Thursday, July 28, 2011

city review: bloomington, indiana

clark's hometown and lois's adopted town for grad school, bloomington holds a special place in our hearts. it's one of the only towns in indiana that's worth visiting, and thanks to the diversity at the university, there are a surprising number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants to be found.

clark has been eating here since the early '90s, and it's still one of his favorite places on earth. (note: this is the place that spawned all the laughing planets in portland.) sure, over the years they've become inconsistent, but they do so many things right that it's almost always worth your time. the zapatista is our favorite salad on the planet, just make sure you add seitan and guacamole to it. the burritos, of course, are the stars at laughing planet, and there are just as many opinions about the best concoctions as there are bloomington residents. here's ours: light black beans, spinach, kale, seitan, extra cheese, and no salsa fresca. it's not that the fresca is bad, but if you leave it in you're likely to have a burrito "blow out," which'll leave you forking up the remains. anyway, eat here if you eat nowhere else in bloomington.
Laughing Planet Cafe on Urbanspoon
known by some as the dragon lady, the owner of esan thai is one tough customer, but boy does she know how to do thai food right.  the place is as no frills as it gets, but it's not about ambience at esan thai; it's about the illest khao pad in the country.  seriously.  we order khao pad pretty much wherever we find thai food, and nothing has come close to esan thai's version.  order it "thai hot" with tofu, and prepare for thai bliss.
Esan Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon
bloomington's newest vegetarian addition, the owlery is 100% vegetarian, even going so far as to ensure that all of their cheeses are made without animal rennet.  it's just one of the reasons we love them; the others include the classic poutine and the b.l.t.
The Owlery on Urbanspoon
 the first time clark took lois to roots, she cried.  in the middle of eating her sandwich.  one problem is that roots is inconsistent; the other problem is that they decided to start serving fish.  when roots started out, they were 100% vegetarian, and the food was consistently good.  when the new owners took over, roots benefited from the addition of thai dishes, but they made a grave mistake by losing their purely vegetarian designation.  still, we almost always find time to visit roots while in bloomington, and we think you oughta find the time, too.  just be sure to suggest that they stop serving fish.
Roots on the Square on Urbanspoon
mostly meaty but noteworthy:
restaurant tallent is probably the best restaurant in indiana, and chef dave tallent consisently gets nominated by the beard foundation.  if you've got the dough, and if you let them know ahead of time, they're sure to whip you up some extraordinary veg food.  if nothing else, stop by for some wine and top-notch desserts.

upland brewery is a bloomington staple, and it produces some of the finest brews in southcentral indiana.  you'll be pleasantly surprised with the vegetarian options, too, and they even have a 100% vegetarian fryer. we enthusiastically recommend the seitan gyros.


  1. I've never been to Bloomington but love Indianapolis. I think it's such a perfect midwestern city - much like St. Louis. We go there all the time for concerts!

    We'll have to make it to Bloomington sometime.

  2. i think next time you just won't even make it to indy if you make a stop-off in bloomington. there is so much good stuff happening there, all the time, thanks to the university. so you'll have some awesome eats (then head over to the chocolate moose for dessert), then catch an event on campus. perfect.