The Elm, a new Bloomington restaurant offering seasonal, modern American cuisine, opened March 30. The restaurant, located at 614 E. Second St., showcases curated photography by co-owner David Moore.
The Elm will be open Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. On Wednesdays through Fridays, the restaurant is also open from 5 to 10 p.m. The restaurant will exclusively offer service on Saturdays, operating only from 5 to 10 p.m.
David Moore, who co-owns The Elm with his wife Martha, said he took all the photos displayed in the restaurant himself on various travel excursions. The couple owns a local contemporary art gallery and decided to display some of his landscape photography to complement the natural interior design choices to maintain a warm and inviting dining space.
The Moore family and staff worked with several prominent businesses on the interior design and construction of The Elm, including Lauren Bordes, Brown Smith Studios and Loren Wood Builders.
David Moore said staff members were able to facilitate the design concept. For example, he said the bartender gave a lot of input on the bar design itself.
“If you allow people to be creative, I think what you get is what the Elm looks like,” David Moore said. “The Elm is the result of a controlled, decisive and creative collaboration.”
David Moore said he and Martha were inspired by a man in Portland who created a restaurant combining all his interests and values, such as his family and travel photography.
“It’s not like I sat around and said ‘I’m going to open up a restaurant in 10 years,’” David Moore said. “It just sort of happened, you know, suddenly a building becomes available, then a manager does, and a lot of other things.”
David Moore said his original idea was to combine an art gallery and a bar but that the couple was also always interested in local, seasonal dining.
“Our hope is that the menu will feature local items but that the menu will also change seasonally,” David Moore said.
Martha Moore said it was important to her that restaurant patrons went to The Elm just to see what they were serving at the moment and that she appreciated Chef Dan Thomas for understanding this sentiment.
She said she and her husband believed that a space should be for the community and in their restaurant, people could always come for good food, special occasions and relaxing meals.
“We’ve been open for dinner five nights and just to watch the variety of people that come in, that brings us a lot of joy,” Martha Moore said.
Eric Daniels-Howell, The Elm’s general manager, said the staff always strives for great and quality food featuring seasonal ingredients.
“I think a lot of restaurants find themselves chasing techniques instead of chasing flavor issues, and we're really lucky to have a culinary team that straddles that line,” Daniels-Howell said.
He said he is proud of the group of culinary and hospitality professionals he works with. He is confident the restaurant can serve an upscale and comforting dining experience.
Daniels-Howell said the pandemic forced the restaurant to make some building design changes before opening, such as offering seating at a viewing window into the kitchen and making sure seating is spaced out. The restaurant could probably fit up to 260 seats inside, but they intentionally limited seating to 140 indoor seats to ensure a more comfortable and safe dining experience, Daniels-Howell said.
The café at the front of the restaurant also accommodates seating for up to 40 people and homemade pastries.
He said the pandemic meant no restaurant could serve at a level they always did historically, but he hopes The Elm becomes a dependable place for Bloomington residents.
“Our mantra is ‘drop-in, branch out,’” Daniels-Howell said. “We want our Bloomington neighbors to feel like they can come to us for casual daily dining, but at the same time, they can also have an experience that takes them away from home.”