You've been through it before. You go out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day. If you sit far away from the track with your own food, beer and snacks can become monotonous. And while there are some tempting vittles to be had at the track - shish kebab, po' boys, apple dumplings and mojitos, among standard fare - suds and sun all day tend to make me hanker for a real meal.
Not to worry. There are plenty of eateries within 5 miles of the track: haunts that, especially for their collective caliber, don't always get their fair share of customers until race weekend puts them in closer proximity.
Here's a roundup of surefire bets.
Charlie Brown's Pancake and Steak House Inc.
1038 Main St.
About a mile from the track
Many describe this locally owned brunch spot as Mayberry, Ind. (That's the fictitious, idyllic small-town setting for the Andy Griffith Show
, to youngsters.) Perfect pancakes and biscuits and gravy, and a tenderloin sandwich that can rival just about any in the city. This is a great spot for brunch, and dinner during the week.
5211 W. 10th St.
About a mile from the track
Did somebody say tenderloin sandwich? The Mug-n-Bun drive-in's patty is pounded out wide, then fried to a crisp, just the way it should be. Some things that never change here: favorite onion rings, Dad's root beer floats, dogs, fries, double cheeseburgers and more. Some things that could change: cash only and an extra charge for foliage et al. on your pork sandwich. C'est la vie.
2440 Lafayette Road
About 2.5 miles from the track
There are a lot of great soul food restaurants in Indianapolis, but none this close to the track. I'll venture to deem this the best place for smothered pork chops in the city. Fried corn and collard greens are small, simple pleasures, and homemade corn bread will help to soak up all that Miller Lite you'll likely be drinking on race day. Don't forget the pies and cakes, which include the most divine Chess pie, a Southern staple not terribly unlike Hoosier or sugar cream pie, but with corn meal instead of flour.
King David Dogs
15 N. Pennsylvania St.
About 5.5 miles from the track
If you haven't made it out to this 2006-born hot dog haven, go. Owner Brent Joseph is grandson to the Hene Meat Company's founders, maker of King David meats. They served the Indianapolis community from the 1940s to the 1990s. Joseph obviously inherited the family passion for food; his delicious dogs (beef or chicken) are grilled crispy and can be topped with more than 25 fixin's. I like mine with a little New York style onion sauce or Bertman Original Ball Park (spicy) Mustard. Then stay away from me.
Locally Grown Gardens
1050 E. 54th St.
About 6.7 miles from the track
OK, so it's not very close to the track. But Locally Grown Gardens is the site of Saturday's Carb Day for a Cause, a celeb pancake eating contest for charity. Yours truly will be stuffing her (my) face with as many pancakes as she (I) can for 15 minutes. I've been asking people for $3 a pancake, so the more I eat, the more event beneficiary St. Vincent de Paul food pantry gets. Spectators are contributors too; show up from 10 a.m. to noon for a $10 all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast ($4 for children) and know that your money will go directly to a good cause. More info at www.carbdayforacause.endlessdeep.org.