Do you ever just want a good bite to eat, relatively fast, and relatively cheap? Maybe you’re the type of person who doesn’t want elaborate culinary plating, you just want delicious. 

A recent night out with colleagues highlighted this type of person perfectly. When our server took our drink orders, a high-falutin sales guy started. He ordered an Old Fashioned, explaining that every bar has a different take on the drink—some sweet, others smoky, etc. He added, “But the really important thing is to have a single ball of ice, not cubes.” 

The waitress smiled politely and said she’d check, though it wasn’t the most hoity-toity place. The next guy? He ordered a Coors Light. When the Old Fashioned connoisseur gave him a startled glance, he shrugged and shot him a sheepish grin.

“I’m just a dude,” he said.

At the risk of sounding uncultured, there has to be room in a food scene for “just dudes,” the kind of people who want no-frills and aren’t bothered by the presentation of a dish or a restaurant’s atmosphere.

If you ask me, three joints in Indy fit this bill perfectly. 

Gil Tacos: A Hidden Gem

My first visit to Gil Tacos came at the recommendation of a friend, Jackie, a restaurant maven in her own right. She described it as a “hidden gem” on the west side. 

At lunch hour, though, the place was standing-room only, so I ordered to-go. Back at my office, I warned Jackie that the secret was out on her favorite lunch haunt. Then, I carried my chorizo taco salad and mango-flavored coconut milk to a picnic table to dig in. The portion size was phenomenal, and hand to heaven, my mouth is watering as I type this. It was that good. I’ll certainly be back.

The Patio: Unadorned Excellence

Next on my list, is The Patio. If “unadorned” were a restaurant, it’d be this. A quick bite is consistently tasty, hot, and made to order, though, so it’s been a mainstay for me for years. I nabbed an Italian Sausage with all the fix-ins and some piping hot french fries. It was as satisfying as the first time.

The Workingman’s Friend: A Century of Flavor

But the greatest treat came in my visit to The Workingman’s Friend, a blue-collar pub and lunch spot. The place has been around for over 100 years, so they must be doing something right. And I found out that was the understatement of the month. It’s 21+ and cash-only, so caveat emptor, but as the waitress assured me, “I promise it’s worth it.”

With its glass block bar, neon lights, and old (out of use) cigarette dispenser, the decor is quirky and classic Americana. I chose the double-cheeseburger, a fan favorite. Not only was the hot-off-the-griddle burger the perfect blend of savory and salty, I had the privilege of chatting with Becky Stamatkin, the third-generation owner of The Workingman’s Friend. She’s owned the place since 2008 but has worked there since 14-years-old. 

“I worked in the kitchen, dressing the hamburger buns,” she said, before quickly adding: “If the shitter needed plunged, I’d plunge the shitter. I did a little of everything.” 

The secret to her restaurant’s staying power? 

“Keeping everything the same,” she explained. “Don’t buy the cheap stuff. Keep everything consistent.” 

I can’t argue with the results, and the place was filled with patrons munching on salami on rye or the Big John Special. A few at the bar sipped from the aptly named “goldfish bowls,” 32-ounce goblets filled with Budweiser. And those patrons are regulars, Stamatkin assured me. 

”I see the same people twice a week,” she said. “I’ve been seeing these people for 40 years.”

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