Monday, November 15, 2010

Patachou (Gesundheit!) on the Park

When a foolish former mayor of Indianapolis gave Simon Property Group half of one of the city's most beautiful public parks as a spot for their corporate headquarters a few years back, I was ticked. Still, at least Simon’s monument to Americans’ love of cheesy shopping malls provided a spot for a downtown Patachou. That makes the sacrifice of Indy green space on the altar of Corporate America hurt a little less, doesn’t it? Well, no, it doesn’t, but Patachou on the Park serves up one hell of a breakfast anyway. In fact, going to the restaurant and getting an omelette and some coffee has become something of a Sunday morning ritual for me. So, what keeps me coming back to Patachou despite my lingering irritation about losing a large chunk of our public park to Simon? Three things: the food, the staff, and the atmosphere.

For me, the food at Patachou is all about breakfast, specifically the omelettes. All five of their Patachou namesake omelettes are good, although the Hippie with a Benz is far-and-away my favorite. Stuffed with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and feta cheese, the Hippie with a Benz is my omelette dream come true (even if I did think it was called the “Hippie with the Bends” for the first year or so that I ate here). One word of warning regarding the omelettes – a couple of my friends really dislike the omelettes here, saying that they are thin and watery. I disagree, obviously, but because I’ve heard this complaint from more than one person, I suppose it bears mentioning. The kitchen also offers a specially priced omelette of the day each day, but those are very rarely appealing, nearly always featuring the most tasteless turkey sausage that I’ve ever had the misfortune to put into my mouth. Stay away from the turkey sausage! Stick to the namesake omelettes! I did recently discover the broken yolk sandwich with bacon and avocado, which is challenging the Hippie with a Benz’s hold on my stomach. The self-serve coffee at Patachou is delicious as well. I tend to try whatever crazy flavored kind is on offer (cinnadoodle, banana cream pie, chocolate fudge, etc.), but most of my friends stick to the non-flavored stuff, which they say is quite good. As a sweet counterpoint to my omelette, I always choose the cinnamon toast as my side. Yes, I know that cinnamon toast is something I can make at home, but the way Patachou does it – topping thick, pillowy slices of bread with loads of melty butter, cinnamon, and sugar – is exceptional. One of my friends actually asks for extra cinnamon/sugar, which is brought to him in a bowl so he can really go crazy. Unfortunately, the lunch menu here isn’t really my bag. Their chicken salad is kind of bland and their egg salad pales in comparison to Hoaglin To Go’s. My default lunch order has become the ham and brie wrap, which is pretty tasty. Thankfully, they serve breakfast all day, so it’s not as if I’m ever forced to eat off their lunch menu. If you do go for lunch, steer clear of the side of lightly dressed field greens. I ordered the salad once and felt like I was eating a pile of bitter grass. They do have a delicious tomato artichoke soup, though, and their deserts are uniformly good – especially the carrot cake.

The wait staff here is great from top to bottom. In the years that I’ve been eating here, I’ve never had a complaint about a host or server. On the one or two times that there has been a mistake with my order, my server has always taken care of it immediately and with no attitude. Now that I’m a regular, I know most of the servers by name and always enjoy catching up with them – when they have time for small talk, that is! They're often too busy.

As for the atmosphere, it’s sophisticated but not stuffy. The walls are all painted in warm colors and the modern furniture is comfy. The tables feature real flowers in bud vases – always a nice touch for a Sunday morning. Best of all, the restaurant rotates the art along the back wall, featuring the work of a variety of local artists. In general, my fellow diners are a mellow bunch of downtowners just chilling out/recovering from their Saturday night. Things can get a little tricky in the autumn, though, thanks to the Colts. On home football game days, the clientele at the restaurant is entirely different and the place gets crowded very early (don’t bother coming after 10:00). Parking, always a problem, is impossible on home game days, too.

So, good food, great staff, nice atmosphere. What more could you want from a breakfast spot? Well, I suppose you could want your public park back, but I think that ship has sailed.

UPDATE: The interior of Patachou on the Park has been changed. Gone are the warm colors that I liked so well, replaced by grays and blacks. It looks more like a night club now and less like a cozy restaurant. They also seem to have stopped displaying local art, opting instead for generic prints and dozens and dozens of "reviews" all framed and hung side by side in rows - kind of like the proclamations by that mean Head Mistress lady in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Obviously, I'm not a fan of the updates. The food is still pretty much the same, but the new Corporate look has really turned me off.

Patachou on the Park on Urbanspoon

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