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September’s First Bite

Thunderbird’s new cousin, Jailbird; hidden coffeehouses; and a pinch of wisdom.

Cheers: Spirits Animal
Joshua Gonzales knows how to raise a bar. Having resurrected a former Fountain Square rockabilly haunt into Thunderbird, now with national cocktail cred, he set out further south on Shelby Street to a cinderblock storefront (and onetime horror-and-cult-movie shop) in serious need of a makeover. Jailbird’s location (4022 Shelby St., 317-602-2001) was no lark. Gonzales and his investors could see the growing University of Indianapolis community across the road and this month’s arrival of the Red Line. The May unveiling of this smooth redo with comfy pleather seating, murals, and WWE wrestling on the screen above the bar was bound to draw a throng of regulars who have lost count of their tattoos. Current food offerings are as spare as a summer-camp snack bar, but everything is decidedly uptown, from a dead-on burger to throwback meatloaf and bologna sandwiches with chipotle ketchup. Don’t miss what may be the best onion rings in town, or the most creative PB&J. Bucking trends, the bar crew pours average-Joe brews and your father’s cocktails, including a cool and refreshing Southside Fizz, which, like all of Jailbird’s old-school mixers, will set you back just six bucks.

Pinch of Wisdom
“To temper the spiciness of international cuisines like Indian and Pakistani, serve it with cooling elements, such as cucumber slices, yogurt, or sugar-cane juice.”— Maisum Ali Farid, entrepreneur behind Pakistani restaurant Chapati, who recently turned his mother’s recipe for fried chicken into Shani’s Secret Chicken on Lafayette Road

Roundup: Hidden Perks
Tucked into hotels, shops, and hangouts, coffee bars are bringing quality java to unexpected spots. That includes the former spirits section of downtown’s oldest grocery store, now a Needler’s Fresh Market in Lockerbie Square, where Lemon’s Bakery Cafe (320 N. New Jersey St., 317-262-4888) sells steaming Americanos and impulse sweets. Marketing firm MilesHerndon converted the lobby of its Fountain Square offices into Gavel Curated Cafe (902 Virginia Ave., 317-681-2086), an espresso bar with carafes of Tinker Coffee blends. Plat 99 Coffee + Cocktails (333 S. Delaware St., 317-624-8200) checked into The Alexander in May, taking up a corner of the hotel’s swanky bar. The specialty: lattes made with a shot of doughnut milk. Greenfield Grind (14 N. State St., Greenfield, 317-649-4500) is a cheery cafe in the rear of The Creative Arts & Event Center, where customers sip espresso drinks made from local Blue Mind Roasting beans. And the old administration building at Central State, dating to 1938, now houses Café Mansión (202 Steeples Blvd., 317-737-2560)—a stylish lounge for enjoying chai lattes and golden milk while gazing at the elegant pool outside.

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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