The Ball and Biscuit is considered by many to be Indianapolis’ original craft cocktail bar, paving the way for others with its mixologists muddling fresh herbs, warm citrus peels and shaking pre-prohibition era libations. Bare-bulb Edison lights dangle over the bar, while exposed red brick walls and scarred wood tables and chairs give the air of a bootlegger’s hideout. The décor may be spartan, but the glassware gleams in the spotlight. Every style, shape and size is used in accordance with the appropriate cocktail, and no generic drinkware is used for drinks crafted by these master bartenders. At this award-winning, Massachusetts Avenue bar, top-of-the-line mixologists create first-rate cocktails and revamp classics, creating a scene few have been able to replicate.
The Slippery Noodle is Indiana's oldest bar in continuous operation, providing a massive menu of classic tavern fare. Jump-start a meal with a sample platter ($11.99) of four buffalo wings, three mozzarella sticks, and four chicken strips with marinara and ranch dipping sauces. Or dine in musical style with a blues burger ($9.49), a half-pound Black Angus beef patty crowned with sautéed onions, green peppers, mushrooms, bacon, and a choice of cheese. A hefty plate of Southern-style pork barbecue ($13.99) may trigger sudden regional-dialect shifts with tender mouthfuls of simmered pulled pork in a sweet, slightly smoky barbecue sauce. Wash it all down with a domestic draft beer for $4.50 or an imported bottle of Red Stripe for $5, taking care to clink bottle or cup with your dining companion, whether a friend, loved one, or Winston Churchill impersonator.
The Libertine Liquor Bar is a narrow, softly-lit room in which deeply-shaded hardwood floors separate a series of small dining tables on one side and a long bar on the other. Modern yet calm, dim watering holes like this are hard to come by in Indianapolis, which has led locals to flock to this downtown haunt since it opened. With a cosmopolitan décor that combines cool browns and gray, the facility is appropriately known for its trendy liquors and specialty mixed drinks, but the Libertine is equally recognized as a casually-elegant spot for both contemporary and unusual American cuisine. On the rotating menu diners may find gin marinated olives, which are a popular starter, and many enjoy the facility’s monkfish that comes with ricotta gnuddi and pomodoro. Chicken and bacon meatballs are also a favorite for those looking to experiment.
Ornamental hookahs tower over tabletops at Hookah Nites, sending swirling clouds of aromatic smoke out over cushy velvet couches and armchairs. Bartenders bustle about behind the dimly lit bar, mixing up specialty cocktails, doling out pitchers, and dishing out platters of sizzling specialty pizzas. A massive projector screen beams down on the scene, glittering with glamorous images from music videos or commercials where a timid band geek earns the admiration of the popular cheerleader after buying a fancy mouthwash.
Zodiac Cafe and Lounge balances a constellation of themed martinis with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of sandwiches, salads, and small plates. Diners design flights of cheese and olives, and chefs stuff grass-fed burger patties with a rotating selection of ingredients. Pints from the craft-beer menu complement edibles, as do 12 martinis that re-imagine each astrological sign as a concoction of colorful spirits. Muted earth tones and wood accents anchor both dining room and lounge to terra firma, and starburst light fixtures and an astrological chart grant insight into Zeus's interior-decorating scheme. After the sun sets on the patio, wander inside to check out the schedule of karaoke, open-mic performances, and sets from local house DJs.
Inside of a charming century-old brick building overlooking Crown Point’s bustling square, head chef Carl Lindskog stays busy crafting combinations of Italian and Japanese edibles culled form the mindparts of experienced edibles. His feasts of grilled seafood, focaccia, steak and pasta grace cloth-clad tables downstairs in Amoré Ristorante, where the vintage bar dating from Chicago's 1933 World's Fair enshrines a heel print from 1930s dancer Sally Rand. Upstairs, Lindskog’s delectable sushi rolls, tempura, and dumplings pair with 109 Lounge’s 34 specialty martinis. Live music frequently fills the air during the evening hours, complementing the chef’s creations with a laid-back attitude that permits smoking and encourages playing hooky from other, less interesting dinners.