If you missed our CEDIA Expo preview, you can find it here. In that podcast, we mentioned a BUNCH of places to eat and drink, things to see and do, and can’t-miss attractions in the 2021 Expo host city of Indianapolis. Those links are below.
First Things First
Indy (do NOT call it “Naptown,” not ever) is easy to navigate: It’s a big grid with a circle in the middle – literally, Monument Circle – with several spokes radiating out from that midpoint. On the southwest corner of the Downtown area called “Mile Square,” you’ll find the Convention Center, which is just north of Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL’s Colts). Beyond that square, the city’s broken up into several “Cultural Districts,” and all the Downtown districts are connected by a pedestrian and bike path called the “Cultural Trail.” If you like to pedal, the city has a tremendous bike-sharing program sponsored by our NBA team, the Pacers.
The Districts we’re going to focus on beyond Downtown include Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave” to the locals), which is just Northeast of the Square, and Fletcher Place/Fountain Square to the Southeast. More adventurous folks can check out Broad Ripple – it’s a few miles north, and can be easily reached with the city’s express bus service to the Ripple called the Red Line. The Monon Rail Trail is an old railroad line that’s converted to a bike and pedestrian path, and that runs from the north end of Mass Ave to Broad Ripple (and well beyond), too.
Now that we’ve got our bearings, let’s start with …
Food, Glorious Food
The area around Monument Circle has a lot of options, but a quick walk (or bike or Uber/Lyft ride) yields some marvelous stuff.
City Market – Multiple food stands, very close to the circle.
King Dough – It’s a little further out from “right downtown,” but worth the trip. This shop serves up fantastic pizza in a funky little spot to the East of the Square.
Livery – This lively spot in an old, old building feature Latin dishes with a modern vibe.
Patachou – This one’s very close to the Convention center. Incredible breakfast dishes by the folks who brought you Napolese.
Shapiro’s Delicatessen – Legit, high-piled deli sandwiches (seriously, this stuff is LA/NYC quality).
St. Elmo Steakhouse – The legendary steakhouse with the infamously hot shrimp cocktail sauce (HORSERADISH, BABY). Buy a bottle to go, too.
Workingman’s Friend – A little further off the beaten path (get a car), this lunch place (and Indy icon) features burgers cooked to perfection on a 100-plus-year-old grill.
ALSO, JUST REOPENING: Tinker Street – We thought this terrific place was gone for good, but it literally JUST reopened. Absolutely worth the trip.
The Garage (at the Bottleworks) – This hall is new collection of food stands in an amazing Art Deco building.
Gordon’s Milkshake Bar – Just what it says it, and tremendous. (Milkshakes … with cake. And chunks of candy. And even booze.)
Love Handle – Delicious breakfast eats.
Rathskeller – Legit German food (UND BIER!) in a building designed by author Kurt Vonnegut’s granddad. (The family yielded a bunch of architects before Kurt Jr. started writing.)
Roosters Kitchen – As good a mac-and-cheese offering as you’ll ever find.
Salt on Mass – Seafood, a little more upscale than the next place mentioned.
Slapfish – A casual seafood joint.
Yats – A great, wildly inexpensive lunch stop for all manner of Cajun/Creole stews; order extra bread to soak up the sauces and gravies.
FLETCHER PLACE/FOUNTAIN SQUARE
Bluebeard – Adventurous fare in a Kurt-Vonnegut-themed restaurant. The menu is always interesting.
Also, The Historic Steer-Inn is within taxi/Uber/Lyft distance, about 15 minutes from downtown. They feature great breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches (an Indiana favorite), and loads of from-scratch diner fare.
Want more info? Check out Indianapolis Monthly – their dining guides are excellent.
As CEDIA’s Dan McGowan notes, “We have some pretttty good beer in Indiana.” He’s not wrong, and there are many, many breweries, bars, and taprooms to visit while you’re here:
16-Bit Bar+Arcade – A bar with old-school arcade games.
Brew Link (downtown Indy location) – A brewery that definitely takes some risks with their stuff.
Metazoa – One of the CEDIA marketing department’s faves; a portion of the profits go to wildlife preservation.
Nicky Blaine’s – Martinis and cigars. ‘Nuff said.
Platt 99 (Alexander Hotel) – Cool interior, great views, excellent cocktails.
RAD Brewing – Not far from King dough, with a nice outdoor space.
St. Joseph’s – A church converted into an excellent micro-brewery. Most of the church-y interior remains, too.
Sun King (flagship location) – Sun King is all over the state now, but here’s the original location. An Indiana staple.
Tomlinson Tap Room – This City Market brewery (on the second-floor balcony) pours a collection of Indiana’s best beers and ales.
Taxman (City Way Location) – Walt Zerbe’s a fan of this one; they’re widely respected.
West Fork Whiskey – A distillery that’s a bit north of Downtown (though not terribly far).
Chatham Tap – A lot of UK beers and SOCCER, SOCCER, SOCCER always on the telly.
Goodfella’s Pizza (Mass Ave) back bar – Although it’s in a pizza shop, it’s quiet and intimate, with a speakeasy vibe.
FLETCHER PLACE/FOUNTAIN SQUARE
Chilly Water Brewing – Award-winning goodness with live music now and then.
Fountain Square Brewery – Funky, unassuming, always tasty.
Inferno Room – An absolutely groovy tiki bar with small plates to match. The tropical drinks are on point.
Tappers – Another bar with retro arcade games!
Upland (Fountain Square location) – This Bloomington-based brewery’s offerings include sours that have been recognized worldwide as top-shelf. (One of their sours even turned up at a craft beer bar in Amsterdam when we last hit ISE.)
Broad Ripple Brewpub – Indy’s oldest brewpub with recipes from a gent that emigrated from Yorkshire. Consistently great.
Old Pro’s Table – Billiards and drinks.
Kilroy’s – An old-school sports bar.
The Red Key – An Indy icon, and you might run into author Dan Wakefield while you’re there – just follow the rules (no cussin’, no moving the tables, and don’t hang your coat off a stool, for example).
Twenty Tap – They have well over 20 taps these days, and they’re all terrific Midwestern beers. The food is excellent, too.
Breweries within 15 minute or less driving distance: Guggman Haus, Indiana City, Centerpoint, 18th Street (Indy location, actually located on 10th street), Black Acre (Irvington location), and Mashcraft (Delaware Street location). If near Mashcraft on Delaware, you're not far from Goose the Market and a sandwich called “The Batali.” (Trust us, it's good.)
Breweries further out, but worth it: Bier Brewery (flagship location), Four Day Ray, and if you’re into cider, Ash and Elm.
Indianapolis Indians – Victory Field is an absolute jewel, it’s right by the Convention Center, and the Indians (The Pittsburgh Pirates AAA affiliate) have a home stand vs. the Iowa Cubs during the entire run of Expo.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – This is absolutely worth a visit although no events are scheduled for September. The home of the largest one-day sporting event in the world – the Indy 500 – it has a terrific museum, and just seeing the scale of the place is pretty incredible. The town of Speedway, just west of Indy proper, has a newly upgraded Main Street that include Daredevil Brewing and Big Woods Brewing (the pizza at the latter is excellent).
The Indianapolis Colts and the Indy Eleven (soccer) have not released fall schedules yet, the NFL regular season starts up a week after Expo. There are a LOT of public golf courses close to Downtown, and for something really unique, check out the old-school art-deco vibe at Action Duckpin Bowling in Fountain Square (there’s another set of lanes there with a ‘50s vibe: Atomic Bowling).
MUSIC, MUSEUMS, AND OTHER SIGHTS
If you’re looking for live music in small venues, Radio Radio and the Hi-Fi (both in Fountain Square) book touring acts. The Vogue (Broad Ripple) is a somewhat larger venue. The Slippery Noodle (Downtown) is Indy’s oldest bar and books great blues acts, and the Chatterbox (Mass Ave) is a jazz bar. The Jazz Kitchen (Broad Ripple) is more upscale.
White River State Park is packed with features: The Canal Walk starts here (rent a pedal car OR head toward the city and you can rent a kayak or pedal-boat), and the Park includes the Indiana State Museum, IMAX Theater, and the Eiteljorg Museum of Western and Native American Art (the Grand Canyon painting there is a jaw-dropper). Cross the bridge to get to the Indianapolis Zoo (and its “Butterfly Kaleidoscope”) and the White River Promenade. There’s even an outdoor music venue there. Like something weirder? The Indiana Medical History Museum is a one-of-a- kind experience located a taxi/Lyft/Uber ride away (THREE WORDS: BRAINS IN JARS).
Did you bring the kids? Indy’s Children’s Museum is one of – if not THE best – children’s museums in the country. (One word: DINOSAURS.)
Recommendations here from:
Dan McGowan, Public Relations Specialist, CEDIA
Olivia Sellke, Account Supervisor, Caster Communications
Brian Weiss, Sr. Digital Marketing Specialist, TrendyMinds
Ed Wenck, Content Strategist, White Good