Keystone Sports Review Still a Local Favorite Nearly 30 Years Later
Photographer: Michael Durr
Sometimes happenstance can have interesting effects.
In the mid-1990s Larry Kramer happened to live around the corner from Keystone Sports Review, an unassuming neighborhood bar and grill at Keystone Avenue and 56th Street, and would often stop by on the way home from his sales job for a bite to eat. Over time Kramer grew fond of the establishment and soon developed a friendship with the head bartender, who eventually hired him to take over management and bartending duties on Sunday nights.
“It was a nice place to eat at, and I liked working those Sundays for some extra pocket money,” recalls Kramer, an Indy native and Bishop Chatard High School grad who had acquired some bartending experience with a catering company during his college years at IUPUI. “The bartender had bought the business in 1997, and by May of 1999 I had become her partner there. I had gotten tired of driving everywhere for my sales job, plus I was engaged, and she was getting burned out having worked there for nine or 10 years.”
Kramer and his brother Joshua officially took over as owners in June of 2000, and since then they’ve worked to maintain Keystone Sports Review — often referred to by staffers and regulars as KSR — as a fixture of Indy’s neighborhood pub scene.
Upon assuming ownership, Kramer approached the job by catering to a very specific niche, and he says the approach has served him well for nearly 20 years now.
“The houses in the Broad Ripple area are overpriced compared to other parts of Indianapolis, and they cater a lot to dual-income couples with no kids,” Kramer says. “I went with this theory that a lot of those couples want to go out instead of cooking, so why not go out somewhere with fair-priced drinks and good food? I knew we could provide that. I also wanted to be a place where people could meet for a bite to eat and a drink or two before they go out to the clubs in Broad Ripple.”
And there’s plenty on the menu to choose from. KSR boasts starters like nachos, breadsticks and fried pickles, and main course dishes include burgers, sandwiches, steaks, thin-crust pizza and tenderloins that are hand-pounded and grilled or breaded to order. Kramer is quick to point out that his standout menu item through the years has been his chicken wings, for which his kitchen staff makes in-house rubs and sauces like Caribbean jerk, teriyaki, hot garlic and honey barbecue. During Super Bowl week KSR typically uses up about 58 cases of wings, which equates to 2,360 pounds. That’s well over a ton of chicken wings.
“All you have to do is see what it’s like here during Super Bowl week to see how popular the wings are here — people start calling us the Monday before to arrange pickup times,” Kramer says. “We have to bring in extra fryers. For a normal week, we go through about 35 cases.”
KSR has also managed to become a niche within a niche, at least during the college football season. Nearly 15 years ago a close friend of Joshua’s father in law and a group of his fellow University of Wisconsin alums asked if they could watch their alma mater play a home game on the KSR big screen television. The viewing became a regular occurrence, and Kramer says he has remained committed to providing a welcoming setting for each and every Wisconsin home game.
“The fans have stayed true and loyal to us, and I have Wisconsin fans from Madison come in all the time,” Kramer says. “A couple of years ago when Wisconsin was playing for the Big Ten championship game, Channel 4 in Madison, Wisconsin, broadcasted their Saturday morning news from KSR starting at five in the morning. They had a two-hour simulcast broadcast back to Madison from right here in the bar.”
After almost two decades, Kramer feels the formula that has led to KSR’s long-term success is relatively simple.
“It’s good food, good atmosphere and fair prices,” he says. “We’ve got a good reputation established. We offer the neighborhood bar atmosphere and we’ve become a destination for people who come from places like Westfield, Cicero and Fishers, too.”
Keystone Sports Review is located at 5602 North Keystone Avenue. For more information call 317-251-9902 or visit keystonesportsreview.com.