A Diller, a Dollar, a Visit to The Thirsty Scholar


The Thirsty Scholar is located in the Penn Arts building in the near-northside Herron Morton neighborhood.

When The Thirsty Scholar first opened at the corner of 16th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, I assumed it was a bar. I was only partly correct. It’s actually a coffee, beer and wine bar.

Tuesday through Friday, The Thirsty Scholar opens at 8:00 a.m. It’s a little too late for the typical rush hour crowd, but early enough for mothers to meet after dropping kids off at school or for business folks looking for a quiet place to hold a casual meeting over coffee. From the House Blend coffee (described on the menu as containing cocoa, caramel and subtle fruit notes) to latte and machiatto to a handful a flavors of tea, fans of coffee and tea will be happy to know that the breakfast beverage offerings take up a full page of The Thirsty Scholar’s menu.

I usually frequent the restaurant in the evenings when I am coming or going to pick up my daughter from theater rehearsal. The staff is always friendly, never sighing or rolling their eyes when I pull out a book or my laptop (yeah for free WIFI!) indicating I will be staying for a bit. The food menu is somewhat limited, but what the Thirsty Scholar does serve, they serve very well. My two favorite menu items are the Spiked Olives and the shared plate Cheese and Meat Tray with Baguette.

The Thirsty Scholar's small menu includes Spiked Olives and Cheese and Meat Tray.

The Thirsty Scholar’s small menu includes Spiked Olives and Cheese and Meat Tray.

If you are an olive lover (and how can you not be?), the Spiked Olives are a must. I found the $3 price tag very reasonable for the generous serving of olives dressed with a bit of oil (olive, of course), spices and lemon.

Please note the “shared plate” phrase that identifies the Cheese and Meat Tray. Either bring a friend, come very hungry or bring your own to-go box, as the only carryout dish available when I was there last was a paper coffee cup with lid. The selection of cheeses and meats may change by the day. The last time I was there, the tray included capiccola, salami, brie and some kind of a hard cheese that I couldn’t name, but could definitely eat. The tray is filled out by a sliced baguette and fresh fruit.

The crowd at the Thirsty Scholar varies by time of day. In addition to the previously mentioned mothers meet-ups and business appointments, mornings often turn up high school teachers and the occasional student taking advantage of the quiet to finish up homework that didn’t get done the night before.

Evenings at “the Scholar” are dotted by many of the residents who live in the Penn Arts building where The Thirsty Scholar is located, or by people on their way into or out of downtown Indianapolis after a long work day.  Open until 1:00 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and midnight on Sunday, it’s a great location to enjoy a local beer on tap — the offerings include brews from Sun King, Fountain Square and Indiana City Brewing Companies. If wine is more your style, choose from nearly three dozen selections available by either glass or bottle or both.

A small iron gate separates the bar from the common seating at The Thirsty Scholar.

A small iron gate separates the bar from the common seating at The Thirsty Scholar.

Aside from the food and drink, the Thirsty Scholar is an inviting space. It is mall enough to be considered “cozy,” but large enough to accommodate more than several patrons at a time. There is even the requisite outdoor seating that surely makes for interesting people watching, especially on the first Friday of each month when the nearby City Gallery hosts a monthly arts open house.

Parking for the Thirsty Scholar is available behind the building from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Guests arriving after 6:00 p.m. must find parking on the street or run the very real risk of being towed.