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High stakes in Peyton Manning decision

Peyton Manning would be missed all over Indianapolis were he to wind up with another NFL team.

But no place would miss him more than the St. Elmo Steak House.

For years Manning has been a regular at the restaurant, an institution in downtown Indianapolis for more than a century. He’s also part-owner of Harry & Izzy’s, the sister restaurant next door.

It was at the St. Elmo, however, that Manning reviewed his rookie contract in 1998, polishing off a 24-ounce steak in the process.

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In the years that followed, he routinely ate there after Colts games — victories and losses — using a nondescript street entrance (rather than the main one), then descending to the wine cellar by punching a secret code into the elevator. He has a standing reservation in what restaurant employees call the “Peyton Manning room” with — per his request — a flat-screen TV built into the dark, wood-paneled walls. A police officer is usually positioned at the door of the private dining room when Manning is inside, although sometimes the quarterback sits at the bar and chats with fans.

“He eased off on coming here with his injury this season,” said Craig Huse, owner of the St. Elmo. “I just don’t think he felt comfortable treating himself to a meal here. Part of him always looked at that as a reward for a Sunday performance. When he was injured, he just wasn’t in the mood for it. He came in here maybe three times this past season.”

The restaurant staff has long since gotten used to Manning being around, even though they have a text-message code — “The eagle has landed” — when he’s in the house.

“It seems like the guests always got a bigger buzz out of him being here,” Huse said, “because the staff has gotten to know him over time. He knows the bartenders and the servers and the grill cooks by name. Now, he’s just one of us.”


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