Food & Drink

FOOD: Red Key Tavern — SoBro [INDY]

by John Stock


You know one of those places where you go to get away? A place where you will likely not see any ne. a place to not be seen. the Red Key is that place. Tucked away below an ancient glowing neon sign hanging from an industrial scaffold of patina-wrought steel, the Red Key Tavern is like a hipster hideaway without any of the pretense. That is, the Red Key is not, and does not, try to be anything other than what it is. A down home bar, with stiff drinks, cheap food, and a handful of good looking waitresses that could definitely kick your ass. This place has literally been here forever. Inside there is a underlying scent of the aging vinyl seats that line the length of the room opposite the bar. The floor is perfectly worn in a shuffle wide walkway behind the seats at the bar from years of neglect, or rather loving use. Despite the age, wear, and tarnish, the Red Key is nearly spotless; from a cleanliness and service standpoint the owners and staff take great pride in this place.


This is not a dive bar, but certainly a cozy spot to go after a great evening for a nightcap, somewhere quiet to take someone you really want to talk (and listen) to, or a place to bring a couple good friends to split a few buckets of beers and have a quasi-quiet if not uneventful but super-fulfilling night under the dim warm Christmas lights and full wrap mirrors. This was your grandfather’s bar. Literally. Early bird specials aren’t offered but weeknights around 6pm bring in a (we’ll call them distinguished rather than geriatric) crowd and while the menu is not that large (see below) it comes out feeling like something you’ve had at a relative’s cookout before; served on a styrofoam plate and tasting like it was made by that one uncle who takes pride in knowing how to perfectly cook anything on a grill.

photo copy

Straightforward: You can get a Hamburger, Cheeseburger, B.L.T, Grilled Cheese, or a Tenderloin sandwich with Chips or Potato/Macaroni salad. Braunschweiger is a type of liverwurst that in this case is heavily processed. I was warned by the bartenders not to order it…ever. While the menu may be considered lowbrow by some, it is the homely atmosphere that attracts. The antique jukebox is loaded with a solid selection of Sinatra, Fitzgerald, and Crosby singles with some Glenn Miller and Patsy Cline thrown in at 25 cents a play. The Red Key may not be the most exciting bar in the area, and the menu may make some opt for a liquid dinner, but this is certainly a SoBro landmark and provides an inviting atmosphere any day of the week. Just be sure to observe the charmingly Draconian house rules: 1. No Cursing 2. No Standing and 3. Hang Your Coat at the Door.

Red Key Tavern
5170 N College Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46205