Christmas lights glint through the windows as the smell of hash browns, corned beef and coffee waft out of the kitchen vents to envelop patrons coming up the restaurant's front steps. The Runcible Spoon has long been a cornerstone of Bloomington and is known for its delicious food, unique style and friendly atmosphere.
The restaurant was cited on Foursquare as being the coziest place in the state, and one of the coziest in the country. Kayla Cieslinski, IU senior and Runcible Spoon patron, said she comes for the character.
“I love the atmosphere and the food,” Cieslinski said.“It's very cozy, friendly, almost nostalgic historic. It has that old-soul feel.”
She said that while many people take cozy to mean cramped or even claustrophobic, the Runcible Spoon is homey and comfortable.
Although the restaurant first opened its doors in 1976, the Runcible Spoon’s first patrons would not recognize the establishment if they visited it today. According to the restaurant’s website, when it opened, it was a coffee shop with a Japanese garden and an entire floor devoted to a 300-gallon aquarium. At the time, it was the only coffee shop in the Midwest that roasted and sold its own beans.
In an article by the Indianapolis Star, Matt O’Neil, owner of the Runcible Spoon, said it was his job to preserve the restaurant as a hub for Bloomington culture. Although there is no longer a 300-gallon aquarium, the restaurant continues to cater to the artsy and eccentric.
“I literally have an art degree. It’s a very eclectic bunch of people that come here,” Cieslinski said. “No intelligible words come to mind to describe it, it makes me happy, giddy.”
Cieslinski said she usually only comes for special occasions, always with others. IU senior Thomas Stewart said he visits the establishment more causally.
“It is a great place to catch up,” Stewart said. “There are times when it is more subdued and the usual hustle and bustle dies down. That is the time to go.”
Both Stewart and Cieslinski agree the best times to go are mid-afternoon or Tuesday evenings, during the restaurant's live Celtic music performances. Every Tuesday at 7 p.m., accordion player Eric Schedler, fiddler Grace Haaland and other musicians gather at the Runcible Spoon for a jam session.
Schedler has been attending sessions for nine years, and Haaland has been attending for 14 years. According to the Star article, O’Neill said the space picked up the town's culture by building layers of personality.
"The Runcible Spoon fills an important niche,” Stewart said. “I hope it is there for many years to come.”