Even if you have decidedly bougie tastes, there’s something distinctly alluring about a good chain restaurant — especially if you want a familiar meal that tastes the same no matter where you happen to be.
While Indianapolis is home to a huge variety of indie establishments and local eateries that make unique dishes, it’s perfectly okay to fall back on the familiar (and delicious) offerings from chain restaurants. A restaurant doesn’t have to be native-born to be beloved.
So what are Indy’s favorite adopted eateries? Here are some chain places that we think are totally worth the calories you’ll consume while you’re there:
Known originally as “The Dog House,” Portillo’s has come a long way since its humble origins in Villa Park, Illinois. Back in 1963, its owner first started operations out of a small trailer without even the benefit of running water.
After years of gradual expansion, Portillo’s finally came to Indiana in 2006, and now has locations in over six states. This is one of the best places to come if you want a char-broiled burger, a stack of delicious slow-cooked ribs or a piece of its famous, decadent chocolate cake.
Looking for pizza? Hoping for wings, a salad or maybe some classic Italian pasta? You won’t be disappointed if you head to Giordano’s. You can find everything from super-thin crust pizza with fresh mozzarella to stuffed pizzas and desserts.
Giordano’s has frequently made headlines for its deep-dish delights, topping the lists of best Chicago pizza by such notables as NBC, the New York Times, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune and others — but its real story started over 200 years ago in a small town near Torino, Italy.
The first Melting Pot was a modest operation in Maitland, Florida, with just three items on the menu: beef, Swiss cheese or chocolate fondue. As the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu — and the number of locations. It now has franchises throughout the nation, including here in Indy.
The Melting Pot promises an interactive dining experience that is perfect for a night out with friends, family or a significant other. You can pair the dip-able offerings and fondue with more traditional seasonal or fixed menu items, grab a glass of wine or a beer and relax.
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Morton’s The Steakhouse is a hospitality-driven restaurant that puts a priority on the customers’ experience at all times. It first opened its doors on State Street in Chicago back in 1978. Since then, it has spread out both nationally and internationally.
With lobster bisque, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella sticks and filet mignon on the menu, this is one chain restaurant that you can happily visit for special occasions. While you’re there, check out their world-famous lobster macaroni and cheese or their Wagyu meatballs for a meal that will leave a lasting impression.
Arnie’s first opened their doors in 1965 in Lafayette and became an Indiana favorite in just 10 short years. Elected to the Indiana Restaurant Association Hall of Fame in 2002, there are now 18 different Arni’s throughout the state — including here in Indy.
Good pizza and good service are what put Arnie’s on the map, but you should also check out their Firecracker Shrimp with Serrano chili sauce or their Greek Flatbread to get a real feel for the taste sensations they have to offer.
What’s better than having a great breakfast put in front of you — unless it’s brunch? Either way, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Yolk, whether that’s savory or sweet, traditional or innovative and unique. Some notable local favorites include their Red Velvet French Toast and Pot Roast Benedict dishes.
Yolk was born in Chicago’s South Loop area in 2006, with the idea that people would positively respond to the concept of an upscale place to go for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant has consistently earned rave reviews from Dining Out Chicago Magazine and others as it continues to expand into new urban areas.
The Cheesecake Factory
While the food at The Cheesecake Factory is great, arguably the best reason of all to visit one of these restaurants is the array of desserts they carry. (Personally, we’d recommend the Very Cherry Ghirardelli Chocolate Cheesecake, but feel free to make up your own mind once you look at the menu.)
The Cheesecake Factory began as the brainchild of a wife and mother in Detroit, Michigan, way back in the 1940s, but didn’t really take off until 1972 when the family moved to Los Angeles. Since then, it’s become a widespread success, with more than 200 stores throughout the nation.
You’ll have to wait for a little while, still, to check out Shake Shack — it’s not slated to open in downtown Indy until the spring of 2021. Once its open for operations, however, you will definitely want to experience this modern burger joint with its all-natural Angus burgers, antibiotic-free hot dogs, crispy cut fries and more.
Believe it or not, the Shake Shack started as a humble hot dog cart in Manhattan. Set up to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art show, the food turned this iconic American eatery into a permanent attraction.
Originally from Wisconsin, Culver’s is well-known for its ButterBurger and Cheese Curds, as well as its frozen custard desserts. This chain works hard to honor its small-town roots by always using fresh dairy from family farms and sourcing top-quality ingredients.
The chain has been ranked sixth among Entrepreneur’s 2019 Franchise 500 and fourth among the favorite quick-service chains beloved by Millennials according to Restaurant Business.
Remember: Every chain restaurant started out as a small business and somebody’s dream. With that in mind, you can eat guilt-free, knowing that you’re supporting a proud American entrepreneurial tradition.