Eat + Drink

Circle City Sips: 5 Quirky Bars to Get Your Drink On

HandleBar Indy. Doesn’t get quirkier than drinks on a pedal pub. (Photos: Courtesy HandleBar Indy)

Circle City, or Indianapolis for the uninitiated, has a very cool bar scene situated in some very unique bars. This is good because you like all things quirky and off-the-beaten path, particularly places with libations and good food. So, find your way to these atypical Naptown watering holes. Cheers!

Grab a Growler and Get Local

Tomlinson Taproom is far from ordinary. Here, you’ll be drinking some of Indy’s finest local craft brews, along with the surroundings. Vaulted ceilings, brick walls, arched windows and beautiful details create the scene. Inside the Indianapolis City Market, the Taproom is built of repurposed materials, giving it that historic and uber-cool vibe. Order up a pint or a growler from the always-rotating tap list. Maybe you’ll catch the Bonsai Kittens by Black Acre (Belgian IPA), or Sun King’s Fistfull of Hops (IPA) or Big Iron (Barleywine). Plus there’s a bonus: The Taproom is surrounded by a market full of local vendors, an added delicious win. But note, this Indianapolis bar is not for night owls. You’ve only got until 9 p.m. to imbibe.

Are We in Germany?

The Rathskeller is old; like, it’s been around since 1894. Step through the green awning that fronts the historic Athenaeum Building (built by Kurt Vonnegut’s grandparents!) and drink in this Munich-beer-hall-meets-Bavarian-hills space: part beer garden, part restaurant and part live music venue. Mmmm … the delicious, smoky scent of schnitzel greets you as you come through the door; you’re gonna wanna order some right then and there, but keep going: Stroll through the dimly lit hall warmly decorated in heraldic banners and enter the Biergarten out back.

Order some beer and eats at the bar, and get comfortable at a picnic table. This outdoor treat offers skyline views and a yummy taste of German culture. Rock on (or Polka on) to live music. Revel in the festive atmosphere. Pick some German deliciousness from the extensive menu. Try the Hot Wurst Platte and the house-made warm pretzels with mustard and cheese. And the brews? Maybe a dark, delicious, “special occasion” Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock or malty, sweet, Munich-style Hofbrau Dunkel.

But with more than 50 beers on tap, from Germany, continental Europe, the U.K. and the U.S., you could happily come back again and again until you’ve had them all. (But ladies, heels might be a challenge: The Biergarten is gravel lined. What better excuse to wear flats?)

bars in indianapolis st elmos
Classic sips and shrimp cocktail at the 1933 Lounge St. Elmo’s Steakhouse. (Photo: Courtesy of St. Elmo’s Steakhouse)

Party Like It’s 1933

Prohibition is long over (it ended in 1933), but you can still get your speakeasy on in downtown Indianapolis at 1933 Lounge. Above the famous St. Elmo Steakhouse, 1933 Lounge is a true power bar. Take a step back in time, lounging by the fireplace, perhaps, as waitresses in red dresses take your order. Start with a signature Elmo Cola: Coke or Diet Coke mixed with Elmo’s exclusive “Infusion” (made with Maker’s Mark, imported Italian Luxardo Maraschino cherries and Madagascar Vanilla Beans) and served with Elmo’s famous drunken cherries. (You can get the Infusion without the cola, too!) Or maybe sip a Reyka Mule if you’re more of a vodka person. Keep the house-specialty theme going with the “World Famous” St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail. Or get decadent with the King Crab Mac & Cheese. Oh, and St. Elmo is right down the street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium — check it out before or after a game.

Taste Tapas With Your Tipples

Tapas come from Spain. BARcelona tapas bring Spain to you, and you’re going to be so glad they did. This colorful restaurant and bar feels authentic, right down to the Serrano hams hanging from the ceiling. You just bring yourself and some friends — Tapas are meant to be shared. You’ll want to get these tiny plates of Spanish delicacies into your belly, pronto, but first, order some sangria and peruse this huge menu. Don’t miss the Jamón Serrano con Manchego (Serrano ham with Manchego cheese, two Spanish delicacies), the Tortilla Espanola (classic Spanish dish made with egg and potato, kind of like an omelet) and the Albóndigas (meatballs) — all classic tapas fare. And if brunch is your thing, the Sangria Sunday Brunch Buffet includes made-to-order Spanish omelets, Tres Leches French Toast and a Bloody Mary bar.

Have Beers on Wheels

OK, the beers are not on wheels, but you are. HandleBar Indy, the city’s first “pedal pub,” lets you imbibe and tour the city at the same time! Sounds like fun, right? You’ll need to bring your own beer or wine (maybe from Tomlinson Taproom?); HandleBar provides the bar on wheels and the driver. Up to 16 of you can tour the city without leaving your libations behind. And an iPhone jack means you can be your own DJ. Take the usual route (Mass Avenue / The Circle / Downtown) or tell your driver if there’s something specific you’d like to see. Don’t forget to bring some snacks; there’s plenty of room on the HandleBar. And if you’re feeling a bit like “more booze, less work,” sit near the steering wheel for an easier ride.