In Researching Indy For The Nightlife Website PubClub.com, The Writer Does The Ultimate Downtown Bar Hopping
I sat slumped in a chair against a wall in the Slippery Noodle, the iconic live music venue in downtown Indianapolis. It was 3 a.m., and the last set had just been played.
The guitar player came up next to me and said, “man, you look wiped out!”
I then proceeded to tell him that I was in my last spot from a night of bar-hopping. That throughout the evening, from Happy Hour until closing time, I had visited 18 – yes 18 – bars in a single night. The Slippery Noodle was my final stop. “Man,” he said, “that’s a full night! And you don’t even seem to be drunk.”
No, I wasn’t drunk, but I was exhausted. Like an Indy 500 driver who had to work his way through the entire field in order to reach the finish line. But I was also satisfied.
I had done this in the name of research for PubClub.com. Indy hosts Super Bowls, Final Fours, has the Indianapolis 500 and is in general a happening Midwestern spot. So it was important for a website that writes about bars and nightlife to have articles on Indy.
But I had limited time to do everything, so I had to be efficient in my time. Indy has two main nightlife areas, downtown and Broadripple. And I had to cover them both in two nights, one on a Friday and the other on Saturday.
The city’s excellent PR person, Chris, had provided me with a list of bars, the number of which seemed overwhelming, and we discussed them when I arrived in town the previous evening. He took me to dinner at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse. Every city has its signature restaurant, and in Indy, it’s St. Elmo’s. “Steaks as big as your arm,” a friend of mine who goes to Indy frequently on business says.
On Friday, I set out on my quest.
I had to hit every bar on Chris’ list, not because I was going to write about the all but because that’s the way PubClub does research in a city. In order to determine whether or not bars are “PubClub worthy,” each one must be checked out, and only the best ones are included on the site.
There were not 18 bars on my list, but because I wanted to see them at their peak times, I had to re-visit a few of them. That’s another key to bar research: You can be in the right bar but at the wrong time. PubClub.com likes to write about being in the right bar at the right time.
I started with Happy Hour in my hotel, Olives in the Omni Severin. The NFL combine was going on at the time and the lobby was full of NFL coaches and prospective players. There were more coaches there than on an ESPN set. in fact. I started my evening with a rum-dominated Caribbean martini.
The place was the perfect starting point, for its just down a short side street to Claddagh’s Irish Pub. Funny thing about Irish pubs, they can be rocking at Happy Hour and later at night. Claddagh’s was fun and under normal circumstances I would have been tempted to stay longer. But I had to get moving.
Next came Nicky Blain’s an old-style cigar bar that’s to lounges what St. Elmo’s is to restaurants. I figured it would be the primary hangout for businessmen (and secretaries!) after work. But as it turns out, it’s better later at night, so it’s one of the bars that I had to hit a second time. In fact, because of its live jazz on weekends, there’s a line after 11:30 p.m.
To demonstrate the variety of places it takes for researching bars, I made my way to a German beer hall on the outskirts of downtown. The Rathskeller on Mass Ave., may not have quite been like Oktoberfest, but it definitely had me raising my beer stein to the band. Like the Irish bar, this is a place I could have stayed at for some time. But I couldn’t, for I had to keep moving.
The parting pace of the places slowed considerably with the next two stops. I should point out here that was on foot and fortunately downtown Indy is not only walkable, but safe after dark. Mac Niven’s Restaurant and Bar is a Scottish pub in the Theater District and, for novelty’s sake there’s the crusty Old Point Tavern. The latter is Indy’s second-oldest bar that sold imports of beer for the strange price of $3.19.
Then it was back to Nicky Blain’s, onto a couple of dance clubs, peeking into Claddagh’s again, Ice Ultra Lounge and 6 Lounge (swanky places), and stumbling into a super-lively, super-fun place down a flight of stairs called Subterra Lounge. That was my favorite place and I hooked up with a group of people with whom I drank and danced with for some time.
They wanted me to stay and party with them and I wanted to do it myself, but just out the doors were two Indy institutions that I just had to check out, spots that no respectable bar guide to Indy could not include.
One was Ike and Jonesy’s, which was right out the door of my hotel, the Omni. My Indy-frequented friend told me it was must, and indeed it’s quite the unique place. “It’s like a 50s diner that looks liike it has actually been here since the 50s,” I wrote in the PubClub article. It has young people, divorcees, pinball machines, old leather diner booths and even dancing. It’s funky, it’s odd and it’s as much a part of downtown Indy’s bar scene as the Speedway is to auto racing.
The next – and final – stop was the Noodle. Lined with bricks and hosting all kinds of great live music, it actually turned out to be larger than I expected. It has two stages and it’s timed so you can see one band in the front when the band in the back goes on break (or vice-versa).
It was in the front where my night came to an end, when that last note was stuck on the guitar and the last bit of beer remained in my glass. I had done it, I had crossed the finish line of my own personal Indy 500. The guitar player clinked our glasses and gave me a cheers.
But I could not really celebrate. For the next night, I had to pretty much do it all over again, for the bars of Broadripple awaited – and you know what, I was ready for them.