One of my favorite places to eat in Indianapolis is the Rathskeller located in the downtown area (see map). The Rathskeller serves up some outstanding German food and has been doing so since 1894, making it the oldest continuous restaurant in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of having dinner there one evening on a recent trip to Indy.
As I said, the restaurant has been in business since the 19th century and is housed in the basement of the historic Athenaeum Building. The building was designed by Clemons Vonnegut, the grandfather of the great American author, Kurt Vonnegut. It was originally called "Das Deutsch Haus" (The German House) until World War I when anti-German sentiment was high in the community. The building housed a gymnasium, a theater and numerous associations. Today, the building still houses a YMCA and the American Cabaret Theater.
The Rathskeller has seven separate dining areas that can seat and serve anywhere from 20 to 500 people. They also have a great "bier garten" area where they have live music in the summertime. It's really quite a fun place to be.
I got into the Rathskeller a little after 8 p.m. one evening and I was shown to my table in one of the dining rooms. I could hear live music being played in the bar area and there seemed to be a nice crowd of people having dinner in the restaurant. I got a menu from the hostess as I sat down and took a quick look at what they had to offer. But before I could fully get into the menu, a waiter came over and asked what I'd like to drink. The Rathskeller has an extensive list of beersfrom Germany, Belgium, the UK and a number of good domestic beers, as well. I ordered a Warsteiner on tap, but told him I may change my mind on the next beer.
While he was getting my beer, I was able to look over what they had to offer for dinner that evening. The Rathskeller is sort of unique compared to other true German restaurants in that they offer a full selection of food from steaks and chops, to seafood and pasta. But I was looking for some good ol' traditional "stick to yer ribs" German food that evening.
I remember having their Sauerbraten before - marinated tender slices of beef topped with a brown ginger gravy. It's truly heavenly. And I was looking at their pork schnitzel - a breaded pork cutlet topped with a lemon cream gravy. That sounded killer.
But I ended up going with the Jaegerschnitzel - veal cutlets topped with mushrooms, garlic and herbs in a rich red wine sauce. I got to choose two sides to go along with the meal, so I selected red cabbage and sauerkraut. Thankfully, no one was going to rooming with me that evening.
The interior of the Rathskeller probably hasn't changed in a number of years. It has an elegance to the place that makes it look rather regal, but it's also very comfortable and cozy at the same time. I was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt and there were people in there in shorts, as well as people dressed in coats and ties. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all.
After about 15 minutes, my dinner showed up. Oh man! Was it ever good. The veal cutlets were moist and tender, but the mushroom/herb/garlic and red wine brown gravy was just to die for. I had a basket of homemade bread and I used a couple slices to help capture every bit of the gravy on my plate. It was heavenly.
The sauerkraut and red cabbage were perfect compliments to the meal. Both were very fresh and very flavorful. The taste sensations were off the chart that evening.
After dinner, I wandered into the Kellerbar, the Rathskeller's main bar area, to look around. It's a stately place that offers a number of beers on tap and also has a late night menu on the weekends. The blues band that was playing that evening was on a break and I thought about having a beer before heading to my hotel. But I was so stuffed and satiated from my meal that I decided to head out.
There's a reason the Rathskeller has been around since 1894, and why it's been named "Best German Restaurant in Indy" for a number of years. The food is great, the atmosphere has old world charm, and the service is wonderful. it's a great place to eat and I'll be back time and time again.