Mug ‘N’ Bun Drive-In

Review by: Michael Stern

We thank 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 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 is glorious in a non-artisanal way: 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. Onion rings are something special: battered thick, crisp and sweet.

As for burgers, all sorts are available: 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. They are not oozy gourmet hamburgers. They are drive-in exemplars – deliriously greasy, too thin to come in varying degrees of doneness. That’s why doubles and even triples make perfect sense.

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. 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.

What To Eat

root beer



Super Burger


Mug ‘N’ Bun Drive-In Recipes


What do you think of Mug ‘N’ Bun Drive-In?

One Response to “Mug ‘N’ Bun Drive-In”

Mark Passerrello

June 12th, 2010

We made a trip to Indy for spring break, and as I always do now, consulted this website beforehand. Our first stop was the Mug ‘N’ Bun. It was a cold day so we did not have a chance to experience car-hop service, it was just too brisk. But we did like the new indoor eating space that the management has created, which is decorated with tin advertising signs and sort of retro-vintage knick knacks.

The ordering set up is quaint and low tech: after studying the extensive menu, we gave or order to a server, who called by phone over to the restaurant, which is in a separate structure. Not long after a car hop comes bounding across the parking lot with out food in an insulated carrier, the kind that pizza delivery drivers use. Service was quick and all our food arrived hot.

The signature root beer was good, if a bit sweet. I have a real sweet tooth, so saying that means something. It had a dark rich taste, a low level of carbonation. My daughter order a vanilla milkshake which she did not like, so my wife and I ended up finishing it for her. It was a very thick shake, obviously freshly made and very good. My daughter said it tasted “funny” which I didn’t get at all, I think she just doesn’t know what real vanilla ice cream tastes like!

Top of the list as far as the food we had was my wife’s order: fried tenderloin sandwich and onion rings. Two very good items, worth the drive in our opinion. The sandwich is a breaded tenderloin, crunchy outside, tender within, super flavor and texture. The taste is pure enough to not need ketchup or mustard, in my opinion, but tomato and onion slices are good compliments. The onion rings we think are made to order and are just the flat out best example of rings we have come across. Massive, with real substatial slices of onion, which provides great flavor and “tooth”. Many onion rings can be onion flavored batter, these are way better!

The Mug “N” Bun provides burgers on buns or toast, and a bacon double cheeseburgers on toast is one of their specialties. Mine was a well cooked burger topped with American slices and plenty of bacon. My kids ordered corndog nuggets and chicken wings, which both came with fries. The fries and nuggets seemed like standard issue frozen products, but still tasty since they were basically served right out of the frier. The wings were very good, meaty and juicey with with a batter that was crisp with out overpowering the chicken. My son didn’t care for them-he said the batter had too much pepper in it, but my tongue says this is not so! I feel both my kids objected to menu items here that were not what they expected rather that any real judgment about quality.

There were some very interesting dessert choices, but it was too cold for ice cream and we were just too stuffed to try some of the other items, like apple pie nuggets. Or were they listed as funnel cake sticks? I ate my own burger, 1/3 of my wife’s tenderloin sandwich and most of my son’s wings, so I got more than my quota!

We plan on coming back each time we are in Indianapolis!


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