As a native of the U.S. Midwest, I’m always a bit stung when I hear the region referred to as “flyover country.” I believe that even outside major cities like Chicago — where I have spent most of my life — the Midwest has a lot of interesting experiences to offer, including an increasingly growing number of unique restaurants and bars.
Last weekend, for example, I visited The Alexander, a Dolce Hotel, in Indianapolis, where I was pleasantly surprised by what I found at Plat 99, the property’s signature bar and lounge. The Alexander calls the Jorge Pardo-designed Plat 99 “a work of art,” and indeed, its 99 rainbow-colored pendant lamps and myriad handmade, painted concrete block tiles make a striking impression.
In the end, though, I’m always more interested in the food and drinks, and in my mind, this is where Plat 99 presented the biggest surprises. In a town that still has probably more than its fair share of national, cookie-cutter chain restaurants and bars, Plat 99 is focused on local, organic and sustainable ingredients. On its own, this is nothing especially distinguishable, but the specific iterations were not what I was expecting.
Take edamame — on Plat 99’s menu described as “Indiana soy beans with pinot noir salt.”
Good local beers are becoming available virtually everywhere — Plat 99 offered Sun King Cream Ale out of Indianapolis and Triton Rail Splitter IPA from Lawrence, Indiana, to name just a couple — but I was surprised to see Indiana rye, Indiana gin, Indiana bourbon and Indiana vodka all on offer in various cocktails.
And speaking of cocktails, I liked the clever approach to the menu itself, which listed libations on a timeline with the year they were invented and the name of their original mixologist.
It all goes to show that creativity and respect for whatever the local fare may be need not be limited to the U.S. coasts or other headline-worthy destinations around the globe. F&B innovation can happen anywhere — even in a spot that many might just fly over.