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#1
Posted October 30th 2006, 9:51pm
After lunch at Workingman’s Friend I decided to have dinner at another classic Indianapolis tavern, John’s Famous Stew. John’s is a bit older than Workingman’s, in business since 1911. You have to love a place that’s survived nearly a century selling stew.
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Like Workingman’s Friend, John’s is located a mile or two west of downtown in a mostly industrial neighborhood (between Eli Lilly and the General Motors plant).
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The interior is dim and cozy with lots of sturdy wooden tables and a few booths. I chose to eat at the bar.
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What are you going to do on your first visit to John’s Famous Stew, order an elkburger? Actually that was an option but I didn’t consider it more than a second or two. The menu has some intriguing entries including a tenderloin served on “stew bread.” Maybe next visit.
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An order of hot it was. This is one terrific stew, spicy but not overpowering, with large chunks of cabbage, potato, carrot, and beef. I never had a stew quite like it but would gladly eat it frequently.
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Even though I’d had a gutbusting meal at Workingman’s Friend a few hours before, I finished every bit of that stew. Then a real problem presented itself: homemade blackberry cobbler was available.
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My compromise was to get the cobbler but without ice cream. This was a very good dessert, with intense berry flavor but not too sweet. The bill for stew and bread, a beer, and dessert was under $10 with tax, an astonishing deal. I hope John’s continues to serve stew for another hundred years.

John’s Famous Stew
1146 Kentucky Av
Indianapolis IN
317-636-6212
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#2
Posted October 31st 2006, 8:36am
Well, I bet I speak for a lot of people, but how the hell do you find these places!

And I, for one, fer sure, am glad you've taking to roaming!

To the stewmobile! :)
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#3
Posted October 31st 2006, 11:10am
Vital Information wrote:Well, I bet I speak for a lot of people, but how the hell do you find these places!

And I, for one, fer sure, am glad you've taking to roaming!

To the stewmobile! :)


Well, I can't answer for Workingman's Friend, but John's Stew was a candidate for the Indianapolathon and got some mention in that thread. That said, I've never been there, so kudos to ReneG for actually getting there first and reporting back that, indeed, it warrants the visit.
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#4
Posted October 31st 2006, 10:13pm
I must have seen John’s mentioned in the Indianapolathon thread but it failed to register. As with Workingman’s Friend, I found references to John’s elsewhere on the internet. Just before leaving I reread LTHForum and was surprised to come across John’s.

As for other internet sources, this site (JiLS linked to it earlier) is quite useful. A very different site is this Guide to Bars, Taverns, Dives, and Strip Joints of Indianapolis. It seems to have a lot of information you won’t find elsewhere, including a mention of Workingman’s Friend (not to mention a seemingly comprehensive section on strip clubs).
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#5
Posted October 31st 2006, 10:56pm
Rene G wrote:Even though I’d had a gutbusting meal at Workingman’s Friend a few hours before, I finished every bit of that stew.

Impressive, but, tell me, how did you walk out of there after the cobbler?
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#6
Posted November 1st 2006, 8:25pm
I grew up in West Indianapolis and my dad worked at the Chevrolet Plant. Many times he would stop and bring home take out Macedonian hot stew. I don't know if it was this place. My rememberence was it on West Washington Street.
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#7
Posted November 9th 2006, 8:03pm
Davydd wrote:I grew up in West Indianapolis and my dad worked at the Chevrolet Plant. Many times he would stop and bring home take out Macedonian hot stew. I don't know if it was this place. My rememberence was it on West Washington Street.

If you read the history of John's on the menu picture I posted, you'll see it used to be at 535 W Washington so it may well be the place your father went to (or were there competing Macedonian stew parlors?). Davy, I think you might especially appreciated their "stew tenderloin" (below).

Earlier in this thread I wrote:The menu has some intriguing entries including a tenderloin served on “stew bread.” Maybe next visit.

I tried to order a tenderloin sandwich on stew bread and was served a gigantic breaded tenderloin covered with hot stew, no bread to be seen. This was actually a blessing because I had more than enough to eat as it was. Definitely a good plate of food but to be honest I think I'd prefer the tenderloin and stew separately. That stew is really something special, I can't wait for another bowl.

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#8
Posted November 9th 2006, 9:00pm
I may have to add this to my pork tenderloin pursuit list for next May. :D
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#9
Posted November 13th 2006, 11:28am
I also hear good things about the
stew at the Mousetrap Bar and Grill
(5565 N Keystone Ave). I'm not
sure if it is "John's Famous" stew,
or made in-house, though.

I used to go there for their
Cajun Night; incredibly good
gumbo and étouffée. They
discontinued Cajun Night some
years back - and I haven't been
back since. But I've been told
that it is slated to return with
all the old recipes. So I'll be
returning as well.
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#10
Posted November 30th 2006, 12:28am
Josephine wrote:Impressive, but, tell me, how did you walk out of there after the cobbler?

If you look carefully at the "before" and "after" pictures of the stew, you'll see I left half a swallow of beer and a large crumb of bread. I have remarkable restraint, truly remarkable.

Davydd wrote:I may have to add this to my pork tenderloin pursuit list for next May.

I'd say this dish has your name written all over it! I suspect there are better tenderloins to be had in Indy but I find it hard to believe there's better stew.

SCUBAchef wrote:I also hear good things about the stew at the Mousetrap Bar and Grill (5565 N Keystone Ave). I'm not sure if it is "John's Famous" stew, or made in-house, though.

I'm quickly getting the idea that Indianapolis takes its stew seriously. I also noticed Jumbo's in the City Market seems to specialize in stew. Do you know any more about the connection between John's and Mousetrap? I'm confused. If you Google stew indianapolis you get an entry for John's Hot Stew at 5565 N Keystone. Whatever the story, it sounds like a fine bar.

Time for a stew update. I stopped at John's today and had the Hot Minced Pit, a bowl of hot stew with butter beans and hot peppers. The beans were a nice addition but I wasn't crazy about the pickled hot peppers (not bad just unnecessary). I think simple is best at John's; it's tough to improve on the hot stew.

Hot Minced Pit
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#11
Posted June 25th 2007, 9:59am
ReneG,

Thanks for pointing out John's [Famous/Hot] Stew[s] [note, bracketed terms reflect variations I noted in the phone listing, menu graphics, signage, etc.]. Business took me to Indy last week. My parents lived there for 5-6 years in the 90's, but I never knew.

I also went to Shapiro's, which I had not tried since setting my taste for deli by Langer's, Katz's, and Manny's. Very solid deli, great meats -- though like Langer's the non-meat Jewish items could be better (soup, chopped liver, eg). Bread is unique. Love the crust, and biased thick cut. Could use a little less Wonderbread squish on the inside, but hey, this is Indiana. On the other hand, the Indy cafeteria stuff, esp. pies, greens and mac n' cheese looked spectacular. I don't think one can overstate how very much like Manny's Shapiro's is in it's setup.

But John's Stew is just a cool place that captures Indianapolis. It's American Gothic, Friday night after work version. A bowl of hot with a Miller Lite and some conversation with the salty old barmaid was a great way to end my trip.
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#12
Posted February 3rd 2012, 6:32pm
John’s Famous Stew

now online

http://indysfamousstew.com/
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#13
Posted February 3rd 2012, 8:24pm
jazzman wrote:John’s Famous Stew

now online

http://indysfamousstew.com/

The website has been up for a least a couple years, complete with two of my photos, used without permission or acknowledgment. They should've at least offered me a free bowl of stew.
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#14
Posted February 3rd 2012, 9:02pm
Rene G wrote:The website has been up for a least a couple years, complete with two of my photos, used without permission or acknowledgment. They should've at least offered me a free bowl of stew.


You should ask!
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#15
Posted April 6th 2012, 5:54pm
A picture of John's stew-tenderloin can be found above but I never posted one of their tenderloin sandwich ("fresh cut and hand-breaded"). I'm not sure it's always served on two buns like this but I found the presentation different and amusing.

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It's a very good version but honestly I think I'd like it even more if it wasn't pounded so thin.

John’s Famous Stew
1146 Kentucky Av
Indianapolis IN
317-636-6212
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#16
Posted May 24th 2012, 12:53am
Had the stew (medium) yesterday for lunch. Very good. Also enjoyed a peach cobbler and a nice chat with Phoebe. Worth checking out.
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#17
Posted June 18th 2014, 11:14pm
If you happen to be eating at john's famous stew on a friday, or 2nd/4th saturday, don't miss this which is right across the street... Gotta love indy.

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#18
Posted June 19th 2014, 8:08am
I finally got to John's Famous Stew to take in both the tenderloin and the stew. Since I was with a high school friend of 50+ years seeking pork tenderloins and the stew, we split an order of each. They cut our tenderloin in half and you can see that cut in this photo.

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The stew was the stew I remember and coincidentally was also the stew my dad made at home as I am sure he was copying it. I still make that stew in a Dutch oven while camping. Now I know its history and am happy that all these years I have not suffered in stewdom.

That was my neighborhood. My friend's neighborhood was Haughville and the Working Man's Friend. We went there last year. His grandmother owned the coal yard that was right up the street. My grandfather owned a huge used lumber yard in West Indianapolis near John's Famous Stew. My father worked his whole career at the Chevrolet Manufacturing Plant on White River Parkway that is now abandoned.

Another place to go is the Gas Light Inn not too far from John's Stew at 2280 South Meridian Street. The name may sound upscale but it is another neighborhood type bar/grill like John's and Working Man's. They may very well have the best tenderloin in Indianapolis.

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