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The empire builder
Martha Hoover is quietly building a restaurant empire in Indianapolis, with 12 restaurants and several more to come this year.
The former sex crimes prosecutor is best known for Café Patachou, which she founded in 1989 as a breakfast-and-lunch spot with five locations. The restaurant used locally grown ingredients and scratch cooking before such practices became the norm.
Under parent company Patachou Inc., Hoover’s portfolio now includes three locations of Napolese, an artisanal pizzeria and wine bar; single-unit Petite Chou Bistro; Public Greens, a cafeteria-inspired concept; Bar One Fourteen, a listening room and bar; and Crispy Bird, the latest addition.
Opened earlier this year, Crispy Bird is a 56-seat, full-service restaurant serving elevated fried chicken from local, free-range heritage birds that, “taste like chicken did 20 or 30 years ago, before commodity chicken became ubiquitous,” Hoover said.
Sides include grits, squash and puffed grains; a chicken-liver tart with green apples; and black-eyed peas with yolk confit,
potlikker emulsion and crispy greens. Champagne is the recommended accompaniment, and truffle shavings or caviar can be added to any dish for an additional charge.
This year, the company will add two more Public Greens locations in Indianapolis. The original Public Greens unit donates all profits to the Patachou Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps feed food-insecure children.
The company also plans to open a freestanding training and education facility to support all the restaurants. And Hoover is developing a co-working space for women called The Box Office.
Meanwhile, Café Patachou is ready to move to a new markets.
“We’re pushing for next-level growth for 2019, but we’re doing it strategically, which doesn’t mean quickly,” she said.
“Money is not the object. If you just need money to expand, there’s a lot of money in the market. ... But we’re looking for someone who can really help continue our course of being a people-centered, bar-setting company.”