American Eatery brings fresh, farm-to-table food to Indy
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Amy Payne
Next Door American Eatery on North College Avenue is a solid example of the farm-to-table movement that has gained local and national momentum in recent years — a movement that the restaurant’s owners were pushing long before it became a trend.
Located south of Broad Ripple in a space previously occupied by Double 8 Foods, the restaurant is the most recent manifestation of a large-scale passion project of chefs and entrepreneurs Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk, who currently run six other Next Door locations in Colorado and Tennessee. The duo has been banging the local food drum since back in 2004, and Musk says Indy was the perfect locale for their next venture.
“I’ve always loved food for the way it connects people together,” says the Colorado-based Musk, who grew up in South Africa and graduated from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. “You have the age-old concept of breaking bread with people around you, and that’s really what brings life together – so let’s do it with friends and real food.”
Next Door patrons will find themselves in a casual atmosphere that features a spacious bar with 18 taps, as well as local artwork including a sketch of the building from more than 70 years ago when it operated as a Kroger market. The menu, chock-full of ingredients from Indiana farmers, includes starters like kale chips, charred cauliflower salad and buffalo chicken bites, a selection of veggie and seafood bowls, as well as burgers, sandwiches and daily specials. Most entrees are priced between $9 and $16.
Fourteen years ago Musk and Matheson founded The Kitchen Restaurant Group, the umbrella company that operates Next Door as well as several other restaurants including Hedge Row American Bistro, a casual establishment that also offers locally-sourced cuisine from a wood-fired oven at a slightly higher price point than Next Door. On April 3 The Kitchen opened its third Hedge Row location on Mass Ave.
Musk, who attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City back in 2001, says The Kitchen was created to bring national awareness to the importance of healthy, locally-sourced eating, and supporting local farmers and artisans.
“We started working with local farmers because the food just tasted better – we didn’t even think about it as a movement,” he says. “Back in those days there was no such thing as farm-to-table, and we just found industrial food didn’t taste very good after it’s trucked in from thousands of miles away. So, we started working with local farmers and found the food to be delicious and interesting.”
Musk began scouting the Indianapolis area two years ago and was struck by how vibrant the local food scene had become.
“The warmth in this town is just amazing, and people in Indianapolis have been so welcoming and loving,” Musk says. “We’re super excited to be here.”
Musk isn’t the only innovator in his family – his brother Elon is currently the CEO of Tesla, Inc. and founder of SpaceX, a rocket and spacecraft designer and manufacturer. Kimbal sits on the boards of both companies, although these days much of his time is spent on various food-related projects, including his Learning Gardens, which are outdoor edible produce beds grown in underserved schools across the U.S. He’s launched 31 of them in Indianapolis alone.
“The interesting thing for us is how much people really appreciate the difference between real food and industrial food, so that’s been powerful,” Musk says. “Indy’s got a wonderful real-food scene, so we’re hoping to fit in and be a part of that community.”
Next Door is partnering with more than 20 local farmers, and for Musk the reason is simple.
“We do it because the food tastes better, and it’s better for you,” he says. “It’s just fantastic. Indiana farmers are great at growing what grows best here.”
Next Door American Eatery is located at 4565 North College Avenue in Indianapolis and celebrated its grand opening in May. Visit nextdooreatery.com for more info.