March 18, 2003
The Abbey has been an Indianapolis subculture institution since the early 90s, and I've been a regular there for the last eight years. That period even includes a brief stint as an Abbey employee.
Don't be put off by The Abbey's run-down facade when approaching it at the intersection of Mass and College Avenues in Indy's off-downtown Old Northside. Upon entering the establishment, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the furnishings. The ceiling is famous, with its blocky-artsy clouds painted by local artist Carl Fogg, Jr. The walls have been refinished since an unfortunate incident in 2002 resulted in a car driving through the Abbey's main room; they are now decorated in a faux pink finish with arabesque green diamonds. The furniture is artfully mismatched (and unfortunately a little threadbare) and heralds the old shabby-chic coffeehouse feel. The Abbey has great hours, as well. SU-TH: 10a to 12midnight; FR&SA: 10a to 1a.
The menu is varied and eclectic and reasonably priced (average entrée is $5-7), featuring a very large selection of vegetarian dishes (some are even fully vegan). Cultural cuisine fusion is popular here, offering such peculiar dishes as Thai burritos (glass noodles and veggies in a delicious peanut sauce, wrapped in a spinach tortilla), a hardy foccacia sandwich (mixed field greens, veggies, buffalo mozzarella, and pesto aioli on thick slabs of Italian herb foccacia), and the famous Moises' Black Bean Burrito (TRY IT!). Don't worry, meat-eaters, the Abbey also features a good number of wraps and sandwiches that feature chicken and fish.
Be wary when ordering drinks at the Abbey. Despite its name, the Abbey is not a very good spot for coffee. The daily brew is too strong (even for this hardy coffee drinker) and tastes burnt. The baristas are barely trained in the use of the espresso machine and as often as not scorch the milk or soy for espresso beverages, and know virtually nothing about pulling a good shot of espresso. I usually stick to Diet Coke with lemon, just to be safe.
If nothing else, try the Abbey's desserts! Any and every thing in the bake case is worth sampling. I especially recommend the tiramisu (drenched in Frangelico), the German chocolate cake, or the vegan chocolate cake!
One warning to visitors - the Abbey has an adjoining smoking room (good for those of us with such destructive proclivities), but the interim door does little to prevent second-hand smoke from filtering into the main room. If you are sensitive to smoke, caution at the Abbey would be advisable.
The Abbey is a fascinating stop at any time! Grab a sandwich and a drink and a slab of rich, wonderful dessert and watch the social circumnambulations happen! Check it out for a change of pace during any Indy visit.
From journal Ma Vie en Indianapolis