36 Hours in Indianapolis – The New York Times

Naptown. India-No-Place. My hometown had a lot of nicknames when I was growing up there in the ’80s and ’90s, few of them charitable. Even more generous ones, like “Crossroads of America,” seemed to say that Indianapolis was a place one merely passed through. But things have changed since then. These days, I’m playing catch-up each time I return home, overwhelmed by the new restaurants, galleries, venues and boutiques bringing youth and energy to its streets. A new public transportation system called the Red Line, opened in September, connects the mid-size city’s most vital cultural areas, making it easier and safer than ever to bounce from one hip dive or farm-to-table restaurant to the next. And for all the new places to eat, browse or catch a show, Indy stays true to its Midwestern roots: short on pretension, heavy on pork and still, for the most part, incomprehensibly cheap.

“You can kind of, like, do stuff in Indianapolis, and it’s cheap enough where you can get away with whatever.” So sayeth Chef Chris Benedyk, of the appropriately named Love Handle on Massachusetts Avenue, the heart of the local gay scene and another bustling strip for restaurants, bars and boutique shopping. At Love Handle, that means getting away with putting things in your breakfast that confuse the brain but somehow make sense to the mouth. The fluid menu may offer fried oysters with your grits ($9). Waffles may come with braised beef tongue and a duck egg ($13). And if biscuits and gravy weren’t rich enough per usual, here they might include butternut squash and pork belly ($15.25).

On the same block, stroll over to Homespun: Modern Handmade, which sells work by more than 400 artists and artisans, about half from Indiana. A few doors down, Boomerang Boutique also spotlights local designers, emphasizing diversity and women’s clothing and accessories. But it’s afternoon now, so head over to the tasting room at Sun King Brewery to sample the roughly 25 beers on tap. An in-house lunch counter run by Goose the Market, an upscale local deli that smokes and cures its own meats, has you covered if you get hungry again.

Many hotels have art, but the art at the 209-room Alexander — made by local, national and international artists — is installed museum-style, with identifying wall texts. The downtown location puts you right in the city’s heart and close to Fountain Square, and the bar, designed by the MacArthur “genius grant” winner Jorge Pardo, is one of Indy’s most fashionable spots come nightfall (333 South Delaware Street; thealexander.com; doubles from $159).

A block from trendy Massachusetts Avenue, the six-room Nestle Inn offers a cozy bed-and-breakfast-style experience in a 19th-century building. The inn emphasizes its modernity: self check-in, private bathrooms and, instead of serving breakfast on-site, the inn provides breakfast vouchers for partnering Massachusetts Avenue restaurants. It also offers chef-led cooking classes Friday through Sunday. (637 North East Street; nestleindy.com, doubles from $159.)

Once you leave the clubs and sports bars of Broad Ripple Avenue, the surrounding neighborhoods are full of eclectic cottages, ranch homes and bungalows on quiet streets lined with old trees. The swath just east of College Avenue, roughly between 56th and 49th Streets, is great for Airbnbs, with entire bungalows starting around $60. Wooded jogging trails and dozens of bars and restaurants are within walking distance.

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