El Camino Blog

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Indianapolis Coffee Houses: The Abbey

Thursday, October 19, 2006, 8:05pm, The Abbey, 825 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, map for The Abbey - Thursday night at the Abbey, and a solid 15 customers are present on a cold October nite, yet fairly quiet. But not too quiet. Massive Attack, a European ‘trip-hop’ group, drones at a low level in the background. I’m not a big fan of indie music, but my ears tell me that this selection fits the Abbey to a T. The blue Christmas ‘ice’ lights are already hung over the front awning, twinkling through the frosty glass. I am cozily ensconced in a grease-stained, corduroy-covered Empire chair, in the ‘Back 20’ of the place: The layout of the Abbey is an L-shaped saucepan, with a narrow, pan-like corridor going to the rear. I love the Back 20: It’s a perfect perch for a wary loner like me to sit and stare in judgment of the Unwashed Masses congregated up front. Forlorn curtains are inexplicably hung between the two main parts of the store, preventing an easy view of the Back 20 from the entrance. At first sip of the mocha latte, I am welcomed back with a biting taste that reminds me I’m not in a ‘safe’ Starbucks type affair, like I normally would be. I had not come around since the unseasonably warm mid-September, and now seems like the first time yet again to visit the old Abbey. A lot of machine humming goes on in the 20, furnaces and fans and the back walk-in freezer. Abbey is half-café, half-chaos. A blue early-20th century molded-tin ceiling is painted in sky blue with fluffy clouds. Sky blue walls wrestle with cop-blue window framing and baseboards. Most of the lighting comes from a half-dozen ceiling globes, augmented by a few errant lamps in the corners. About 3 varieties of wooden café tables and chairs, but also several ‘Church pew’ benches. Lots of stuff taped and pinned up on corkboards, making proclamations about bands and community activism and "go vegan" and all that bit. Solos and small combo music acts play here on the weekends. The baristas in this dive are actually quite adept at baking up some tasty cakes. The coffee itself seems to be pretty good, but what do I know? It’s mostly about the ambience to me, and this place has plenty of that. Somehow, the hums and gothic-ness of the place just keep me soothed and a bit entranced, and I would hate to ever leave in a rush; tonight will be the first time I ever do so, so I can get back by 9 to relieve the babysitter. The place relocated about a year ago to 825 N. Pennsylvania St. Here, it gets a cocktail mix of UI-PUI students (especially chicks, boom-boom-cheeka-cheeka!) and alternatives and quasi-goths, piled high on top with over-the-hill freaks and activism wanna-be's. The immediate neighborhood consists mostly of ancient apartment flats, though the new Central Library is being constructed right across the street. That might result in greater percentages of safe, respectable types like myself wandering in for a cappuccino. Such a sad thing to ponder, eh? Drop by and enjoy the pure, unadulterated Abbey while it lasts. 4 stars.


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