Names have power. Whether intentional or not, Milktooth’s moniker has clear symbolic value: there’s a new era emerging in Indianapolis’s food and beverage scene. The first restaurant from owner/chef Jonathan Brooks has already received national attention for its creative interpretations of breakfast classics. But Milktooth is also taking the multi-roaster cafe model to heights previously unseen in the Hoosier State.
As shown by works of art such as Nighthawks or Seinfield, the diner is the archetype of American coffee culture. In the American experience, coffee comes part and parcel with barstools and short order cooks. Unfortunately, most diner coffee is terrible. Milktooth appropriates the best of tradition and fuses it with the culinary sensibilities of the craft coffee movement. We’ve been waiting for a place like this for a long time.
Milktooth is housed in a refurbished garage, as attested by the carjack that supports the central, communal table. The garage doors illuminate the white interior with ample natural light, and a patio allows for outside seating in warmer months. Seating is ample, but Fletcher Place is perhaps the hottest neighborhood in a booming Indianapolis food and beverage scene. If you plan to visit on the weekend come early or be prepared to wait.
The coffee program features a combination of local and nationally known roasters. Each coffee is allotted for a specific brew method, including Aeropress, Hario V60, and Chemex. The espresso program is executed with a single group head Modbar. The long queue of drinks seemed to warrant a second group head, but in a busy restaurant space is at a premium and the baristas share a bar with a fresh-squeezed juice and cocktail program. The Fort Wayne-constructed Modbar is also a testament to the Indiana-pride we found all across Indianapolis.
When I visited the featured espresso was Ozark Copper from Arkansas’s Onyx Coffee Lab.The blackboard promised notes of cherry and almond, which couldn’t have been a more accurate description of this sweet, viscous shot.
While I was waiting for my espresso I was seduced by a gluten-free kumquat honey teacake. As a celiac, I rarely get to enjoy cakes and pastries at cafés or restaurants. When one does find something gluten-free, it’s seldom anything to write home about. But this kumquat teacake was perfect. The texture, always a challenge with GF baking, was light and viscid. The kumquat provided a burst of acidity while the coconut cream cheese icing provide just enough decadence to complete the experience. My only regret is I didn’t buy the whole thing.
Indianapolis’s food and beverage scene might still be cutting its teeth, but it’s full of energy, ambition, and hometown pride. Chef Brooks and company are helping set a new standard for coffee programs in a restaurant environment. Any city would be lucky to have a place like Milktooth.