Suggested Dinning on a Tight Budget
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Posted by stepamilewski

I have worked at an office in downtown Indianapolis for the past 5 years, and have also been on the hunt for good affordable lunch options during Indianapolis's larger conventions. There are places downtown that appear to be affordable, but end up costing you more than you expected.

An example would be the food court in the Circle Center Mall, you cannot get anything that will fill you up for under $8.50 ($2.50 drink not included), and you are going to end up waiting in a line for at least 30 minutes if you don't get there early enough (10:45am is the ideal time to break for lunch). My rule of thumb is to always opt-out of the fountain drink, they are a waste of money considering you can stock up on soft drinks from the grocery store downtown and just bring them with you where ever you go. Even abiding by my no drink policy, there are still places that I would consider pricy. Summer conventions always attract the food trucks, which are really good, but really pricy for what they offer, and almost always have a 30 to 45 minute line.

Many familiar fast food places are going to have inflated prices, not because of the convention, but because high rent and hotel surcharges are forcing these places to charge more. Any restaurant inside a hotel is going to cost more. Places that I frequent are just outside the mall. Qdoba, Chipotle, and Jimmy Jon's are $7.50 lunch and dinner options (again, don't get the soft drink with your meal). I also go to Qdoba for breakfast from time to time.

A block away from the mall past Monument Circle you can find a place called Dick's Bodacious BBQ, which features options that can get as low as $7 for lunch, but not an affordable place for dinner. Also a block away is Scotty's Brewhouse, which has a great lunch menu that averages $8, and has a bottomless soup and salad option.

I need my morning coffee and don't like the coffee in the break room or from fast food places. A grande brewed Coffee from Starbucks ranges from $2.50 to $2.90 (seems to be more expensive the closer you are to JW Marriott). Starbucks is not the only option though. The booth where Cup of Corn used to be in the mall is a new place that serves a medium (same size as Starbucks grande) coffee for $2.15 (and in my opinion tastes much better).

Hope these suggestions help anyone! If you are a local, please add to my suggestions, I may even learn a thing or two. 

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Posted by andrewj.rager

For late night eating, Primanti Bros in CCM has a happy hour and after nine menu with $4 $5 & $6 options which will fill you up. We were there 3 times last year.

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Posted by divachelle

It takes a bit more pre-planning than dining out, but we always bring a rolling cooler with sandwich fixings, snacks, fruits and veggies to make lunches during the con. We refill the ice in the cooler from the hotel's machines.

Each morning, we make our packed lunch and keep it cool in our insulated lunchbags. I like to put a ziploc bag of ice in there to keep my stuff cold and to refill my ice in my water bottle.

We eat the hotel's breakfast (we will be at the Embassy or the Homewood this year, both of which provide very substantial breakfasts), our packed lunches and then we splurge on a dinner out each night or get takeout/ local delivery to the room.

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Posted by stepamilewski andrewj.rager

andrewj.rager wrote:
For late night eating, Primanti Bros in CCM has a happy hour and after nine menu with $4 $5 & $6 options which will fill you up. We were there 3 times last year.
They discontinued the $4 $5 & $6 menu at the Indianapolis location. Primanti Bros used to be at the top of my list. I used to get a pretty good lunch for $6...

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Posted by stepamilewski divachelle

divachelle wrote:
It takes a bit more pre-planning than dining out, but we always bring a rolling cooler with sandwich fixings, snacks, fruits and veggies to make lunches during the con. We refill the ice in the cooler from the hotel's machines.
Each morning, we make our packed lunch and keep it cool in our insulated lunchbags. I like to put a ziploc bag of ice in there to keep my stuff cold and to refill my ice in my water bottle.
We eat the hotel's breakfast (we will be at the Embassy or the Homewood this year, both of which provide very substantial breakfasts), our packed lunches and then we splurge on a dinner out each night or get takeout/ local delivery to the room.
Packing a lunch is always the smarter way to go. You could also use the cooler as a form of baggage, and then buy all the groceries when you get here.

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Posted by lord thrifty the cromulent

I kinda feel like "tight budget" and "dining out" are mutually exclusive terms.  I work in downtown Indianapolis too, and I bring lunch to work most days.  During Gencon, and also sometimes, I like to splurge.  Generally, I expect to spend $10 on a decent meal.

On Friday I made the mistake of going to Giorgio's Pizza on Monument Circle.  The pizza is good, but not amazing.  Two slices and a large soda cost me $10.38.  They also charge for the refills (literally the only place I've ever seen do that) and they rip you off on the soda, giving you a cup that's 85% ice.  The owner is also rude.  I tried to pay with two $10 bills, but he saw the $5 bill in my wallet and demanded I give it to him.  I specifically needed that five for something else, which I should have said.

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Posted by stepamilewski lord thrifty the cromulent

mstabosz wrote:
I kinda feel like "tight budget" and "dining out" are mutually exclusive terms.  I work in downtown Indianapolis too, and I bring lunch to work most days.  During Gencon, and also sometimes, I like to splurge.  Generally, I expect to spend $10 on a decent meal.
On Friday I made the mistake of going to Giorgio's Pizza on Monument Circle.  The pizza is good, but not amazing.  Two slices and a large soda cost me $10.38.  They also charge for the refills (literally the only place I've ever seen do that) and they rip you off on the soda, giving you a cup that's 85% ice.  The owner is also rude.  I tried to pay with two $10 bills, but he saw the $5 bill in my wallet and demanded I give it to him.  I specifically needed that five for something else, which I should have said.

Yeah, lately the prices have been going up on just about everything. The only reason I don't bring my lunch to work often enough is because I keep forgetting to bring the darn Tupperware back home (though I suppose that's a different issue).

Giorgio's is on my black list for all the same reasons you mentioned (except for the $5 bill part).

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Posted by ryric

I'm always amazed at how places that give you a cup of ice with a little pop don't realize something - this practice annoys the customer, and costs the business money. The ice is more expensive than the pop. The cup is more expensive than the pop. The soda pop is the cheapest item in the whole exchange. Customers who ask for no ice are saving the business money.

Of course, the converse of this is if you ask for a cup of ice it should cost pretty much the same as that size pop. You're taking all the most expensive parts of the drink.

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Posted by divachelle ryric

ryric wrote:
I'm always amazed at how places that give you a cup of ice with a little pop don't realize something - this practice annoys the customer, and costs the business money. The ice is more expensive than the pop. The cup is more expensive than the pop. The soda pop is the cheapest item in the whole exchange. Customers who ask for no ice are saving the business money.
Of course, the converse of this is if you ask for a cup of ice it should cost pretty much the same as that size pop. You're taking all the most expensive parts of the drink.
I had a friend who managed a national brand fast food chain restaurant. He once told me that the WHOLE LARGE DRINK - cup, lid, ice, straw, syrup - cost them like 12 cents. Granted, this was years ago, but beverages still consistently have the highest markup percentage.

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Posted by andrewj.rager stepamilewski

stepamilewski wrote:
andrewj.rager wrote:
For late night eating, Primanti Bros in CCM has a happy hour and after nine menu with $4 $5 & $6 options which will fill you up. We were there 3 times last year.
They discontinued the $4 $5 & $6 menu at the Indianapolis location. Primanti Bros used to be at the top of my list. I used to get a pretty good lunch for $6...
Well that's a darn shame. Our location in Novi, MI still does this.

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Posted by boc_mage

Following and while a Gencon/Indy veteran always looking for ideas. What places are open late for food past 1am? I work/GM and i'm lucky if i'm out of the hall by midnight and by that point i'm very much wanting more than another granola bar for food.

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Posted by garhkal divachelle

divachelle wrote:
It takes a bit more pre-planning than dining out, but we always bring a rolling cooler with sandwich fixings, snacks, fruits and veggies to make lunches during the con. We refill the ice in the cooler from the hotel's machines.
Each morning, we make our packed lunch and keep it cool in our insulated lunchbags. I like to put a ziploc bag of ice in there to keep my stuff cold and to refill my ice in my water bottle.

Normally the con frowns on bringing in your own food in coolers, but i do the same.  Get bread, meat, cheese and maybe some tomatoes, keep them in the fridge in the hotel.  Make me a sammy, and have it for lunch. 

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Posted by stepamilewski boc_mage

boc_mage wrote:
Following and while a Gencon/Indy veteran always looking for ideas. What places are open late for food past 1am? I work/GM and i'm lucky if i'm out of the hall by midnight and by that point i'm very much wanting more than another granola bar for food.
The places that are open at that hour would all be bars or pubs. Some of them offer good food at a decent price. The best one I can think of would be The Pub Indianapolis, which is at the other end of Georgia Street right in front of Banker's Life Field House. They have decent food that will cost you around $10 without a drink, they close at 3am. During the day The Pub has a good lunch buffet between 11am and 2pm. Other bars in the area also offer food and close at 3am but the food is a little more expensive.

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Posted by miked

there is allways Steak-n-shake andnif your hotel is towards the football stadium White Castle

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Posted by lord thrifty the cromulent stepamilewski

stepamilewski wrote
Yeah, lately the prices have been going up on just about everything. The only reason I don't bring my lunch to work often enough is because I keep forgetting to bring the darn Tupperware back home (though I suppose that's a different issue).Giorgio's is on my black list for all the same reasons you mentioned (except for the $5 bill part).

I just bring in frozen meals.  I bring in a bunch, about 2 weeks supply, and stick them in the freezer.  Fortunately there aren't a lot of people doing this so I have that luxury.  You could possibly bring something that is room temperature stable and keep it near your desk.  I used to do this with Hormel Compleats.  There are a bunch of other options too.  They're pricier than making stuff from home, but cheaper than eating out.

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Posted by aldctjoc

You are so much more disciplined than I am. I, too, bring in frozen meals... but then I end up ignoring them for 4 or 5 days while I go out to eat for lunch. :-S

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Posted by stepamilewski aldctjoc

aldctjoc wrote:
You are so much more disciplined than I am. I, too, bring in frozen meals... but then I end up ignoring them for 4 or 5 days while I go out to eat for lunch. :-S
Mostly it's the social need when all your coworkers decide to dine-out and you don't want to be the one left in the office eating in the break room.

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Posted by squirecam aldctjoc

aldctjoc wrote:
You are so much more disciplined than I am. I, too, bring in frozen meals... but then I end up ignoring them for 4 or 5 days while I go out to eat for lunch. :-S
I keep several cans of chunky soups at my desk. Sure, it’s just soup. But it eats like a meal.
 

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Posted by zazamos

I've been going to Gen Con on and off for 20 years, so here are my tips on dining out while on a "tight budget":

Pack your own lunch [Value: Best | Wait: N/A]. In terms of value, dining out is a waste of money. Most purchased meals you eat in downtown Indy will cost a fair bit of coin, so the best you could do is just pre-pack meals like sandwiches and such from home. If your hotel has a fridge, great. You can store perishables in there and pack food the morning of or the night before and carry it around with you. I would pack my lunch in a soft insulated lunch bag with an ice pack, so it can travel in your bag and not be too bulky. I dunno the outside food policy because I ALWAYS see people blatantly dragging in coolers and the like and the con staff not even blinking about it. Additionally, this is the best way to ensure you are staying on top of any dietary needs. Eating out is the fast track to weight gain!

Subway in the Hyatt Regency Hotel [Value: Great | Wait: Short-Med]. I don't know how well it is known but there's a Subway sandwich shop in the Hyatt Regency lobby. It's a bit tricky to get to but whenever I've walked by the lines weren't out of the question, even during rush periods. Plus it's fairly cheap (the prices don't differ too much from ordinary Subways), and you have a better handle on your dietary needs.

Circle Centre Mall Food Court [Value: Fair | Wait: Med]. It's a mall food court. Nothing special about this place, and it's going to be fairly packed during rushes. But I like it when I'm with a large group and people have differing tastes, so we can just get what we want to eat. Not the best for your health, though.
 

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Posted by ytuni

I cannot find an outside food policy on the ICC's website nor on GenCon's so I assume that it's okay so long as eating it doesn't disturb other convention goings on. My husband and I eat at the mall food court mainly because we park in the garage there so it's easiest to drop off purchases/refill water bottles/get Pepsi bottles from the car and then eat before heading back to the ICC. Gen Con is essentially our vacation for the year so we don't mind splurging a little to eat out while we're there.

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