Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mug n Bun

Hubby and I ended up at Mug n Bun the other day because frankly, we were trying to go somewhere else and it was out of business.  I knew Mug n Bun was nearby and it had been on the list for awhile (admittedly the part of the list I often just ignore a lot of the time).  It was my first time, and I didn’t realize this is a true drive-in still.  They have picnic tables and in your car service.  There is also a little building they have added next door, but literally, they make the food at the drive-in and carry it across the parking lot.  Luckily it was a decent day, so we sat out at the picnic tables.  Neither hubby nor I are particularly keen on eating in the car.
So I have read a lot of positive things about this place, and I appreciate the fact that this place is a kind of a legend and it has been around forever, but let’s face it, they are serving pretty much everything straight from the freezer.  I even asked, and was told by our server that the only things made in house are the onion rings, the root beer and the chili sauce for the dogs.  So why would you drive across town for a frozen tenderloin you could get a million places?  That’s my question.
Anyway, we got the root beer ($1.50) and the onion rings ($2.90) because they are the specialty and made there.  Hubby ordered the tenderloin (everyone else seemed to be ordering it around us) ($3.60) and I got the special burger ($3.30).  I did enjoy the root beer. I haven’t had a root beer in probably 20 something years and it tasted good. Served in a frosty mug with no ice, I can appreciate the appeal of something like this.  The order of onion rings was huge! So glad we just got one to share and not the “family size” hubby was contemplating.  I can’t even imagine how big that would have been.  So the rings were battered in a tempura-type batter and, while they weren’t bad, I can’t say they really wowed me either.  The batter was a little too doughy and there was a bit too much of it.  And honestly, they could have stood to have been a little warmer.  I can see how if they were done perfectly, they could be very good. Too bad they weren’t.  I also wonder about the huge list of other fried side items they have on the menu and why they can’t make some of them freshly as well.  They had mushrooms and zucchini among other things and I bet they could taste pretty good fried in that same batter.
So the tenderloin was one of those kinds that you just know is pre-made and frozen even without the server telling you so because it is so uniformly round.  It was fine. As in, not bad for basically a fast food tenderloin.  But when I recently heard of someone from out of town wanting to base their tenderloin experience on a Mug n Bun sandwich, I pleaded with them to try a different one.  There are so many great ones, and this is not the one to experience a tenderloin for the first time (speaking of which, where would you tell someone who has never had one to go?).
My special burger was a burger patty with cheese and bacon served on toast.  Sounded good to me, and again, it was fine, in a fast food kind of way.  What can I say about it?  It was your basic burger--the bacon was pretty good.   If I had to choose between the two, though, I would say hubby’s tenderloin was probably better. But honestly, neither stood out for anything.
So I can see how this place could be fun in the summer sitting outside—even though the place is a little  run down honestly.   It is more about an old school atmosphere I think than it is about the food.  I should say there were quite a few people there, even in the not so warm weather.  And I guess if you lived nearby, and wanted fast food type food, at least it is locally owned.  And our server was very very friendly.  But I find it sad that the place has basically turned into a restaurant that just takes stuff out of a bag and fries it.  I bet once, when it first opened, everything was made fresh, and I bet it was tasty. 
Mug n Bun
5211 West 10th
Indy 46224

Mug-n-Bun Drive-in on Urbanspoon


  1. For a first time tenderloin, I'd go to The Local Eatery and Pub. I believe a tenderloin should be pan fried, not deep fried. And I believe theirs is pan fried. If not, it convinced me.

  2. It's not the food. It's the experience. Next time go in a 1959 Cadillac convertible or on an old Harley shovelhead. It changes everything. lol

  3. Erin,

    I appreciate the honesty in your reviews and you are correct on this one. Along with tasting experience as Jeff said, they are mainly enjoying the taste of memories of years gone by, often many, many years gone by. Often the best ______ that a person can remember having is based solely on the who, what and where events of that specific day many moons ago.

  4. My husband and I ate in the "annex" a few weeks ago and there was a crew from England there who were in town doing a documentary about the track. We wanted to take them aside and apologize for the fact that Mug n Bun is on the list of tourist stops that people must experience when they visit Speedway for the first time. The food is so disappointing! A far better example of drive-in style dining is Edwards in Beech Grove. Even the root beer is far superior to that at Mug n Bun. I'm not a big fan of the tenderloin at Edwards either. I prefer the tenderloin to be a little thicker than the thinly pounded cracker that is offered at the drive-in but, at least, it is house made! I feel sorry for all the first time visitors who take away the Mug n Bun experience thinking that this is the best that Indy has to offer!

  5. My (current) favorite breaded tenderloin in town is served at the Chatham Tap in Fishers. Their menu, in general, is pretty solid and thoughtful - maybe not quite to "gastropub" level, but it is a step or two above the normal. Grindstone Charley's actually puts out a decent on... Dooley Otooles in Carmel... I know many people who swear by the one at the Pawn Shop off Keystone.

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention the local blog 'all tenderloins, all the time'

  6. The reason Mug n Bun doesn't make a lot of their food "in house" is because they use a local food service distributer named McFarling Foods. McFarling delivers a lot of the pre-made "drive-in" type food not only to Mug, but to Edwards, Working Man's Friend and many restaurants you probably dine in here in Indy (you would be surprised). So, not sure why you would think Edwards' food was any better than Mug? This type of food is popular in Indy for nostalgic reasons and because we real Hoosiers like to have a good gut buster every now and then.

    On another note, the best tenderloins in the city are from Bourbon Street and GG's (@71st and Binford) aptly named "The Big Pig" won't find better breaded tenderloins than those here in Indy.

    Picture of the tenderloin being prepared at Edwards.

  8. I was really disappointed with this place. I had heard so much about the tenderloin I thought it was going to be really special. It's really no different than Culver's...not bad but definitely frozen.

  9. I'm actually surprised you didn't mention the sweetness of the root beer. I am definitely a root beer drinker, so when I was at the Mug n Bun, I was slightly taken aback at how much sweeter their root beer is than other places. Not undrinkable, but one mug was definitely enough for me.
    Happy to say I can now cross this one off my Indy list; the setting/atmosphere was fun, but the food wasn't anything special.

  10. Long time reader, first time commenter. I agree their food is nothing special. It's more for a nostalgia thing for me. Every year, on the day we got out of school for the summer (which was always a half day), my mom would take us to Mug-n-Bun to kick off the summer. We really only went once or twice a year since the food is not exactly healthy. The reason I go back today, is not for the food, but for the malts. They make outstanding malts (we always ask for double-malt). Delicious.

  11. I have a couple spots for tenderloins that I would recommend.
    One is Sahms on 65th- the actual tenderloin is really good. Thicker, not pounded quite so thin and juicy. However as a sandwich I do not enjoy the bun it is served on. Too soft for me. I just pull the tenderloin off and eat it in pieces. Also, I doubt anyone would expect this but Kincaid's in Carmel has an awesome tenderloin on the lunch menu. Some people may take issue with it because it isnt massive- it is an appropriate serving for lunch. The breading is very tasty and moist and it comes with a chipotle sauce that really isnt spicy, just flavor. Good combo.

  12. Tom McCollister - Indianapolis

    I've only been to Mug N Bun a couple of times, but it's great food! A great place to stop when you're in the area and worth a special trip now and then.

    Tom McCollister
    Keller Williams

  13. Agreed that the food is nothing special. but for what it is it's not terrible. i really enjoy the root beer, but i believe the atmosphere and nostalgic feel is the big draw here.

  14. NPR's Sandwich Monday did a review of Bourbon Street Distillery's tenderloin a few weeks ago. I've never had BSD's version, but it looked okay in the pictures.

  15. Hey everyone, thanks for all your comments. I appreciate the dialogue and the suggestions for tenderloins.

    I wanted to respond to you particularly though AJ, really, "we real Hoosiers like to have a good gut buster every now and then?" Not sure I agree that this is what should define a "real Hoosier..." Also, if I am going to partake in a "gut buster," I would like it to be something worthy of busting my gut, and this food wasn't it.

  16. Went to Mug-n-Bun yesterday for the first time with a friend who grew up in Indy. I ordered a cheeseburger ($2.40), she ordered a corn dog ($2-ish), we split an order of onion rings ($3-ish), and we both got root beer (not on the menu I could see, but the whole meal was $14-ish). The onion rings and the root beer were OBVIOUSLY the best parts of the meal, which was good because those are what I had pinned my expectations on. I expected the burger to be of the purchased frozen variety (and it was) but it was still acceptable. I can't speak for Rachael's corn dog but she seemed to like it.

    We contemplated aloud getting a family-size order of onion rings to split and the waitress said, "No, the regular will be big enough for you to share." This was solid advice. Our order was hot and delicious, although they cooled fast and I could see how it could be easy to get one that was already lukewarm. I thought the breading was good—flavorful and crispy—and in the right amount.

    I got a medium root beer (24 oz.) and Rachael got a large (32 oz.). She told me that she and her grandmother would come when she was younger and buy ½-gallon or gallon jugs of it to make floats at home. She described the flavor as caramel-y with a hint of vanilla and she was right. Yes it was very sweet but I really enjoyed it. I am a sucker for in-house root beer and this didn't disappoint. I think if I mixed it with high quality vanilla ice cream my eyes might roll back in my head with pleasure.

    I didn't grow up here nor did I have a childhood experience anywhere else with a drive-in restaurant (although I did eat at one a few years ago in New Jersey, almost identical to this place), so nostalgia isn't a draw. I went in with reasonable expectations and had a good experience. It was fun indulging in the car with a friend and that certainly added to the memory.



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Thanks, Erin