The COVID-19 pandemic forced drinking and dining establishments everywhere to shutter their doors for a while. Even now that some restaurants and bars are reopening, many local patrons are choosing to stick with alfresco venues for safety.
So where are some of the “must-visit” outdoor dining and drinking spots in Indiana? Here are some of our favorite local hotspots:
3UP Rooftop Lounge
Located on West Main Street in Carmel, Indiana, 3UP is one of the area’s best spots for dining and drinking. 3UP caters to a high-end crowd, and the establishment describes its creative menu as a “chef’s playground” of specialty delights for discerning guests.
Drinks from 3UP aren’t exactly dull, either. You can enjoy half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesday if you want, or experiment with one of their hand-crafted cocktails, like a Carmel Cosmo or a Flora y Fumo. Just remember to get there early, because they never take reservations.
Fresco Italian Cafe on the Canal
Located just north of the intersection of West Michigan Street and Indiana Ave. in Indianapolis, this family-owned cafe allows for a worthwhile dining experience and a scenic view of the canal all at once.
Open daily whenever the weather permits from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Cafe specializes in casual comfort food, like toasted ravioli, stromboli sandwiches, meatballs and flatbread pizza. You can also partake of specialty mixed drinks, local beers and your favorite wines. Kids will also find something they like on the menu, making this a perfect spot for a family outing.
Plat 99 Coffee + Cocktails
Located on Delaware Street in downtown Indy, Plat 99 combines handcrafted plates of shareable food made from local ingredients with all of the art that a barista or mixologist can put into your favorite drink, whether that’s a coffee or a cocktail.
The main body of Plat 99 is located inside The Alexander, one of Indy’s premier hotels, and the modernist look is absolutely astonishing — but Plat 99 also has one of the loveliest outdoor terraces in the area. Its wrap-around patio will give you a gorgeous view of some of the area’s top landmarks while you enjoy your food and drinks.
The District Tap
If you’re looking for great American-style fare and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere that’s always welcoming, head over to one of The District Tap’s locations in either downtown Indianapolis or on the Northside. Their open-air restaurants and patios have easily accommodated the need for social distancing, so they’re still enjoying a robust summer business.
You can’t go wrong with one of their white cheddar mac-n-cheese pots or a juicy steak burger served on a pretzel bun while you’re enjoying some drinks with your friends.
Newfields’ Beer Garden
Located just a few minutes away from Indianapolis proper, Newfield’s Beer Garden has been delighting patrons who prefer a hyper-local experience. The Beer Garden features seasonal beer and cider on rotating taps throughout the year from local breweries. You can also get wine and non-alcoholic drinks if you prefer.
The food at the Beer Garden is limited to charcuterie and cheese boards, veggie and fruit boards, and Bavarian-style pretzels, so this is much more of a drinking establishment than a dining one. Guests often enjoy wandering the garden and taking a look at the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse next door as they relax with their drinks.
Rick’s Cafe Boatyard Restaurant
Are you in the mood for fresh seafood, locally sourced steaks or some hand-crafted crab cakes? Head over to Rick’s Cafe Boatyard Restaurant for a culinary experience that will always leave you wanting more.
The patio overlooks Eagle Creek Reservoir and has a stunning view of one of the nation’s largest municipal parks. They specialize in seafood, with dishes that pair nicely with their “Vanilla Dream” or “Boater’s Tan” cocktails. This is the perfect place to go when you want to forget all about your daily woes and just enjoy some good scenery and great food.
Fountain Square Rooftop Garden
Only a mile and a half from downtown, Fountain Square was Indiana’s first commercial historic district and is now home to arguably one of the best rooftop patios in Indianapolis.
Ride the antique elevator to the top floor of the historic Fountain Square Theatre Building, grab your drink and snack of choice, and take in an unmatched skyline view. On the way back down, take a trip back in time to the 1930’s era duckpin bowling alley — we hear it was one of Babe Ruth’s favorite games!
Irish Lion Restaurant & Pub
Located in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, the Irish Lion was built in 1882, even though its present incarnation has only been serving guests since new owners took it over in 1982. It has a unique, old-world charm and amazing outdoor patio known as The Glen.
Frankly, most folks come here for the food and drinks, though, not the view. You can sip small-batch bourbons and refined whiskeys or enjoy craft beers and specialty brews like Young’s Double English Chocolate Stout while you dine on traditional Irish fare. Their lamb stew and potato puffballs are two of the local favorites.
Things to Keep in Mind While Dining Right Now
As restaurants reopen to diners, most of them are being forced to make some adjustments for everyone’s safety — even outdoors.
Outdoor seating at restaurants is still limited to 50% of a restaurant’s usual capacity — and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future. Parking is also affected in a lot of areas as local authorities try to balance the need for curbside service with outdoor diners. It’s smart to have a plan when you head out — and maybe a backup location in mind in case your first choice is full.
Face masks are also mandatory in numerous Indiana locations, including Indianapolis. Many restaurants won’t seat you even in outdoor dining areas unless you’re wearing a mask when you arrive, so that’s also something to remember.
As Indiana makes headway against the spread of the coronavirus, keep watching: More of your favorite locations will surely be opening soon!