Take a left at the front door, past the dumpster, look for the sign.
The Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis is known as the “hip” part of town, a hub of bars, restaurants and clubs that feeds off of the energy and youth of nearby Butler University. And just like any college-adjacent neighborhood, actual college students mix with hipsters who wish they were still in school across everything from independent retailers to stuffy chains.
And while the clientele at Alley Cat Lounge draws all comers, the bar is anything but gentrified hipster bait. Like any good dive, the sign outside says it all, with the name of the bar inscribed under a shrieking black cat on a nicely yellowing plastic sign. That sign hangs above an alley-side main door at the end of a mural-adorned wall that looks exactly as you hope it would.
The door beneath that glorious sign opens up into a small but larger-than-it-seems interior broken up into a handful of rooms that alternate between exposed brick and exposed cinder block. The alley-adjacent room could be affectionately referred to as the “divey” portion of the bar, with Christmas lights draped along the wall year-round to give the space a nice, electric glow. A zig zag horseshoe-resembling bar encircles the bar area, providing ample opportunity for awkward glances with strangers.
The front room, conveniently referred to as “The Front Room” is where the interior decorating budget was exhausted, with a nicely lit, still cinder block-laden space perfect for luring your dive bar-hating friends before abandoning them for the back room. A pool room lives behind the Christmas lights in back, abandoning the exposed stone look for classic wood paneling, nicely divided among sets of pool tables to, this case, avoid awkward glances with strangers.
And the food, alley entrance be damned, is better-than-dive-bar good, making the Alley Cat a perfect place to really streamline a night of drinking by laying a food foundation and pouring some alcohol on top all in the same place. Yelp reviews showcase the food, but there’s no surprise here that most of the pictures feature glamor shots of drinks. They’re simple, strong and affordable, the dive bar trifecta.
In the end, that’s a great term for Alley Cat Lounge itself, a dive bar trifecta of atmosphere, affordability and diversity that offers a little bit of everything, drawing in the varied kind of crowd that makes a place like Alley Cat an alluring place to drink. And eat. And then drink again.