sudden and unexpected death of Matthew Alan Elliott on the early morning of
Oct. 27 rattled through Broad Ripple like an earthquake. Friends, family and
acquaintances felt its tremors in Oklahoma City, Madison, Wisc., New York, Los
Angeles and all throughout the Hoosier State.
he had only just turned 43 was tragic in itself. That preliminary findings
suggest he suffered a massive cerebral aneurism jolted his crew of gracefully
aging Gen-Xers as a violent aftershock.
graduated with the tightest of friends from Broad Ripple High School in 1987,
and the self-dubbed "Old Dog Crew" or "ODC" would make significant impact on
their neighborhood. ODC guys have a hand in brewing at Broad Ripple Brewpub and
remained close into adulthood, often sojourning up to Ludington, Mich., to camp
young man, fresh from attending Indiana University and travels to London and
Prague, Matt wanted to start his own business. In 1998, ODC buddies Kevin Matalucci,
Tim Micheli, Joe Walters and Matt transformed a vacant store on 54th
and College into a thriving neighborhood gathering place. Originally named Northside
News, the newsstand rivaled any big box bookseller in the sheer eclectic
selection of popular and specialty titles. An extensive array of smokes matched
the diverse news offerings in addition to candy and sundries.
the ovens at Broad Ripple Pie Company next door went cold, the guys expanded
and set up a sandwich shop in 2004. Now known as the News Café, the little
restaurant offered pressed sandwiches named after the newspapers and
periodicals sold next door. Most notably, the self-proclaimed "Best Cuban in
Town," the Miami Herald Cuban, actually resulted from Matt's diligent
experimentation, perfecting the best mix of authenticity with affordable, fresh
the café and the sandwich were a big hit.
menu boasted a wide selection of sandwiches, customized for taste. Customers
could make it a spicy Cuban with Sriracha sauce and pepper jack cheese or opt
for a Rachel (on pumpernickel with Cole slaw and turkey) instead of the crisp
hidden treasure might well have been the revolving selection of house made
soups, like the fasolada or vegetarian chili.
beyond the menu, the real appeal of the News Café was the proprietor himself.
Tousled red hair topped a round face with bright eyes and that wonderful Van
personality fit perfectly with the smart clientele who sauntered in to peruse
McSweeney's and nosh on a stromboli. He was a raconteur who could riff on just
about any topic. "I always knew I was in for a good conversation when I stopped
by Northside News and Matt was there," remarked Mary Margaret Giannini.
encyclopedic knowledge was boundless and often surprising even to those who knew
him best: art, cars, Hoosier and Indianapolis history, Prague, you name it. In
the occasions when his knowledge of a topic was scant, Matt would listen and
Wilmoth, who worked at the News Café, characterized Matt as "our lovable
curmudgeon. His passions ran deep, and he was steadfast in his convictions.
Never one to back down, he was always fair and judicious. He could always take
as well as he gave, with a twinkle in his eyes. He was ornery. He was
supportive and loyal to me, and to so many others."
bankruptcy of a magazine distributor and the cessation of distribution to mom
and pops doomed the newsstand side. The guys rolled with the punches, gutting
the original side and renovating it into a dining area.
stubbornly, Matt would respond to sound requests. The Café hosted local bands
and hiphop nights. During the 2009 NFL season, Matt would keep "the shop" open
for Colts night games, serving up his own concoction of Coney dogs. Barack
Obama's historic Inauguration brought the neighborhood crowding into the shop.
had his own style, way beyond the trademark facial hair. When the News Café
obtained a two-way liquor license, Matt insisted on serving tall pub cans
poured into Ball jars.
the economy and the stresses incumbent on many small businesses led to the
closing of the Café in May 2010. Matt immediately sought out his next endeavor.
Eventually, and recently, he lobbied his buddy Ted Miller to learn the craft of
brewing for Brugge Brasserie. He took to it like a cold Miller High Life.
Bacon has nothing on Matt in this town. Here, there are now three degrees
between anyone in Indianapolis and Matt Elliott. Classifying Matt as an only
child is a misnomer. He had hundreds of brothers and sisters who all now mourn
the full life curtailed.
to that, the throng that filled the huge tent at the Brickyard Crossing
Pavilion to standing room only on Nov. 1 might well have tallied close to 500.
It's an appropriate number for someone who enjoyed events at the track so
thoroughly that he would often bring friends who had never seen the Greatest
Spectacle in Racing.
celebration of his life became a spectacle in and of itself. Indy jazz fixtures
show of his life. His mother, Elaine, his father, Roger, and his "aunt," Joni
Chenoweth, spoke fondly.
Aufderheide recalled, "No one else could get me to go camping in northern
Michigan in January, which led to an epic trip including Canada and giraffes.
We took great pics, got back to show Elaine, and realized there was no film in
Hip-hop showman, DJ and VJ Rusty Redenbacher freestyled fond and poignant thoughts
and love for his longtime friend.
Abraham Benrubi, who flew in from L.A., captured Matt particularly well:
thing about Matt is he was a Libra and that means balance. For every fault
there is an equally stellar quality.
example, he was provincial with a deep knowledge of Indianapolis and Indiana,
yet he was also worldly with a vast knowledge of Prague and Eastern Europe,
especially. He was stubborn yet open to coming around to another side if the
argument was strong enough. He was fashionless, yet he had a shit-ton of
clothes. Mostly heaped in piles, but he saved all the coat hangers empty in a
and esoteric yet practical and simple. Low brow enough to drink Miller High
Life yet high brow enough to know the intricate distilling methods of various
Caribbean rums, especially Barbancourt. He loved food and restaurants of every
exotic kind, yet he was very picky about what he ate at each one."
one-man Urban Spoon, Matt could direct and recommend anyone to the best little
restaurants. As Ted Miller eulogized, Matt knew a little farmer's market where
you could get the best Slovenian nut roll. "I doubt Slovenians in Haughville or
Avon had a favorite Slovenian nut roll."
fact, I was honored to speak about Matt at his memorial. "Matt was not my best
friend," I said. "He was our best
most effectively coerced me into his various social circles. At the podium of
his memorial, I directed these disparate converging well-wishers to introduce
those sitting next to each other if they were strangers and give that neighbor
a big hug if they were already friends. "Best flash mob ever," I found myself
week, I have created a new classification of friends on Facebook. I have begun
assembling them into an amalgam with a label reads "Matt's Circle." It's large
to be sure.
I sure wouldn't have known any of them if it weren't for Matt. I'm so
grateful to Matt Elliott for that.
can think of no better way to honor our friend than to take time and tell your
friends and family how much you love them. Do it often.