Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
As the Carolina Grill celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2017, General Manager Matt Taylor says the restaurant’s leadership and serving staff work as hard as they have from day one to distinguish themselves with a welcoming aesthetic and a diverse cuisine.
Located within the primarily residential Stonegate neighborhood in Zionsville, Taylor says the restaurant was launched in 2007 to provide a focal point for the local community.
“When Stonegate was developed, everybody involved really wanted to have that sense of community versus just a subdivision, so the restaurant was put right in the middle of it,” says Taylor, who worked in the Carolina Grill kitchen for six years before securing his current position as general manager. “It’s a multifaceted place, and we kind of have something for everybody depending on what room you’re in.”
The family-friendly upstairs dining area, featuring repurposed barn wood flooring, is open for lunch and dinner, and offers up what Taylor calls American comfort food with a twist.
“We have our Hoosier fare like breaded pork tenderloins, but we’ll branch out and do some fun things whether it’s jambalaya and étouffée, or east coast barbecue with vinegar and mustard in the sauce,” says Taylor, adding that the menu changes seasonally so the chefs can include as many fresh ingredients as they can. “Everything’s made from scratch, down to our dressings and sauces. I’d put our fried pickles, fried mushrooms and breaded tenderloin against anybody’s in the state.”
Local products are sourced whenever possible, including meats from Saint Adrian Meats & Sausage in Lebanon and breads from Becky’s Bake Shop in Zionsville. Taylor says a current customer favorite is the chili lime brisket crepe, for which the chefs braise their smoked brisket in beer and top the folded crepes with a loaded beer cheese sauce.
A more subdued aesthetic awaits those visiting the downstairs Tap Room, where guests can pull up to the 19th century, hand-carved bar top and sample from more than 100 whiskeys, local craft beers including Taxman, Sun King and Upland, as well as a selection of custom house cocktails.
“If you want to celebrate an anniversary or anything that requires an intimate kind of gathering, the Tap Room is the way to go,” Taylor says. “It’s not a hustle-and-bustle kind of bar — it has a relaxed kind of feel to it. Our bar manager, David Hiner, does a good job of keeping fresh cocktail lists and will often do his own infusions.”
A post-meal sweet-tooth crisis can be averted by taking the whole family by the ice cream parlor before leaving, for a selection of sweet treats. Taylor says unique features like the ice cream parlor, as well as a separate event space on the downstairs level, named the Stable Room after its large stable doors, which can accommodate 50 to 70 people for private events, have helped the Carolina Grill grow its customer base through the years.
“It’s definitely not just for the neighborhood,” Taylor says. “We pull from Lebanon, Whitestown, Carmel, Fishers and even from Indianapolis and Greenwood. It’s funny because there are people in Zionsville that still don’t know we’re here since we’re kind of hidden, but the fact that we have something for everyone has helped with word of mouth.”
The Carolina Grill is located at 7629 West Stonegate Drive in Zionsville. For more information or to make a reservation, call 317-769-3743 or visit mycarolinagrill.com.