More Cupcakes : Chicago

Savory cupcakes have been getting a lot of buzz lately and, in Chicago, More Cupcakes has been creating a lot of it. I read tons of articles and reviews of the BLT Cupcake at More. So, of course, we had to try it. Some of the yelp reviewers complained of having to wait a while but I visited (with Mariann and Ginny) early afternoon on a Friday and there was no line whatsoever.

The shop is small and very trendy, the employees wear all black and are kinda pretentious. The cupcakes are on display in a clear wall of shelves as you walk in so you can see what's available. After ogling the beautiful wall of cupcakes, I got a bit disappointed. The two cupcakes Mariann and I were most looking forward to were missing. The Salted Caramel for me and Brie Champagne for Mariann.



Ahh Farm. FARMbloomington opened in early 2008 under Daniel Orr. He was executive chef at La Grenouille in NYC, where he got 3 stars from the New York Times. So that makes him pretty awesome I guess. Farm focuses on local and seasonal ingredients in a with an emphasis on a "fusion of island cuisine and Midwest American cooking." I wish I could give Farm a great review, but I've had some very mixed experiences there. I think Farm could be a really fantastic restaurant but it needs more time to find it's groove.



Samira's Restaurant is quite possibly the best restaurant in Bloomington. I like it so much that I chose it for my birthday dinner this year. Even though it was my dad's birthday restaurant just a month before. It's that good! Samira is an Afghani restaurant, which might intimidate some Bloomington residents. I don't know how authentic the food is because, obviously, I've never been to Afghanistan and eaten real Afghani food. The thing about the food at Samira is that it's so well seasoned. The spices they use are exotic enough to be interesting, but never overwhelming. The restaurant is semi-fancy, tablecloths and waiters in ties and dress shirts. Dinner prices are $10-$20. If you live in Bloomington go eat at Samira, it's not scary, and you definitely won't regret it.


Puccini's La Dolce Vita

Puccini's La Dolce Vita is Bloomington's fancypants Italian restaurant. I've been there 2-3 times and have never been super impressed. This time the food was good, but it wasn't excellent. And from this type of restaurant (and their prices) I expect better. When Christine and I went in to get seated they asked us whether we wanted Italian or Ethiopian food. This was confusing. Apparently half of the restaurant is now Ethiopian? Are they owned by the same people? Is Puccini's doing so badly that they had to rent out half of the resaurant? I don't know. But it's weird.

The ambiance is certainly nice. We ate outside on the patio, which is lovely on a nice evening. The restaurant also has a reputation for very formal, attentive service. We didn't get that either. The service wasn't bad by any means but it also wasn't much different than the service you'd get at somewhere like Olive Garden.


Upland Brewing Co.

Upland Brewing Company is a great local restaurant that serves a variety of pub food as well as some really creative entrees. They also make really fantastic beers on site. My favorite by far is the Wheat, it's basically perfect. Spicy and citrusy, they serve it with orange wedges which are delicious after they've been soaking in your glass of beer for half an hour. If you're into hops, you'll love the Dragonfly Pale Ale. It's too bitter and floral for me. I also like the Amber and if you like thicker, heartier beers, the Bad Elmer's Porter is good. Upland has a really nice patio, which is usually packed on weekends. Inside it can get really loud and seating can be kind of uncomfortable because a lot of the tables are very close together. Who likes to sit in the middle of a giant, loud, room feeling all exposed? But the food is good and the beer is even better, so it is usually worth it.


Casa Brava

If you're looking for Mexican food in Bloomington the Casa Brava/La Charreada mini-chain is the way to go. They have three locations; Casa Brava on the West Side, La Charreada on North Walnut, and the brand new Casa Brava on the East Side. There are also locations in Bedford and Indianapolis. The menus are roughly the same at all three Bloomington restaurants. Aand it is huge, like 8 pages. They have tons of varieties of Enchiladas, Burritos, Chimichangas, Fajitas and pretty much any other Mexican specialty you can think of. There is also a large selection of combination platters and a la carte items.


Finch's Brasserie

Finch's Brasserie recently replaced Trulli Flatbread on Kirkwood, reopening with a new name, owner and chef. I only went to Trulli once, and it was pretty good not super special. Christine, Ginny, and I shared a flatbread (fancypants pizza) with roasted asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms. We ate outside on the patio which is quite nice and great for people watching. Finch's keeps the patio as well as the extensive beer and wine selection and the flatbreads, now called pizzettas. The inside is nice, contemporary but with lots of warm woods and rich paint colors. Prices are pretty flexible, you can get away without spending too much by ordering the pizzettas or pastas. The entree prices are pretty reasonable as well, ranging from around $13 to $30. If you're familiar with Bloomington restaurants, I'd say prices are more than Uptown but less than Farm.


Chicago : Tsunami

Mariann introduced us to Tsunami last spring when we were in town to see Arcade Fire. The sushi was delicious that first time and has been equally satisfying on the several occasions we've visited since. Tsunami is a fairly swanky spot in the Gold Coast area of Chicago. It's much larger than it appears, with back rooms and seating on the 2nd floor. They also have a nice patio with doors opening to the main dining room. It is a bit pricey, but in line with other Japanese restaurants of similar caliber. Tsunami has a nice selection of vegetarian and seafood rolls as well as a full menu of other Japanese specialties. The reviews on Yelp are rather mixed, but I definitely recommend it if you are looking for sushi in Chicago.

There were five of us so we ordered a bunch of rolls to share. The best thing about ordering sushi in bulk is that they bring it out on a big boat!


Chicago : Chicago Cupcakes

These posts are not in order chronologically, sorry. Technically the first cupcakes we ate were from Chicago Cupcakes. The name of the place might actually just be "Cupcakes," but that's just too confusing. All of the cupcakes we tried there were good. Several of them were fantastic, but overall I think they weren't quite as good as the cupcakes from Molly's Cupcakes. Also, I took these photos on the table at the front of the (tiny) shop and just as I was snapping the last one they told me I couldn't take pictures in there. Luckily I was pretty much finished because, although the to go boxes do a good job of protecting the cupcakes, the frosting definitely wasn't as pretty when we got the them home.


Chicago : Molly's Cupcakes

Last weekend Christine, Mariann, and I were in Chicago for the Pitchfork Music Festival. Well, Mariann was already there but Christine (plus Ginny and Jocelyn!) and I were just visiting. In between the music we ate some yummy food and LOTS of cupcakes. We loved Molly's Cupcakes so much that we visited twice in one day. The cupcakes are that good. Seriously.



Of all the Japanese restaurants in Bloomington, Mikado is probably the nicest. And by nicest I mean most expensive. The decor isn't particularly fancy or trendy, like Japanee or Sushi Bar, but Mikado has an air of classiness that the other restaurants don't have. But it's not so fancy that you can't wear jeans and a tee shirt. The wait staff wear dress shirts and are usually quite professional and attentive. The best thing about Mikado is their huge selection of creative and delicious specialty rolls. These tend to run anywhere from $7-$18 per roll, so I usually end up spending more at Mikado then at Japanee or Sushi Bar.


Olive Garden

Whenever I'm in the mood for giant portions of sodium+butter+cream laden pasta, naturally, I head for Olive Garden. This time, Mariann was down from Chicago for the weekend so we had a mini girls night out. Lots of people think Olive Garden is evil, and it probably is, but Bloomington is surprisingly deficient in Italian Restaurants.



Japanee was pretty much my first Japanese food experience. Although my family has always been big on ethnic food, Japanese was never on our radar. Maybe because it tends to be pricier than Chinese, Thai, etc. Anyway, for our first few visits Japanee was called Japonais. They eventually changed their name because of the much more famous Japonais which totally had dibs. The restaurant is decorated in a sort of contemporary trendy style, with flat screen tvs and electro-indie music playing. The tables and chairs that are all just a tad too low or high to be comfortable. If you're going with a group, there are private karaoke rooms that you can reserve


Restaurant Tallent

Reviewed by Christine and Aubrey

Aubrey, Mariann and I dined at Tallent a few weeks ago with our friend Stephanie. We were celebrating Mariann's awesome new internship and sending her off to Chicago. Restaurant Tallent, near the downtown square in Bloomington, is one of best places to eat in town. Part of the slow food movement, Tallent uses locally grown produce and locally raised meat whenever possible. Their seasonal menu is always full of creative and delicious combinations of ingredients. From that description you know it's going to be pretty pricey. The entrées range from $21 for the veggie, to $35 for local elk. Appetizers aren't cheap either, with only the soup under $10 (barely).


Ireland Part 1 : Traditional Irish Breakfast

In April, Aubrey and I travelled to Ireland. In addition to seeing many wonderful sites like Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher, we ate delicious food every day.

We stayed in B&Bs every day, which meant delicious home-cooked and traditional Irish Breakfasts. A traditional Irish breakfast includes black and white pudding (blood and liver sausage), Irish sausage, Irish bacon, fried eggs, and tomatoes. Pretty much everywhere we ate also provided a nice sideboard of fresh fruit, cereal, yogurts, and soda bread with jam.

Clare Inn : Our first breakfast was served at the Clare Inn. We incorrectly assumed it was buffet style, when in fact, it was actually a serving line. We were intimidated and only ended up trying sausage, fried eggs, bacon, and potatoes. There was also a cold buffet which included fruit, granola, and juices. The food was okay, but it definitely had a mass produced feel to it. (Aubrey: We had to get used to how different things tasted. Irish bacon is sort of like a cross between American Bacon and "Canadian Bacon". Also the eggs tasted funny, but maybe that was just cause they had been sitting around under a heat lamp.)

Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast : Our next stop was An Daingean, Dingle Town, where we stayed at a really nice B&B. There was a breakfast menu with several options. Aubrey chose the full Irish breakfast, while I selected smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Salmon in Ireland is amazing. This was also our first sample of black and white pudding. While Aubrey could not get over the thought of congealed blood and liver, I was able to put it out of my mind and I thought it was delicious. (Aubrey: I ate half of each before passing them off to Christine. I thought they both tasted pretty good, I just couldn't make my brain NOT think about the ingredients. I think this was probably the nicest breakfast we had. It's also where I became addicted to Irish bread and butter, SO good).

Seagull house : The Seagull house is a quaint bed and breakfast in the middle of Kinsale. The owner, Mary, cooked us a nice, though standard, Irish breakfast. The meal felt the most home-cooked and personal. (Aubrey: No pics, I forgot!)

Fern Hill : Our host in Tramore, Mary, was most accommodating and served us a full Irish breakfast, which we enjoyed on the sun patio. Delicious and filling. Also included were an assortment of goat cheeses. (Aubrey: IMO not quite as good as some of the other breakfasts, yummy bread though.)

Cornerville : We stayed two nights at the Cornerville in Sutton, just outside of Dublin. Our host, Andy, was very hospitable, and even offered to cook us breakfast at 7 am the last day so that we could catch our flight back home. His breakfasts were delicious and included all the traditional options. Surprisingly, this was the only breakfast (besides the buffet style of the Clare Inn) that included potatoes. They were served in the form of a tasty hashbrown, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Andy also treated us to baked beans, which were to be eaten on top of toast. Simple, but surprisingly delicious. (Aubrey: these weren't the most photogenic breakfasts but they were probably the most satisfying. Especially after a night out at Temple Bar...)

Aubrey: Since we've been back I've definitely missed having a full breakfast every morning. I've tried to cook my own fried eggs, but so far haven't been particularly successful. Sure they're edible, but they don't even compare to what we were served in Ireland. Sigh.


Noodles & Company

I have a bit of an addiction to Noodles & Company. At least once a week I end up there for lunch. It's just super convenient to my work and service is so fast! It's pretty cheap for a big bowl of noodles. There are "Italian Mediterranean," "Asian," and "American" options. In quotes because I don't quite trust the authenticity of any of their ethnic dishes. But I don't care about that, because they all taste good! So for around $8 you can get a huge bowl of noodles plus a protein. OR a smaller bowl of noodles plus a soup or salad and a protein. Pretty good deal if you ask me, especially for dinner. And you don't have to tip! At least I never do. They don't have a tip jar after all, and it's not an option on the receipt.

I rotate through several of the different noodle dishes. Most often I order the Pesto Cavatappi, pictured above. It's not too basil-y which I like. And it's garlicky without being overpowering. It has a few veggies in there, mostly mushrooms and a few random tomatoes, but not quite enough to be healthy. Lately I've been adding asparagus which is delicious. It does add an extra $1.25 to the price though. You could buy a soda with that extra money! I always get the parmesan crusted chicken with the pesto. It is delicious. Yummy crispy/crunchy cheese all over and I've never gotten any sketchy pieces.

The other "Mediterranean" dish I get a lot is the Penne Rosa. It is penne pasta, obviously, served with a spicy creamy tomato sauce. The sauce is delicious with a surprising kick. And it's creamy without being too rich. The veggies are wilted spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes. Like the Pesto Cavatappi, I usually order it with the parmesan chicken.

My other top choice is the Japanese Pan Noodles. Thick udon noodles in a dark spicy/sweet dark soy sauce carmelized slightly from a quick pan fry. Sometimes they are a little crispy on the outside which is awesome with the chewiness of the noodle. Included vegetables are carrots, yummy mushrooms, and too few broccolis. It would be more perfect if they included more pieces of broccoli, you're lucky if you get four. For the protein I've ordered it with shrimp, which was just okay, seared beef and tofu. Both the tofu and beef are good choices, they pair really well with the sauce. I keep meaning to try the Indonesian Peanut Saute, but I always end up with the safe choice, because I know it's good. Maybe next time!

If it's cold and/or rainy or if you're in a bad mood or feeling like you need something rich and comforting the Mushroom Stroganoff is the way to go. Thick, wavy egg noodles in a creamy stroganoff. You can taste the sherry really well in the cream sauce. I order it with the braised beef, which is always extra tender and tasty. The Wisconsin Mac & Cheese is also great for a comfort food fix. It is cheesetastic and delicious. But SO rich. The regular portion is just too much cheese and pasta for a normal human. But leftovers are good!

Go to the Noodles website for the full menu. You can also sign up for the email list and get awesome coupons. For signing up I got a bogo coupon for a regular size order. Anyway, it's not like gourmet or anything but it is cheapish and filling and tasty.

Noodles & Company
Bloomington Von Lee
517 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408
Phone: (812) 323-1400


Sushi Bar

Of the four sushi restaurants in Bloomington Sushi Bar is probably the cheapest. They have a good balance of cheap rolls ($3-$5) and specialty rolls ($9-$15). But just like most sushi spots it's easy to rack up a huge bill by adding a few extras to your meal.

There are a few rolls we always get at Sushi Bar. The Asparagus Tempura Roll is great, with just enough eel sauce to keep it moist. We often get a Sweet Potato Tempura roll which is usually pretty good. They have a large selection of vegetarian rolls and, of course, they tend to be cheaper than the rolls with fish. A fairly cheap yummy roll is the Crispy Spicy Yellowtail, which is best if it's served hot. It can get kinda mushy if it sits around. The jaguar roll is good if you're in the mood for some deep fried deliciousness (see it at the bottom of this photo). A lot of their fishy rolls have tobiko in them, but if you want a roll where it's the main event try the Angel. It's one of Sushi Bar's more expensive rolls. Also good for a splurge is the Statue of Liberty Roll, which is topped with lobster. Not super high quality lobster but still yummy. My absolute favorite roll, though, is the Tiger. It has spicy tuna or crab (not sure which...) inside with fresh tuna, tempura flakes, and spicy sauce over the top.

Last time Mariann and I went we tried the Twins Roll, pictured above and here. It was okay. The mango on top was good but the texture wasn't great and it wasn't particularly flavorful. If we could just order a selection of rolls from Japanee, Mikado, Domo, and Sushi Bar I think we could create the perfect meal. Anyway, more on those restaurants later.

Sushi Bar
2522 E. 10th St.
Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 331-7688
Check out the menu at Straight2YourDoor.
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