The Indy Burger Guy visited the Sinking Ship on Sunday, March 12, 2017.
There’s something phenomenally refreshing about The Sinking Ship in the SoBro (South Broad Ripple, natch) neighborhood in Indianapolis. While many bars in the area cater to the college party crowd or follow a more ‘sports bar’ motif, The Sinking Ship aspires to be something wholly other, which this reviewer certainly appreciates.
Walking into The Sinking Ship, you’ll notice this bar is miles away from the sports bar college party that exists just a few miles north. The walls are adorned with murals, the flatscreens are all playing odd movies (or displaying the current tap list), and the staff are all bearded, tattooed, or both. This is a bar made by rockers for rockers.
The menu also distinguishes itself from traditional ‘bar food’ with vegan options or substitutions on basic menu items. As someone with vegan family members (my mother, who prefers the term ‘plant-based’ to ‘vegan’), I know how difficult it can be to find dining options out and about – especially in the meat-and-potatoes Midwest. The fact that a bar is willing to cater to those of different dietary restrictions is absolutely commendable – and I’m sure something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the years to come.
At any rate – the burger! For my first trip to The Sinking Ship, I opted for the basic Damn Burger – so named, I suppose, for the first word out of the mouths of most of the people who taste it! It is, indeed, a tasty burger – far tastier than I had been expecting when I first walked it!
All told, the Damn Burger is a pretty basic cheeseburger, topped with a choice of cheese (I opted for American, of course), leaf lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles, served on a soft, flour-dusted bun. When I asked my waitress about the bun, she made a special trip back to the kitchen to inform me that, rather than being housemade like I’d suspected, the bun was in fact from Gonnella up in Chicago (we in Indy might recognize them as the makers of the exquisite french loaves that are spiced and buttered at Yats).
The beef on the burger was front and center, as it should be! It was wonderfully seasoned – almost like a steak – and cooked to a perfect medium! It was juicy enough that I didn’t really miss the sauce element here either (usually provided by mayo, but occasionally by barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, and even the runny yolk of a fried egg from time to time). Though the meat was incredibly juicy, the bun stood up well until the final bites, where there was some ‘late-game bleed-through’ but it wasn’t enough of a problem to inhibit my ability to eat the burger in the least.
In honesty, this is a next-level burger – very tasty, made with care by people who know what good food is supposed to taste like, and comprised of some of the freshest ingredients available. This is a burger I can certainly see myself returning for – it’s that good!
Really – the only black spot on this burger’s facade is the fact that the cheese wasn’t melted when it came to the table. This is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, sure, but it’s not that terribly difficult a thing to do and it definitely elevates the overall burger experience.
As a side, I opted for the house-made waffle chips, which were seasoned with an addictive ‘salt-and-vinegar’ seasoning. I’m normally not one for salt and vinegar chips, but these were so out-of-this-world unbelievable, that I may go out of my way to find a bag somewhere to see if I haven’t been missing something all this time. (I suspect it’s just the great people back in the kitchen at The Sinking Ship rather than S&V chips in general, but I’m willing to be proven wrong.)
The waitstaff was also incredibly friendly! My server was kind enough to answer and all questions that I put to her – and I feel like I had a ton! – with a smile and good humor.
All told, the Damn Burger is a definite stand-out amongst all the burgers I’ve had so far this year! In fact, I’d be willing to go so far as to call it the best burger of 2017 so far! The balance of flavors and the amazing freshness help put this burger among the best I’ve tried here in Indy. Now, to get my mother to join me there sometime to try out their housemade black bean burger…
FINAL RANKING: 9.0/10
The Sinking Ship
4923 N College Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46205
Cost Range: $$ ($7-$12)*
* The exception is the Mestizo Sunrise, which runs $13.