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Mug 'N' Bun Drive-In

5211 W. 10th St., Indianapolis, IN - (317) 244-5669
Posted By Michael Stern on 6/11/2011 3:10:00 PM
We doff our hats to Erik Baade for pointing us to the work of writer Dale Lawrence, who has written so eloquently about Mug ‘N’ Bun, a 1960-vintage drive-in restaurant on the west side of Indianapolis near the Speedway. Dale's story about the place, which appeared in the city magazine (www.nuvo.net/news/archive/000923.html) Nuvo proclaimed the root beer to be “legitimately creamy, yes, but also smoky, carrying hints of vanilla fudge and molasses, as rich and smooth as a dessert wine.” In other words, not like your average soda pop!

It truly is delicious root beer, dark and full of character, served in thick frosty mugs and in sizes that include small, large, giant, quart, half-gallon and gallon. As for the other half of the equation, the bun, what goes in that can be a hamburger, a hot dog, or a tenderloin (grilled or breaded and deep fried). The tenderloin is a big one, if not the juiciest in town; but we were especially fond of the double cheeseburger that more than filled out its bun as well as Coney dogs heaped with fine-grind chili. Also, the onion rings are something special: battered thick, crisp and sweet.

There are no inside tables at Mug ‘N’ Bun. Dine either in your car or at an outdoor picnic table, (where heat lamps provide comfort in chilly weather). In the car, blink your lights for service and the food will be presented on trays to hang on the window. Each picnic table is outfitted with a buzzer next to the menu. When you’ve decided what you want, hit it and a car hop will appear at the table to take your order almost instantly.

Update, June, 2011: Because I was heading up to Huntington the next day, I decided to save my tenderloin appetite for Nick's and further explore the Mug N Bun burger menu. There are many choices: singles, doubles and triples, the Mug N Bun special (with bacon and cheese), grilled burgers (the same hamburger, but served on toast rather than a bun), and the Super Burger, which is two patties, cheese and bacon, served triple-decker style: bun halves on top and bottom, slice of toast separating the two patties.

These are not oozy gourmet hamburgers. They are drive-in exemplars – deliriously, deliciously greasy, too thin to come in varying degrees of doneness. That's why doubles and even triples make perfect sense.

The root beer is indeed glorious in a non-artisanal way: dark, sweet and spicy, served in a frosted mug.

While car-hop service is available (blink your lights), I much prefer sitting at a picnic table where, having perused the menu, you press the buzzer to summon a waitress. Our girl, Heather, came to the table and sat down alongside us to discuss the meal in as much detail as would a loquacious waiter in an overpriced gastropub. At Mug N Bun, the top-of-the-line Super Burger costs $4.20 and the breaded tenderloin is $3.60.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
root beer
tenderloin
Super Burger
Onion Rings
cheeseburger
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

'What does this remind you of?' Brian Daley asked. I answered, 'The 1950s.' It is a good example of tailfin-era excess, but in this case with a pair of burgers, cheese, bacon, all sorts of condiments, a burger bun and a slice of bread in the middle that makes a single sandwich into a crazy tower.
"'What does this remind you of?' Brian Daley asked. I answered, 'The 1950s.' It is a good example of tailfin-era excess, but in this case with a pair of burgers, cheese, bacon, all sorts of condiments, a burger bun and a slice of bread in the middle that makes a single sandwich into a crazy tower."
Michael Stern





The restaurant's namesake meal: in the foreground, a bun filled with a breaded pork tenderloin; in the background, a mug of root beer. Way in back, you can see a car hop attending customers in their car.
"The restaurant's namesake meal: in the foreground, a bun filled with a breaded pork tenderloin; in the background, a mug of root beer. Way in back, you can see a car hop attending customers in their car."
Michael Stern


Waitress heather consults with our friend Brian Daley, an instigator of the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour and publisher at Popular Plates.
"Waitress heather consults with our friend Brian Daley, an instigator of the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour and publisher at Popular Plates."
Michael Stern


I must admit we're a little spoiled... and fortunate... having Mug n'Bun right here in our little town of Speedway, Indiana.  We live just over a mile away from this icon, and we do our best throughout the year to keep them in business.  Nothing better than a Mug n'Bun tenderloin, onion rings, and frosty root beer to satisfy the desires of one's stomach!
"I must admit we're a little spoiled... and fortunate... having Mug n'Bun right here in our little town of Speedway, Indiana. We live just over a mile away from this icon, and we do our best throughout the year to keep them in business. Nothing better than a Mug n'Bun tenderloin, onion rings, and frosty root beer to satisfy the desires of one's stomach!"
Pat Bremer


Excellent onion rings!
"Excellent onion rings!"
Michael Stern


Mug 'n Bun makes all kinds of cheeseburgers, including this satisfying double, fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion.
"Mug 'n Bun makes all kinds of cheeseburgers, including this satisfying double, fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion."
Cliff Strutz


Mug 'n Bun is my kind of place.
"Mug 'n Bun is my kind of place."
Jeff Pelurie


Delicious and hot.  I went out of my way to stop at Mug 'n Bun and it was worth it!
"Delicious and hot. I went out of my way to stop at Mug 'n Bun and it was worth it! "
Jeff Pelurie


In the car, you blink your lights to summon help. At a picnic table, hit this buzzer.
"In the car, you blink your lights to summon help. At a picnic table, hit this buzzer."
Michael Stern


That 36-year anniversary was celebrated six years ago. Mug 'N' Bun is now over 40.
"That 36-year anniversary was celebrated six years ago. Mug 'N' Bun is now over 40."
Michael Stern


Remember: the polite drive-in customer uses a quick flash of the lights, not a blast of the horn, to request service.
"Remember: the polite drive-in customer uses a quick flash of the lights, not a blast of the horn, to request service. "
Michael Stern


Mug 'N' Bun actually started as the Frost Top drive-in in 1942. Its recipe for root beer supposedly took Morris May, the original owner, two years to develop.
"Mug 'N' Bun actually started as the Frost Top drive-in in 1942. Its recipe for root beer supposedly took Morris May, the original owner, two years to develop."
Michael Stern


No way I could drive anywhere near Indiana and not stop at the Mug 'n Bun.
"No way I could drive anywhere near Indiana and not stop at the Mug 'n Bun."
Jeff Pelurie


The small size comes in a frosty mug. They still make their own root beer! Sooo good on an 80F April day.
"The small size comes in a frosty mug. They still make their own root beer! Sooo good on an 80F April day."
Brittany L


It isn't only the icy mug that makes this root beer special. It really has a taste of its own.
"It isn't only the icy mug that makes this root beer special. It really has a taste of its own."
Michael Stern



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