The chefs at My Thai Cafe know that you eat with your eyes first, crafting classic dishes and handed-down recipes with an artist's precision and whimsy. They prepare generous bowls of tom-yum soup brimming with shrimp, lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves, and galanga root, and stir-fry dishes including the pad ped with choice of meat and chili paste—a spicy concoction originating from the kitchen of the owner's aunt. Chefs garnish dishes with edible handiwork: carrots cut into butterflies, rice formed into heart shapes, and bunches of cilantro woven into fans for cooling fiery tongues.
Since April, 2003, the chefs at North End Caf? have championed a focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Caf?'s menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to stir-fry and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's outdoor deck, an expansive wooden patio surrounded by vines and flowers.
At Zen Garden, many of the Asian dishes sound familiar, with adjectives like "orange," "sweet ‘n’ sour," and "kung pao." However, rather than tossing chicken or beef in with these classic flavors, the kitchen has adopted a meat-free credo. Chefs mix masterfully seasoned bites of tofu and other meat alternatives with fresh veggies, creating entrees such as green beans stir-fried with mock duck and the barbecued-soy sandwich. Noodles tangle around shiitake mushrooms in both the udon-noodle soup and the shiitake mushroom lo mein, and curry sauce imbues eggplant and shredded tofu with a spicy kick. Guests can pair their meal with a cup of green tea, prepped hot, iced, or in its purest form: emeralds that have not yet been juiced.
Tables that can accommodate big groups and cozy, home-cooked meals evoke a sense of camaraderie inside Old School Cafe. Chicken noodle soup, reuben sandwiches, creamy mac and cheese, and biscuits galore populate tables. A giant burger stacked high with bacon, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce is held together by a steak knife stabbed through its middle. The creative endeavors continue with desserts, including bear-shaped cookies and cupcakes topped with maple bacon or toasted marshmallows.
Coaches Bar & Grill pairs lively Indiana University basketball games with mugs of cold beer, camaraderie, and hearty pub fare. Diners chow down on blackened blue steak sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and pizzas, all washed down with 12 beers on draft, pitchers, and heat-bringing Five Alarm Bloody Mary. The walls bristle with memorabilia from almost every IU coach dating back to 1887, including a canned scream from Bobby Knight, as well as artifacts from the Hoosier State basketball legend Larry Bird. Sports fans watch the game from an almost infinite number of vantage points on 28 plasma screens in the main dining area, or gather friends and family for private game-watching parties in the VIP room.
As a neighborhood ice cream shop since 1933, The Chocolate Moose sees itself as an archive of Bloomington's memories. Old-time memories such as post-game celebrations and first dates are tied up in this nostalgia-imbued ice cream shop. Of course, nostalgia alone isn't enough to keep the visitors coming back every year. The ice cream, crafted in-house from a 14% butterfat mix, melts into hot fudge sundaes and root beer floats. Flavors of marshmallow, cream de menthe, and butter pecan swirl into smooth milk shakes. Beyond ice cream desserts,The Chocolate Moose also prepares hot food including coney dogs, bbq pulled pork sandwiches, and Spanish burgers – a burger-meatloaf hybrid baked in tomato sauce with locally sourced meats.