Red Key Tavern

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Buzzfeed recently released a list of the Top 12 Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs to Visit. Among the notable locations are the infamous Bird and the Baby (Eagle and Child) in Oxford where Tolkien and Lewis used to meet with the Inklings. Then there's Heminway's hangout, El Flordita in Cuba and the Beat hot spot Vesuvio in San Francisco. Imagine my surprise when I saw an Indianapolis bar as #10 on that list!
 
"Die-hard Vonnegut fans will want to add this one to their next road trip. The no-nonsense bar — opened by a WWII Veteran and Prisoner of War, and decorated with model airplanes hanging from the ceiling — is said to have been Vonnegut’s favorite watering hole, with many regulars claiming to have seen him writing and drinking in his booth. The tavern also made an appearance in Dan Wakefield’s 1970 novel Going All The Way."
 
 

I'd actually been to some of the other bars, but never the one in my own hometown! Obviously I needed to check it out. I'd driven past the hole-in-the-wall spot  hundreds of times when I lived in the neighborhood a few years ago.
 
When I finally visited the first thing I heard when I walked through the door was, "Oh my gosh, we have a real customer!" The comment was more for the amusement of the regulars at the bar than for me, but I still laughed. The small place has a few tables and antique model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. The original owner's son and granddaughter were at the bar. 
 
My friend and I got a drink and enjoyed the atmosphere. It's a cool place, one that clearly hasn't changed in decades. You can absolutely picture Vonnegut nursing a drink while working his way through a pack of his beloved Pall Malls. My only complaint is that there's not a single reference to him in the place. Obviously it's not something the regulars care too much about, but for people stopping in after a trip to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library it might be a disappointment.
 
Photos by moi.

4 comments:

Meg @ write meg! said...

How cool! I live visiting literary places, and this would be a neat one. How funny that they dubbed you a "real" customer. :) I wonder if they're aware of the Buzzfeed article? I'm sure they'd be quite amused by that!

Andi said...

Thanks for sharing this with us! Though it is kind of a bummer that they don't even nod to Vonnegut. Bah!

bibliophilica said...

Thanks for posting this. I need to log a visit too since - even though I knew of this bar and its literary significance, AND I live in the Indy area - I STILL haven't paid my respects... what a loser I am :-)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Meg - I would be so surprised if they had seen that article!

Andi - I know, it's definitely not a tourist trap : )

bibliophilica - I couldn't believe there was a Indy spot on the list and I hadn't seen it!