Indianapolis, 'where the world comes to eat'

Dateline: Wed 23 Feb 2011


Thanks to daughter Elizabeth Holladay, who found this story in the New York Times today about Indy's ethnic restaurants and the vitality of this city: a place where various cuisines meet, at Honey Creek Plaza on the city's Northwest side, near Lafayette Square Mall.

Here's the start of the story, as reported by John T. Edge in the dining and wine section:

"HONEY CREEK PLAZA, in a neighborhood with a suburban character inside this city’s northwest border, is a five-continent food court posing as a shopping center. Park in the blacktop lot that separates the strip mall from West 38th Street, and you can walk to restaurants serving food from South America, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

"Two blocks away, across from a Chuck E. Cheese’s, Georgetown Plaza houses a tanning salon, a pet superstore and Magoo’s California Pizza. Tasawar Awan, the pizzeria’s owner and a native of Pakistan, serves puffy-crusted pies topped with tomato sauce as well as chapli kebabs of halal beef.

"On the city’s far southern fringe, within sight of an Olive Garden in Greenwood, Ind., a Burmese restaurant called Kimu serves stick-shaped breakfast crullers and pork with pickled mango. Customers include the parents of children at nearby Winchester Village Elementary, where, because of refugee resettlement, more than 30 percent of the students are now of Burmese descent.

Indianapolis was once known as the 100 Percent American City. But its outlying neighborhoods aren’t what they used to be. Neither are the suburbs of most metropolitan areas in the United States. Areas long defined by racial and ethnic homogeneity created by white flight from urban cores have become nodes of ethnicity populated by relatively recent arrivals"

I think this is the bomb.

Here's more:

"As these immigration patterns transform neighborhoods outside urban centers, they are also changing what, and with whom, suburbanites eat. Entrepreneurs from throughout the world now “offer up their foods unapologetically,” said Terry Kirts, who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and serves on the board of Indy Ethnic Food, a Web-based restaurant and retail portal.

“'Immigration has not simply allowed for more different types of cuisines to be offered here, but for more expression of authentic dishes,' Mr. Kirts said. 'When I came here in the mid-’90s, Thai restaurants served lo mein and sweet and sour chicken. Now I order papaya salad and soft-shell crabs with Penang curry.'”

Drew Appleby of IUPUI and Ethnic Indy Food, is also quoted. So is Mayor Greg Ballard, who ambitiously envisioined a Chinatown in Indy, as well as an international cricket championship.

I love this story. For years, a group of friends -- we call ourselves the Vulgarians -- have patronized these restaurants now featured in the NYT, thanks in large part to the appetite of my friend Marcia Dayan and others in the group.

Have we arrived? Yes. So we are not just about labor unions fighting back; we are about ethnic diversity and food and creating new economic models in tired, old retail areas that once relied on big boxes.

Thank you, all you restaurant owners. I would also like to thank Saraga, where my Thai daughter-in-law and her family shop for foods that are native to Bangkok.

It's a new day....a new way...and certainly a different cuisine from meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

Thanks to Bessie for finding this. Yes, we will take you to Havana Cafe!


hendy [Member] said:

Now stop that. You're going to scare more people out to the suburbs so they can get that gourmet O'Charlie's dining experience. Housing prices will drop even more.

Oh, wait. That's how immigrants do the uptake. Forgot. Sorry.

2011-02-23 18:52:24

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy is hilarious. And right.

So was Balalrd's Chinatown comment. Stupid then, stupid now.

2011-02-23 19:26:44

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Actually, the only incorrect impression given by the article is that immigration is something new to Indy.

Not so.

We've been about 10% foreign-born since the beginning. Only the mix has changed.

2011-02-23 23:07:05

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Uh, we're even moreso now, Cynical. And it' great!

2011-02-24 05:43:33

Nicolas Martin [unverified] said:

I doubt that many Hoosiers celebrate diversity in this the third Klan era. Kluxery without Klan.

Catholics and Jews are reviled
Blacks are subhuman
Immigrants threaten Americanism
Alcohol destroys the moral fabric

Muslims are reviled
Mexicans are subhuman
Immigrants threaten Americanism
Drugs destroy the moral fabric

2011-02-24 09:03:32

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Not all Hoosiers are Klanners, Nicolas!

Come celebrate our heritage at the International Festival next November!

(Note, please,the first one was in 1976, in celebration of the US Bicentennial.)

In the meantime, check out and try one of our hundreds of wonderful ethnic restaurants in Indianapolis!

2011-02-24 13:22:19

russ [unverified] said:

on the eatery front, don't try Waffle and Chicken Wings around (East and Ohio streets) noontime on Saturdays or Sundays--- you'll wait half an hour or so--- but it's worth it at the semi-soul food place where catfish is supreme.

2011-02-24 22:48:44

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