Photographer / Michael Durr
For any food-based business to survive for multiple decades in a restaurant-heavy area like Indianapolis is quite an accomplishment. So how has Peterson’s on East 96th Street been able to not only survive for 20 years but thrive as one of the city’s top steakhouses while remaining independent and family-owned all the while?
For General Manager Bradley Phelps, it begins with owner Joe Peterson’s commitment to the business and the Indianapolis community.
“Mr. Peterson has always valued the entire staff here and listens to our customers’ feedback,” Phelps says. “He really cares about the kind of experience they have. The other thing is that we deliver a high-quality product with both service and the items that people consume — spirits, wine and culinary items.”
Back in 1999 Joe Peterson, a 1957 Cathedral High School grad, was busy in the corporate world running a family business, Crown Technology and grew interested in opening a steakhouse establishment to provide the kind of quality cuisine he felt was lacking in many steakhouses around the country. Peterson saw potential in Fishers, which was starting to expand both residentially and commercially at the time, and took over the space formerly occupied by Frisch’s Big Boy on East 96th Street.
Since then, Peterson’s has established itself as a high-end, dinner-only destination, and this year the staff officially celebrated the business’s 20th birthday by shutting down the building and inviting its top 500 regular guests to wine and dine the evening away.
“It was a way to say thank you to those top regular guests who’ve been with us over the years, and we just threw a big cocktail party shindig for them with live music,” says Phelps, a native of Peoria, Illinois, who joined the Peterson’s team in June of 2016.
Phelps says Peterson’s has become known particularly for its barrel-cut filet mignon, which Executive Chef Dave Foegley sources from the restaurant’s Chicago-based butcher. The menu also features New York strip and prime ribeye steak cuts, smoked pork chop, duck breast and smoke-roasted chicken, as well as a sizable selection of seafood items like lobster, crab legs, salmon, oysters and crab-stuffed shrimp. The kitchen staff, helmed by Foegley, sources from several local vendors including Fischer Farms, Traders Point Creamery, Goose the Market, Legacy Maker and others, which Phelps says adds to the overall flavor and quality of the menu.
“Our executive chef has a 10-year relationship with our butcher up in Chicago, and he has certain specifications that he’s constantly talking to the butcher about for our barrel-cut filet,” Phelps explains. “Dave has been in the industry as an executive chef for one upscale restaurant or another from Peter’s to St. Elmo to us, for the last 25 years.”
No steakhouse would truly be complete without a reasonably well-rounded wine list, and Peterson’s consistently stocks more than 400 selections from around the world. The ever-evolving list, which includes champagnes and sparkling selections as well as reds and whites, has garnered multiple “Best of Award of Excellence” awards from Wine Spectator magazine.
“Our staff really has a commitment to doing things right not just trying to sell everything under the sun to the guest but making sure the guest wants to come back and has that positive experience,” Phelps adds. “With being in the people business, there are times when the connection’s not always made, and people might get a different experience than they were expecting, but we give it our darnedest for sure.”
Peterson’s holds special functions regularly including exclusive wine dinners, a “Bourbon, Brew and ‘Q” event around Father’s Day for barbecue enthusiasts, and a March Madness NCAA basketball kickoff event. Phelps says providing an elegant backdrop for all manner of special celebrations has helped to cement Peterson’s status as one of the city’s culinary fixtures for two decades.
“Over the years, we’ve become a destination place for birthdays, anniversaries, engagements and the special occasions in life,” he says. “And business people generally appreciate the ambiance when they come in to dine as well. We want people to have the feeling when they leave that they’ve had an uncommon and special experience.”
Visit Peterson’s at 7690 East 96th Street in Fishers. For menus, hours of operation, Elite Club membership info and to make reservations, call 317-598-8863 or visit petersonsrestaurant.com.