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Indianpolis Cheap Eats?

Hey, i'm gonna be in downtown indianapolis for july 4th - 8th and i wanted to know if there are any delicious burger joints around. also, does indianapolis have a specialty? like is there any one place i HAVE to go to or experience while i'm there? i'm on a budget, so any recommendations should be cheap to moderately priced. Thanks!

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  1. If you are going to be downtown and are looking for a burger, I think I would recommend the Elbow Room (they are a smoking establishment) located on the corner of Pennsylviana and Ft. Wayne. I would also recommend the Distillery at Indiana Avenue and Senate Avenue. Mentioning Ft. Wayne reminded me of the Canary Cafe which is good and inexpensive. Definately hit Mass. Ave. - starting with the Beergarden at the Rathskeller and just make your way up the street and you will find many great choices.

    This is all based on your indication of downtown and does make any recommendations in the Fountain Square area, Broadripple Village or any other part of the City.

    I'm sure others will chime in with even better ideas than mine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bonmann

      Yats! Great cheap cajun fare. Mass Ave, Broad Ripple, and Carmel/northside locations. Yummy and cheap. I miss it.

    2. The specialty in Indianapolis is the deep fried breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. Since you are looking for burgers and are on a budget I think I would recommend the Bourbon Street Distillery. I don't think you would be disappointed. Here is my blog report...


      2 Replies
      1. re: Davydd

        I'm going to peek in on this thread, as we will be in Indy this weekend - downtown to be exact.

        Are any of the places mentioned kid-friendly? We'll be in town for a family wedding and we're looking for spots all of us out-of-towners can enjoy.

        1. re: mamamia

          There are two versions of El Sol de Tala. The original is at 2444 East Washington. There's another one tucked away in Union Station right down town. Excellent Mexican food (really yummy guacamole) and both places are kid friendly. Cheerful colorful places to go.
          For Italian go to Iaria's which is on South College Ave. Very good food (I prefer it over Milan Inn a couple of doors north) and also kid friendly.

      2. McGinley's Golden Ace Inn- it's a tavern in a really bad neighborhood, but they have fantastic basic hamburgers for like $3 and really cheap drinks. They're not fancy, just burgers like Mom used to make, but they are yummy! They're on the right hand side of East Washington (heading out of downtown) across from Domino's, like a mile and a half from the circle between Blue's Auto and Auto Sales and Service (that's all that's on the sign) (between Keystone and Rural aves). The Ace is a family owned Irish bar- it's one of the places I miss most in Indy!

        There's a diner on the left hand side like halfway to the Ace from downtown that does tenderloins (I can't remember what it's called)- they've always been decent, but it's nothing special, just mentioning it in case you don't find them anywhere else.

        And I would like to second Yats! too.

        1. Not a burger joint exactly but great food at Ralph's Great Divide. It's on New York St just east of College Ave, so about 7 blocks from downtown. It's a tavern but everyone goes for the food. Really good tenderloin skewers, an excellent cheesey potato soup and good sandwiches. The homemade desserts are terrific. I first had the coconut cream pie thinking it would be just ok, since it's not my favorite. It's now top of the list. I have ordered full pies for serving at home.
          Also look up Working Man's Friend which is near downtown for good lunch counter burger food. It's at 234 N Belmont. Go west on Washington a little past White River.

          1. Fountain Square - southeast of downtown - The Fountain Diner or the ShelBi Street Cafe
            If you go to Iaria's your not too far.... but Iaria's has lost it's luster over the years.
            Santorini for excellent Greek food and if the Peppy Grill is still open - it's a winner too. Be prepared to smell like grease though.
            There's alot to do in FS - antiques, art galleries and Duck Pin bowling.

            1. If you're coming into town or leaving it along the western side of the loop, the Tamale House at Rockville and Lynhurst is awesome. I've had a number of homemade tamales in my life and this was better than any of them... recommend the chipotle/beef or the pork/green chili (much better than the chicken/green chile). Wonderful. Open very early, but closed Sundays.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cali2ia

                Maybe I'm hitting that place at a bad time, but I've been there three times and they were extremely dry and tasteless - I've heard they aren't as good as when they first opened. Have you noticed this?

                1. re: Spoonula

                  I've only been there once, June 16th of this year, and they were the complete opposite of dry. The pork one, in particular, was not only moist but "lip smacking" like great barbecue. Many of the ones I've had growing up were what I would consider dry. These were not. For what it's worth, I got there quite early, so they could have been fresh from the steamer, whereas most of the tamales I'd had in the past were usually made at least a day in advance.

              2. I'd like to expand the question to include the northwestern suburbs. I'm a Washington D.C. hound who grew up in Indy. Tenderloins are covered (probably Mug & Bun), but I'm interested in other places to visit while there.

                One thing we don't have here in D.C. is very good Mexican, as the latino population is pretty much all Central and South American. I've noticed more Mexicans in Indy, which likely means good Mexican food available. Any good places in that area?

                Other suggestions? Not Asian, as we have excellent Asian food here.


                10 Replies
                1. re: bacchante

                  By Northwestern suburbs do you mean Zionsville and Lebanon? There are several good choices in the Northwest quadrant of Indianapolis on North Michigan Road between 71st and I-465 in the strip malls that line Michigan Road, Pancho's is the only one that comes to mind right now which is just south of the 71st and Michigan Road intersection. But there are a couple of others whose names totally escape me right now (I'm sure someone will post them or I will go look them up). I like Squealers BBQ which is on West 86th just off Zionsville Road. A recent post here reminded me that Traders Point Creamery is serving lunch but I have not been there this year but they are not expensive. I have not been to Zionsville in years but there used to be several excellent restaurants in their quaint downtown area.

                  1. re: bonmann

                    That's precisely the neighborhood I'm thinking of. Not as far north and/or west as Zionsville or Lebanon. Geez, when I lived there, they were so far out as to never be thought of as suburbs. 38th and Lafayette Rd. was the boonies then!

                    Where is Traders Point Creamery? Is there ice cream?

                    1. re: bacchante

                      Traders Point is a couple of miles west of 465, just off of 86th St., I think. And oh my god, yes there is ice cream. And the most amazing chocolate milk you'll ever drink. http://www.tpforganics.com/

                      1. re: myplateoryours

                        Thanks, these are all wonderful suggestions and meet our needs perfectly. The creamery sounds great for a Saturday outing with kids.

                      2. re: bacchante

                        Myplateoryours is right, if you take 86th street west of I-465 and turn right at the first stoplight you will find it less than a mile up the road. If you remember 38th and Lafayette Road as the north side you are going to be amazed by the build-up near 86th and Zionsville Road.

                        While we are on the subject of 38th and Lafayette Road, that area also has a large number of inexpensive restaurants of various cuisines. We would be happy to recommend some of those as well if you are interested.

                        1. re: bonmann

                          Please do! It would be greatly appreciated.

                          1. re: bacchante

                            I'll step in here and help Bonmann. Our favorite Vietnamese restaurant (Saigon Restaurant) is at 30th and Lafayette. Peter is the owner's name. He is very sweet and the food there is great. When we lived in indy we would eat there at least once a week.

                            Cairo Cafe is right by there and it's a great little Egyptian place.

                            Saraga International market is just a bit further north on Lafayette, closer to 38th street. IT has an absolutely amazing array of international produce and spices and frozen goods. It's HUGE. Still the largest and most authentic international grocery store I've found.

                            They are lacking on Indian groceries, though, and here's why--there's a big Indian grocery store as well, even FURTHER up lafayette. Cross 38th street and pass the mall on your right and you'll see another strip mall. There are two indian restaurants there, both good--one is South Indian only. That one (Udupi cafe) has a grocery store by it, a BIG Indian grocery store.

                            It's such a cool area. But if you talk to many locals, they look at you as though you've sprouted a second head, because they tend to think the area is filled with crime. Don't listen to them!

                            1. re: IndyGirl

                              Great list, IndyGirl!

                              I'll add Shen Yang on Georgetown Road just north of 38th street for Dim Sum.

                              For pizza, if you want New York style you want Oh Formaggio on Lafayette Road just south of 56th and if you want Chicago style, Union Jacks on Crawfordsville Road.

                              1. re: bonmann

                                thanks to everybody for all the great suggestions

                                1. re: bacchante

                                  The Red Key Tavern serves a great, non-fussy, simple burger. And it even comes on a little styrofoam plate. Sit back and enjoy the jukebox with your beer and burger...you may need another, or a bowl of chili.
                                  Taste cafe
                                  Saigon Restaurant
                                  The Tamale Place