Visit The Mug-N-Bun
Sometimes tourists know what they’re talking about and sometimes they don’t. I’m not proud to admit that I lived in Memphis in another lifetime. Along with high crime, Memphis is known for Bar-B-Q. There is a famous spot for ribs known as The Rendezvous. I went there a few times, but usually at the request of friends that came in from out of town. When I wanted really good ribs without the chance to buy an ugly T-shirt, I went to the little known spots that escaped the tourist magazines.
In the nineties, business took me to Chicago and Buffalo fairly frequently. I was always told to check out Carson’s for ribs. Supposedly, they would be the best I ever ate. Instead, they were the worst. They reminded me of boiled ribs that were then soaked in ketchup. However, while in Buffalo – I visited The Anchor Bar which is where the Buffalo Wing was invented. I was expecting to be let down as this would surely be another overrated tourist trap. Instead, I found what I thought were the best wings I’ve ever eaten. Later, a local took me to Duff’s, where the natives supposedly went to munch on wings. Sorry, but The Anchor Bar won hands down, in my opinion. Almost twenty years later, I still say that The Anchor Bar serves my favorite wings ever.
Why am I reviewing various tourist traps across our great country? Because I found myself in Indianapolis a few weeks ago and visited an establishment that I had heard about for years, but had never been to before – The Mug-N-Bun.
Indianapolis natives may scoff at this. A tweet of mine about eating a breaded tenderloin at the Mug-N-Bun has already been the subject of scorn from our friend JP IndyCar, who lives in the Indianapolis area. He laughs at us out-of-towners that target the Mug-N-Bun as the place to grab a tenderloin, and swears that a place called Edwards Drive-in on South Sherman Drive in Indianapolis is the best. I’ll admit the sandwich he tweeted looked mighty tasty, but being the out-of-towner that I am – I had vowed to someday eat at the Mug-N-Bun in Speedway, and I did not leave disappointed.
The Mug-N-Bun has been located at the same location in the town of Speedway, on 10th Street just east of Lynhurst Drive since 1960. Up until a couple of years ago, it was strictly an old-fashioned drive-in. Now you have two options; eat in the car as the traditionalists do, or dine in the new dining room, which is just that – a converted building across the parking lot that has tables and a restroom, but no kitchen. You place your order, and they call it in over at the main kitchen. When it’s ready, the kitchen calls back and your server goes out into the elements to retrieve your food. Being the old fogey that I am, I wanted to eat inside. I gave up eating in the car about the same time I gave up camping – and probably for the same reasons.
The food was good – and cheap! I, of course, had a tenderloin for $3.80; while Susan had a cheeseburger. We split an order of seasoned old-fashion krinkle fries. While my tenderloin was good, it was not as good as what I’ve had at nearby IMS. I’m not sure if sitting in the hallowed grounds of the Speedway with cars rushing by makes it taste better than sitting in a remodeled building or what, but I have to admit it didn’t satisfy quite as well as what I’ve had at the track. Nor did I hear Susan rave about her burger, other than saying it was good.
Surprisingly, what made the meal most memorable was the giant frosty mug of homemade root beer…and yes, I said homemade – for only $1.80. I am a root beer snob. I love good root beer, but there is nothing worse than bad root beer. Have you ever tried Barq’s? (Barf!) Take it from me, this is good root beer. The mug was ice cold, but the root beer could have been just a tad bit colder to make it perfect. Still, weeks later I find myself craving more.
I’m not sure that race day at Indianapolis would be the ideal time to try out the Mug-N-Bun, if you’ve never been. The day before the race may not be so good either. All of Speedway seems to need a bath that day. Qualifying weekend may be a good time to go, but I’m sure it’ll be crowded. I have a lot planned that weekend, but I’m hoping my schedule will permit me to go by there at least once.
If you do go sometime, it’s not far from Turn One at IMS. From 16th Street, turn left onto Main Street. Go past the new Dallara factory until Main Street dead-ends into 10th Street at the Allison plant. Turn right onto 10th and it’s only a few blocks on your left. Just like everything else in the month of May at Indianapolis – the Mug-N-Bun is like stepping back into time.