Yesterday, a friend from Denver, Steve Preston, handed me a story from the Denver Post in which food critic John Henderson rates his best and worst meals in the world for 2010. Worst sandwich in the world? I quote:

Grouper fillet, Loughmiller’s Pub & Eatery, 301 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, 317-638-7380. This slippery slab of tasteless fish nearly slid out of my oily bun. Eating it with a fork sans cheap bread didn’t make it any better.

Yikes. I don’t very often eat at Loughmiller’s, that venerable pub down by the Statehouse where all the pols and lawyers hang out. Since I’m a vegetarian, I wouldn’t eat the grouper filet, anyway. So I can’t weigh in on the sandwich.

But “worst in the world” seems a little harsh. Especially coming from a critic in a city where one of the local delicacies is Rocky Mountain oysters: what someone once explained to me as “the difference between a bull and a steer.”

To make matters worse, in the print version of the story, Henderson named Indianapolis the worst town for food in the world. I quote:

Worst Food Town: Get a clue, Lou (it’s Indianapolis).

Wow. I’ve certainly heard plenty of complaining over the years about the quality of our restaurants. But “worst in the world?” That hurts.

And it can’t be true. Indianapolis’s restaurant culture as been evolving nicely in recent years–to the point that being a vegetarian is almost easy. (Almost.) Not that this should be the sole measure of a great restaurant town. But it is a sign of sophistication and creativity in the culinary arts, at least.

And so, to defend my city, here are a few restaurants John Henderson should try next time he’s in Indy. No offense, Loughmiller’s.

Taste, 5164 N. College Ave. For going on six years, Taste has been one of the northside’s busiest places for lunch; brunch on the weekends is insane. But it’s always worth the wait. I’ll bet I’ve averaged a meal a week at Taste since they opened, and I have never, ever had anything approaching a bad bit of food. When they’re open for dinner–Wednesday and Thursday nights only–this is my favorite restaurant in Indianapolis.

Pure Eatery, 1043 Virginia Ave. Pure is a newcomer to the restaurant renaissance in Fountain Square; if you haven’t been down lately, you need to drop in for lunch or dinner at Siam Square or Naisa or Square Rootz Deli or Shelbi Street Cafe or the Red Lion, the Smokehouse, the Brass Ring (seriously, have you been to Fountain Square recently?)–and don’t forget that Santorini has reopened and is as fabulous as ever. But make it a point to check out this little gem in the Murphy Building. Salads and sandwiches, simple and fresh and delicious.

Tulip Noir, 1224 W. 86th St. A doctor at St.Vincent once told me he didn’t like having lunch here because he was “the only man in the building.” I’m not sure I see the downside. He’s right: Tulip Noir is a popular breakfast and lunch spot for northside professional women (although, come on, Doc: there are plenty of men in the restaurant every time I go). Soups, salads, sandwiches, a great assortment of teas, and a lot more–all flavorful and creative, and, yes, a little delicate. Not the place if you’re looking for an entree bigger than your head, but you know that.

Mesh, 725 Massachusetts Ave. It’s the space that was once Scholar’s Inn–great atmosphere, nice wine list, okay food. Then the owners decided they didn’t want the likes of me hanging around there anymore, so they changed the name to SI and tried to attract–I dunno. The four fashion models who live in Indianapolis? Thankfully, the place has new owners, and Mesh is a new restaurant, and the food is spectacular. If you’re a vegetarian, their tofu entree kills. They have a nice wine list, too.

Where else? How about Recess at 49th and College? If you’re looking looking to spend even more on dinner, I’d point you toward Meridian at Meridian and Westfield Blvd. Mama Carolla’s on E. 54th Street is my favorite homey Italian joint. Pick a Patachou or Petit Chou for a fantastic breakfast or lunch. Try Hoaglin To Go on Mass Ave.–still my favorite breakfast in the city. And is there a restaurant in the world named-checked more often by TV sports commentators thanĀ St. Elmo?

Indianapolis is the worst food town in the world? Not in my world. What have I missed? Anyone want to defend Loughmiller’s? Anyone else want to defend our honor?

Anyone have a good idea about a place for lunch? I’m open to suggestion.