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B-Town Diner

Kira, in front of the B-Town Diner“Real • Tasty • Food”

Location
211 N Walnut St
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 822-0300

Hours
Monday: 7:00am – 2:00pm, 5:30pm – midnight
Tuesday – Saturday: midnight – 2:00pm, 5:30pm – midnight
Sunday: midnight – 2:00pm

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Prices
Breakfast: $5-$12
Lunch/Dinner: $6 – $14

Review Summary
An excellent late-night diner with great food and friendly service hidden away in the middle of downtown Bloomington.

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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in Info Pages

 

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Erik and Kira (and Neeraj) Eat B-Town Diner

Kira, in front of the B-Town DinerThe B-Town Diner is one of those places that quietly opened up after we’d already passed it in the alphabet. It’s a skinny little place, squeezed into a spot that used to be a late-night pizza parlor (Greeks Pizzeria) right across the street from the Bluebird. They’re clearly targeting the late-night crowd, as evidenced by their posted hours, which unlike most restaurants, list when they are closed instead of when they are open. Most days they are closed 2:00 – 5:30pm, and they’re also closed Sundays after 3:00pm 2:00pm. That’s not a typo by the way; they are closed in the afternoons, not the wee hours of the morning.

We’ve only been there a couple times, which confuses me because we really liked the place. It’s easily the best late-night diner in town, and possibly the best late-night option for any kind of food. We do have a Denny’s, but it’s not exactly in a convenient location, and besides, it’s just a Denny’s. Perhaps the (literal) low profile and unassuming sign keeps it out of our consciousness, and so we just never think to go there. Perhaps it’s because we’re turning into old fogies who are never out late at night.

B-Town Diner. Saturday, August 16th, 2014. Dinnertime.

Neeraj, explaining something.

For the out-of-towners, it’s probably worth mentioning that “B-town” is a common nickname for Bloomington, Indiana. Personally, I think that “B-ton” would make more sense, but nobody asks me about these things.

On this visit, we were joined by our good friend and Eat Bloomington alumnus Neeraj, who was back in town for a short visit. You may remember him from  some of his earlier guest appearances.

B-Town makes good use of its narrow space, with raised booths on one long wall and tables on the other. There were photos by local artists on the walls and small leafy clippings in vases on the tables. The stereo was playing classic folk rock tunes at a reasonable volume (unlike their next-door neighbor Brother’s Bar and Grill, whose music is typically so loud that I’m surprised we couldn’t hear it in the diner).

Three thick, dark pancakesOur server Marco was quite friendly, happy to give suggestions and willing to talk frankly about the restaurant (which does most of its business late at night), the owner (who also owns the computer repair store PC Max*), and the morning servers (who “suck” because they stocked the jam trays with nothing but grape jelly that day). Our orders were heavily influenced by Marco’s suggestions. Later in the evening, we met the owner Chris and had a nice conversation with him about the menu (he was considering adding an item called “hippie hash”), the kitchen (he maintains a separate grill for vegetarian food), and the restaurant itself (which he refers to as his “mid-life crisis”).

*Incidentally, PC Max is my favorite computer store in town, even though I’ve never spent any money there. I’ve been there twice with computer problems that I thought required purchasing a new piece of hardware, and both times, they talked me out of it by suggesting an alternate and much cheaper solution. They don’t have a large selection of hardware for sale, but if you’re looking for a little help with computer problems, I highly recommend them.

Two thick slabs of French toast with powdered sugar on top and cream cheese and blueberries in between.I (Erik) ordered the stuffed French toast with cream cheese and blueberries, which turned out to be more of a French toast sandwich than a stuffed anything, but holy cow was it good. The French toast was made from two enormous slabs of bread, and it was so tasty that I didn’t feel any need to add syrup.

Kira ordered the “spicy” chicken strips, which weren’t really spicy at all. They were a tad dry, but that’s pretty par for the course with chicken strips. The breading was nice and crispy and they came with four different dipping sauces: Cajun ranch, chipotle chile, garlic aioli, and ketchup. The chipotle chile sauce was our favorite.

Crispy chicken strips and a pile of fries covered in steak strips, red peppers, and cheese.They have several varieties of loaded fries, and because I was being indecisive about ordering breakfast or a cheesesteak, Kira decided to replace her ordinary side of fries with a side of the Philly loaded fries. This was probably our least favorite dish of the night as the fries were a bit overdone, but even then, it was still pretty delicious.

Neeraj ordered the cinnamon nutmeg pancakes, and after eating it, we were all saddened to hear that it was scheduled for removal from the menu. The pancakes were thick and had just the right kind of texture for that sort of pancakes. The word “fluffy” comes to mind, but that implies a lightness and evenness that doesn’t belong on a big American-style flapjack. In any case, they were quite good, and the nutmeg and cinnamon were good additions to the flavor.

There are a number of delicious-sounding items on the menu that we haven’t had a chance to try… You know what? I’m feeling hungry right now. Can you wait a few hours?

Three hours later…

Well, that was a bust. Apparently they close at 2 on Sundays, not 3 like their website says. That’s one black mark on an otherwise exemplary service record. We even called at 1:50pm and asked if they were open. Kira and Erik, smiling after a good meal.The natural thing to do would be to say “Yes, but we close in 10 minutes,” not just “Yes.” Ah well. We’ll have to stop by some other time.

Final Thoughts:

An excellent late-night diner with great food and friendly service hidden away in the middle of downtown Bloomington.

 

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Erik and Kira (and Suzanne) Eat Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse

Kira and Erik feeding each other pecan pie at Bobby's Colorado Steakhouse

Yes, this is the same “Bobby” that owned the bars & grills Bobby’s and Bobby’s Too, which we’ve already reviewed. It even has some of the same serving staff as the old places, which are now both closed. But the menu at Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is sufficiently different from the old Bobby’ses that we deemed it worth reviewing again. Also, we like it a lot.

It’s also the same location as the old Colorado Steakhouse that we didn’t get around to reviewing before it closed. But don’t worry, it wasn’t much of a restaurant back then, so you’re not missing out much. What? You want to hear about it anyway? Fine, I guess I can tell you one story. Kira and I stopped by late one night with a number of friends and the specials menu near the door had the soup of the day listed as “chicken tort.” We asked the server what the “tort.” stood for, and he assured us that it was “chicken tortellini” soup. This sounded delicious, and several of us ordered the chicken tortellini soup. You can probably guess by now that “tort.” did not stand for “tortellini”. At a well-run restaurant, the server would’ve come back to the table, apologized, and asked us if we wanted to change our order. But at the old Colorado Steakhouse, they just brought the chicken tortilla soup without comment. So yeah, you’re not missing much.

Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse. Friday, August 8th, 2014. Happy hour.

A big neon sign reading "Colorado Steakhouse"

The first thing that you’ll notice when you approach Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is the enormous neon* sign out front. In fact, according to Bobby, current Bloomington laws forbid building new signs that big. He says that the only reason why Bobby’s new restaurant has “Colorado Steakhouse” as part of its name is because that’s what’s on the sign, and getting a new sign would’ve meant getting a smaller sign.

*Fun fact: “neon” signs don’t always have neon in them. Different mixtures of noble gasses (including helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) produce different colors of light, and yet more colors are produced by using an argon-mercury mixture inside the tube and a phosphorescent paint on the outside of the tube.

On the outside, the steakhouse looks almost exactly the same as it did before, including the patio seating out front and the entrance to the “Saloon” in the back. But on the inside… well on the inside it looks exactly the same as it used to as well. The place has a cozy, homey feel to it with hardwood floors, visible wooden beams on the relatively low ceiling, and an enormous fireplace in the center of one of the dining rooms. The place is pretty big, but it’s divided up into smaller areas in a way that gives a more intimate feeling. Decor was just about the only thing the old place had going for it, and Bobby knows a good thing when he sees it.

The rear entrance to the "Saloon" part of Bobby's Colorado Steakhouse

The rear entrance to the “Saloon”.

Unless we’re heading to the Sunday brunch buffet (which is fabulous and probably deserves a review by itself), we usually head in the back door to the Saloon area, and that’s where we went for this visit. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the front of the restaurant and the bar area in the back. There are a couple of TVs back there, but the full menu is available in both locations. It’s the place where the regulars go, and the servers are always friendly and quick with a joke.

Suzanne gives two thumbs up to her fish and chips.

Suzanne, enjoying her fish and chips.

We met our friend Suzanne in the saloon on a Friday during happy hour (4-6pm), when they always have a free “munchie bar”. Bobby is big on specials and most workdays have some sort of regular drink special (Martini Mondays, 2 for Tuesday: double mixed drinks*, Winey Wednesday, and Sure Happy It’s Thursday: draft pints), but since I don’t drink alcohol and Kira drinks very little, we prefer to visit for the Friday munchie bar. The “munchies” are usually pretty good and in the past have included buffalo wings, potato skins, and nachos. On this particular visit, they had a tray full of Italian beef and a stack of little buns to put it on. The beef was tasty and very moist and all three of us liked it a lot. I could easily have just eaten that for dinner and been very happy. Heck, we would’ve been happy if we’d paid money for it. But there were other things on the menu that needed reviewing, so we had to order more food. The things we do for our readers…

*Frankly, I have no idea what a “double mixed drink” is.

There’s a bar menu and a restaurant menu, but you can order from both no matter where you sit. Most of the entrées on the restaurant menu come with access to the impressive salad bar. You’ll find all the usual salad fixings at the salad bar, but there’s also usually some kind baked dessert item (this time it was donut holes with apple butter), a soup (on this trip it was a properly labeled tortilla soup), and blinis and caviar. I find the the caviar and blinis* more amusing than tasty. I don’t really get caviar; it tastes very slightly of ocean, and that’s about it. The tort. tortilla soup was good, but not fantastic. It wasn’t particularly spicy, and Kira enjoyed the big chunks of chicken in it.

Kira at the salad bar.*For those few of our readers who didn’t grow up eating caviar, blinis are tiny little tasteless pancake things that are really just there because if you just spooned caviar into your mouth, you’d run out of caviar pretty quickly.

We’ve been to the new Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse a number of times, and we’ve enjoyed almost everything we’ve ordered. I heartily recommend the American Kobe beef hamburger, which is hands-down the best burger in town.

I’m about to go off on a digression about Kobe beef burgers in general. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you like. You may have heard of Kobe beef before; it’s renowned for being flavorful, tender, and well-marbled with fat. You’ll also hear plenty of stories about how the cows in Kobe are treated, including being brushed every day and fed beer to drink. Some of those stories might even be partly true. The beer, massages, and classical music are almost certainly not true. But if you’re eating in the U.S., you’re almost certainly not eating beef from cows grown in Kobe, Japan. Like “Champagne” or “Vidalia onions”, usage of the phrase “Kobe beef” is heavily controlled in Japan. Until 2012, it wasn’t even legal to export true “Kobe beef” out of Japan. If you see “Kobe” and “beef” on a menu item in the U.S., it’s probably not made with genuine “Kobe beef”, but rather with an American hybrid of the same kind of cattle. This is usually a good thing as otherwise it would be absurdly expensive, to the point where making a hamburger out of it would just be ridiculous. However, I’ve been to a number of places (only one in Bloomington) that serve hamburgers made with American Kobe beef, and they’re usually quite good. They’ve got a lot of fat in them, but instead of tasting greasy, they have a juicy, almost buttery quality to them. If you’re going to order a Kobe burger, do not order it medium-well or well-done, no matter how you usually like your burgers cooked. If you can’t bring yourself to eat a medium-rare burger, then just save your money and get a regular beef burger.

Rib-eye steak, steamed broccoli, deep-fried mushroom.

Erik’s dish: rib-eye, fried mushroom, and broccoli.

The Kobe burger at Bobby’s is a fantastic example of this kind of burger. It’s buttery and meaty and oh-so delicious. But… it’s not always consistently cooked. For whatever reason, sometimes when I order it medium rare, it comes out medium-well or even well-done. This has happened to me maybe three times out of the maybe ten times I’ve ordered the Kobe burger here. If this were just an ordinary hamburger, I wouldn’t even complain, but when they get it right, it’s so, so good. So if you want to taste the best burger in Bloomington, send it back if it comes out overdone. They’ll be happy to get you a new one, and you’ll probably get a visit from Bobby to make sure the second one came out done properly

A properly cooked piece of steak: brown on the outside and dark reddish pink on the inside.

A true medium-rare.

The one thing on the menu that I’d recommend most people avoid is the “Ultimate Grilled Cheese”. It’s made with bleu cheese, cheddar, and Swiss and topped with radish and arugula. Sometimes when I see a disgusting-sounding description like this on a menu, it turns out that it actually tastes fantastic. This is not one of those cases. The blue cheese is extremely overpowering, and the veggies do nothing to cut into that flavor. I can imagine somebody who would like this sandwich, but that person is definitely not me. Fortunately, there are a few other vegetarian items on the menu (eggplant parmesan, the quiche of the day, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a veggie quesadilla, and a couple of pasta dishes). There are a couple of vegan options, but not many, although there’s always the wonderful salad bar.

On this particular visit, we wanted to try some of the dishes that we hadn’t tried before. In particular, I (Erik) had somehow managed to avoid ordering steak at this steakhouse, so that’s what I decided to order. Initially, I’d planned on ordering the filet mignon or the prime rib, but the server talked me into the rib-eye instead. It was maybe a bit too fatty for me, but I think that’s just me. The meat was tasty and cooked as requested: a true medium rare, with a nice brown crust and a dark reddish-pink center. It came with a single fried mushroom, which was delicious. I’m not usually crazy about the standard white mushroom, but battered and fried, it is delicious. Also hot. I’m not sure what it is about fried mushrooms, but they seem to maintain their heat longer than other battered and deep-fried vegetables. I ordered broccoli for my side dish, and I think it was a tad over-cooked, but I like a bit more crunch in my cooked veggies than some.

Jack Daniels salmon with a wedge of lemon and a baked potato with dishes of butter and sour cream.

The Jack Daniels salmon

Kira ordered the Jack Daniels salmon with a baked potato. I thought the fish was a bit too fishy, but then I always think that about salmon (unless we cook it at home ourselves for some reason). Kira liked the salmon: “a good thick portion with good flavor.” The baked potato was also good, although, as she put it, “you can’t really screw up a baked potato.”*

*If you’re anything like me, the pedant in you really wants to provide a counterargument, but I think we all know what she means.

Suzanne ordered the fish and chips, which were very tender, as all good fish and chips should be. Nothing fancy, but definitely tasty. The “chips” were your standard thick-cut steak fries, tasty with ketchup and malt vinegar.*

*Kira is probably screwing up her face at this, since we have a difference of opinion about malt vinegar. The difference being that I’m right and she’s wrong. (Hey, if she disagrees, then she can volunteer to write up the reviews herself.)

A slice of pecan pie with gooey filling.To finish things off, we ordered a slice of pecan pie (Kira’s favorite kind of pie). It’s kind of a fad these days to make pecan pie with bourbon, and maybe there’s something to it, but the bourbon flavor was a bit too strong for Kira and I. But it was still a good pecan pie, and it’s hard to go wrong with that.

The short version: Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse has all the best parts of the old Bobby’s and not much of the old Colorado Steakhouse. The servers are friendly, especially back in the Saloon. There are lots of good food options: the Sunday brunch is fantastic, the Kobe burger is the best burger in town (but send it back if it’s overcooked), the salad bar is great, and there are free munchies on Fridays. But unless you’re a blue cheese masochist, avoid the grilled cheese.

 

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Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse

The sign at Bobby's Colorado Steakhouse“A restaurant for all occasions!!”

Location
1635 N College Ave
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 332-7552

Hours
Monday – Thursday: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday Brunch: 11:00am – 3:00pm

Home Page / Facebook / Google+ / Twitter

Prices
Lunch: $6-$13
Dinner: $8 – $33
Sunday Brunch: $14.50

Review Summary
Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse has all the best parts of the old Bobby’s and not much of the old Colorado Steakhouse. The servers are friendly, especially back in the Saloon. There are lots of good food options: the Sunday brunch is fantastic, the Kobe burger is the best burger in town (but send it back if it’s overcooked), the salad bar is great, and there are free munchies on Fridays. But unless you’re a blue cheese masochist, avoid the grilled cheese.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Info Pages

 

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Best Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisine 百味

The sign reads "百味 Best Taste"A sit-down restaurant featuring authentic Chinese cuisine

Location:
109 W 4th St
Bloomington, IN 47404

Hours:
Daily: 11:00am – 10:00pm

Prices:
$10 – $20

Review Summary:
Overall, we thought that despite the somewhat slow service, the food was excellent and interesting. The “authentic” description is well deserved, as near as we can tell. We’ll definitely be back soon. Bonus digression: Erik tries to decipher the Chinese characters on the sign.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Asian, Chinese, Info Pages, Sit-down

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Best Taste

Best Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisine. Saturday, May 27th, 2014. Dinnertime.

Erik, trying to find the best way to eat his dish.You might have a hard time finding Best Taste online as it’s brand spanking new. At the time I write this (May 31st, 2014), the only online evidence for the existence of this Chinese restaurant is a Yelp profile. It doesn’t seem to have a website, a Facebook page, nor does it appear on Google Maps (but I’ll fix that soon enough). And yet it exists. Specifically, it exists in downtown Bloomington, tucked in between the 4th Street parking garage and the Serendipity Martini Bar. The place is so new that their sign only went up a few days before we showed up.

I’m a bit of an amateur linguist, and so I can’t help but try to compare the English and Chinese names of the restaurants. If you don’t share my fascination, you can skip to the next paragraph. Best Taste’s Chinese name is 百味, which is probably pronounced bǎiwèi. (For the record, I don’t read or speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or any of the Sinitic languages. What little I do know comes from playing mahjong or is carried over from Japanese kanji. Most of this, I figured out through internet research.) By itself, the first character 百 means “hundred” or “many”. (I actually knew that one without looking it up!) The second character 味 means “taste”."百味 Best Taste" If you type “百味” into Google Translate, it will tell you that it means “Subway”, but that’s kind of misleading. Near as I can tell, the weird translation is mostly due to the fact that the sandwich chain Subway uses the name 赛百味 (sàibǎiwèi). For the record, Best Taste isn’t underground, and it doesn’t serve $5 footlongs.

Anyone still awake? I guess I can get back to the restaurant review now.

Kira's impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

Kira’s impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

On its old temporary sign, Best Taste advertised “Authentic Chinese Cuisine”, and as near as we can tell, they deliver upon that promise. Of course, neither of us has ever been to China, but we picked up on a couple promising signs. Firstly, the vast majority of the customers were not speaking English to each other or to the servers. Secondly, the menu had plenty of items that were clearly not directed at the standard stereotypical American customer. Some of the less common dishes included “Fried Pig kidney, Pig liver, and Chicken” and “Fried Lamb Testicle with Cumin”. I was impressed that they included an English translation of every item on the menu. Many Chinese restaurants seem to assume that such dishes are so unappealing to Americans that they don’t even bother translating them on the menu. I was also impressed by how few Chinglishisms there were on the menu. Apart from some capitalization oddities and a few slightly non-idiomatic translations (e.g. “Larger Intestines” instead of “large intestines”), the only confusing things were the “Stir Fried Shredded Pork with Capsicum” (are those supposed to be bell peppers or chile peppers?) and “Sautéed Beef with Agrocybe Cylindracea”. (I had to look that last one up. Apparently that’s the scientific name for “poplar mushrooms”.)

"Iron pot" with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

“Iron pot” with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

But there are plenty of less adventurous things on the menu that are still interesting, like hot pots (where they bring a pot of broth on a burner and you cook meat and veggies right at your table) and what they call an “iron pot” (basically a meal served in the wok it was cooked in). Upon the server’s recommendation, I ordered the “Brisket with Potatoes Iron Pot” which we both found delicious and greasy (in a good way). In addition to the beef brisket and the potatoes, the dish featured fresh chopped cilantro, which added a nice aroma, but was maybe a bit too strong a flavor to be eaten directly. It came with doughy bits of bread that were very handy for sopping up all the wonderful sauce and grease. I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of bread product. It reminded us of steamed dumplings.

"Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus", also featuring cucumbers.

Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus

Kira also took a recommendation from the server and ordered the “Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus.” The “black fungus” in question appears to be black mushroom. The green vegetable in the dish which looks like zucchini is actually cucumber, which was both surprising and surprisingly good. Kira and I both liked the dish, but the brisket iron pot was definitely the winner. It’s been a whole week since we ate there, and my mouth is salivating at the memory of it.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

Our server gets bonus points for coming up with good suggestions, knowing the correct way to put a straw into a can of soda, and for his Cosmo Kramer t-shirt, but service was a bit slow and it was very hard to flag someone down, despite the small dining room. (We also think that he should have worn his belt a smidge higher on his waist. Note: we did not take pictures of that.) Even though the place was pretty busy, a little more eye contact with the customers would’ve made things a lot easier.

Overall, we thought that despite the somewhat slow service, the food was excellent and interesting. The “authentic” description is well deserved, as near as we can tell. We’ll definitely be back soon.

 

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Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Kira, standing in front of Bangkok Thai CuisineA sit-down restaurant featuring Thai food

Location:
2920 E Covenanter Dr
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 333-7477

Hours:
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Thursday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Website: http://www.bangkokthai.biz
Menu: http://www.bangkokthai.biz/#!menu/c5hf

Prices:
Lunch: $10 – $12
Dinner: $11 – $17

(Information updated May, 2014)

Review Summary:
Ultimately, I’d say that we were satisfied by Bangkok Thai Cuisine, but given the many excellent options we have for Thai food in Bloomington, we probably won’t be back there very often.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Asian, Info Pages, Sit-down, Thai

 

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