-pound burger is one-pound after it’s cooked. It starts as 22 ounces pre-cooked weight. If you can eat this, you can get your picture on the wall.
In addition to the beef burgers, they also have gourmet Elk Burgers. Elk burgers are high in protein, and low in fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Accompany your burger with a hand-dipped milkshake.
Which one of these Carmel, IN restaurants do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Amy Piper is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and blogger. A native of Michigan USA, she has traveled to 41 countries and 42 states, most recently adding New Mexico to the list. She aspires to go to Antarctica and finally visit all seven continents.
She specializes in food and multi-generational travel, frequently traveling with her husband, daughter, and two granddaughters. Amy has had six-month-long expat assignments in South Korea and Argentina. She has been chased by bomb-sniffing dogs in the middle of the night in Bogotá (working late), was refused boarding for a plane from Buenos Aires to Paraguay (wrong visa), and Federal Marshals once announced her seat number on a flight while looking for a murder suspect (traded seats). It is always an adventure!
She is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), Travel Massive, TravMedia, and the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA). Follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.