There are a number of downtown pubs and neighborhood taverns in Indianapolis, but not all of them are able to mix drinks with history, and history with legend. There are rumors that John Dillinger visited a near eastside tavern. There are whispers that the oldest bar in Indianapolis is haunted by the ghosts of the Underground Railroad. And then there are the facts: live jazz music can be found seven nights a week on Massachusetts Avenue, and a small pub on Washington Street was included on a list of the 50 best Irish pubs in the nation. So, whether you’re celebrating a birthday or St. Patrick’s Day, drop by these historic taverns; you never know who you might meet, or the history you might encounter. Bottoms up!
Slippery Noodle Inn
372 S. Meridian St.
The Slippery Noodle Inn is Indiana’s oldest, continually-operated bar in its original building. It was established in 1850 as the Tremont House, whose painted sign is still visible on the building’s north side. Legend says that, during the Civil War, a narrow passageway in the basement served as a way station for the Underground Railroad. Over the years, the establishment has served as a German club, speak-easy and brothel. Today, the Noodle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Praised by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the nation’s top blues bars, the Noodle offers three full bars, two stages and live blues music seven days a week.
435 Massachusetts Ave.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, a man by the name of Edward DeBaise opened a tavern in a former feather store on Massachusetts Avenue. The tavern eventually became the Chatterbox, where, today, patrons listen to live jazz music seven days a week. The establishment, whose eclectic interior includes Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads, old posters and graffiti, also has an outdoor seating area. The narrow dive is full of surprises, and a fridge in the back is said to be autographed by Mick Jagger. On St. Patrick’s Day, Chatterbox hosts its annual St. Patrick’s Day Sing-A-Long, with specials on Guinness, Harp, Killian’s, Baileys and Jameson. (Of course, you can always knock back a pickle back, too.)
401 E. Michigan St.
The Rathskeller is Indy’s oldest restaurant and is located inside a 19th-century German cultural center. In the Kellerbar, patrons are able to choose from 12 imported draft beers and more than 50 imported bottled beers from Germany, continental Europe, the U.K. and North America. During the warmer months, the Biergarten offers live music and a full-service walk-up bar. Supplementing the drinks is an award-winning menu featuring authentic German fare. For St. Patrick’s Day, the Rathskeller is hosting the Indianapolis Downtown Irish Fest, which is free to attend, and offers live music from noon until midnight. Guten Appetit!
901 Dorman St.
Located in Indy’s Cottage Home neighborhood is Dorman Street, a neighborhood tavern that opened in the early 1900s. Over the years, the bar has had several names, including the 9th Street Tavern, May’s Lounge and The Mahogany Bar, which was shortened to “The Hog,” and is still used as a nickname today. There are rumors that John Dillinger, who robbed the nearby Massachusetts Avenue State Bank in 1933, frequented the bar. Though Dillinger’s patronage cannot be proved, the dive has always been a haunt for local residents. Today, Dorman Street offers inventive cocktails, an extensive array of microbrews and plenty of bike parking for those who pedal over for a pint.
Tick Tock Lounge
2602 10th St.
The Tudor-style building in which the Tick Tock is housed was constructed in the 1920s. After Prohibition ended, the building became a drinking establishment. In 1955, it was renamed the Tic Toc Club and often hosted live jazz. After a spelling adjustment in the 1980s, the bar became the Tick Tock Lounge. Today, the Tick Tock offers live music, a space-age jukebox and an upscale bar menu. What the Tick Tock is best known for, however, is its one-of-a-kind Bloody Marys, which are made with bacon- and hot pepper-infused vodka. They’re topped with what looks like half of a salad bar: olives, pepperoni, bacon, tater tots, celery and skewers of cheese.
5221 E. Washington St.
Irvington’s Butler Inn has existed at its current location since 1934, the year after Prohibition ended. It is rumored, however, that the tavern’s origins lie in an actual inn that served travelers along the National Road, as well as visitors to Butler University (before it was relocated). The neighborhood tavern is frequented by those who live within walking distance, and a euchre tournament was established recently. Mid-summer marks the free, annual Butler Inn hog roast. As for St. Patrick’s Day? The kitchen plans to serve up corned beef and cabbage, with an appearance from the Murat Highlanders at 5:30 pm.
McGinley’s Golden Ace Inn
2533 E. Washington St.
No St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl would be complete without a visit to Golden Ace, the oldest family-owned tavern in Indianapolis. On March 1, 1934, County Donegal, Ireland immigrants John and Ann McGinley opened the pub, which is known for its tasty cheeseburgers and monthly trivia games. For more than 80 years, the Golden Ace has hosted a St. Patrick’s Day party, complete with Irish music and corned beef. The annual celebration helped land the Golden Ace on USA Today’s “10 Best Places to Party Like You’re Irish,” as well as Complex’s “50 Best Irish Pubs in America.” (The cheeseburgers help, too.)
Red Key Tavern
5170 N. College Ave.
Russel Settle, who was a bomber pilot in World War II and a prisoner of war in Germany, opened the Red Key Tavern on April 2, 1951. Settle, who died in 2010, was known for “Russel’s Rules.” Patrons were expected to hang their coats and hats at the door and were not supposed to use foul language. The tavern, which is now managed by Settle’s son, was featured in the 1970 Dan Wakefield novel “Going All the Way.” (In 1997, the book was made into a movie, and several scenes were filmed at the tavern.) Nowadays, the SoBro landmark is frequented by young couples and octogenarians alike. On St. Patrick’s Day, the Murat Highlanders drop by at 9:45 pm.