In Indianapolis, the World Comes to Eat
JOHN T. EDGE
Indianapolis was once known as the 100 Percent American City. But its outlying neighborhoods aren’t what they used to be. Neither are the suburbs of most metropolitan areas in the United States. Areas long defined by racial and ethnic homogeneity created by white flight from urban cores have become nodes of ethnicity populated by relatively recent arrivals.
More than half of foreign-born Americans now live in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, according to a Brookings Institution report of 2008 data. New suburbanites are more likely to be Hispanic than white, according to 2010 data from the American Community Survey. Of the 13.3 million new suburban arrivals in the first decade of this century,approximately 2 million were Asian.
As these immigration patterns transform neighborhoods outside urban centers, they are also changing what, and with whom, suburbanites eat. Entrepreneurs from throughout the world now “offer up their foods unapologetically,” said Terry Kirts, who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and serves on the board of Indy Ethnic Food, a Web-based restaurant and retail portal.
“Immigration has not simply allowed for more different types of cuisines to be offered here, but for more expression of authentic dishes,” Mr. Kirts said. “When I came here in the mid-’90s, Thai restaurants served lo mein and sweet and sour chicken. Now I order papaya salad and soft-shell crabs with Penang curry.”