Cafe Patachou Turns 30
Yolk Lore: As Cafe Patachou hits a milestone, we would like to propose a (cinnamon) toast to its cultural impact—locally and beyond.
In 1989, Café Patachou launches at 49th and Penn as a neighborhood coffee shop with one of the first espresso machines in the city. “We had to explain to people what a latte was,” owner Martha Hoover says. On the menu: chicken salad, tomato artichoke soup, and a Brie-and-mushroom omelet.
“Right after we opened, my kids stopped by on their way to school, and I made cinnamon toast for them, just like I would at home,” Hoover recalls. “A customer sitting at the counter saw it, asked for some, and it caught on.”
Shortly after Peyton Manning signed with the Indianapolis Colts, in 1998, Hoover is contacted by Bob Costas’ team to set up an after-hours interview between the two at the Meridian-Kessler café.
Customers flocked to Café Patachou the morning of 9/11. “We expected to be empty, figuring people would want to be at home watching the news,” Hoover explains. “The total opposite happened. I think they were looking for a sense of community and connection.”
Patachou on the Park opened in the Simon Building HQ downtown in 2006 and quickly became a magnet for visiting celebrities and athletes. Hoover declines to name names, but she sees a bump in business every time Patachou gets a mention on ESPN.
The same year that Patachou opened in the new airport, Hoover and crew overnighted a coconut cake to Barack Obama at the request of a campaign worker who had tasted it.
Then-Butler coach Brad Stevens received a standing ovation when he walks in the morning after the Bulldogs’ NCAA championship loss to Duke in 2010.
Hoover’s daughter, Sarah, who lives in new York, introduced her to Cherry Bombe founder Kerry Diamond in the food magazine’s early days. The two stayed in regular contact—and when Cherry Bombe became a sensation, it covered Hoove several t imes and raised her profile nationally. In 2017, Fortune and Food and Wine Magazine jointly named her among the top 20 women in America in food and drink.
“Martha has never questioned why we might pay more for a product from a small local farmer than we would from a bigger supplier. It always comes down to quality. To many stores and restaurants, ‘local’ doesn’t mean anything anymore. To Martha, it does. It always has. She’s the original supporter of farm-to-table cuisine in Indianapolis.”
Patachou Inc. executive chef Tyler Herald, who celebrated his 10th work anniversary with Hoover last summer
Hoover received the first of four James Beard Foundation nominations for Best Restaurateur in 2013.
In 2013, she launched the Patachou Foundation to fight hunger in Indy.
The Patachou Foundation Speakers Forum inaugural event featured Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in L.A., author of Tattoos on the Heart.
Hoover’s kids made their own mark on the Indy dining scene—daughter Rachel through nouveau cafeteria Public Greens and son David as the visionary behind the sexy Bar One Fourteen.
Hoover launched Ladies with Balls, a bowling league for women in the local restaurant and hospitality world.
The Patachou team opened a third Public Greens location in 2019—for a total of 13 restaurants in the city employing around 400 people.
In 2018, former Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin invited Martha to participate in a live taping of her “Speaking Broadly” podcast at SXSW.
Patachou constantly fields offers to expand to other cities. But so far, Hoover hasn’t found an arrangement that would allow her to maintain the same level of quality in food, service, and hospitality from a distance.