The Indy Burger Guy visited Mug-N-Bun on Sunday, September 25, 2016.
When I think of Mug-N-Bun, I instantly conjure memories of my childhood. My father worked very close to my elementary school growing up and, about a few times a year, he’d come and pick me up from school during lunch time and take me out. We’d go to all sorts of places – Noble Roman’s, Buffalo Wild Wings – but occasionally, we’d go to Mug-N-Bun. We’d each get a foot-long chili cheese dog with fries and tall frosted mugs of their housemade root beer.
My father actually used to work at Mug-N-Bun as a teenager, mixing the root beer back in the late ’60s. The diner has been an Indianapolis institution for almost 60 years, having opened its doors in 1960. While much has changed in that time – including the addition of an indoor dining room next door – Mug-N-Bun remains one of Indianapolis’ go-to food destinations. Being in Speedway, it’s a must-eat place during the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard and was even name-checked by Jimmy Fallon when he was in town for the Super Bowl a few years back.
As for me, it’s been at least twenty years since I last visited Mug-N-Bun with my dad, so my most recent visit was a trip down memory lane, to be certain. I’d also never had the burger before, so I figured it was high time I did. It being a fairly hot day for late September (I mean, it’s officially autumn and it’s over 80 degrees Fahrenheit- c’mon, Midwest, get it together!), I opted to sit in the indoor eatery which I had never tried before. It had a large modern-style jukebox in the back and several tables laid out. The walls were covered with vintage-style metal advertising signs selling everything from Twinkies to Reese’s cups to Coca-Cola. Management has certainly done their best to capture the look and feel of the old-style ’50s diner.
After clarifying that the patties were relatively thin (I’ll be honest, I was expecting smashed patties, but got thin patties instead – n0t the same thing), I ordered a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and length-sliced pickles.* The food is all made in the main building – the one with the drive-in attached to it, which does increase the wait time a bit…
…but it’s worth the wait. The burger was thicker than I expected it to be, largely due to the inclusion of a piece of white bread which served as a ‘middle bun’ of sorts. This proved a boon for the structural support of the burger, but drastically threw off the MTB ratio of the burger. Another strike to the MTB came with the toppings, which were added sparingly at best – a small leaf of iceberg lettuce, a single slice of tomato, one or two rings of red onion, and two thin pickle slices.
The bun itself was nothing at all special – a white bread bun (to match the white bread slice that composed the superfluous ‘middle bun’) which proved largely unequal to the task of withstanding the grease of the burger. Burger integrity, people – it can make or break a burger!
The beef was well-cooked and well-seasoned, super juicy and very flavorful. The American cheese slices that adorned the burger were not fully melted, though, which did cause for a bit of a loss – not that the magical merging of beef and cheese would be fully possible with the ‘middle bun’ in place. All things considered, this is a decent burger, but nothing over-the-top special enough to write home about.
The real star of the meal were the accoutrements – Mug-N-Bun’s batter-dipped onion rings and housemade root beer! The onion rings were super crispy and crunchy on the outside, while the onions inside are warm and juicy. Most importantly, though – they hold together without the onion slurping out and forcing you to eat the batter by itself! (To my mind, this is *the* quintessential quality of an onion ring!) The portion sizes are made for sharing – I attempted to power through the entirety of the bag, but proved unequal to the task. Be sure to bring a friend to help you out! The root beer is some of the best I’ve tasted and just as I remembered it from my own childhood! I gotta tell you, there’s not much that tastes as good as nostalgia does!
The burgers may not be the best in Indy, but there’s plenty to love about Mug-N-Bun! If you’ve never been, please make it a point to check out this Indianapolis landmark on the city’s west side!
FINAL RANKING: 7.6/10
5211 W. 10th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46224
Cost Range: $ ($6 and under)
*There is an upcharge for each individual topping. The burgers normally come plain – beef, bread, and cheese.