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Wednesday, April 17
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: Kicking off Bloomington Restaurant Week at Feast


Bloomington’s first-ever Restaurant Week began Monday and goes until Nov 1. The initiative, organized by Visit Bloomington, aims to support the restaurant industry that is struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging diners to eat out and take advantage of Restaurant Week deals.

There are more than 30 restaurants, cafes and bakeries participating, offering Restaurant Week discounts and specials ranging from $4 off pizza at Cafe Pizzaria to a $150 meal for two at Truffles Restaurant including filet mignon, calamari, wine and cheesecake. Even Papa John’s is participating.

Restaurant Weeks have been occurring in cities across the U.S. since its inception in New York City in 1992. The event usually requires restaurants to offer prix fixe menus, typically with three courses, at a set, relatively low price.

This model might not work as well in Bloomington simply because there are not as many restaurants, but the Bloomington method currently seems a bit chaotic — restaurants can offer whatever they want, including their normal menus, and it’s up to diners to figure out if it’s actually a deal or what might be special about it. 

To get the full Restaurant Week experience, I’d recommend going for one of the multi-course offerings at somewhere a little fancier than you’d normally go. Uptown Cafe, Feast and Osteria Rago all had appetizing three-course deals for about $20. 

I checked out Feast for a recent weekday lunch and it did the job Restaurant Week is supposed to do: I went somewhere I’d never been, at a time when they didn’t have a ton of customers and enjoyed it enough that I’m already planning a future visit. 

The Feast Restaurant Week deal was $20 for a choice of two salads, a choice of two sandwiches and a crème brûlée cheesecake barall made from scratch with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. 

The pepita salad was the prettiest and tastiest salad I’ve had in Bloomington, with pickled carrots, watermelon radishes, avocado and, obviously, pepitas. 

The avocado toast was a little weird, an occasional hazard of inventiveness — it had chai masala ricotta, pear and fennel slaw, a pickled egg, arugula and some pickles on the side, but unfortunately the chai ricotta was sweet and confusingly frosting-esque. I had to scrape it off before I enjoyed what was then a very nice albeit slightly deconstructed avocado toast. The key to avocado toast success is in the name: you need a perfectly ripe avocado and a high-quality piece of toast, and Feast delivered on both. Their homemade sourdough is very good, and they change the specific avocado toast toppings frequently, so you may be able to avoid the chai experiment. 

Come dessert time I was full despite the relatively light offerings, an unfortunately common occurrence when trying to eat three courses. I persevered, and was rewarded with an utterly delightful crème brûlée cheesecake bar, in a perfectly-sized half portion for the Restaurant Week menu. They torch the top, à la crème brûlée, but underneath is cheesecake instead of custard, the kind of innovation our society needs more of.

I might have rushed through my meal a bit because winter is coming to Bloomington and the Feast patio, while very cute, is also very cold. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 concerns I’m still not eating inside or advocating others do so, so bring your faux furs and hats or get food to go. Luckily my server was very attentive and the food came quickly.

The Feast Restaurant Week menu has a lot going for it. The food tasted great and had lots of pickled things. The deals offered allowed me to try more menu items than usual due to smaller portion sizes and cheaper prices and all of the options were vegetarian. The plating was very photogenic and healthier than some of the other menus — a lot of them have variants of fried potatoes as a course. 

I’m looking forward to trying out a few more of the Restaurant Week menus across town in the next few days — I’ve been having southern cravings, and the Uptown Cafe red beans and rice as well as the Southern Stone cajun pasta have both been calling to me.

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