Over the years, we’ve opened a number of restaurants in the Indianapolis area, including Buca di Beppos and an Oceanaire Seafood Room.
In the beginning, I wasn’t particularly familiar with Indy, but I quickly became acquainted with local fixtures like the Indianapolis Colts…the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District…and of course the Indianapolis 500, with its roster of legendary drivers like A.J. Foyt Sr. and Jr., the Unsers, and Mario Andretti.
But the legend that resonated with me most closely had to do with food: ST. ELMO’S STEAK HOUSE, an Indianapolis institution since 1902. Located downtown on Illinois Street near the 248-foot-tall Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, it’s named after the patron saint of sailors.
Full disclosure: We know the St. Elmo people well. We’re both members of the National Retail Cattlemen’s Association (You may have seen our “Top 10 Steakhouses in America” ad in the Delta inflight magazine). The St. Elmo’s folks are great people, with a TERRIFIC steakhouse, one that has so much in common with Manny’s DNA that it’s scary. Their commitment to quality, their service standards and dining room experience are strikingly similar to ours, as reflected by Zagat ratings that are nearly identical – 4.7 and 4.8. That’s in the stratosphere for steakhouses. Zagat says of St. Elmo: “Steak the way God intended.”
Joanne and I have been there on numerous occasions and feel very much at home and cozy in St. Elmo’s clubby, masculine surroundings, rich with wood and exposed brick.
The tuxedo-clad servers, like Manny’s less formally attired staff, are not part timers. No, this is their “main event” and their professionalism shines at every level…respectful of the restaurant’s 115-year history…attentive but not overbearing, unfailingly polite and, if the occasion is celebratory, plenty fun.
As with Manny’s, St. Elmo’s features all the iconic steakhouse menu offerings – generous and expertly executed. Other than the steaks, the “star of the show” here is the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, served with a sinus-clearing cocktail sauce.
The beef is what you’d expect from a place like St. Elmo’s – the highest quality, perfectly prepared and expertly served. Porterhouses…New York Strips…Filets…Rib-eyes. They’re all world-class.
Prime Rib is also excellent here, as is the Surf & Turf. Lobster Mac & Cheese is a “must have” side dish. You’ll also find Indiana Pork Chops and Amish Chicken on the menu.
Desserts include Cheesecake, Crème Brulée, a decadent Chocolate Layer Cake, and my personal favorite: St. Elmo’s Bread Pudding.
No wonder this place was recognized by the James Beard Foundation in 2012 as an “American Classic.”
Take it from me: If you find yourself in Indy, don’t even bother with the other steakhouses (We’ve tried them all!). St. Elmo’s reigns supreme.