Review: Nicky Blaine’s Cocktail Lounge, Indianapolis, Indiana
- May 17, 2018 |
- By Larry Olmsted
The “Crossroads of America” is Indiana’s state motto, named for its geographically central location between the South, East and Midwest. But more specifically, the slogan refers to Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, the original crossroads of U.S. 31 and U.S. 40, which predate the Interstate Highway System. The famous roundabout encircling the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is still the city’s cultural and symbolic heart—and beneath the much-used brick rotary sits Nicky Blaine’s Cocktail Lounge.
Downtown Indy was largely empty when Nicky Blaine’s relocated to its current spot in 2004. But the area has enjoyed a massive renaissance ever since Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the NFL’s Colts, opened in 2008.
Today Downtown Indy is booming, with new hotels, the city’s best restaurants, a greatly expanded convention center, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. This makes Nicky Blaine’s a wildly popular spot to gather after games, concerts and dinners.
After entering the low-key front door you descend a flight of stairs and step into a subterranean cigar wonderland. The space is huge, with room after room filled with comfortably worn leather couches and easy chairs, like a never-ending living room or man cave. There are more than 50 full-sized couches, flanked by marble-topped, wooden cocktail tables adorned with heavy cut crystal ashtrays. At over 10,000 square feet, it is one of the largest venues of its kind in the country.
When special events are going on, from football and basketball games to the Indy 500, they have a private VIP back room and entrance that has been used by everyone from Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to cigar lover and television star Tom Selleck.
There is a mini cigar shop and a “to-go” humidor near the foot of the entrance for quick purchases. But the main humidor for sitting patrons is a much larger walk-in with custom-made Spanish cedar shelving and doors from an old estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Inside is a display collection of Montecristo Historical Series humidors, functional recreations of the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. There are also around 100 different cigars offered, including brands like Davidoff, Fuente Fuente OpusX Lost City, Kristoff, Drew Estate and My Father. Guests can place an order from their cozy seats or tour the humidor with a staffer.
There’s also a glass-encased humidor just for flavored cigars, keeping them separate from the premium selection.
“We sell more cigars here than anyplace in the state, at least 15 boxes a week,” said owner Simon Robertson.
Indianapolis is a city famous for its auto racing and motorsport heritage. Robertson himself is a Porsche fanatic, collector and recreational vintage racer, so the bulk of the artwork and décor that is not cigar related revolves around racing and Porsches. There’s even a hood on one of the walls, and the Porsche-themed back room is dedicated to the famous Martini & Rossi racing team.
Thematically it’s a cigar and martini bar, but they also have a very extensive whiskey selection, with a focus on classic cocktails like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. There is also a full-service kitchen with casual comfort foods, including appetizer platters, charcuterie, egg rolls, crostini, and sandwiches. Food is served until 2 a.m.
Simon’s wife, Julianna, came up with the bar’s name after watching Casablanca, riffing on Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine character. The place has a bit of that familiar home-away-from-home watering hole magic that made the fictional Rick’s Café Américain so popular. In the movie, sooner or later, “everybody comes to Rick’s,” and in Indianapolis, the same is true for Nicky’s, whether it’s for a post-work drink, casual dinner or a final late-night stop.
Nicky Blaine’s Cocktail Lounge
20 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46024
Open Monday through Saturday: 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Sunday: 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.