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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Café offers rustic sophistication that’s good for you

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In one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever been in, there sits Martha Hoover simultaneously talking on her cell, respectfully ordering staff on where to put outside furniture, and signing documents.

In the midst of her multitasking, Hoover stops for a while to explain to me how her maternal instincts have garnered her five restaurants.

As a Marion County prosecutor turned entrepreneur, Café Patachou (French for cream puff) got its start from Hoover wanting a neighborhood restaurant for her family that offered “healthy, upscale food that wasn’t too sophisticated.”

“I’m a real home cook, I believe in the family table. Even though I wanted to eat with my family for all my meals, I didn’t want to prepare three meals a day,” said Hoover.

Instead of succumbing to over processed and overpriced food, Hoover decided to take matters into her own hands opening her first restaurant on 49th and Pennsylvania streets in 1990.

Of the five Indianapolis Patachou restaurants, the others being downtown, Keystone at the Crossing, Carmel and at the airport, each reflects its respective neighborhood. For example, the Meridian Kessler address has an eclectic vibe while Patachou across from Keystone at the Crossing is classically pleasant.

But you know what’s better than the different atmospheres? The food. Upon my first visit, I ordered the chicken noodle soup and turkey sandwich, you know, to be on the safe side. While talking with a friend, I took a spoonful of the soup and realized, “I just ate chicken noodle soup with real chicken!”

Not realizing how mislead I had been from chunks of what looked like chicken in my soup, I took a bite of my sandwich and also realized it was real turkey – like what you eat on Thanksgiving Day kind of turkey. I thought “where have you been all my life, Patachou?”

While talking with Hoover, she let me in on a secret: that was the point of Patachou, to give customers rustic, simple and deliciously healthy food. Each item is prepared using the best ingredients possible, such as organic meat and produce from an Indiana farm. There’s no architectural stacking, name that ingredient or hype.

I’m quite fond of the turkey sandwich with herbed cream cheese, lettuce and tomato, but the Caesar salad club, with turkey, bacon and a side fruit salad is also tasty. Put tuna salad on bread or in a wrap, have the broken yolk sandwich with salmon or explore what’s good for you by ordering homemade granola with yogurt and fruit. I’ve also heard people say Patachou’s chicken salad is the best ever. They’re right.

Choose one of many omelettes, dine on the freshly made waffles or simply sip a cappuccino. Patachou is a breakfast, brunch or lunch dream.

While Patachou is one of my favorite places to eat, Petite Chou has also found a special place in my heart. With locations in Broad Ripple and Clay Terrace, Petite Chou is more of a French inspired bistro specializing in crepes. On my birthday, I enjoyed the chicken crepe with asparagus and mushrooms. It was savory and good.

Hoover was on to something when she thought of Café Patachou. Still concurrently talking with me, an employee about a film and loudly greeting guests, I realized why Patachou is such a great restaurant; everything is done with time, care and patience.

Although a bit pricey (I’ve spent almost $15 on my lunch alone before), Patachou’s food is so good, it’s well worth the money. The food is filling without you feeling gross, greasy and in serious need of a siesta. Since my decision to eat healthier, Patachou is high on my list of wellness pleasing restaurants, which is why I urge you to check out one of Hoover’s Patachou restaurants. You’ll fall in love just as I have.

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