Fun fact: In addition to hosting the Largest One-Day Sporting Event in the World, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway holds the Largest One-Day Volume of Chicken Tenders Put in the Mouths of 300,000 Humans. There are untold regions from which to obtain chicken tenders here: There are tents devoted to them, and concession counters flush with them. I’m pretty sure you can get some from Letterman’s luxury box. Today, on Fast Friday, I am simply sitting in Pagoda Plaza in the midst of a chicken-tender Fantasyland that would paralyze my children with joy.
But I am here in search of OTHER FOODS, the non-vaguely identified poultry parts that make up the culinary options at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To do so, I wandered the Pagoda Plaza and drifted down Georgetown Road like a creeper, circumventing the entire outside of the oval and doing my due journalistic diligence while pre-emptively working off turkey legs (HA. Just kidding; to do so I’d need to walk 3,499 more laps). Sure, IMS houses plenty of traditional concessions—your tenders-on-a-bed-of-waffle-fries ($10), your burger-esque objects ($10), and your Indy Dogs ($5), which are like regular hot dogs, except made of pollen. But my assignment was to wander a bit off the track (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and see what I could find.
The main takeaway: Everything is very healthy.
Jerky Shack Snacks (outside Gate 6 on Georgetown Road by Lot 2)
My day began with a large man wearing George R.R. Martin’s beard sitting behind a pile of assorted meats and telling stories, which is to say it began well. In 2008, Roger—known only as The Jerky Guy (seriously, thejerkyguy.net)—found himself recuperating from a stroke primarily through the homeopathic means of lying on his couch and watching Oprah. This, he quickly decided, was probably not an effective recovery method. So he got into a multilevel marketing jerky business, eventually struck out on his own, and came to Indy for the first time this year, setting up on Georgetown in a pig-adorned trailer (it’s the one with the sign that says I LOVE GUNS AND BACON). Roger’s best-seller is the Black Angus Hickory Smoked Beef ($4), a satisfyingly thick sample that will sustain you for the better part of the day. He also offers a 1-pound log of summer sausage for $15, delightful Wisconsin cheeses, and a small box of pig ears. “I sell the s**t out of these,” Roger says. “People get them for their dogs.”
Shish Kebab (not its real name, near the Administration Building entrance)
If you’re looking for an alternative to the surfeit of turkey legs and Philly cheesesteaks, hit up the shish kebab tent by the admin entrance, where you can indulge in the longtime race tradition of eating crab Rangoon at 11 a.m. on a Sunday. As racetrack crab meat goes, it’s not bad! They also have teriyaki shish kebabs, and you’re standing within eyeshot of like 500 beer taps.
Farmboy Smokehouse (Pagoda Plaza)
Look, I don’t want to automatically recommend the huge tent with the enormous sign that’s clearly out-advertising everything in the plaza. But Farmboy Smokehouse is currently covering the place with a murderously intoxicating cloud of pork smoke that reaches up to the deck outside the fourth-floor media center, and I am not made of stone. Obviously, I went with the pulled pork ($12), but thought real hard about the ½-pound burger ($12) and the giant sausage ($15). I also went with two hours of subsequent heart palpitations, which were worth it.
Everything outside of Turn 4
It occurs to me that I’ve walked, like, 45 minutes without encountering a funnel cake, and I’m literally bemoaning the depressing sadness of my condition when I run smack into a miniature Indiana State Fair outside of turn 4, which announces itself to my nose with the olfactory siren song of the elephant ear. There’s a lot to take in here—Steak Works, Dem Kentucky Boyz BBQ, a teriyaki shish kebab joint, and a large tent of such healthy Chicago options as a 10-inch Italian sausage, Italian beef, and a plate of homemade chips with cheese and bacon advertised as “The Heart Attack.” I’m too afraid of it to argue. All it’s missing is cotton candy and a 35-minute wait for bumper-car tickets.
Fuzzy Suites (outside Turn 2)
Obviously, I do not have a pass for the Fuzzy Suites. Had this not already been clear to me, it would have been made so by the selection of cars outside the Fuzzy Suites, none of which seem to resemble my sensible Honda. But I do note that outside the Fuzzy Suites sits a vehicle for Jugs Catering that basically looks like a miniature Popemobile, except for the sticker that says, “To get chicken better than this, you have to be a rooster.” Pretty sure the Popemobile’s stickers aren’t that funny.
Sandwich Shoppe (Georgetown Road)
Three things I learned while waiting for my pork tenderloin ($8): 1. The Sandwich Shoppe has three locations, and you can pretty much see each of them from the other ones. 2. The Sandwich Shoppe has occupied these same spaces for 20 years. 3. This is the least shoppe-looking place I’ve ever seen with the word “shoppe.” That said, the Midway-ready trailer produced a sandwich that was crispy on the outside and adorned with the appropriate amount of caramelized onions, and by that I mean fried onions, because everything in here has been fried, even the lemonade. Pleasingly simple, it’s about as Indy-perfect as you’ll get at the track.