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.
The popular offspring of legendary St. Elmo Steakhouse, Harry and Izzy's is named in honor of St. Elmo's fathers – Harry Roth and Isadore Rosen. Although it does feature the famous St. Elmo's shrimp cocktail with its spicy fresh horseradish, Harry and Izzy's doesn't try to be just like daddy. The newer place has a menu of its own and more casual decor. An airy classy restaurant, Harry and Izzy's offers fare from burgers and pizza to lamb chops and a huge 14-ounce Izzy Style New York strip steak, rolled in cracked peppercorn, pan-seared and served with orange brandy butter sauce. Garbage Salad is a meal in itself with shrimp, Italian meats, cheese and garden vegetables. The lively circular bar with dark wood paneling and old-timey speakeasy vibe is the center of action. Dining rooms are a bit more subdued. The restaurant is co-owned by former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
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.
This popular sports bar packs in fans with a winning combination – hi-def TVs hanging everywhere, a huge menu, friendly servers and their own great beer brewed at their brewery in Indy's Broad Ripple. Owner Scott Wise knows the restaurant business inside out, working as dishwasher, cook, waiter and bartender before opening this downtown Indy watering hole. Deep-fried dill chips with horseradish sauce and build-your-own burgers with a list of 30 toppings and add-ons are menu mainstays. The décor is solid with a brick interior plus handmade oak bar, tables and stools. A large outdoor patio with a big fire pit and comfy seating area is quite welcome on chilly evenings.
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.
Old and blue. A hot combination. The oldest continually operating tavern in Indiana, the Slippery Noodle was established in 1850 and is still going strong. Famous for its blues and booze, the Slippery Noodle has hosted such noted musicians as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Buddy Miles, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, James Cotton and Sugar Blue, to name a few. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Slippery Noodle was originally built as the Tremont House, a luxurious roadhouse for railway passengers. Later, it became a brothel and several taverns and was 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 now features local, regional and national blues, along with a full-service menu and full bar.
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. 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." 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.
Champions Sports Bar compares itself to a huge man cave with 32 TVs and 16 DIRECTV Satellites, plus plenty of food and drink and someone to bring it to you. All you have to do is lean back and enjoy the game. Located in the Marriott Downtown, Champions has a prime location, across from the Convention Center with an easy walk to sporting venues. The bar was named one of Indy's best sports bars in 2012 by AOL. Try the sliders – four mini cheeseburgers with fries or four mini BBQ pulled pork with cheddar for $13. "Serious plates" include Cajun chicken pasta, grilled salmon, BBQ ribs and NY strip steak. Good beer selection, including Hoosier favorite Upland Dragonfly and Upland Wheat.
One of the largest sports bars in downtown Indy is easy to find. Just look for the big blue JW Marriott gleaming in the sky. High Velocity opened in 2011 as part of the huge $45 million Marriott project. Glance around High Velocity and you can see why it is popular. Featuring 58 plasma TVs plus a Sky Box with 85-inch 3D plasma TVs, High Velocity makes sure sports fans get all the action. Open for lunch and dinner, High Velocity offers good food - a cut above typical tavern fare. Try Indiana's state sandwich, the pork tenderloin with jalapeno coleslaw. About that coleslaw. I was a bit wary at first because I don't like to have my taste buds sizzled. But the coleslaw had just the right heat. A full bar offers cocktails, wine and plenty of beer to celebrate your teams' victories.