I’m stuffed.

That’s an understatement.

The Indianapolis Zoo’s annual charity gorge fest–featuring most of the top restaurants in the region along with a significant percentage of the rest–is still up and running as I write this. But, true to form, I only lasted a few hours.

In that time, though, I tasted offerings from most of the 60-plus restaurant booths to create what my version of the ideal Zoobilation meal.

Of course, atmosphere matters. So let’s start with…

BEST DECORATIONS:

The latest residents at the Indianapolis Zoo are a tribe of macaques. (See my story on them here.) In their honor, Cretia Cakes created this handsome reasonable facsimile in icing. (The Caramel Obsession Cake Bites weren’t shabby, either).

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Best Snack

Attention movie theaters: Forget the overbuttered, hours-old stuff you serve. Instead, how about a small batch of Hoosier Bacon Popcorn from Rooster’s Kitchen? Simple  and compulsively devourable.  (Confession: I polished off one bowl on my way in and another on my way out.)

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Best Appetizer

It seemed like the year of tuna at Zoobilation but not didn’t it as effectively as Yard House with its Poke Nachos.

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Best Entree

The Cunningham Group can practically stock a festival by itself. The standout on Cunningham Street this time–and the one dish I found myself consistently steering acquaintances to, was the Sweet Corn Empanada with jalapeno crema from Livery.

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Best Dessert

And while It’s more likely that my next doughnut will be the more familiar and accessible Jack’s or Long’s, let me sing the praises here of the more subtle pleasures of the Ricotta Doughnuts with maple cream and candied bacon from Vida. (And, yes, I’m ashamed of the photo quality on this one. By that time, I was getting a little wobbly.)

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