Whether you call them gentlemen's clubs, show clubs or strip clubs, there's a particular type of entertainment business that has had women shaking their moneymakers for men waving cash since men have had cash to wave. Which is pretty much forever.
These entertainment venues, like all forms of business, are constantly looking for ways to keep their customers interested and the wallets of those customers open. And while some stick to the basic bump-and-grind formula that seems to appeal mostly to men sitting alone in the dark, others are working to offer a more well-rounded club experience through upscale interiors, expanded menus and couple-themed specials.
For guys interested in this type of adult entertainment, as well as women willing to accompany the men or women in their lives (or visit on their own; or with friends), Indianapolis has plenty of options. And while some of the choices reinforce every sleazy stereotype, others are surprising for their level of swank and their comfortable vibe.
Always willing to gather first-hand experience in the name of journalistic due diligence, the NUVO editorial team set out on a recent Friday night to visit some of Indy's best adult clubs and see just how good the drinks, the food and the dancers really were. Our group of six hopped from the eastside to the west before heading back downtown again and was comprised of two men and four women, experienced strip-club goers and newbies alike.
Not surprisingly, the boys were fairly engrossed in their research: particularly the boobs. Meanwhile, the girls had a slightly more, shall we say, objective and comprehensive view. That's not to say the gals didn't admire the boobs as well, or that the males in our party weren't sampling the food and drink before heading stage-side with pockets full of ones to make it rain — all in the name of research, of course.
It's also not to say that we didn't engage in a lengthy debate about whether or not being a stripper was a demeaning and/or objectifying occupation for women. We did. And while alcohol most certainly served as the lubricant for our liberal guilt (and, perhaps, the gradual easing thereof), we agreed that each of these women should have the freedom to choose being a stripper, while acknowledging that few women choose to be strippers if they have other options to choose from.
From there, we raised our glasses and started ogling boobs and buffets.
Now sober, relying on notes written in dim lighting and a software program to recover the photos Charlie accidentally deleted around 4 a.m., we offer our take on four great nightlife options for adult-themed entertainment in Indianapolis.Want even more? Don't miss the slideshow of photos from our adventure.
BRAD'S BRASS FLAMINGO: BOOBS & BUFFETS
Drop in on a Friday evening and you're likely to find the place packed with a blue-collar crowd just finishing work and stopping by Brad's Brass Flamingo to enjoy a few beers, a free buffet and dozens of beautiful young women milling about wearing little more than g-strings. The Flamingo feels a little like Applebee's, but with strippers. Overall, a friendly place for regular Joes offering a decent menu and the best looking girls in any Indy showclub. Brad's is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. (Sundays open at noon); admission is free until 1p.m. Cover charge is $5 from 1-6 p.m., when it bumps to $6; Fridays and Saturdays, it'll bump up again to $7 after 9 p.m.
If your vision of show clubs stem from stereotypes, you are likely to be disappointed at the near banality of Brass Flamingo. On the other hand, if you are looking for a place that feels a lot more like a neighborhood sports pub, where Eastside regulars hang out after work to enjoy a few beers before getting home to the wife, you will feel right at home. Low ceilings, dim lights and the brick interior keep things cozy and pub-like. Big-screen TVs with multiple sports channels keep things lively, as do, of course, the skillful DJs and lots of friendly and naked young women. Who knows, a stranger might also give you two awesome tickets to a cage fighting match while you're sitting there as well. (Of course, if they do, try not to leave them behind on the table).
Among the six of us, we've been to some pretty gnarly strip clubs in our roughly 200 years combined experience. At some places in town – we won't name names – you walk in and it's pretty clear right away that it's a dancer's last stop, not their first. Here, it was precisely the opposite. Nearly 160 women dance at the Flamingo, and there seemed little dispute among our group that the 25 or so ladies working while we were there were the best-looking on our show club tour. The fact that these pretty young women offer lap dances for $10 certainly helps the popularity of the Flamingo, and is probably a big reason why the crowd was as packed as it was with happy-hour regulars. For a more extensive and personal experience, there's the obligatory VIP room.
Food & Drink
Helping to add to the friendliness of the Flamingo is the fact that you don't have to go broke to have a good time. There is a lot of beer being drunk here and a lot of nightly beer specials to aid in that process. Mixed drinks are reasonable. For those who want something to balance out the beer, help yourself to the free buffet from 4 – 6 p.m., Monday through Sunday, featuring unlimited tubs of food like meatballs, pork rib patties, chicken tenders and, ahem, sausage. Sundays also mean 25-cent wings all day long. On the Friday we went, the buffet featured heaping amounts of fried fish, fried potatoes and potato salad for you to fill up on.Unfortunately, that's it. But hey, it's free! And the potato salad is absolutely killer — man food non pareil, if we've ever tasted it. It was good enough to keep the boys' eyes on the plate for at least a few minutes, and at a place as packed with fit, long-limbed beauties as Brad's, that's saying a lot. Especially for one member of our group – again, let's not name names – who falls in love with strippers whenever he goes.
If fish or sausages aren't your thing (we're trying very hard not to insert the obvious and fairly crass jokes here – but, just so you know, it's taking every ounce of restraint we have), ask for the menu. The full-service kitchen is open from 11 am until 8 p.m. and has a reputation for good home-style cooking. At $5.25, the cocktails were a bit small, but that's fairly standard at a strip club. At $5.75, the beer canisters we had were definitely a bit salty, but cheaper, $4.75 bottles and the free food more than made up for it.
DANCERS SHOWCLUB: ANONIMITY AND EASE
Catering to a more nostalgic and Vegas vibe than other Indy showclubs, Dancers is decked out with Rat Pack memorabilia, swanky seating, ambient lighting and a seemingly endless supply of rotating dancers. Proximity to the former airport made Dancers popular with travelers and hotel guests, and there is an air of anonymity and emphasis on privacy that should make strangers feel welcome. That's not to say Dancers isn't perfect for that raucous bachelor party or first-time visit with your girlfriend. Friendly staff and great drinks, not to mention great lunch specials, make it a comfortable and affordable club for everyone. Dancers opens at 11 a.m., Monday - Saturday, at 3 p.m. on Sundays; the show stops at 3 a.m. Sunday - Thursday, 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Cover: $3 until 5 p.m.; $5 after; on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, admission bumps up again to $7.
For those looking to leave reality at the door and step into fantasy, Dancers has it covered. With a Vegas-inspired emphasis that's half Sinatra swank, half velvet Elvis, including plenty of plush (and private) seating, it's a gentlemen's club that caters to a more sedate and, perhaps, more discerning clientele.With its proximity to the former airport and US 40 address, the club has long been popular with those just passing through town or seeking anonymity. Lots of dark corners to get lost in here and for indulging your fantasies in style, including the "Good Fellas" VIP Lounge, replete with a poster of Jackie Gleason, a vine-wrapped ceiling and, of course, the obligatory Grecian nude fountain.
Several small round stages scattered throughout Dancers make it easy to see the ladies from any vantage point. And while there are some regular dancers, the club is popular with many out-of-town dancers and headliners.According to the management – which went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, and received across-the-board praise from the girls we interviewed – some 120 girls work the stages at Dancers, all of whom come and go as they please, no schedules. Which means chances are, you're going to get a variety, even if you're a regular. Don't miss the Amateur Night contests on the first Wednesday of every month at 10 p.m. – you could win $500, ladies!
Food & Drink
The headline here is the specials. Seriously. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., pick from any of six dishes, including pork tenderloin, fried fish and quarter-pound angus beef burgers, for a lunch price that's just about impossible to beat - just $1.25 with the $3-off coupon included with the cover. The kitchen's open 'til 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 1 a.m. on weekends - but don't fret; hungry club-goers with the late night munchies can still order pizza until close every day. For dinner, enjoy the decidedly upscale take on bar-and-grill food, from the standard wings and nachos to and char-grilled lemon pepper chicken; that handy $3-off coupon will knock the $11.50 rib eye and choice of two sides down to $8.50. Then there were the drinks: $3 cocktails and $4.50 bottled beers. Between the absurdly cheap eats and relatively cheap drinks, you don't have to wait around for a special. It makes Dancers the one of best bangs for the folded-and-tucked buck around.
CLUB RIO: VARIETY & VORACITY
There is not a lot of mystery about what's going on at Club Rio: the girls are here to make money and the guys are here to spend it. While some might find the lack of pretense unsettling, others will welcome the sexually-charged atmosphere and delight in the diversity of dancers. Unlike many other clubs that seem over-stocked in nicely-stacked and skinny, blonde 22-year olds, these young women come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, all of them appealing. Not exactly surprising given its proximity to 38th St. and Lafayette Rd., the epicenter of the most culturally diverse part of the city. Equal opportunity oglers welcome.
Satisfy multiple appetites by getting the $5 rib eye dinner special or anything else off of what is a surprisingly full bar menu that delivers delicious results. Open at noon, Mondays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. on Sundays. Cover: $4 before 7 p.m.; $7 after 7 p.m., Monday - Thursday, $8 Fridays and Saturdays. $4-off coupon available with cover all hours, every day of the week.
Make no mistake, this is a strip club. And that is the best thing about Club Rio — its complete lack of pretense, which can make you feel incredibly at ease or incredibly uncomfortable depending on your hang-ups. This club off W. 38th has undergone several transitions over the years, but its current incarnation is probably our favorite yet. It feels like a party here! The music is loud and so is the crowd, the drinks are strong, and of course that bouncer can kick your ass. What Rio lacks in swank, it makes up for in sexual energy and friendliness. Don't miss the exceedingly private and dark Jim Beam VIP room.
While all the clubs we visited were brimming with lovely ladies, we couldn't help but think the girls at Rio were our favorite. From the variety of shapes, sizes, colors and personalities, to the voracity with which they set out to entertain their paying customers, these ladies are literally working it. And they work it well.
Food & Drink
We're just going to go out on a limb here and say, if JR is in the kitchen cooking it — it's going to be good. While the menu might be fairly standard bar fare, everything we tried was delicious. A veggie quesadilla was cooked perfectly crisp and featured a good variety of cheese, peppers and onions, and the appetizer sampler had us acting like mannerless vultures.The real hit, however, was the $5 rib eye Special! With that $4-off coupon, $1 gets you the steak, salad, fries and texas toast — this was the best deal of the night and the best meal for the meat-eaters among us. Cocktails will run you between $5.75 to $7.75, without considering the daily drink specials. Sundays bring $10 domestic beer buckets, with $2.75 individual bottles and $3.75 for imported bottles ($5 domestic, $6 imported the rest of the week).
So, go on! Buy the stripper a drink! Like we said, she probably earned that and then some. And all you did was sit there with your jaw hanging open.
PT'S SHOWCLUB: UPSCALE URBAN
PT's offers a little something for everyone in what looks a lot more like a swanky lounge than strip club. Multiple stages, a great DJ and dancers who seem to have previously worked for Cirque du Soleil appeal to a diverse crowd that seems to skew slightly younger than many, and includes a lot of couples, seemingly at-ease in the club environment. Bringing in experienced help to overhaul the menu has upped the appeal, as well.
The club isn't always cheap, however, depending on your pleasure. Tossing or tucking ones is one thing. But if you wanna get closer, be prepared to spend a lot of cash before getting any one-on-one time with those beautiful girls. The club's various VIP lounges await those who can afford it: $450 bucks for an hour with a pretty girl, though lap dances and more standard privacy booths are cheaper.
Open 11 a.m. - 3 a.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. - 5 a.m., Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. - 3 a.m., Sunday. Cover: Monday - Thursday, $5 before 7 p.m., $8 after; Friday, $6 before 7 p.m., $11 until 3 a.m. $10 after 3 a.m.; Saturday, $5 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. $11 until 3 a.m. $10 after 3 a.m.; Sunday, $5.
A frequent favorite among voters for our yearly Best of Indy awards, PT's on the Eastside offers a fourth and distinctly different option for those looking to indulge their adult entertainment fantasies. A slightly younger, dare we say "hipper," crowd and vibe makes it feel more like an ultra lounge downtown, with all the good and bad that implies. Sleek and stylish? Check. The odd blinged-out douche bag showing off his cash wad? Check. A safe and relaxed place to observe and sip in style? Unequivocally, yes.
Perhaps the best thing about its sophisticated atmosphere is that you're likely to find as many male-female couples as single guys at PT's, if not lesbian couples and groups of gals hooting it up for bachelorette parties. If the VIP rooms are too pricey, there's lots of good seating on all sides of the stages in the main rooms as well.
It also had the best music selection of all the clubs we visited, by far! At one point in the night, a few among our group remarked, "Jeez, do strip clubs all have the same soundtrack? It's like they put 'Pussy Control,' by Prince, 'Pumps in the Bump,' by MC Hammer, and 'Girls, girls, girls,' by Motley Crüe on repeat. Wouldn't it be awesome if they played, you know, some Zeppelin or something?"
About twenty minutes later, on roared the Zeppelin, accompanying the single most acrobatic pole performance any of us had ever seen.
PT's was the last stop of the night, and it has to be said, it was going to take something special to break through the fatigue at that point. Not just from the drinking but from the, shall we say, overexposure.
Done and done. The girls were gorgeous, which we expected, given PT's reputation. But they were oh, so much more. While we use the term "dancers" to describe what takes place on stage and on and off the pole in all the clubs, the ladies at PT's certainly earn the title for their professional, if not acrobatic, skills. Nadia Comaneci had nothing on one of the girls, in particular. More than once our entire group let out a collective gasp before someone said, "Holy Crap! How is she doing that?"
As at Dancers, PT's has amateur night contests, every third Thursday, when talented dancers can score $500 for exceptional pole prowess.
Food & Drink
There's something new going on in the kitchen over at PT's, and we like it! Tony Ziko and his father Joe, who recently ran a successful pizzeria, have just taken over and are now offering a full menu (including breakfast) throughout the day. We tried Tony's calzones, both vegetarian and meat (the menu had several vegetarian options – another testament to PT's broad appeal), and were blown away by the goodness. A soft and fluffy dough, the same as you'll get on your handmade pizza, was the highlight.
Then there's the breakfast, served whenever PT's is open, which is all night on Fridays and Saturdays, when the club stays open til 5 a.m. (Sorry, folks, by law the drinking stops at 3 a.m.) Next time, we're coming back for Tony's biscuits and gravy – just six bucks!
In general, you don't have to go broke at PT's, but all the high-end trappings of an ultra-lounge are available for big spenders. Drinks start at $3.75 for domestic drafts but can go up to $28.75 for cocktails. The food is fairly inexpensive: $7 calzones for dinner and $7.50 for eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for breakfast isn't exactly going to break the bank. Besides, didn't you just spend twice as much showering bills stage side?
The answer at PT's is yes. Yes, you did.Catherine Green contributed reporting for this article.