To know me is to know I love the 1920s. I majored in English literature in college, with a specialty in F. Scott Fitzgerald, so you could say I (literally) majored in partying like Gatsby.
A passion for all things Roaring Twenties inevitably leads to an interest in the great gangsters of the era, and anyone who has met me will tell you I can spend hours waxing about John Dillinger, Al Capone, Whitey Bulger, and their entire ilk.
Case in point: I once visited Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary for the sole purpose of taking a photo of Capone’s cell [below].
Growing up in the Indianapolis area, though, Dillinger was always of particular interest to me.
He was born in the Circle City, and his final resting place is nearby, as well. In fact, my great-grandfather is buried not far from “Public Enemy No. 1” in Crown Hill Cemetery. Dillinger’s connection to Indianapolis means that there are plenty of hidden spots he loved to visit dotted around town — you just have to know where to look.
And, if you happen to look in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood, you’ll find Indy’s coolest new hotspot where Dillinger, Lester “Baby Face” Nelson, and all of their Dillinger Gang compadres actually loved to hang out.
The Vault is absolutely everything a speakeasy should be, from the bank vault door — yes, there’s a code and, yes, it changes — to the original floors where Dillinger really walked. One of my favorite features? A hatch in the floorboards that leads to a basement tunnel where Dillinger Gang members once escaped from authorities.
If you’ve ever watched Midnight In Paris, you’re bound to experience a “Gil Pender moment” the second you walk through the doors and hear Cole Porter music wafting through the space. I half expected to see a young Ernest Hemingway nursing a whiskey in a velvet chair in the corner.
Then, there’s the bar itself, a vintage carved wood situation I would give my left kidney to have in my house.
The establishment’s current owner shared with me that the piece was sourced from Chicago, where a former gangster who spent time at The Vault’s location in its heyday went legitimate as a bar owner in the Windy City.
The vibe is immaculate, and the food and drinks are equally good.
On my recent visit, the bartenders were slinging amazing Old Fashioneds, Whiskey Sours, and Jack and Cokes — this is a whiskey and bourbon bar, after all.
We also enjoyed a charcuterie platter that you won’t regret ordering when you visit. It’s the perfect complement to the vintage cocktails you’ll undoubtedly be inspired to drink all night long.
My recommendation? Order “The Prohibition” — you pick the spirit and The Vault’s mixologist picks the drink.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the little things that make the vibe pop at Indy’s newest speakeasy.
The devil really is in the details. I think Dillinger himself would agree.
Two of my favorites were a framed replica newspaper from the day the iconic gangster was killed by FBI agents in Chicago [above] and a 1924 medical prescription for whiskey hanging in the bathroom hallway [below].
If you’ve ever wanted to take a literal step back in time, you might just want to move into The Vault. As long as the light outside is turned on, bartenders are slinging drinks and a party worthy of a bygone era is in full swing.
You know where to find me.
More on The Vault Indianapolis
Visit The Vault’s official Instagram page for more details, and a hint for the current vault code. The bar’s description reads:
The Vault Indy is a speakeasy in the Bates-Hendrick’s neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. This bar will specialize in classic cocktails, bourbons, and local food pairings. This location is where some of the Midwest’s most notorious bank robbers would hideout. The space has been remodeled and decorated to celebrate speakeasies in the 20’s & 30’s.
To gain entry you must have the code for the vault door! Good luck & we hope to see you soon.
Have you ever been to a speakeasy-themed bar? Tell me your favorite vintage spot in the comments!
The Vault is located at 1542 South East Street, Indianapolis, IN, USA.
P.S. As always, I love to hear from you on Instagram, @_rebekahbarton.