The brick-fronted building at 519 E. 10th St. sits deserted. Acquired last year by Indiana University from the owners of Yogi’s Grill & Bar, it awaits its fate as the site of a pending university expansion. But Bloomington old-timers insist that if you look carefully, inside you can still see the bones of an earlier incarnation: the Tao Restaurant.

For those who lived in Bloomington in the 1970s, the Tao was an icon. “Bloomington had a few Chinese places, but the Tao was the first gourmet, artisanal restaurant,” says Guy Loftman, a retired lawyer who frequented the Tao with his family. Many remember it as the first gourmet vegetarian restaurant they had encountered—not just in Bloomington but anywhere in southern Indiana.

Often, there were lines leading out the door and up the street. “The first time I ever saw real maple syrup was at the Tao,” recalls Carol Gulyas, who worked as a waitress there in 1975 and ’76. “It was the first time I had granola. It was the first place I ever had soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds on broccoli.”


From the famous Rudi’s Poppy Seed Cake to the foundational vegetable stock, the recipes below were some of the cornerstones of the Tao and of Rudi’s Bakery in Bloomington, Indiana. They are adapted from the book The Tao of Cooking by Sally Pasley (Indiana University Press, 1998).

The Tao Recipes

Rudi’s Poppy Seed Cake

This dense, moist cake is the cornerstone of the excellent reputation of Rudi’s Bakery in Bloomington, Indiana.

Makes one 9-inch tube cake

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup poppy seeds

5 egg whites

1) Heat oven to 350 F.

2) Cream butter and shortening with sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.

3) Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together and add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Stir in poppy seeds

4) Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into batter one half at a time.

5) Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch tube pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve plain or iced with cream cheese frosting.

Whole Wheat Bread

This is a good, basic whole wheat bread. Sesame seeds give it a nutty taste. It is excellent fresh for sandwiches or toasted. You may add 1 or 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds for extra crunchiness.

Makes 1 large loaf (8 1/4 by 4 1/4 inches)

1 cup warm water

1 package fresh or dry yeast

1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

2 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 1/4 cups bread or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1) In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, shortening, and sesame seeds. Add white flour and beat until smooth.

2) Add salt and enough remaining whole wheat flour to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.

3) Form dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn it once to coat the surface of the dough with oil. Cover with a cloth and let rest in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4) Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Shape into one large loaf and place in a well-greased loaf pan. Let rise again until almost doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.

5) Heat the oven to 400 F.

6) Brush top of loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with one or two teaspoons sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

“Big Veg”

The Big Veg was the mainstay of the Tao menu in its early years. All manner of leftovers can be incorporated into the mix. I like mine on toast with sliced tomato, Bermuda onion and ketchup!

Makes 8 veggie burgers

1 1/2 cups soy beans

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

3/4 cup grated carrots

1/4 cup ketchup

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 cup bread crumbs for breading

Flour for breading

Bread crumbs for breading

Beaten egg

Oil for frying

1) Cover soy beans with water and soak overnight. Cook until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and mash to a paste with a food mill or food processor.

2) Mix beans with remaining ingredients and taste for seasoning. Form into eight patties.

3) Dredge patties lightly in flour, coat with beaten egg and roll in breadcrumbs.

4) In a heavy iron skillet or frying pan, heat about 1/4-inch oil and fry patties until crisp and brown on both sides.

Tao Dressing

Creamy and delicious, this pretty, pale green dressing merits the enthusiasm it has received from countless Tao customers through the years. It suits a plain green salad as well as an elaborate vegetable or chef’s salad.

Makes 1 1/3 cups

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch black pepper

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon dill weed

3 or 4 spinach leaves

2/3 cup salad oil

In a blender, combine all ingredients except salad oil and puree until smooth. Turn blender on low speed. While motor is still running, slowly pour in oil in a thin stream. When all the oil has been absorbed, turn blender on high speed and blend for a few more seconds to thicken.

Vegetable Stock

To the surprise of many, soups made without meat are full of flavor. The basis of this flavor is a good soup stock. Like meat stocks, vegetable stocks use many of the throw away items from the kitchen: carrot peels, onion peels, celery leaves, and parsley stems. All these form the body and soul of tis essential element of soup making.

The following recipe for vegetable stock is only meant to serve as a guideline for the novice stock maker. If you plan ahead, you can start saving little tidbits in a container in your refrigerator (they will keep for several days). I have outlined some of these ingredients in the recipe. Avoid vegetables with a very strong flavor, such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, or cabbage. These will overpower the other vegetables in your stock and therefore in your soup.

When you have accumulated a potful, take inventory and round out your collection with more onions and carrots, or whatever you think might be lacking. Add water and simmer slowly for one to two hours.

Leftover, cooked vegetables are better added to the finished soup than to the stockpot, since most of their flavor has already been extracted in the first cooking. Still, they can add interest and filler to a soup, and are often most palatable in this form.

Makes about 4 quarts stock.

2 tablespoons butter

3 or 4 sliced shallots

1 small turnip (use in moderation, since it has a strong flavor)

1 or 2 celery stalks, with leaves

Handful of parsley stems

2 onions

2 carrots

1 bunch leeks or scallions, green part only

1 cup mushroom trimmings

A few tomato ends

About 10 peppercorns

1) In a stockpot over low heat, heat butter and add sliced shallots, cooking until they start to brown.

2) Slice remaining vegetables and add to the pot.

3) Cover with water and simmer 2 to 3 hours. Strain.

Cream of Curried Onion Soup

Curry powder, cream, and white wine distinguish this soup from the more conventional onion soup.

Makes 6 cups

3 tablespoons butter

7 cups thinly sliced onions

1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 cup dry, white wine

1 tablespoon uncooked white rice

4 cups vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1) In a saucepan, heat butter. Add onions, stirring occasionally until clear, about 5 minutes.

2) Add curry powder, white wine, rice, stock, bay leaf, tomato paste, salt, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3) In a blender, puree half the soup and return to saucepan. Reheat with cream and taste for seasoning.