Charlie Kimball

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary when he and his and his wife Kathleen dined at Indianapolis’ Bluebeard on Friday.

They are regulars at the restaurant headed by James Beard Award-nominee Chef Abbi Merriss and about a dozen others in Indianapolis – a city they moved to because of its proximity to the racing industry and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as a place becoming well-known for its food scene, something the Kimballs enjoy almost daily.

Dessert“There are great restaurants and cocktail bars, some true gastronomy and molecular gastronomy places like Cerulean, like Bluebeard, like Libertine -- three of probably 20 of our favorites here in town,” Charlie Kimball said. “We are spoiled for choices.”

The only unusual thing about the Kimballs’ meal were their dining companions.

Instead of eating with friends or dining alone, they were sharing it with journalists from Louisville and Chicago at the request of Visit Indy, which promotes tourism in the city.

Native Californians, the Kimballs moved to Indianapolis seven years ago and have grown to love living there so much, they became unofficial ambassadors.

“We have really embraced the California Hoosier mentality,” Charlie Kimball said.

On Friday, Kimball and his wife led a progressive dinner to three of Indianapolis’ best restaurants. They had cocktails at Libertine, dinner at Bluebeard and then headed to The Alexander Hotel’s Cerulean for dessert.

The Kimballs live in downtown Indianapolis, where they are friends with their neighbors. Along with Indy car racing, they also embrace the city’s sports culture, attending Indiana Fuel hockey games, Indy Eleven soccer matches as well as Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts games.

Kimball is a friend of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and occasionally hosts Colts’ tailgate parties.

At dinner on Friday, talk was about the recent round of national food award eliminations. Merriss, Bluebeard’s chef, and Jonathan Brooks, the chef/owner of nearby Milktooth, had just been eliminated from the finals of this year’s James Beard Award, the food equivalent to the Oscars.

“Chicago swept the Great Lakes category, a recurring theme that caused some Indy-area chefs, restaurants and others in the food and drink industry, as well as diners, to wonder if Indianapolis can compete against Chicago’s mammoth culinary scene,” said The Indianapolis Star.

Kimball made his opinion known.

“I think Indianapolis gets overlooked,” he said.

With The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 just 2 ½ months away, look for the Kimballs to do more of the same. They’ll gladly promote their city, even as Charlie and his team, Chip Ganassi Racing, work long hours to win the greatest race in the world.

“We’re here because this is the place he needs to be for his career. I don’t know we won’t stay here,” said Kathleen Kimball. “It has all of the amenities of a big city like New York or Chicago or L.A. -- great restaurants, great bars and great nightlife. There’s never nothing to do in this city. But, also, we have these wonderful people. Our neighbors are some of our best friends and you have that Hoosier hospitality in everything that you come to.

“It is easy to make home because it’s easy to live here because the people are nice. There’s plenty to do. You’re never bored. We love it.”

Charlie Kimball