Places with Atmosphere

I love a good atmosphere. They seem to be tough to come by in this city, but they are the places I tend to visit most often. Here are some of my favorites:

Red Key. This is an obvious choice. The place hasn’t changed much since the early 1950’s, and has a great jukebox. It’s been in a movie. A classic.

Broad Ripple Brew Pub. A non-smoking British style place in an old house. Darts are not an afterthought here.

Monon Coffee Company. Coffee places have taken a major hit in this city, sadly. This venerable institution is still going strong.

Working Man’s Friend. Set in a neighborhood near a railroad track and an industrial facility, this place is surprisingly open and almost airy when the sun is shining. Along with the Red Key, the most famous burgers in town.

Radio Radio. Indy’s first non-smoking music venue, you can almost always count on a good show here.

Sam’s Saloon. A former brothel, the bar is a trip back to the late 1800’s.

Iaria’s. OK, I’m a sucker for places that haven’t changed since the 1950’s.

Taste of Tango. The recently opened Argentinian place has a tasteful, romantic vibe.

Rathskeller. It’s in one of the neatest buildings in town. How could they go wrong?

St. Elmo’s. I’m not much of a steak guy, but the history of this place can not be ignored. A local hold-out in a sea of chains in the “convention district”.

I feel bad for not including any places on the South Side. I have heard Barringer’s is a great old place, but I haven’t been there. Any other suggestions?

Comments 16

  • My favorite spot on the South side is Shallo's. It's located in the old Target mall bldg (now Old Time Pottery) at US 31 and County Line Rd. The atmosphere is outstanding, the pub food even better. Very good burgers of the thick & meaty variety. Excellent _thinly sliced_ / beer battered onion rings. Good place.

  • Actually, I’ve been there…not bad.

  • I love the vibe at Brugge Brasserie.

    I miss the old Mass Ave Abbey. Now that it’s on Pennsylvania Street, it’s just not the same.

  • Great list. I love lots of those places.

    Jim, I miss the Mass Ave. Abbey too – thanks for bringing it up.

    I a weakness for classic Indy type places like Peppy’s Grill and the Dugout in Fountain Square. Obviously love the Workingman’s Friend, but the burgers are not actually that great. Adequate, but not stellar.

    I’d throw Ralph’s Great Divide on your list too.

  • Good call on Ralph’s Great Divide. Perfect for cold weather.

  • What a great roundup of places!

    I’ll second Shallos. The unassuming strip mall exterior belies the great vibe on the inside. I love the crazy back way from the bar to the bathrooms! Also the best wings in Indy.

    For atmosphere I miss, I’ll throw out Hollywood Bar and Filmworks. All the classic posters and memorabilia in the bar/waiting area were fantastic.

  • Atmosphere:

    Aristocrat; if you are a longtime Northsider, it’s impossible to go there and not see people you know. Even after you move away.

    Yat’s (original location). Love the purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras theme.

    Mama Carolla’s. That house just oozes warmth.

    Illinois St. Food Emporium. The original power breakfast spot.

    (Can you tell I’m over 40? Two of these places don’t serve booze or beer.)

  • Mama Carolla’s should have made the list. Great place. I like that it’s in an old “show house” from the 20’s.

    I like all your other suggestions as well.

  • The Slippery Noodle is great. I won’t even go into all the reasons.

    For a new place, I really like Euphoria’s ambiance. They’ve done a nice job decorating the inside of the Temple.

  • red key is awesome, but the smoking factor kills me, so i hardly go there. The Brewpub is great, love their food and darts, and i like the beer ok…could be better, but it’s drinkable. I really like Moe and Johnny’s, but that’s because of the free peanuts…i am all for bars that give you free snacks 🙂

  • When checking out your list, I saw the following on Sam's Saloon:

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    I regret to inform you that we are closed..



    Thank you to all the local & national bands that have rolled through this last year… Unfortunately we have to close our doors…

    There will be a mass e-mail sent from to all today. I am going to do my best to re route show's for all the national touring acts & will get with you if changes can be made.

    all the best & thank you all for the good times

    Mike Farmer

  • Dang! That place had so much potential. Thanks for the info.

  • Thanks for this list. I would have loved to see The Melody Inn make the list. Yes they have smoking, but great atmosphere.

  • I love the Melody Inn! I neglected it, and have regretted its omission.

  • Northside News (& Cafe) is one of my favorite places ever. I'm not an Indy native but they treat me like one.

    I don't know if this list is exclusively bar/restaurant, but one place I always take visitors is to the Duckpin Bowling alley in Fountain Square. Totally, completely unique, and talk about atmosphere!!!

  • Great suggestions Michelle. Perhaps I should repost with the additions sometime later this week.

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