Editor’s Note: These listings are not ranked. They reflect a collection of the best offerings in town.
1. The Workingman’s Friend
234 N. Belmont Ave., 317-636-2067
Be ready to elbow into a seat at the Formica-topped counter at this near-westside burger destination. The bar is deep enough for reading the paper or using your laptop—if you’re that kind of workingman—or just devouring a crispy-edged double with cheese.
2. Rock-Cola Cafe
5730 Brookville Rd., 317-357-2233
A row of classic chrome stools lets customers swivel while they watch the mammoth sandwiches take shape at this nostalgic ’50s diner. Just don’t lean too close when the cook stabs a steak knife into a Mile High Club piled onto “two tiers” of Texas toast. Be sure to order a Choc-Ola, a cafe exclusive.
30 S. Meridian St., 317-635-0765
What the downtown outpost of this popular Meridian-Kessler pizzeria lacks in neighborhood chatter, it more than makes up for in vintage sophistication, down to the screw-top metal drafting stools you can perch on to watch your pizzaiola dress your pie. The pleasantly scorched crust of your dinner is mere seconds—and inches—away. (See photo at right.)
4. The Historic Steer-In
5130 E. 10th St., 317-356-0996
If you want to eavesdrop on the latest eastside gossip or be the closest to the coffee pot for a refill, tuck yourself into one of the comfy, table-height seats on the U-shaped counter at this legendary diner that dates back to 1960. Breakfast is definitely best for catching up on the “news.”
5. Northside Kitchenette
6515 N. College Ave., 317-253-1022
Each brushed-steel seat at this darling sandwich shop’s wee counter gets its own wicker lampshade. Counter customers can also watch the parade of lunch offerings—the Munchie Supremes or the Brie-and-pear salads—come through the kitchen’s constantly swinging metal door.
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue.