Let's Do Lunch: Workingman's Friend

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The double cheeseburger and fries are a popular choice at Workingman's Friend, which is celebrating 100 years of business. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

One of Indianapolis' oldest, most cherished lunch spots happens to be just a short drive west of the IUPUI campus.

Workingman's Friend is celebrating 100 years of grilling up savory hamburgers for hungry patrons of all ilk. White collar, blue collar, Jaguars -- they all pack this bar and grill for favorites like the double cheeseburger with a half bun in the middle or the Jumbo Burger. 

The hamburger patties have that crispy edge to them. They may be thinner than those at some newer burger spots, but few others have 100 years -- 100 years and 28 days, to be exact -- of know-how. Opened by 19-year-old Louis Stamatkin, a Macedonian immigrant, Workingman's Friend got its moniker for serving lunch to thousands of nearby railroad workers in the first half of the 20th century. The restaurant has stayed true to its roots by offering an affordable and substantial lunch Monday through Saturday.

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The fish sandwich with fries and tartar sauce is a good burger alternative at Workingman's Friend. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

Also on the menu

  • Cheeseburger -- $5 
  • Shrimp platter -- $6.95
  • Smoked sausage -- $5.75
  • Bowl of chili -- $4.50
  • Onion rings -- $3.50

For those who have a beef with beef, choices such as fish and chips, pork tenderloins, and grilled chicken sandwiches are also popular. Then there are items that might get overlooked in 2018 but fit the century-old establishment's roots: Salami on rye, braunschweiger and Balkan salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, feta cheese) get equal billing with American lunch standards of grilled cheese, hot ham sandwiches and chili.

A recent visit saw dozens of packed tables. While business is always steady, the local media attention during Workingman's Friend's 100th year has brought a boost. But the food is worth the wait. The atmosphere is as authentic as those burger patties. Old-time cigarette machines that haven't pumped out a pack of Pall Malls in decades, ancient Budweiser decorations and Formica tabletops that have served thousands help create a unique experience. With all of Indianapolis' new, sleek restaurants that open almost every day, Workingman's Friend gives a nod to yesteryear while proving that a good burger is timeless.

Workingman's Friend is a cash-only establishment, so hit the ATM before you go. Patrons must be 21 or older. 

Hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.

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Workingman's Friend customers sit at the bar during a recent lunch hour. The bar has seen decades of Miller Lites and cheeseburgers. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications