There are a lot of places to eat on Mass Ave, but I’ve only tried about half of them thanks to Hoaglin To Go Café & Marketplace; whenever I’m within a three block radius of this place I am nearly always lured inside by its siren song (otherwise known as “the promise of a bacon-and-egg salad sandwich”).
But let’s start with breakfast. First off, Hoaglin To Go has the best bacon in town, hands-down. It is thick-cut and applewood-smoked. Yum. Best of all, if you order it crispy, it actually comes crispy! My favorite breakfast dish, though, is the homestyle bruléed oatmeal served with sweet cream butter and brown sugar. “Homestyle?” My mom never made oatmeal like that! The pancakes here are good, too, although eating a full stack is just too much for my poor belly. The daily breakfast specials are usually quite tasty. They almost always offer the country scramble (which consists of buttermilk biscuits and scrambled eggs buried under sausage gravy and cheddar cheese), which is awesome, even if it does kind of look like something you’d get at Le Peep. The “Big O” (their name for the omelette of the day) is quite often filled with good stuff; I especially like it when chili is involved. A rotating variety of quiches are available as well, so if you’re a quiche fan, you can’t go wrong here. One breakfast downside – the coffee at Hoaglin To Go is kind of disappointing. Oh, it’s alright, I suppose, but their Wild Horse Creek coffee pales in comparison to Hubbard & Cravens. I always specify the Earth & Sky variety (the milder blend) because the Black Lightning is way too dark for me. Also, it would be nice if the restaurant kept a couple copies of The Indianapolis Star lying around for breakfast patrons to share. As it is, if you want to read anything besides Up Down Town or The Word with your morning meal (and I can’t say I’d recommend reading either of those), you’ll have to remember to carry it in yourself.
Which brings us to lunchtime and my favorite item on the menu, the rather dramatically named “Bacon & Eggs - The Sandwich.” I feel like it needs an exclamation point after its name. “Bacon & Eggs - The Sandwich!” As I mentioned above, the bacon here really is good. When you pair that bacon with “Indy’s best egg salad,” you get culinary alchemy undreamt of since peanut butter met jelly. And the chicken salads are all good, too. There are usually three available, although the curried one is probably my favorite. (Its neon yellow color is just a bonus.) They used to have an autumn chicken salad that had walnuts and dried cranberries in it that I loved, but they did away with that variety. The bread here is quality, but it can sometimes be a little jagged for my mouth (I’m so sensitive), so I usually order my sandwiches as wraps. The sole exception to that rule is the BMLT (bacon, mozzarella, lettuce, and tomato), another of my favorites. Eating the BMLT as a wrap just seems somehow… wrong. So, on the days when I order that sandwich, I willingly face the terror of sharp bread. As for the side dishes, I tend to stick with the potato chips. I know, I know, potato chips as a side seems kind of “meh” at a place like this, but the other sides haven’t wowed me either. I tried their asparagus-tomato-blue cheese salad once, and really didn’t care for it. It was bitter and bland and certainly not worth the $2.75 up-charge.
Do be advised that the café is pretty small – and sometimes there are quite a few people walking around ordering to-go dishes from the deli area. I’d say the dining area is cozy on the best of days and cramped on the worst. Don’t even bother to come here on a football Sunday (unless you eat breakfast early) because you’ll invariably have to wait in line behind a crowd of people in blue shirts. The interior design of the place is trendy and contemporary – it reminds me of places I’ve eaten in New York and Chicago – although the owner's taste in art tends toward the elongated-stick-figures-painted-over-floral-patterns variety. Those paintings are not really my thing, although a lot of people in Indy seem to dig on stuff like that. The servers are hit and miss as well. They have several who are excellent and on-the-ball, but there are one or two who (although very nice people, I’m sure) are just not very good at their jobs. Also, as alluded to earlier, prices are a bit on the steep side.