Things You Must Do in the Month of May

This is the last weekend of the month, when there will be no track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Next weekend starts a flurry of activity, beginning with the GMR Grand Prix Friday and Saturday on the IMS road course. The following Tuesday (May 17) officially begins practice for the Indianapolis 500. Practice will run all week, leading up to Fast Friday on May 20 and then Qualifying weekend on Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22. Race Weekend begins with Carb Day on Friday May 27, followed by an abbreviated Legends Day on Saturday leading up to Race Day of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday May 29.

While some are fortunate to live in the Indianapolis area during the Month of May, many of us will be traveling in May. Susan and I are lucky enough to live only four and a half hours away from IMS, so we are close enough to drive every weekend. Others travel across the country (or halfway around the globe) and are only able to come for Race Weekend.

Whether you will be driving all three weekends like us, or flying cross-country for a long Memorial Day Weekend, there are many things you will want to do to entertain yourself, when you are not sitting in the stands of IMS. Last month, I came across this video that was uploaded in mid-April. It describes one person’s view of what you should make sure you do. It is entitled the 5 Must Places When Coming to the Indy 500; 2022. Whoever did the video says five things, but he really lists six.

It’s not a bad list, really. But I would change a few things. Keep in mind, these lists are generational. What appealed to me in my twenties, probably repulses me in my sixties. Also, everyone is different. What has always appealed to me my entire life, may have always sounded like something to avoid your entire life. To each, his or her own.

The video’s Top-Six and my thoughts:

The IMS Museum: I could not agree more. If you are coming to town for more than just a three-day drunk, you need to check out the IMS Museum. Granted, it’s not as cheap as it used to be, but what is? Around 2010, admission was $3.00. Now it’s $15.00. Still, it’s worth it. There are many winning cars, as well as others. The Marmon Wasp, the Fuel Injection Special, the Novi, the Blue Crown Special, the Boyle Maserati and the Belond Special are all in there. All four of AJ Foyt’s winning cars are in the collection and may or may not be on display at the same time. I’m also anxious to see this year’s main exhibit Roadsters 2 Records – 12 years that revolutionized the Indy 500; 1960-1972.

Speedway Indoor Karting: While it’s a little pricey, the two tracks at SIK are a blast. It’s been a few yars since I’ve done it, but you used to have to buy a one-year license on your first time. That added to your overall cost. But you can do the road course, which is tough – or the oval, which is surprisingly exhausting. The last time I was there, we did both. After doing the road course first, I tackled the oval. I was on the track for six minutes, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But after about three minutes, I was beginning to think their clock was broken. By the time the full six minutes were up, I was physically drained. Six minutes is a long time to constantly fight the wheel and deal with g-forces, when you’re old, out of shape and not used to it. When I pulled off my helmet and head sock, my head with drenched. I probably didn’t make it sound very fun, but trust me – it is.

Charlie Brown’s Pancake & Steakhouse: Breakfast at Charlie Brown’s is a rite of passage in May. We usually have breakfast at Charlie Brown’s at least once each May, sometimes twice. The breakfast is really very good, but folks don’t go for the food – they go for the atmosphere. As the video says, AJ Foyt frequents Charlie Brown’s during May, but we’ve never seen him there. But we have seen current IndyCar drivers in there (James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens in May of 2018), as well as drivers from long ago. You would also be hard-pressed to find a better IndyCar memorabilia collection in such a small space. Be prepared to wait in May, but it’s worth it.

Mug-n-Bun: The video mentions the delicious tenderloins at Mug-n-Bun. That is not why we go to Mug-n-Bun. To me, the food there is very mediocre, They have good Coney Dogs and Corn Dogs, and that’s about it. The burgers are very ordinary and the tenderloins are not even tenderloins – they are fritters, ground up and processed pork. If you are not from the Midwest and you wanted to sample a good breaded pork tenderloin sandwich at Mug-n-Bun – you’d never have another one. They are perfectly round, like a Frisbee; their breading has no seasoning and it is really quite plain and boring.

Why would I keep Mug-n-Bun on my list? The root beer. Mug-n-Bun makes their own root beer. It has a very unique after-taste (in a good way). When you go – do yourself a favor, and ask for it in a frosted glass mug. It doesn’t cost any extra and it makes all the difference in the world. I’m getting thirsty for it just thinking about it.

There are two places on the list in the video that I would remove as a must do, but for different reasons.

McGilvery’s Pub & Eatery: I’ve been to McGilvery’s once and I doubt that I’ll go back. Hard-core fans know McGilvery’s as where Don Kay’s Autosport Radio Show originated from. I was told to go there for their tenderloins. While the tenderloin was big, I didn’t care for the cornmeal type breading, versus the beer batter of some others. I also found the breading to lack seasoning and the tenderloin was dry. My biggest complaint, however, was that this place seemed to be one of the few places on the planet where smoking was still permitted. I couldn’t breathe while eating, and our clothes made everything smell for the rest of our weekend. There is nothing like opening your luggage when you get back home, and getting overpowered by stale cigarette smoke still lingering in your clothes.

Grilliant Foods: I’ve really heard excellent things about Grilliant Foods, but I’ve never been. The only reason why I would not make it a race weekend destination is that it is the only place listed not located in Speedway, and is a pretty good distance from the track.

What would I replace those two places with?

Long’s Bakery: There is a reason why the late Robin Miller loved Long’s Donuts so much. There is noting like them. They are as light as a Krispy Kream donut, but they have a unique snap to the texture when you bite into them. Long’s Bakery is just a couple of miles east of the track, just off of 16th Street. They have every kind of donut and bakery item imaginable, but I prefer the plain glazed donuts as well as their apple fritters. We usually go on the Sunday morning after the Grand Prix and/or the Monday morning after the race. There will be a line, but t moves quickly. Be prepared, they only take cash. No checks and no credit or debit cards.

Dawson’s on Main: Longtime readers of this site will not be surprised at this. We have been going to Dawson’s on a regular basis for well over a decade. We like it so much, Susan and I even had our wedding reception there, for the small group of people that attended our wedding at IMS in 2012 (our ten-year wedding anniversary is coming up on Wednesday May 18).

There are so many things we like about Dawson’s. First, they have a varied menu. You can get a sandwich, burger or a gourmet pizza as well as a nice pasta selection; while you can also have delicious steaks, seafood and prime rib (on weekends only). They have what I consider an excellent tenderloin. They pound it just enough where it extends beyond the bun, but it is still very thick and juicy. The breading is very crunchy, but not greasy at all. They serve it with lettuce, tomato and onion, with a spicy mayonnaise on the side along with fries. When I’m not eating a tenderloin, I usually get the prime rib on weekends. I also like the Steak Susan, which is twin filets with a very good cabernet sauce. Try the French Onion soup too.

Aside from the food, we really like the atmosphere. It is very fun and not pretentious at all. You want to see racing celebrities? The night before Qualifying in 2014, we ate at the table beside Simon Pagenaud, his then-girlfriend Haley Mc and Pagenaud’s parents. A couple of years later, we sat next to Doug Boles and his wife. We saw Al Unser, Jr. and his mother eating lunch there one day and we’ve seen several complete teams (Panther and ECR) eating dinner there on weekends. It is a low-key no frills atmosphere and I cannot say enough good things about it. Susan likes trying other places for variety-sake, but if it were up to me, I would eat every meal while in Indianapolis at Dawson’s.

You can make reservations, but without them – be prepared to wait. But last year, they told us it would be forty-five minutes and it ended up being about ten.

What are your Must Do places during the Month of May. Do you agree with the video’s six places? Do you prefer mine? Do you have six places that are completely different?. Share your favorites with the group, before things get serious next weekend.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “Things You Must Do in the Month of May”

  1. Rick Johnson Says:

    George, a very good list…I agree with most of your comments. I’d add three things to my list:
    – The Indy Racing Experience two-seater ride. Not inexpensive, but quite a thrill. They do run in May when the track is not otherwise in use, including the day after the race, though they might already be fully booked by now.
    – Workingman’s Friend Tavern – I didn’t like their smashed burger the first time I had one, but have grown to love it.
    – The Memorabilia Show the day before the race, though I wish it was still at IMS.

  2. I just did a very similar post for my blog. I am fortunate enough to be spending quite a few days in Indy this year so I hope to try some new places. Many on Facebook suggested Workingman’s Friend Tavern and also The Checkered Flag.

    • Rick Johnson Says:

      For anyone considering Workingman’s Friend Tavern, they are usually closed Friday through Monday of 500 race weekend, so you’ll need to go Thursday or earlier prior to the race, or Tuesday or later after the race. But I’d check their Facebook page for any up-to-date information on their hours. And when they are open, it is usually just for lunches. I’m going by memory…so do check before you go. It’s an interesting place in a very blue-collar neighborhood, with clientele that ranges from blue-collar workers, to race fans, to IMS track employees, and people from downtown in suits…and one of Robin Miller’s favorite places Quite a mix of people.

  3. Mark Wick Says:

    The model cars shown in the video at Charlie Browns reminded me of another place many people from around the world used to include in their must go to places when going to the the 500, Webers Hobby Shop in Lafayette. For many years both store windows featured displays of 1/25th scale plastic models of 500 cars, many scratch built and greatly detailed. The display also included a model of the original pagoda. For a number of years, many of my models were included in the display. I wrote a story and took photos about the models for the 1978 Carl Hungness Indianapolis 500 yearbook. The article is on pages 168-170, and includes a photo of the model -pagoda. That store later moved and is probably closed by now, but it is still part of 500 history.

  4. Maurice Kessler Says:

    Take a half day trip to the Village of Zionsville. Your wife will love shopping at the quaint shops. Less than a mile away is Tom Carnegie’s grave site (Carl Kenagy). The chicken wings at the Friendly tavern are excellent and well worth the trip. Also less than a mile away, you can view the construction of the ’Rahal family’s new corporate office. It is going to a huge facility & they are also looking to add more Rahal business in the same immediate area. Another recommendation is the Stookey’s Restsurant in Thorntown,IN just up I/65 about 25-30 miles from the track. Their steak & catfish dinners are great & their onion rings are to die for . Don’t Forget the Crown Hill cemetery about 4 miles from the track. You can pick up a 2 page pamphlet at the cemetery of racing greats.
    of buried racing heros from Cannonball Baker to Bob Jenkins at the cemetery. While there you can also visit the graves of two Vice Presidents, a famous poet, and the criminal John Dillinger.

  5. except for Karting, we have done your list, but at various
    times and never in May. we went due to work, so the
    company paid our way (per diem), yes, even the
    back-in-the-day $3 museum ticket. it is all good.
    was then, and we would recommend them now.

  6. Mug N Bun Drive In is famous for being famous. Instead, call in an order to Mug N Bun Pizza, which is a separate business with a separate menu and a confusingly similar name. It’s carry out only. The menu includes decent pizza, but also superb pressure-fried bone-in chicken and house-cut potato wedges. The pork chop dinners are even better. Tell Kay that “pork chop John” sent you!

    • Rick Johnson Says:

      Pork chop John, thanks for the recommendation for Mug N Bun Pizza. Though I’ve been to Mug N Bun many times, I’ve never been to Mug N Bun Pizza and will have to give it a try.

      Thanks also for your excellent book, “Indy Split.” A very good read.

  7. Yannick Says:

    With F1’s Miami GP on this weekend, do you see any chance that IndyCar might become a part of this event package with a Saturday afternoon race after the end of F1 qualifying? I guess McLaren would be all for it because it could create a crossover for some fans if the racing is good. And it wouldn’t even be a first because IndyCar has got the Saturday slot at the Brickyard 400 road course event now for a few times already.

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