BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
There are changes afoot at Café Django. The downtown eatery, a colorful Grant Street fixture just off East Kirkwood since 1999, has long been a draw for jazz fans and those looking for Asian-Mediterranean cuisine, like beef or veggie momo (think Tibetan potstickers), fiery Himalayan potatoes, Shogo Tema (pea and potato fritters served with a spicy sauce), and all kinds of noodle dishes, from pad thai to five-cheese tortellini.
But with the purchase of the restaurant from its original owner, Kunyang Norbu, by its manager, Linda Eversoll, the restaurant’s culinary offerings just got more complex, with the added dimension of dishes from Eversoll’s native Peru melding with the existing Asian and Mediterranean dishes on the menu.
Asian-Mediterranean-Peruvian fusion? It’s not as far a stretch as you might think, says Eversoll. There has been a significant Chinese presence in her native country since the 1800s and the combination of Asian and Peruvian flavors is not uncommon there. Peruvian food, less familiar to Bloomington than Asian, is known for its use of cilantro and parsley as well as pepper, cumin, and palillo—a yellow chili powder that gives Peruvian food a distinctive hue.
On the Café Django menu, this translates into entrées like Peruvian Noodles—noodles sautéed with chicken, beef, or tofu and spices like Peruvian black pepper and cumin, with tomatoes and red onion. The spices hail from South America, while the cooking method—tossing the noodles in a hot wok—is Asian. Similarly, the Peruvian fried rice—Eversoll’s own recipe—combines the Peruvian flavor palate with Asian touches like ginger—again, cooked in a wok. And on the appetizer menu, Eversoll plans to add Andean potatoes (spicy sweet potatoes) to the high-altitude Himalayan potatoes that are already there, and to add comfort foods, like arroz con leche (rice pudding with cinnamon, cloves, and raisins), to the dessert menu.
Says Eversoll, “When I serve food from my country and people here like it, it is just the best reward for me.” She is thrilled to have the chance to share her country’s foods with a town that has embraced her since her arrival here ten years ago.
Coming from Lima, a city so big that “if you say ‘hi’ to someone they think you will assault them,” she has a fierce appreciation of her new home, and shows it, in part, by using local products in her restaurant—beer from Big Woods Brewing Company in Nashville, Indiana, and Upland Brewing Company in Bloomington, Oliver wines, local wagyu (“Kobe style”) beef, and produce from the Farmers’ Market.
Jazz lovers should aim to hit Café Django on Wednesdays and the weekends, when the place rocks with music. Eversoll is developing a tapas menu of small plates to satisfy those who don’t necessarily come for a meal but who want to nibble while enjoying music and drinks, like the house’s signature sangria. Those who want to focus on the food and conversation are better off coming during non-music hours, where the only good vibes are those coming from the friendly service and the delicious food.
Café Django is also open for lunch and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.