St. Elmo Steakhouse Has Been An Indianapolis Institution Since 1902

Fortunate restaurants manage to stay in business longer than the first year, and according to a 2005 study published in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, the luckiest 40% may still be in business three to five years later. So, keeping the stoves lit for more than 120 years is a remarkable milestone for the St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Through a succession of dedicated restaurateurs, the landmark establishment has served politicians, businessmen, athletes, and performers — along with the rest of us — its signature chops and cocktails with what the owners call "classic turn-of-the-century Chicago saloon" style. That would be the turn of the 20th century, of course! 

St. Elmo Steak House is consistently mentioned among the best steakhouses in the United States and even won the coveted James Beard Foundation's America's Classics award in 2012. So, what does it take to stay on the top of that list? Renovations that keep the original speakeasy atmosphere in mind, along with an unwavering commitment to warm customer service and fair prices, according to former owner Harry Roth.

Trends come and go, but a classic endures

It's no exaggeration to say that the St. Elmo Steak House has witnessed the far ends of the pendulum of food trends. From its early origin as a "dining bastion for men" through the diet culture wars of more recent years, the menu has kept a focus on timeless classics. One stand-out example is its signature St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail. First listed on the 1947 menu at 30 cents, the combination of large poached shrimp and the house spicy horseradish cocktail sauce is the only appetizer the restaurant serves. 

Around 4 tons of horseradish and over 48,000 pounds of shrimp each year keep the tradition going. Despite being named after the patron saint of sailors, it's fair to say that St. Elmo is a steak and potatoes specialist. Around 2,000 pounds of meat is being aged on-site each day, and the restaurant serves more than 160,000 pounds of steak each year. Entrées are served with a nod to nostalgia: A choice of navy bean soup or tomato juice comes with each meal, along with potatoes. 

Cocktails also lean towards classics, including the Elmo Cola, with a glass bottle of Coke accompanying cherry-vanilla-infused house whiskey. Maintaining a focus on hospitality, excellent food, and tradition, it's very possible that St. Elmo Steak House will be with us into the next century. Considering that its staff of 140 has an impressive 1,000 years of experience, another hundred years should be smooth sailing – perhaps we owe thanks to St. Elmo?