Everybody knows that Indy’s vast selection of family-friendly events and eateries are fantastic, but what happens when you want to head out somewhere a little more adult-oriented for the evening? The bar scene in Indianapolis offers boundless opportunities for fun — and food — that can turn an otherwise ho-hum evening into a spectacular one.
So where can you go to drink like a local and dine like a king (or queen) in Indianapolis? Here’s where we think you can find the best bar food in Indy:
Open since 1950, Thunderbird at Fountain Square is arguably an Indy tradition. This rustic-chic bar offers bourbon, beer, craft cocktails and — most importantly — a menu with a southern flair that will make your mouth absolutely water. Your biggest question will probably be, “What to try first?”
Try the braised short rib Johnny Cakes or the spicy catfish sandwich if you want your own plate — or order up an 8-piece fried chicken plate with cornbread and sides to share with your friends. If you require some comfort food on a cold winter night, try the three-cheese mornay and rotini mac n’ cheese with a shot and beer.
Located in the heart of the city, Kilroy’s Bar N’ Grill is a great place to go if you don’t want to be hungry no matter what the hour. Open seven days of the week until 3 a.m. every night, Kilroy’s is known for finger-friendly favorites like their handmade stuffed breadsticks, grilled chicken nachos, and fried pickle chips — along with crispy thin-crust pizza that is definitely worth the visit.
While you’re there, wash down your dinner with one of Kilroy’s signature shooters. We’d recommend the Banana Sandwich (Kamora, Baileys and banana liquor) — or, maybe, a Cherry Bomb (which is mixed with Red Bull) if you need a little more pep in your step for the evening.
One of Indy’s “hot spots,” The Rathskeller offers a lot of everything — all with a little bit of an old-world German flare. The Biergarten has a full-service walk-up bar and plenty of tasty temptations. Order a plate of stuffed mushrooms or a baked brie tray to share with your friends while you sip on any one of the exotic beers they offer from around the world.
If you want a full European experience, try their U.K. style fish and chips or one of their specialty soups while you take in one of the live bands. The music selection ranges from acoustic rock to blues, most nights, although there’s occasionally even a Polka to dance. Because there are several parts of the Rathskeller to explore, we recommend that you make more than one trip for the full experience.
MacNiven’s Restaurant & Bar
MacNiven’s has all of the same old-world charm of the Rathskeller, minus the size. Located in the arts and entertainment district, this is a Scottish-American pub that piles on the charm. If you want to celebrate your Scottish heritage (or just conduct a culinary experiment), this is the place to do it.
MacNivens offers Scotch Eggs, Angus burgers, sausage rolls, and even haggis. If there’s a vegetarian in your midst, however, you’re still covered. MacNiven’s has a wide array of veggie options (even vegetarian haggis!) that won’t leave anybody hungry. While you’re there, double down on your experience by having a Robert the Bruce Ale from Indiana’s own Three Floyds brewery with your meal.
Alley Cat Lounge
Located in the oldest part of Broad Ripple, the Alley Cat has the distinction of being Indy’s favorite “dive bar.” It’s an unpretentious place with a welcoming atmosphere to strangers and regulars alike where you can munch on a pound of beer cheese fries or a Feral Cat burger while you take in the tunes.
The Alley Cat Lounge is far from frilly, but it still hosts regular foodie events, like their Fat Tuesday party, Customer Appreciation Day and a regular chili “cook-off” that will keep your tastebuds delighted from month to month. Whether you’re coming for their regular fare or come for something special, the important thing is to bring a big appetite! While you’re there, you can also pick up a couple of games of pool and dance to an old-fashioned jukebox.
The Sinking Ship
Possibly one of the coolest new spots in Indy to enjoy food and drinks, The Sinking Ship offers a spread that will delight just about anybody. Among other things, they have a top-notch smoked brisket that’s locally sourced from Gerber’s Amish Farm for the carnivores in your crowd — but they’ve also been voted one of Indy’s top bars for vegans, partly due to their seitan “wings” and buffalo jackfruit roti pockets.
Want a great drink to pair with your food? There are plenty of craft beers around, but they also have a whole wall full of top-shelf liquors, including both aperitifs and digestifs, but we’d recommend trying their champagne Rainmaker or their raspberry German margarita. Aside from all the typical stuff you’d expect to find in a bar, The Sinking Ship also offers dedicated pro-wrestling televisions, pinball games, bingo, and trivia games.
Let’s face it, good bar food sometimes hits the spot better than anything you can get in a regular restaurant, so don’t be afraid to explore. In our opinion, Indy’s bar scene offers something for everyone, whether you like your food fancy or want more traditional fare. One thing is for certain: You won’t go away hungry or thirsty!