Indianapolis' historic restaurants and bars 

A guide to dining spots that have stood the test of time

click to enlarge Dan Wakefield at the Red Key's jukebox - MICHAEL THIERWECHTER
  • Dan Wakefield at the Red Key's jukebox
  • Michael Thierwechter
These restaurants and bars paved the way for Indy’s culinary scene.

In a world where new, trendy restaurants and bars open basically every month, it is easy to forget the places that have stood the test of time — the places that forged the path for these new culinary adventures. It's of course important to try out these fresh spots and to support the local chefs and restaurateurs behind them, but we can't forget where it all started — and we've got to keep eating and drinking at these aged establishments, both for our history and, in many cases, for our tastebuds. We’ve organized a few of our favorites in order of when they first opened to the public. These spots still make delicious and important food. Cheers to Indy's historic greats.

[Editor's Note: This is not by any means a comprehensive list of every historic restaurant in Indy, there are so many people who have opened, owned and operated eateries and bars that have led us to this point and who are still dishing out great food and drink. This list highlights just a few of those.]

click to enlarge The Slippery Noodle - HANNAH SWITZER
  • The Slippery Noodle
  • Hannah Switzer

Slippery Noodle Inn (1850/1963) Indianapolis’ oldest bar is still going strong with live blues music and beer slinging every night of the week. Your great-grandparents and their parents may have known it by a different name, like Germania House or Moore’s Beer Tavern. One thing is for sure: The space that houses the Slippery Noodle Inn has been an Indianapolis watering hole since it opened, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
372 S. Meridian St.; 317-631-6968;

Old Point Tavern (1887)
You may have been to this place dozens of times for a quick drink and had no idea that it has been at this corner for nearly 130 years. It’s the perfect spot to start or end the night for a quick drink and some conversation before (or after) bar-hopping your way up and down Mass Ave. Also, the nachos. Oh God, the nachos.
401 Massachusetts Ave.; 317-634-8943

Rathskeller (1894)
Step through this door and across the pond into a restaurant that feels like it is a true German beer hall. The Rathskeller is steeped in Indy’s Germanic history and the kitchen consistently puts out some of the best German fare in the Midwest. The biergarten is also the perfect place for making friends, sharing a drink or two and listening to live music. Prost!
401 E. Michigan St.; 317-636-0396;

St. Elmo’s (1902)
This quintessential Indianapolis restaurant has been serving top-quality steaks, service and world-famous shrimp cocktails for over a century. It is a classic white tablecloth steakhouse and a place frequented by many of Indy’s most recognizable faces. Not much has changed since 1902 (including its famous wine cellar that is filled with prized wines) and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
127 S. Illinois St.; 317-635-0636;

Shapiro’s Delicatessen (1905)
click to enlarge You can never pile enough of Shapiro's corned beef on a sandwich. - SHAPIRO'S DELICATESSEN
  • You can never pile enough of Shapiro's corned beef on a sandwich.
  • Shapiro's Delicatessen
A osher-style delicatessen so steeped in tradition that it rivals most anywhere in the Midwest as the place to get corned beef and pastrami piled on top of rye. It is family-owned and operated and it is an Indianapolis landmark, which is why nearly 2,000 people a day walk through their doors for the aforementioned sandwiches, matzo ball soup, mac and cheese and an endless list of other deli staples. (Don’t miss their cheesecake, too. It’s a thing of wonder.)
808 S. Meridian St.; 317-631-4041;

Dorman Street Saloon (1910/1982)

Along with the Slippery Noodle this was another of John Dillinger and his gang’s hangouts: Back then it was called the Mahogany Bar (The Hog). Since 1982, it has been simply Dorman Street and it is a quiet neighborhood bar with a decent beer list, damn good cocktails, an eclectic jukebox offering and a women’s restroom that looks like a TARDIS. It’s a slightly quirky place, but you’ll quickly call yourself a regular.
901 N. Dorman St.; 317-237-9008;

click to enlarge Remember when drinks were this cheap? Workingman's Friend does. (Their original drink menu) - CAVAN MCGINSIE
  • Remember when drinks were this cheap? Workingman's Friend does. (Their original drink menu)
  • Cavan McGinsie
Workingman’s Friend (1918)
Famous for smashed burgers, this Westside lunch staple just may have the best burgers in the city. But, it is much more than a burger joint. Workingman’s Friend is a place that brings people of all walks of life together to enjoy a quick, decently priced meal and it has done that for almost 100 years. Stop in and share good conversation and food with some strangers and soon you’ll be fast friends.
234 N. Belmont Ave.; 317-636-2067

Hollyhock Hill (1928/1947)
It’s more than a meal, it’s an experience to eat at this historic restaurant. Hollyhock Hill is definitely from a time gone by and the team here likes it that way. Bring your family and friends and step into a 1928 country home for a night of conversation, laughter, shared sides, and delicious, crispy fried chicken.
8110 N. College Ave.; 317-251-2294;

Elbow Room (1933)
One of the many establishments that opened in the city coinciding with the repeal of Prohibition, the Elbow Room is still a neighborhood bar with cold beer and stiff drinks. It’s easy to see with one glance that this is a place full of history and a lifetime of stories. Looking for a simple place to shoot pool and spend time with friends? Elbow Room.
605 N. Pennsylvania St.; 317-635-3354;

Iaria’s (1933)
Classic Italian at its finest, Iaria’s feels like a place you’d see Tony Soprano, Paulie, Silvio and Christopher having Dom serve them drinks and spaghetti and meatballs. Iaria’s is located in a traditional Italian neighborhood and has been a staple of Indy’s Italian history since the end of Prohibition. Have the chicken drogato and a Peroni — capiche?
317 S. College Ave.; 317-638-7706;

Red Key Tavern (1933/1951)
click to enlarge The famous Red Key Burger and their 65th anniversary beer - MICHAEL THIERWECHTER
  • The famous Red Key Burger and their 65th anniversary beer
  • Michael Thierwechter
Russ Settle put this place on the map with his famous rules and his love of philanthropy. The fact that Dan Wakefield wrote about this SoBro spot in his infamous novel, Going All the Way, just adds to the history of this neighborhood bar. Get a burger (they’re famous, too), a Manhattan and enjoy the company of regulars as you become one yourself.
5170 N. College Ave.; 317-283-4601;

McGinley’s Golden Ace Inn (1934)
If there is one place in the city that will leave you feeling like you walked into Cheers, it is McGinley’s Golden Ace. At its core, The Golden Ace is a neighborhood Irish bar, but for those who frequent the place regularly, it is a home and the McGinleys are family.
2533 E. Washington St.; 317-632-0696,

Sam’s Silver Circle (1938)
Fletcher Place is full of trendy, new restaurants and has lost many of its longtime establishments, but this Catholic sports bar isn’t going anywhere with its famous pizza and great beer list. It’s a little off the beaten path, but there isn’t a better way to see the true spirit of Fletcher Place. Bonus: karaoke!
1102 Fletcher Ave.; 317-636-6288

MCL Cafeteria (1950)
The original place in Central Indiana to get a homemade meal cafeteria style, MCL is still serving food that will please any palate, including their famous fried chicken and hand-carved roast beef. It’s a classic eatery to take a big family so everyone gets to choose exactly what they want and know it will be great.
Multiple Locations;

The Iron Skillet (1953)
A family-style dining experience nestled into an area of the city that is lacking in the restaurant department, The Iron Skillet is a great place to get comfort food done to perfection. The fact that it’s located in an antique homestead makes it just that much more quaint and it truly feels like you’re eating at Grandma’s.
2489 W. 30th St.; 317-923-6353;

click to enlarge It doesn't get much better than prime rib night at Murphy's @ Flynn's - CAVAN MCGINSIE
  • It doesn't get much better than prime rib night at Murphy's @ Flynn's
  • Cavan McGinsie
Murphy’s @ Flynn’s (1958/1977/1997)
A combination of two well-loved Irish establishments, Murphy’s Steakhouse and Pat Flynn’s, this is a hidden gem just outside of Broad Ripple. Grilling up some of the best, inexpensive steaks in the city and a decent selection of Irish brews, you don’t need much else to make this a special place. The fact that the eponymous Pat Flynn is behind the bar most every night with his incredibly friendly staff is just icing on the cake (or au jus on the prime rib?).
5198 Allisonville Road; 317-545-3707;

Mug N’ Bun (1960)
You and Sandy can go cruising down to this drive-in for a burger and a shake, even though you should be getting the root beer. They even have a working jukebox outside for you to play "Summer Lovin "while you munch on some onion rings under the neon lights.
5211 W. 10th St.; 317-244-5669;

Sahm's Restaurant and Bar (1986)
Since Ed Sahm opened this popular eatery 30 years ago he has consistently had some of the city's top talents start their careers in his restaurants. A few well-known people that got their start working at Sahm's include Mike Cunningham (Cunningham Restaurant Group), Chris Eley (Smoking Goose/Goose the Market), Eli Anderson (H2O Sushi), Tim Smeehuyzen (Smee's Place), and Eddie Sahm (Big Lug Canteen). Not only has he worked with a "long and proud list" of employees and partners, but he has also brought over 30 eateries to our city in those 30 years. Sahm's is the original and it holds a special place in our city's dining history. 
Multiple Locations;

Greek Islands (1986)
The dream of a family of immigrants from Greece, this is a restaurant built and run with love — love of family, customers and food. On their original business cards it reads: “My strength lies in the love of people,” and this is a motto the company continues to live by. They churn out Greek favorites like souvlaki, spanakopita and fiery saganaki every night from friendly servers who want to make sure you have a wonderful evening. Opa!
906 S. Meridian St.; 317-636-0700;

Bazbeaux (1986)
click to enlarge Pizza and beer on Bazbeauz's patio, makes for a perfect night. - BAZBEAUX
  • Pizza and beer on Bazbeauz's patio, makes for a perfect night.
  • Bazbeaux
They were making artisan pizzas before “artisan” was a thing. Now they have three locations around the city and there are dozens of reasons why their name is still synonymous with high quality pizza. The biggest reason is they bake a mighty fine pizza pie.
Multiple Locations;

Broad Ripple Brewpub (1990)
Twenty-six years ago, the Brewpub (as it’s known) brought a much-needed craft brewery to Indianapolis. Now you can find a brewery on almost every corner, but it’s important to remember, at a time when the only swill we had in town was Bud, Miller, Coors, Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and all the other watery beers in the world, John Hill created good beer for Hoosiers to drink, and for that we must be thankful.
840 E. 65th St.; 317-253-2739;

Mississippi Belle (1998)
I’m amazed every time I eat here. First off, the prices are insanely low. But what truly amazes me is that fried chicken can taste this good — not to mention that you get unlimited fried chicken and sides for you and the family. For a kid with a Southern-cooking grandma, it doesn’t get much better than this when I’m eating out.
2170 E. 54th St.; 317-446-0522

click to enlarge It doesn't get more classic than steak, asparagus and wine from Peterson's. - PETERSON'S
  • It doesn't get more classic than steak, asparagus and wine from Peterson's.
  • Peterson's
Peterson’s (1999)
In a time when Indianapolis was mostly chains and studded with many popular steakhouses Peterson’s was a head above the rest and garnered many awards. With new, trendier restaurants opening monthly it can be easy to eschew your past favorites, but I assure you this isn’t a place you want to forget. The experience of white tablecloth and top-notch service, plus an immaculate wine list and perfectly prepared steak and seafood dishes is never going to go away and it shouldn’t. Peterson’s is truly a food lover’s delight.
7690 E. 96th St.; 317-598-8863;

Oakley’s Bistro (2002)
When Steven Oakley opened this place in 2002, there wasn’t food like this in Indianapolis. Hoosiers would have had to travel to Chicago to find anything of this caliber. After years in the kitchen, he brought this food to us and he still is creating decadent, accessible dishes every single day and there’s something to be said about doing that for almost 15 years.
1464 W. 86th St.; 317-824-1231;

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Cavan McGinsie

Cavan McGinsie

I travel. I eat. I drink. I meet. I record. I'm the Food & Drink Editor here at NUVO and I'm always happy to chat with people about anything over a coffee, beer, or meal. Let me know your thoughts on Indianapolis.

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