Bloomington, Indiana Restaurant and Food Guide

Recommendations for dining and (and food in general) in Bloomingon, Indiana


Funny Comment and Recipe

Since (as I noted in a follow-up comment), 11 of 13 of my restaurant posts have been positive, this comment is just silly really.

Your negativity and criticisms are at once appalling and hilariously self-important. Why would you say such awful things about every single eatery you dine at? I always thought that the point of writing about food was to share the pleasures of the table with others, not to undermine any sort of enjoyment you've taken from the meal with scathing remarks. Shame on you.

At the risk of humoring stupidity amplified by laziness, I guess I can explain that the point of this blog was to recommend restaurants or food I liked and report bad dining experiences so others might be spared the waste of time and money. I'm sorry someone hasn't learned to benefit from the concept of a "review"; you must be confounded at the random odds of seeing terrible movies.

For the recipe. Tuesday night I made my own fake lamb gyros with homemade seitan. It's not vegetarian exactly, but that wasn't the point. Meat's full of fat and generally not great for you, and I thought it might be a nice option to making lamb paste meatloaf. It's kind of an amalgamation of recipes I found on the web, so I won't cite them here. It turned out freaking awesome and actually looked ALOT like real gyros meat. I've adjusted it slightly here, since it was a little heavy on the Rosemary (I reduced by half) and I originally omitted the Oregano and Cumin which would have improved it. Here goes:


Dry ingredients
2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten Flour
2TBSP Nutritional Yeast
1/2 tsp. ground Rosemary
1/2 tsp. ground Marjoram
1/2 tsp. ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. ground Oregano
1 tsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 TBSP Chicken Boullion Powder
1 TBSP Beef Boullion Powder

Wet Ingredients
1 1/2 cups Water (more or less as needed).
1 TBSP Soy Sauce

7 cups Water
2 TBSP Soy sauce
1 onion sliced
3-4 cloves garlic smashed
1 sprig each Rosemary, Oregano


Start heating the broth (I used a 6 qt enamel Dutch oven).

Mix dry ingredients well with a whisk.

Add wet ingredients (just enough wet to bring together and make a dough) and begin mixing with a wooden spoon or similar implement. It will form a rubbery dough easily and quickly and look like brains. They say to try and not make it too wet. Mine took slightly more than 1 1/2 cups.

When it forms a stiff dough knead it 10 to 15 times.

Let the dough rest 2 to 5 minutes, then knead it a few more times. Let it rest another 15 minutes before proceeding, pressing into a flat (2-3 inches tall), oval loaf as you finish.

Finish forming/pressing into loaf shape, wrap in cheesecloth and tie off both ends.

Once broth has come to a boil, drop in Seitan loaf, reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook (partially covered) for about 1 1/2 hours. Check broth periodically and reduce/raise heat as needed to maintain simmer.

Remove from broth, drain and cool slightly.

Cut into thin strips (I then cut strips in half lengthwise).

Brown lightly for a few minutes in about 1-2 tsp. olive oil.

Serve in Falafels Pita (they sell it at Bloomingfoods) with Tzaziki, lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced onions.


Broccoli Rabe pizza

This is a recipe post. I'll probably start a separate weblog for that (with pictures) but want to store/share recipes when I get the urge. However, it is actually appropriate in the sense that (though I don't want to publicize it too broadly) east side Kroger is now stocking (regularly) Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and selling it for freaking 99 cents a bunch! And coincidentally, they are also selling a really nice frozen pizza dough (it's in the very northeastern corner of the store in the last north-facing cooler).

My usual approach is to poach Broccoli Rabe in boiling water, saute it in olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, then serve it with Italian sausage.

But last night, I made a 2nd attempt at a Broccoli Rabe pizza, and it was about the best freaking thing I've eating in a LONG time.

Here's the recipe.

1 ball frozen pizza dough
1 bunch broccoli rabe
3 cloves garlic, cut in thin slices
1-2 TSP red pepper flakes.
2 TBSP olive oil
About 1 cup Barilla Basil or Red Repper pasta sauce (or any other of the very few than don't have sugar)
Shredded mozzarella
Grated romano
Grated sheep's milk ricotta
About 1/2 cup soft ricotta cheese
2 Italian Sausage links (I use Fischer Farms antibiotic free from Bloomingfoods)

Preheat oven (and baking stone if you have one) to 450 degrees.

Boil broccoli rabe in salted water for about 3 minutes. Drain well and cut into 2-3 inch pieces.

Saute garlic on very low heat until it begins to soften. Stir in red pepper flakes. After about 30 seconds to 1 minute add broccoli rabe. Turn up heat til it begins to sizzle, and cook, stirring well for about 2-3 minutes (to coat rapini and combine flavors well).

Brown sausage links on all sides. Remove to cutting board and cut into small round discs (about 1/4 inch). Return to pan and brown quickly on both sides.

Roll out pizza dough (the size of your pizza stone if you have one). Place on thin layer of cornmeal to aid sliding onto stone.
Spread sauce thinly to about 1/2 inch from the edge.
Sprinkle on a thin layer of mozzarella.
Grate the sheep's milk ricotta sparingly (about 1 TBSP).
Add broccoli rabe to form a single layer (you will probably have some left for snacking).
Distribute sausage evenly on top.
Add about 1 tsp dallops of soft ricotta (enough to get 1-2 per piece, or more if you like).
Grate a little romano on top.
Bake at 450 degrees for 13-16 minutes until nice and brown on the edges and the cheese begins to brown slightly.



Among the notable business closings I failed to note in a previous post, Encore cafe closed it's doors. Mercifully, that is, to make way for one of the best things to happen to the near west side since I've been here (and that ridiculous Cafe D'lish closed). I roll my eyes when I hear disappointment that Encore and its overpriced half-assed food are gone.

Bloomingfoods opened its near west side store sometime last year, and I'm embarrassed to say, we go there so often, one of the cashiers has memorized our 5-digit member number. But that also points up one of the awesome things about it. It's a local business staffed by people who actually want to work there. It's really the closest thing to a neighborhood market I'm likely to experience. We actually have a meat/cheese and wine guy who we know by name and asks US for suggestions for what to get.

They sell nice local produce, often with good deals. They also carry hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat, nice fish, scallops, mussels (we have them at least twice a month), and, most relevant for this blog, a hot bar with daily soups and veg and non-veg dishes (not to mention the sandwich counter). Highlights here have been a Ground Nut Stew, Sherry Mushroon Chicken, Dijon Brussels sprouts, Seitan Burgundy and Tofu Stroganoff. The disappointments are seldom and mild.

However, I should also note that we have had some of the best food in town at the East side store. Last weekend we had a freaking awesome cumin beef, Dijon green beans, Cuban pork and a Moroccan veg dish. A few months ago we had some Moroccan beets whose recipe I'll be chasing until I find it.

Near West
Location: 316 W. Sixth St.
Phone: 333-7312

Location: 3220 East Third St.
Phone: 336-5400
Bloomingfoods Website

Wings Update

Thanks to commenters for wings suggestions. Buffalo Wild Wings are OK. Wings extreme about the same. I've since added Buffa Louie's to my top 5 wings in town--they're local and easier to get to. But Mother Bear's is still the best in my book.

Mandalay has Pho!

Since my last entry, it looks like Google's crawlers have rescued this blog from complete obscurity. Thanks for all the comments. I'll be trying to write more in the future. Lots of food destinations have risen and fallen since April 2007.

La Bamba has closed. Alas no more cheap but delicious steak tacos and far and away the best sauces in town.

Sonic has opened and already changed ownership. I fear it may not make it a year. It had become a weekend tradition--jalapeno cheeseburgers and giant unsweetened cranberry iced teas. We stopped for a chili cheese coney and drinks last weekend--the drinks were wrong and the coney was just OK, but it was badly made (too hard to explain). Just made me worry it's heading downhill.

Burmese Gems closed a while back... But now for the good news! In it's place is another Burmese restaurant called Mandalay (or as we call it, Vandalay Industries.) I'm pretty indifferent to most of the menu. However, they serve a completely respectable Pho. You can get chicken or pork I believe (don't quite get that). But the beef is very nice and compares favorably to the best Pho we've had in Indianapolis (Maxim's Place) and Louisville. Since it's not actually Vietnamese, they don't give you as nice a selection of herbs (no basil). But it's well done and for $8.99, it's a nice Sunday lunch for 2. The curries and fish dishes look nice in their full color catalog-style menu. Eventually we'll try something new. Assuming it lasts long enough...

Closed Mondays and from 2:30-5

Location: 413 E 4th Street (Next to Little Tibet)
Phone: 339-7334
Mandalay's Website


Noodles & Company

Fast, cheap, totally acceptable. A little heavy on the sauce on the Indonesian Peanut Saute, but tastes good and lots of food. The Pad Thai looks a little less smothered in sauce--planning to try it next (with extra vegetables). The Macaroni and Cheese is good.

Location: 517 E. Kirkwood Avenue/at Indiana (At The Historic Von Lee Theater)
Phone: 323-1400
Online Menu


Restaurant Tallent

After wincing at this ugly gray cinder block building for over a year, we decided to take advantage of a special b1g1 deal. Granted it's not quite as hideous inside as outside, it's pretty bizarrely decorated to say the least. The enormous terrible paintings on the ground floor have been replaced with some photographs I paid no attention to. Our trip upstairs took us by what looked like a side tour of assembly hall (were they trying to make the stairwell look like a basketball?). Passing through the room of blood (solid dark red walls) we were sat in the padded toile back room. Well, yes it was kind of ridiculous. So, the food... It was very good. The potato soup starter my wife got was really good. I got a Roballo (spanish fish) with risotto and an herb "salse verde" It was done very well for the most part; some really nice flavors. The risotto was maybe a little pasty and the wilty spinach was midly unappealing. All and all it was not better than any food I've paid less than half the price for. My wife got the coq au vin. It was pretty good. Not having anything to compare it too, I can only compare it to ather food experiences. It was good, but not heavenly by any means. Our dessert, a plum and fig crisp with black pepper ice cream was OK. But the tough, meaty fruit lacked any real pleasant sweetness or fragrance. The ice cream was interesting, but didn't ring any bells either.

The service was fine I guess, but when she failed to bring me my dessert port the illusion of infallibility was finally dashed. What was left was a par dining experience like any other, but less fun.

We enjoyed our wine recommendation alot. But really? Not $9/glass great.

So, the $85 bill warrants some nitpicking criticism. It was kind of a fun outing in some respects; new territory and it's nice to treat yourself once in a while. But what could have been quite a fun adventure, was squelched in the end by a haut-culture pretensions and my inability to deal with face-to-face fine-dining jargon without finally getting annoyed.

Granted, I went in feeling like a rube street urchin in a house of manners, but I've come away feeling that for what we got and what we paid, the stilted, take-yourself-really seriously because this is fine-dining atmosphere isn't worth it. So, if you really love this kind of thing (a little too masochistic for me), I'd say everthing they say about it is probably true. I've had my go. Not convinced.

Location: 620 West Kirkwood Ave
Phone: 330-9801



Took advantage of the heavenly lull in Bloomington commerce to visit Roots, Bloomington's new (only?) vegetarian restaurant last night. The decoration and atmosphere are extremely welcoming and comfortable. I'll chalk the slightly slow service up to slow-business inertia. I'd love to see more variety on the menu. Even still, it was tough deciding between 2 or 3 three really appealing looking items. I had a falafel sandwich, just because it's what I was in the mood for. My wife had a roasted portabello, spinach melt. We both had sweet potato fries. First and foremost, all the mostly local ingredients were fine quality and fresh. My sandwich could have been a little more generously seasoned, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The portabello sandwich was freakin' awesome. It was huge! Every bite I was able to steal was moist and flavorful and everything in it worked well together. The fries were a little overdone for my tastes, but still enjoyable. We also had a fresh juice and a smoothy. The tropical fruit smoothy was really delicious, as was my carrot and orange juice. Definitely a high recommend and on our list for a 2nd visit, hopefully soon!

Location: 127 N. Walnut Ave.
Phone: 332-4040


T.G.I. Fridays

The newest competitor in the "flair" and manufactured "good times" mega-chains to hit Bloomington. We decided to give it one more try after several disappointing misadventures to the T.G.I. Fridays at College Mall. The first trip during opening week was fine. After that, over 2 more trips, they managed to get every single order wrong (drinks, dressings, toppings, even the steak order). Last night however, we tried again (we're too forgiving). It was great. The Southwest Jalapeno Burger is freakin' awesome. As was the chicken and shrimp grill thing (sizzling something?) which we got without the cheese. Service food and all it was very enjoyable. So for now, I definitely recommend.

Location: College Mall