In its first venture beyond the Indianapolis metropolitan area, Patachou Inc. announced plans on Jan. 8 to open a Public Greens Urban Kitchen on Purdue’s campus. Its negotiations included commitments to partner with the College of Agriculture and small farms affiliated with the University.
The restaurant brands itself as a fast-casual, farm-to-table eatery, with local produce and sustainably sourced proteins decorating the menu. Slated to open in May 2020, it will be situated just southeast of Lambert Fieldhouse, near the intersection of Northwestern and Stadium avenues, according to a Purdue press release.
The previously undeveloped location is shrouded in trees and has long been a small green space on the University’s campus, raising questions about its designation for new construction. Associate Vice President for Administrative Operations Rob Wynkoop said the restaurant will complement the space, not replace it.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to activate a green space that really — it’s pretty — but is not really used for anything,” Wynkoop said. “We won’t take any trees down, we won’t remove any of the gateway signage that’s currently there. We’ll work within the current footprint as it is.”
Wynkoop said the parking lot adjacent to Lambert Fieldhouse will service customers to Public Greens, and no additional spaces are currently set to be built.
Patachou president and founder Martha Hoover said Purdue’s campus presented an ideal opportunity for expansion because of an evolution among college students. New generations are more attentive to the nutritional value of food and the mindfulness of its manufacturing process, she said. Hoover’s goal is to meet the demand for higher-quality products while maintaining accessible pricing.
“People just don’t want to fill up on junk food anymore,” Hoover said. “They don’t want what we call ‘drunk pizza.’ They want really quality food.”
Public Greens’ menu will offer the increasingly popular build-a-bowl format, allowing customers to pair their protein of choice with a rice or noodle base and an assortment of fresh vegetables. Vegetarian and vegan options are in abundance, alongside a kombucha beverage to bring full circle the commitment to healthful offerings.
Wynkoop, whose primary focus lately has been an effort to improve retail dining options for students, said Public Greens is the first of many initiatives he plans to capitalize on moving forward. The lack of fresh produce within walking distance of campus and West Lafayette’s designation as a food desert were major factors in the decision to accommodate a restaurant that touts a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Hoover, who received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University, chose West Lafayette for her company’s new restaurant in part because of the prowess of Purdue’s College of Agriculture.
Patachou plans to partner with entities affiliated with the college, such as the student farm near Kampen Golf Course and groups practicing urban agriculture. The hope, Hoover said, is to capitalize on students’ knowledge regarding how and when to grow organic produce on a small urban plot of land.
An urban microfarm will accompany the addition of the restaurant, where employees will grow produce for use in certain dishes. Wynkoop said the location of the microfarm is to be decided, but it will be in proximity to the main venue so customers can observe the farming process should they want to.
“In particular with Purdue’s new urban farming program, there are a lot of points of intersection between what we do and what they are doing,” Hoover said. “I think we could create a bit of a model-restaurant, model-microfarm at the University that can support us with some help through the (College) of Agriculture.”
The area’s rapid expansion was another factor for Hoover, and she noticed a lag in the local food scene after a blitz of real-estate investment.
Patachou has operated for over three decades and is one of the original farm-to-table restaurant franchises in Indiana, Hoover said, and commitment to community has persisted as one of its five tenets. That objective is partially achieved through a willingness to purchase from a network of small family farms. But sourcing represents only one part of the equation.
“We have a radically different approach to our staff training, we have a radically different approach to creating a compelling experience for the customer,” Hoover said. “Our view on sustainability is bar-setting. I think that those points really distinguish Patachou restaurants against most others.”