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.
Each day, from the lunch hour until 10 p.m., the chefs at Zazou Grill & Pub keep the ovens hot. Preparing a menu of pub-style food, they plate up pairs of soft, warm pretzel pillows with a zesty queso blanco sauce for dipping?or dress half-pound cheeseburgers with bacon and a fried egg and serve them alongside tater tots, sweet potato fries, and other sides. The bar is also home to a handful of games, such as bar bowling and Golden Tee, and frequently hosts karaoke night, during which visitors can belt out their best renditions of "Ave Maria."
The independently-owned Mayday offers a variety of unique burgers, made from turkey, black bean, or beef patties with toppings such as Korea-style kimchi and cilantro chili sauce. Patrons pair the burgers with oven-baked fries and draft beer at this hub of the Northside neighborhood, along with trivia, comedy, and live rock and roll, and a two-tiered patio provides a fun atmosphere for the whole family.
The boldness of burgers isn't all Mayday specializes in, however. The subtle flavors of fine whiskey and charcuterie reward more ambitious palates, while a full array of hotdogs?served on homemade pretzel buns?add an upscale spin to comfort food. To top it off, customers can add a fried egg to anything on the menu, just like when we were kids, frying eggs on the sidewalk to top off our summer ice cream cones.