BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
Last time we profiled Feast Bakery Cafe (June/July 2011), the gem of a neighborhood restaurant on the corner of East Hillside Drive and South Henderson Street, it was a family-run tamale joint with terrific pastries and breakfasts and some darn-good sandwiches. There are so many good places to eat in Bloomington that Bloom rarely reviews a restaurant twice unless there’s been a major change. Well, Feast has done just that, reinventing itself into a wonderful full-deal restaurant with a soon-to-be completed off-site bakery and wine cellar at 407 W. Patterson Dr., in the space formerly occupied by Angel B’s Galleria of Cakes.
Chef Erika Yochum says Feast’s growth has been organic. From the start it was intended only to be a little coffee shop where she could meet catering clients and sell customers a midweek fix of the tamales that were otherwise only available at the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market. But once in place, Feast Bakery and Cafe took off. The growing south-side neighborhood embraced it, and Yochum added soups and more sandwiches, outdoor seating, and finally, in the latest iteration, a full dinner service.
The seasonal, locally sourced menu is not extensive, but every item is carefully chosen by Yochum and her sous chef, Anthony Gabriele. It’s probably not wise to get your heart set on a particular dish because the menu offerings change depending on what is available from local farms. Recent delicious small plates included tiny ravioli filled with Taleggio cheese and sauced with brown butter and olive tapenade; roasted cauliflower made piquant with olives, pine nuts, and anchovies; a radicchio salad with Manchego cheese; and a trio of the phenomenal house-made breads.
Although winter entrées will have given way to spring by the time this profile appears, they included sizzling steak and frites (local Dewig Meats rib eye topped with a spicy jalapeño butter), salmon (wild caught and served with a fennel feta salad garnish), and crispy tandoori fried chicken (the bird from Gunthorp Farms, fragrant with Indian spice).
The desserts at Feast, where there are now four pastry chefs, are as delicious as they were when they were made almost entirely by Yochum’s Aunt Pat (Sellers). The restaurant is so small that there are no seats from which you cannot drool over the showcase of pastries, cakes, and pies, so dinner is haunted by thoughts of dessert, and dessert is haunted by images of sweet things unchosen. You may need to have two.
One of the best things about the “new” Feast is the bread. Made in-house (and soon to be made at the new Feast Market and Cellar) they are fantastic. Croissants, sourdough, buttermilk and olive oil hamburger buns, anadama, and many more are on the changing bakery menu.
Eating at Feast is a lovely experience, though the fact that it is small and that they don’t take reservations can make getting a table a bit of a gamble, except in summer when the patio doubles the restaurant’s size. The new bakery and wine cellar will be small, too, with a mere 20 seats. Asked why she doesn’t expand such a popular dining spot, Chef Yochum says that the current size feels just right. “I love the attention we can give to our customers and to the food, and I don’t want that to get lost with a bigger restaurant.”
In a culture that cherishes huge chain restaurants, such an attitude is as rare as it is refreshing.