Owner Martha Hoover in WSJ Magazine
The Inspiration: Indy Empire
For decades, Martha Hoover has helped revolutionize the Indianapolis food scene. This year, she’s serving up several new projects.
I have an intense need to not be mediocre,” says Martha Hoover, the Indianapolis-based food entrepreneur who owns 10 restaurants and whose company, Patachou Inc., says it supports more family farms than all the other restaurants in the state combined. Hoover, 62, is preparing to open six new establishments in 2017: the salon-style Bar 114, where guests can listen to music on vinyl; the restaurant Crispy Bird, a collaboration with her chef son that specializes in a variety of fried fowl; two additional locations of Public Greens, cafeterias offering nourishing, simple foods; a new outpost of Café Patachou, her flagship business; and The Box Office, a co-working space for women.
In 1989, Hoover, a former lawyer with no restaurant experience, opened Café Patachou. Her goal was to serve the heartland food—dishes like cinnamon toast and broken-yolk sandwiches—that she made for her three children at home because she couldn’t find it anywhere else in the city. “If I wanted it, I figured others would too,” Hoover says.
She currently operates five Café Patachous, the bistro Petite Chou, three locations of the pizzeria Napolese, and the original Public Greens, which is connected to a microfarm and functions as an incubator for her social efforts. All of its profits go to the Patachou Foundation, which provided 18,500 meals to food-insecure children in 2016. Hoover also offers employees in-house financial-literacy workshops. “A lot of people in cities like Indianapolis view working in the restaurant business as a default,” Hoover says. “For us, it’s Plan A, so let’s treat it that way.” —Gabe Ulla