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Retro diners around Indianapolis, IN

“Everything’s copacetic” in the Circle City thanks to its many retro diners.

Exterior shot of Sanitary Diner

You can find the Sanitary Diner at 99 Cruse St.

Photo by INDYtoday team

Table of Contents

Put on your peepers and warm up the chariot because with one newly opened vintage eatery, one up for lease, and one up for sale, we’re gabbing all about Indy’s retro diners. Ya dig?

The Sanitary Diner

You might not have ever noticed the “lunch car” style diner that is sitting quietly on the edge of the Holy Cross neighborhood, but back in January 2022 we reached out to our loyal Instagram followers about its status. The general consensus was that The Sanitary Diner was once owned by Angie’s List as an employee-only diner.

Well, now it could be yours. It’s now for lease and we’re digging its floor plan. Check out the brochure from commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

What’s a “lunch car?”

The modular chrome “lunch car” became popular in the early 20th century but it actually started out as a “lunch wagon” back in the 19th century, when street carts would wheel around selling snacks to workers. Its polished look and iconic tiled floors can be credited to manufacturer Patrick Tierney. You don’t see many of them around Indy anymore — The Sanitary Diner is the one of the only ones left standing. What’s today’s version? Well that would have to be a food truck, if you ask us.

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Get your fix

Now that we’ve primed your taste buds for a vintage dining experience, might we suggest trying out The Knuckle Sandwich? If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it used to have a location off State Road 144 and State Road 37, but it was demolished as part of I-69 construction. The new location in Bargersville opened earlier this month.

Plus, you can’t go wrong with this list of central Indiana classics:

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t share some love for the recently closed Edward’s Drive-In.

Okay, we can’t leave you without addressing the elephant in the room: what’s up with the name “Sanitary Diner?” Like we said last year, the decision to call it that was meant to advertise its cleanliness back in the 1930s, when tuberculosis was still prevalent.

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