Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Josh Brown
When Todd Johnson decided to launch a new restaurant on East 96th Street in the space formerly occupied by the Sinking Ship II, he immediately began putting together a concept that would appeal to a wide range of local patrons yet retain a uniqueness and character all its own.
A veteran of the restaurant industry and owner of the Mucky Duck and a Scotty’s Brewhouse franchise on the south side, Johnson began doing research and took some cues from what made the Moondog Tavern, the space’s occupant prior to the Sinking Ship, a north side success for 13 years.
Armed with a little inspiration from the Moondog Tavern – namely, a few sports bar staples like plenty of TVs, a burger-centric menu and some regular live music – Johnson opened the doors to 32 TAPS in late November of last year, and he says the name, which reflects the number of beer taps and the number of items on the food menu, honors the keep-it-simple approach he’s taken for the project.
“When I was deciding the number of taps and doing surveys with people, 32 started sounding like the magic number – not too few, not too many,” says Johnson, a south side native who grew up in the Center Grove community. “Then we started playing off of that number with the menu items. A lot of times you can have such a large amount of food, people can’t decide what they want. So again, 32 seemed like the right number.”
Plenty of entertainment options including a pool table, dart board, video games and 6-by-12-foot television add to the eatery’s ambiance, and ample outdoor seating is available when temperatures start to rise. The official 32 TAPS Facebook page is updated regularly with details on the latest food and drink specials, live music dates and start times for sports games being shown at the establishment. The Ally Gator Brothers will be outside on the 32 Taps patio for a free show coming up May 2.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” Johnson says. “The menu seems to be working and the live bands have been huge. We have the Flying Toasters in here, the Doo! Band, and we recently got the Alligator Brothers, who used to be the house band at Champps. We’ll have them outside from May every Wednesday until Labor Day this year.”
Johnson says his eight-ounce burgers, wraps and sandwiches have garnered positive patron feedback so far, and his menu also features salads, wings and flatbreads along with a 15-minute express lunch menu. Local beers like Sun King, 3 Floyds, MashCraft and Quaff On! typically fill the taps alongside popular domestic selections, and on weekends 24-ounce domestics like Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light are available for $4.
“I think what we’re doing is working out,” Johnson says. “We’re trying to build our lunch up and build our Sundays up right now. We’ve got cornhole and giant Jenga – it’s just a fun place to hang out. It’s been fun rebuilding this spot and I think it’s in line with what the demographic in this area wants.”
32 TAPS is located at 4825 East 96th Street, Suite 1600 in Indianapolis. Call 317-669-0628 for more info. For a menu listing, updates on food and drink specials, and to sign up for notifications about special offers, visit facebook.com/pg/96thst.