Within the last few months, three new restaurants have opened, all within blocks of one another, and all serving breakfast and lunch.
The Inkwell, on the downtown Square, offers premium coffees, fresh-baked goods, and a relaxing atmosphere; Bedräk Café, on South Walnut, hopes to attract health-focused and environmentally conscious diners with an innovative menu and omelet and smoothie bars; and West 6th Street’s La Vie en Rose Café offers up authentic French croissants, pastries, and quiches.
BY ALLISON YATES
La Vie en Rose Café
Stéphanie Laparre, owner of La Vie en Rose Café, wants the experience at her café to be so authentic that she imports French butter, with at least 83 percent butterfat, to make the croissants. The menu is in French, and there’s no coffee to go. The details of the café, which seats 25—from the cast-iron table legs to the logo’s beret-like macaroon over the Eiffel Tower—are designed, she says, to create a special, and very French, establishment.
“I want to stay authentic to my roots,” says Laparre, a native of Toulouse, France.
Laparre wants the café, at 402 1/2 W. 6th St., to be a lively, cozy, and informal space where customers feel free to read a book or chat with friends. She says the café is “like a second part of my house I’m opening for people.”
The menu of homemade quiches, soups, and croissants are from Laparre’s own recipes. However, she learned to make the elaborate pastries from a French pastry chef who came to Bloomington for a month to teach her.
A former primary school teacher, Laparre found the opportunity for a career change after moving to Bloomington in 2016 with her husband, Günther Jikeli, who teaches at Indiana University. And while she concedes Bloomington has many fine places to eat and drink, she says there is nothing quite like La Vie en Rose.
Laparre says she chose the phrase la vie en rose—which translates to something like “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses”—to suggest the carefree atmosphere she hopes to create at the café. But there’s also a more romantic association: The Edith Piaf song of the same name was a favorite of the couple when they first met.
Open Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed Monday. Prices $2 to $9.
Tracy Gates, the former manager of Scholars Inn Bakehouse, admits opening her new restaurant, The Inkwell, was an accident. First, the space fell into her lap; the idea for the restaurant came later. Still, she took the leap, signed the lease, and four weeks later—in early September—opened for business at 105 N. College in the location formerly occupied by NOCO.
She and manager Oualelaye “Wally” Ouedraogo met just two weeks before the café opened. Ouedraogo had recently moved to Bloomington with his wife, who is studying at Indiana University. He applied for a job at Hopscotch Coffee and the owners, who knew Gates was opening the café, pointed him in her direction. From Gates’ point of view, it was a perfect fit.
Along with specialty coffee, The Inkwell features breakfast (think avocado toast, waffles, and granola) and lunch (a classic BLT, chicken salad on a baguette or in a cup). There are also Gates’ specialty bakery items, recipes gleaned from her early endeavor at The Red Chair Bakery, which closed in 2002.
Since opening, the café has slowly expanded its menu, always focused on doing “a little, really, really well,” Gates says. Consistency and quality are of the utmost importance, she says.
The Inkwell’s social media manager, Abbey Stemler, came up with the café’s name. Referring to the scholarly side of Bloomington, she says it’s also a play on words. Inkwell references complimenting ideas: eat well, drink well, and think well.
The open-space layout seats 99 and caters to anyone who just wants to relax, “get a lot done, and have a good meal,” says Ouedraogo. In the future, Gates and Ouedraogo hope to host special events and pop-ups in the back private space.
Open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Prices $2 to $7.50.
Lety Salazar, general manager and co-owner of the Bedräk Café, hopes the new restaurant will attract foodies who care about their health and the environment.
Bedräk (pronounced “bedrock”) is situated in the limestone-covered building at 409 S. Walnut that inspired its name. The Germanic spelling is both a reference to kitchen manager Matthew Enghauser’s heritage and a modern twist paying homage to Indiana’s limestone. “We wanted to be original, true to our region, and at the same time, able to franchise it,” Salazar says.
The café focuses on fresh, local, and organic breakfast and brunch, including an omelet bar and a juice and smoothie bar. Enghauser, who is also Salazar’s partner and previously the kitchen manager at Scotty’s Brewhouse, says they built the menu based on the variety and quality of food they wished existed in Bloomington. “We’re definitely fulfilling a niche,” Enghauser says.
The menu features innovative takes on traditional dishes, like Crab Cake Benedict and Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Waffles. Some menu items, like the biscuits and gravy made with chorizo, may remind customers of dishes served at La Torre, the restaurant previously owned by Salazar’s parents (and fellow Bedräk co-owners), José and Leticia Salazar. The Signature Cubano sandwich is a throwback to Salazar’s experience helping open a Cuban restaurant in New York City.
The food is creative, made with “simple ingredients, but done well,” says Salazar, who ensures many options for those with food allergies. Salazar and Enghauser plan to change the menu seasonally, staying true to their mission to source locally.
Bedräk is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prices $2 to $15.