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The Rathskeller: Bavarian flair in Downtown Indianapolis

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Everyone needs a vacation now and then, but not everyone can afford to jet off to another country every weekend. For those without the padded pocketbook, Indianapolis' Rathskeller is a great place to "get away from it all." Located in the historic Athenaeum Building in the heart of the Mass. Ave. district in Downtown Indianapolis, The Rathskeller offers a bit of German culture and food to those looking to relax and enjoy good music, good food (and drink), and good friends.


In the basement of The Athenaeum Building lays the Bavarian Rathskeller. While one can dine under candles and moose heads with fresh linens, you may also find refuge in the Beirgarten under the stars with live music four to five nights a week.


The Rathskeller has the ability to bring in a varied crowd with different bands each night, but it's mostly frequented by people in their twenties and thirties, though children are allowed in the outdoor Beirgarten until approximately 9 p.m. If you want a seat in the Beirgarten you must arrive early. There are tables available, but when the weather is nice and the band for the evening is popular, the later you arrive the less room there will be to move around - much less to sit down. Word to the wise: ladies, do not wear heels. I know they may be cuter than your Old Navy flip flops, but the Beirgarten is all gravel and those heels will sink right in, making the chance of falling likely, especially after a beer or two.


The open-air beirgarten, with plenty of picnic tables and a large stage, is a great place to hear local and regional bands throughout the summer and early fall. Bands play Wednesday through Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. Sundays are usually quiet, though there is the occasional festival or family day held in the beirgarten.


The lunch and dinner menu is quite varied. From soup and salad to steak, there is something for every taste bud, including the German one. Come prepared to eat because there are no small meals at The Rathskeller. The Kellerbar menu consists of the appetizers from the dinner menu. The only thing longer than the menu is the separate drink menu. With 51 wines and 68 different German and UK ales, lagers and ciders to chose from (including the standard American brews) there is something for every palate.

Not quite up to par on your German to ask for a certain food or beverage? Have no fear! You aren't the only one - and that's why you tip your server. The servers and bartenders at The Rathskeller are all very good at figuring out what you are trying to say, and if you don't know the difference between a Liefmans Frambozenbier and a Dinkle Acker they are there for you.


Prices range from a $3 appetizer to a $28 steak for dinner. The lunch menu is much more reasonably priced, with the average cost for one meal falling between $6 and $10. They don't print the price of beer and wine on the menu for a reason. I paid $6.50 for a 16 oz. German beer on tap and $8 for a Belgian bottled beer.


The Rathskeller was established in 1894 as the Athenaeum Restaurant. Today it is the city's oldest restaurant still in operation. The historic Atheneum building where The Rathskeller is located served as a cultural center for many years, and still houses the critically acclaimed American Cabaret Theatre, a YMCA and a number of offices.