First the name. Union 50 takes its moniker from the history of the building, which was built in 1950 and served as a union hall for several years. The 200-seat newcomer has a huge bar running almost 7,000 square feet with bar-to-ceiling backlit shelves holding colorful bottles of spirits. Second the food. Owner Mike Cunningham describes the restaurant's fare as "chef-driven American cuisine." The food is fantastic. Try the Beef Trio - beef tartare, marrowbone, chilled ribeye cap, chickpea tabbouleh, warm bread and edamame pea puree. Third the drinks. Classic cocktails join signature drinks such as The Grand Herb with Ketel One Orange, fresh herbs, agave nectar and fennel bitters. The drink menu also has a lengthy list of quality wine and beer. Fourth the music. This is the kind of place where you can hear the music from local and touring musicians and still converse without having to yell.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The new kid near Mass Ave, Union 50 features top-notch food, drinks, music and servers.
Jackie's expert tip: Make a reservation to be sure you get a seat at this popular restaurant bar. Click on the Union-50 website for a reservation link.
Old and blue. A hot combination. The oldest continually operating tavern in Indiana, Slippery Noodle was established in 1850 and is still going strong. Famous for blues and booze, Slippery Noodle has hosted such noted musicians as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Buddy Miles, Jay Giles, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, James Cotton and Sugar Blue. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Slippery Noodle was originally built as the Tremont House, a luxurious roadhouse for railway passengers. Later, it became a brothel, several taverns and rumored to be linked to the Underground Railroad. Notorious Hoosier criminal John Dillinger reportedly hung around the tavern and used a back inside wall for target practice. You can still see bullets embedded in the brick wall. Loaded with atmosphere, the Slippery Noodle features local, regional and national blues, along with a full-service menu and full bar. Noodle went smoke free just before Super Bowl 2012.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The slogan for the Slippery Noodle pretty much says it all – "Dis is it!"
Jackie's expert tip: Slippery Noodle has two bands playing on two separate stages on Friday and Saturday nights. Music starts at 8:30 and goes non stop until early morning. If one band doesn't strike your fancy, listen to the other.
The ultra-modern, cutting-edge designed Plat 99 is located downtown inside Indy's newest hotel, The Alexander. Artist Jorge Pardo created a cool contemporary vibe, including 99 blown-glass pendant lamps above the lounge and another 20 lamps suspended above the grand staircase. A striking three-level bar, contemporary couches, high-top tables and lovely outdoor deck offer seating choices. Opened in 2013, Plat 99 takes its unusual name from the exact plat of land on which the bar is located. Unique cocktail concoctions from one of Indy's top mixologists Michael Gray are sure to please. The drink list is an education in itself. Not only does it carry creative concoctions, it also tells when the drink was created and by whom, like the East India Cocktail made in 1882 by Harry Johnson. Plat 99 menu offers everything from short ribs to grilled cheese, edamame to corned beef sliders. Complimentary truffle oil popcorn is excellent.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Plat 99 offers a great view, creative cocktails, tasty cuisine and a striking ultra-modern decor.
Jackie's expert tip: Plat 99 offers one of the best downtown Indy views from its outdoor deck.
This is the place for hot jazz in a cool atmosphere. And the Jazz Kitchen name lets you know the food is surprisingly good, too – sort of New Orleans meets Midwest. Try Satchmo's Etoufee or Crescent City Crab Cakes. Named on Downbeat Magazine's list of "The World's Top 100 Jazz Clubs," Jazz Kitchen showcases local, regional and international jazz acts. Jazz Kitchen also hosts the long running and popular Thursday night Latin Dance Party. The Jazz Kitchen is smoke free. There is a $15 minimum for food and/or drinks on Friday and Saturday nights. But you won't mind paying for this food. Check out the menu and music schedule. Since music is the main reason folks come to the Jazz Kitchen, talking is kept to a minimum so listeners don't miss a beat. If you want a rowdy party night, don't come here when musicians take the stage.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Jazz Kitchen was listed by Downbeat Magazine as one of "The World's Top 100 Jazz Clubs." And it certainly deserves that recognition.
Jackie's expert tip: Music is the main reason people come to the Jazz Kitchen so talking is a no-no while musicians perform. As the Kitchen notes: "If you must talk, please do so in the lounge."
It's a dirty noisy dive. And it is perfect for some of the best jazz in Indy. A tiny hole in the wall in the Mass Ave arts district, the Chatterbox Jazz Club can get quite crowded. The bathrooms, walls, bar and floor are slathered with graffiti. Old posters, stray Christmas lights, Indy 500 checkered flags, fading photos, an Elvis clock minus the swinging legs, Mardi Gras beads and even a rubber crawfish are strung around the place. In 1989 when the Rolling Stones tour hit Indy, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood stopped in the Chatterbox. An old fridge that was rreplaced and put up for safe keeping is said to contain an unintelligible scrawl left by Jagger. Beer, wine and strong bourbon are popular imbibes. If you're really hungry, the Chatterbox serves Jamaican patties, pizza and pretzels. But it's best to just drink here.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Chatterbox Tavern is a small club with a big reputation. It's the place to hear top jazz in Indy. Never know who might drop in.
Jackie's expert tip: If you get here early, you might get a better seat. If you get here late, you might catch sight and sounds of musicians who like to drop by and sit in after their evening gigs are done.
Libertine had been open less than two years when it was named in May 2013 by Esquire magazine as one of its "Best Bars in America." Creative cocktails? Most certainly. Delicious food? Absolutely. Unique atmosphere? Hard to describe - classy, hipster, chic, cool. The name itself signals that this is not a typical neighborhood bar. Owned by talented chef Neal Brown, Libertine notes that it "celebrates the untamed, pioneering American Spirit with a focus on classic cocktails, craft distillers, boutique wines and an ever-evolving menu to best accompany them." Save time to savor the menu. Changing cuisine choices might include such delights as the Bacon Flight - three varieties of bacon from Indy's own meatery the Smoking Goose. Cocktails are made with craft liquors and the menu identifies drink creator as well as year and place, such as the Screw & Bolt created by Neal Brown in Indy in 2011.
MacNiven's serves Indy's best haggis, the traditional Scottish dish immortalized by Robert Burns in his 1787 poem "Address to a Haggis." Haggis is a dish containing lamb liver and pork heart, minced with onions and oats and simmered for about three hours. Served with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (turnips). It's an acquired taste. To see if you can acquire it, try MacNiven's haggis sampler, "a wee portion" of Scottish haggis served with brown bread and whipped butter. With a warm décor of dark wood and brick, plus framed pictures of Scotland and some TVs, MacNiven's offers a large selection of Scotch and more than 100 beers. MacNiven's has two separate doors, one for the bar and one for the restaurant.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Offering Scottish and American fare, this Mass Ave pub has more than 120 fine ales and lagers, award-winning fish and chips and authentic Scottish haggis.
Jackie's expert tip: Check out the restrooms, labeled Ladies and Gentlemen. Some nice photos of Sean Connery (James Bond) decorate the women's room. Ursula Andress and Halle Berry (Bond girls) are in the men's, I'm told.
The biscuit part of the name made sense. But the ball? The moniker of this pub has nothing to do with food or drink. Ball & Biscuit is named after a 1930s microphone, which was called the Ball & Biscuit because of its shape. To see what it looks like, there is a vintage Ball & Biscuit sitting atop the bar. Other old-timey radio and recording artifacts are scattered around the pub. Opened in summer 2010, the Mass Ave spot has a cool vibe from the past with muted background music, exposed brick walls, warm tones, comfy club chairs, quarter-sawn wood floor and copper bar. Feels like a modern-day speakeasy. Biscuit also serves beer, wine and small plates, like house-marinated olives, smoked trout dip, bone marrow and short ribs and duck rilettes. Locals love it and so does Esquire magazine, as Ball & Biscuit topped their "America's Best Bars" list.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Ball & Biscuit has it all - cool vibe, innovative drinks, great food, friendly staff.
Jackie's expert tip: What I like best about the Biscuit is what it doesn't have. It broke the pub mold – no TVs, no smoking, no loud base-thumping music. Other folks must agree because the Biscuit doesn't lack for business.
Know a thing or two about wine? Maybe want to learn more? Tastings is a great place to try about 100 wines from around the world. Located in Conrad Indianapolis, Tastings is on hotel ground level at the corner of Washington and Illinois streets. Wine is sold at retail price and can be opened in the shop or taken home to enjoy. Tastings includes Enomatic tasting stations that work to displace oxygen with food-grade nitrogen to preserve the wine in a vacuum-like seal. Opened October 2009, Tastings is sort of self-serve. Buy a card (like a debit card), get a glass, stick the card into a pouring machine and get a two-ounce sample or glass. Tastings also offers artisanal cheese platters, flatbread pizza, gourmet sandwiches, tapas, bistro plates and delicious desserts. Don't like wine? Tastings also has beer and spirits. Outdoor seating is available overlooking the beautiful Artsgarden.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This is a great place to find out if you like a new wine before buying a bottle.
Jackie's expert tip: Unless you like crowds, don't try to get in here after a Colts game or Indy 500 race. Dress code is more business casual than sports shorts. You won't feel out of place going solo.
Since it opened Dec. 31, 1977, The Vogue has been a major draw for music, dancing and drinking. Big names have performed here, including Bo Diddley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, The White Stripes, Buckwheat Zydeco, George Clinton, John Mayer and John Mellencamp. Once a movie theater in the 1930s – and even an X-rated theater in the early '70s where cult favorite "Deep Throat" was shown – The Vogue also features local musicians. With a capacity of about 600, The Vogue is often crowded with people bumping into each other, spilling drinks. If you don't mind that, you can hear some great musicians here. The Vogue regularly wins awards for best dance club and best live music. Cover charges and times vary so check the website first or carry an extra $5 just in case. The Vogue doesn't serve food. Must be 21 to enter and need two IDs.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Since it opened Dec. 31, 1977, The Vogue has been a major draw for music, dancing and drinking, regularly winning awards for best dance club.
Jackie's expert tip: Seats are limited and there is no reserved seating so arrive early unless you want to stand the whole evening.