Meanwhile, the menu is interesting. I ordered the lacquered pork, a modest slab with a sweet teriyaki glaze. Had it not been my last night in town, I'd have returned and run through more of the menu.
By the way, had more of that bad Bloody Mary mix at St. Elmo, the super thin stuff you see being poured from New York to L.A. Almost an automotive fluid, it seems to have been skimmed from the tops of frozen pizzas.
I will investigate this further and get back to you. But beware. Suddenly I'm having more bad versions of this classic cocktail than good ones.
WHAT A BUNCH OF ANIMALS
By day, I checked out downtown's White River State Park, which houses a pretty good zoo: The cheetahs approach you eye to eye in their glass cage. A novel attraction lets kids race against the notoriously speedy cats, a ribbon of red lights simulating the speed of the cheetah.
Here's a walking tour I recommend: Take a $5 cab to the zoo, worth a couple of hours, then work your way across a pedestrian bridge toward a trio of attractions, the NCAA Hall of Champions , the Indiana State Museum or the Eiteljorg Museum (Native American artwork). The Hall of Champions ($3) is a must for college fans, with exhibits and film clips on a range of sports.
Continue east to the capitol and take in the soaring rotunda.
By now, you're ready for lunch. Best burger ever? Try the Weber Grill restaurant, marked by the red kettle that Weber made famous.
If ever a lunch joint spoke directly to my soul, this is it. On this day, the chef's special, a mixture of lamb and beef, is easily the juiciest burger I've ever had, one of those succulent sandwiches that eventually comes to take the shape of your hands. Weber Grill is a small chain, one in Indy and three in the Chicago area.
"Want a tour of the kitchen?" the bartender, Kara, asked as I marveled over the all-charcoal menu, and, of course, I did.
Now, maybe you're ready for a boat ride along the canal that branches off the White River, or maybe a walk through the imposing Indiana War Memorial and Museum, four blocks north of the circle. Indianapolis claims to have the most war memorials outside of Washington, D.C., which is easy to believe. Everywhere you turn, there's another limestone monument.
You have a couple of distinct choices for your next stop: the small but interesting new Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library , a few blocks west, which just opened in January, or the Chocolate Café, right on Monument Circle, where some pretty decadent ice cream or hot chocolate await, depending on the weather. In Indiana, it can change hourly.
WHERE THE LOCALS PLAY
Six miles north of downtown, Broad Ripple — a neighborhood, not a drink — gets a lot of juicy notices for its mix of restaurants and a thriving bar scene.
But locals kept pointing me toward Massachusetts Avenue, a closer choice and walkable from downtown on a nice evening.
Mass. Ave. offers an interesting stretch of clubs and restaurants — a little bohemian, a little slice of life.
One of the oldest dives around is the Chatterbox, which features jazz on its tiny stage. It's a long, narrow, tiny place with a vintage cash register and some of the best music in town.
Up the street, you'll find the sprawling Rathskeller, a totally different kind of place but a hugely popular nightspot as well, with German food, live music and a roadhouse vibe. The clientele spans all ages, and though everyone seems to know everyone else, you'll feel very welcome. Try the Spaten Optimator, on tap.
Bars stay open here till 3 a.m. Did I mention that? Maybe that's obvious. If I seem even less lucid than usual or there are significant gaps in information, we can look to that.
It's no wonder, though, why this town has become a thriving convention magnet, thanks to plenty of attractions, easy transit and an unforced convivial atmosphere.
Sort of the anti-Vegas.
The choices are diverse and easy. On the same evening, you could climb into one of the horse-drawn carriages downtown or head up to Broad Ripple or Mass. Ave.
I didn't even make it out to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which has drawn raves for a large and wide-ranging collection. It was closed the day I'd devoted to it.
No worries. Still plenty to do, too much to eat, too much to see.
Really, does any destination require more?