BY MEGAN BETZ
My husband and I have regularly eaten out since the birth of our daughter, Maddie, now 3, but it can feel like choosing between a menu we will enjoy and a venue that will keep her interested. I can tell you the number of times we’ve left a restaurant and heard her shout, “Wow, that was a fun one!”
Exactly once, thanks to the well-thought-out kid’s plate and the children’s play area at Feta Kitchen + Café.
For Hilary Martel, who owns Feta with her husband, Hartzell Martel, the concept is personal. She drew on her own experiences eating out with their two children while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Branching out from the family’s ice cream establishments (Hartzell’s Ice Cream and the Jiffy Treet on Bloomington’s east side), Martel knew she wanted to create a family- and budget-friendly restaurant that offered nutritious options without sacrificing variety. “I wanted something besides a salad, something that had a lot of flavor,” she says. With Feta, she’s delivered, and the menu—created around a build-your-own-bowl format— offers seemingly endless variations.
Feta, located at the corner of Hillside Drive and Henderson Street, offers a fresh take on quick Mediterranean fare. From the first step in building your meal, Feta provides equal variety rather than the token option or two for those maintaining gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diets. Everyone starts with a base of whole grains, greens, or flatbread, building up from there.
While I was thankful for the variety of meatless options (with roasted vegetables and lentils joining the more conventional selections of hummus and falafel), I kept coming back to the gyro meat. Dragged through whipped feta spread and combined with pickled vegetables, the flavors called to mind late-night street food I had eaten while studying abroad.
If Maddie was co-writing this review, she would note that the kid’s plate offers fresh carrots, whole grains, and protein options presented in a form that keeps happy even a 3-year-old with a strict foods-don’t-touch rule. But my method for building your meal? Pick the base and protein that speak to you, but be sure to load up on all three allotted dips and spreads. Balance fresh and pickled vegetables for more flavor. Then, skip the sides and save room for dessert. Enjoy your meal. Send the kids over to the play area to enjoy books, blocks, and a play kitchen.
In the meantime, move over to the café, which offers classics like scones and new offerings like smoothie bowls with granola and almond milk made in-house. Don’t worry, the kids will be too busy playing to notice you enjoying the in-house-made baklava. When the kids are finally done, I recommend ordering them a chocolate-cherry smoothie. With avocado and vegan chocolate giving it a milkshake-like texture, it’s a healthy treat they’ll slurp right up.
Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the kitchen and 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the café. For more information, visit fetakitchen.com.