DINING: Thirsty Scholar schools 16th Street on cafe culture

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Dining - A&E

Clearly, the educated minds behind the Thirsty Scholar (111 E. 16th St., 602-3357) have done their share of trying to impress professors.

ae-apb-dining-thirtyscholar01-15col.jpg The menu at Thirsty Scholar is geared toward grazers. Above, the Cheese & Meat Tray. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Just read the menu, which devotes fewer words to food than it does to celebrating a place designed for “the camaraderie of gathering or the self-exploration of solitude.”

Even when it can’t get its pronouns and nouns to agree (“…they are the composer of their own symphony”), Thirsty Scholar demonstrates a flair for the florid. Housed in the Penn Arts building, the drinkery embraces the feel of its surrounding structure, from its iron railing to its marble tabletops and sculpted busts. Drive down 16th Street in the evening and the big front windows seem like movie screens showing a retro-cool film. It certainly beats the McDonald’s/CVC combo down the block.

The focus inside, beyond atmosphere, is on coffee, beer and wine. Scholars who are hungry rather than thirsty should find more satisfaction elsewhere, since you won’t find an operating kitchen here or even a grill.

But those looking to graze while debating the merits of Fitzgerald vs. Hemingway, should be satisfied. There’s some decision making required for those opting for Chips & Dip ($3) with variables in both halves of the snack equation. For the former, there’s Sea Salt, Sour Cream & Onion, Funky Fusion and more. For the latter, Honey Mustard, Thirsty Scholar Mustard Sauce and others are offered

Guacamole ($7) provides a dense, house-made scoop of dark green goodness, slightly spicy and sans tomato. Better is the house-made sauce that accompanies the Veggies & Green Goddess (steep at $10). The Cheese & Meat Tray ($10) varies daily. The day we were there, it offered a nice variety of thin slices for the carnivores and thicker wedges for the rest, all ideally parked on Amelia’s bread. The only downside for me was a hot chocolate served barely lukewarm.

Early-early to late hours make this a great place to stop when too soon for a meeting or needing some wind-down after a busy night. Free parking during the day around back makes it a comfortable stop if you find yourself with downtime between mid-day appointments. Cupcakes from 111 Cakery (also in the Penn Arts Building), Best Chocolate in Town chocolates and an assortment of cookies are available in the $2-$3 range if you feel guilty taking up restaurant space while finishing office work on your laptop. Or regretting the fool you made of yourself earlier in the evening.•

—Lou Harry


Fourth in a month-long series of just-out-of-downtown dining reviews.


  • Scholarly Venture
    My first "Star of the Game" goes to Lou Harry and his companion IBJ staff; so enjoyable getting the news and sidebars such as this in unique, even off-the-wall at times, manners. Equally as satisfying to my palette is learning more about the Thirsty Scholar,(and all other new ventures Mr. Harry shares with us,) in that my brother began as a yard boy at a well-known restaurant and worked his way up to manager and years later was able to become the owner. I love success stories in the realm of small business! Therefore I shall visit this place in hopes of aiding there venture in a less than busy location. Am hopeful more of our public works to support locally owned independent businesses...truly amazing $$$ benefits to local community with only 10% of money spent in national chain businesses "shifted" to buying local.
  • Regarding grammar
    I will try to post this on to our resident retired Congressman, grammarian par excellence, Andy Jacobs Jr. His pet peeve: Everyone has their own....etc etc etc. My pet peeve, people who take criticism "laying down" --especially television reporters who have no concept of "lay/lie" or who redundantly voice teaser promos asking you to stay tuned to find out "the reason why."Not to mention people or or suicides who "hung" themselves. (Only a plastic surgeon might feasibly accomplish that.)
  • Peace, Love, & Thanks!
    Mr. Lou Harry, Knowing of your admirable honesty, we are pleased that you had a mostly positive experience in our new establishment :) We have been working hard to get the "startup" kinks out, including addressing the need for sound dampening that AlanB expressed. We're also considering lunch sandwich options and the addition of some cushioned seating. Most importantly though, we are having fun and happy to be such a welcomed gathering place in Downtown Indianapolis! Peace & Love, Thirsty Scholar PS - The next time you are in, there is a truly HOT hot chocolate waiting for you. On the house, of course. PPS - Thank you for the grammar correction. It seems that even a "Thirsty Scholar" needs schooling from time to time.
  • Below its potential
    Nice atmosphere with somewhat uncomfortable seating and unbearably loud when busy because no soft surfaces to absorb sound. Spotty and indifferent service both times I've been. Pretty blah food options. Should be much better.

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