by CRAIG COLEY
The throes of a pandemic might seem an inauspicious time to open a new restaurant or food store, but Bloomington has seen a healthy number of new such venues launch in the face of considerable obstacles. Consider that on-site dining was shut down entirely for two months, then limited to 50% capacity, and is still constrained by the requirement that tables be spaced 6 feet apart. Also consider that many people remain uncomfortable dining out. All the same, a number of people—both industry veterans and newcomers—have taken the plunge despite the challenges. Here are a few.
The day in March when Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb ordered all restaurants to close was the day Ed and Gina Kramer signed a lease
on the building on South Grant Street where Dat’s used to be. They renovated the space and in June opened Healthy Hoosiers café, selling meal-replacement smoothies and other beverages.
They feature 87 smoothie flavors, each designed to provide 24 grams of protein, 21 vitamins and minerals, and about 250 calories.
A smoothie is served with a shot of flavored aloe and a cup of tea. Smoothie add-ins include the Flirtini, which is rich in collagen,
and the New Mom, which replaces nutrients used in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Energy Bomb drinks, containing vitamins, ginseng, amino acids, and guarana come in a variety of flavors. Protein coffee is served iced or hot.
Healthy Hoosiers is located at 211 S. Grant St. and has distanced tables. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Learn more at facebook.com/healthyhoosiers.
Blooming Thai opened in October on the west side of the downtown Square, in the former location of Darn Good Soup. It offers a wide variety of main dishes, soups, salads, cakes, and milk teas, including bubble tea. In addition to tom yum and hot-and-sour soups,
there are four pho noodle soups.
The menu’s seven salads include two varieties of papaya salad and larb, which is
a lime-dressed minced meat. Standout entrees include a chicken dish served in a half pineapple and pad thai wrapped in egg. Wine is available.
Blooming Thai is at 107 N. College and has indoor seating. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m., Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Menu at bloomingthai.net.
Nat’s Bakery and Cafe
Natalie “Nat” Strauser opened Nat’s Bakery and Cafe in Fountain Square Mall in August. “I’ve wanted to have my own place for most of my life,” Strauser says. “I just didn’t think I would be 22 when it happened.” A friend had told Strauser, now 23, that the owners of Stefano’s were looking to retire, and she took a semester off from her culinary arts studies at Ivy Tech Community College– Bloomington to launch the café.
Nat’s serves breakfast, lunch, and made-from-scratch cakes, pastries, scones, cookies, and doughnut holes. Vegan and gluten-free options are available. Breakfast—served all day—includes made- to-order omelettes, egg sandwiches, and Pancake Tacos. Lunch offerings include sandwiches, salads, and soups.
Nat’s Bakery and Cafe is on the lower level of Fountain Square Mall, 101 W. Kirkwood, where table seating is available. Hours are
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Learn more at natsbakeryandcafe.com.
Hoosier Seoulmate opened in July on West 3rd Street. Its name suggests the playful mash-up of Korean and American fare it offers along with traditional Korean dishes like bibimbap and japchae.
Fusion appetizers include Kimchi Fries, Bulgogi Fries, and the Ugly Croquette—a potato kimchi dough covered in a crispy outer blanket of panko bread crumbs. Bulgogi,a Korean marinated meat, transforms the hot dog into a Bul-Dog, which comes in five varieties. Other creations include Kimchi Bacon Fried Rice, Cheesy Chicken Fried Rice, and the Hoosier Rice Bowl, which includes scrambled eggs and Spam and is topped with a mayonnaise-based drizzle.
Hoosier Seoulmate is located at 1614 W. 3rd St. and has dine-in seating. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Menu at hoosierseoulmate.com.
The baskets of fruit on the wall behind the counter signal the focus at Soul Juice: fresh ingredients. Opened in September on the northwest corner of the downtown Square, Soul Juice sells smoothies, juices, waffles, and toasts.
Ingredients are organic and some, like the hemp milk, are made in-house. There are freshly squeezed orange, celery, apple, and pineapple juices, as well as a number of juice mixes, such as the Pineapple Express, 24 Carrot Magic, and Heart Beet. Smoothies come in varieties such as Dancin’ Dragonfruit, Purple Perfection, and Muscles by Nature. Choices for wellness shots include The Body Guard, Terrific Turmeric, and Electric Elderberry. For food to chew on, there are a number of fruit bowls, vegan waffles, and gourmet toasts such as Watermelon Radish Avocado.
Soul Juice is at 122 W. 6th St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Menu at juicemysoul.com.
NOURISH Bar, west of the downtown Square on West 6th Street, opened in August with a menu of paninis, soups, and salads. Since the opening, business partners Bret Pafford and David Howard have expanded the kitchen so they could roll out their Asian-inspired menu. Noodles are made in-house for dishes like ramen and udon. Steamed dumplings, wok-fried rice, and skewered meats are also featured.
NOURISH has a selection of specialty cocktails—like the Matcha’erita, with tequila and matcha simple syrup, and the Evergreen Giant, which has absinthe—as well as mocktails, beers, and wines.
Located at 217 W. 6th St., NOURISH has table seating. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Menu at nourishbtown.com.
Brilliant Coffee Company
Next door to NOURISH and sharing its kitchen, Brilliant Coffee Company roasts its own beans, has its own signature blend, and offers spiked coffees. Housemade gelato and sorbetto come in rotating flavors. Gelato favorites include black sesame, tiramisu, and matcha. The sorbetto selection, which also rotates, includes lilikoi—Hawaiian passion fruit.
Brilliant Coffee Company is at 217 W. 6th St. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Learn more at brilliantcoffeeco.com.
PopKorn! Kernels with a Twist moved from College Mall to South College near Fourth Street in November 2019. Store manager Fred Bennett says internet sales have kept the business afloat through the pandemic, and curbside pickup of local orders has become the norm. PopKorn! offers more than 30 varieties flavored with real foods like cheeses, peppers, nuts, and banana chips. Midwest Delight, a cheddar and caramel combination, is a popular flavor. Vegan options are available, and most products are gluten-free.
PopKorn! is at 122 S. College. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Learn more at popkorntwist.com.
DK Sweets, run by Kristi and Kelsie Risk, expanded from its Spencer, Indiana, location to a store on North College, just north of the Square.
The mother- daughter duo launched Diamond K Sweets in 2013, and have had success with their signature Fudge O’Bits, which come in flavors such as sea salt caramel, New York-style cheesecake, and chocolate strawberry.
They offer a variety of other sweets, including fudges, covered pretzels, cookies, and peanut brittle.
DK Sweets is at 224 N. College. Hours are 2 to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Learn more at diamondksweets.com.