The Monroe County History Center will open the “Order up! Restaurants of Monroe County” exhibit Aug. 2 at its location on East Sixth Street.
Exhibit curator Hilary Fleck said the exhibition catalogs years of history and memories from nearly 60 restaurants throughout Monroe County. The exhibit includes special historical features on Nick’s English Hut, Pancho’s Villa, Boxman’s Restaurant, Ladyman’s Cafe, the Chocolate Moose, Groves Restaurant, Bruce’s Cafe, Book Nook, Tao and The Hole, as well as a special feature on the eclectic ethnic restaurants that line Fourth Street, Fleck said.
Collections of historical photographs, former menus and T-shirts will be displayed throughout the exhibit. Fleck said her favorite features are the various vintage seating elements that they’ve received —a Nick’s booth from the 1920s, the 10 foot-long “Liars Bench” from the Village Inn in Ellettsville, Indiana, as well as other antique, interactive seating for guests.
Fleck said the history center wanted to create the project because restaurants are so integral to the Bloomington community. There are several diverse, local restaurants that have been a part of Monroe County for years, Fleck said.
“Our community has such a passion for restaurants,” Fleck said. “I think that it's such a wide variety because we have such a rich and diverse community. It’s so special. Everybody has a favorite restaurant that they love.”
When restaurants become so ingrained in the community, patrons associate memories with those favorite restaurants over time — Fleck said she remembers eating ice cream from the Chocolate Moose to celebrate the end of college finals.
“[Restaurants] can have these really deeply personal connections to people through good food and good company,” Fleck said.
Fleck said the exhibition was a true community effort, and that she’s glad to have been loaned items by so many businesses. While it was nearly impossible to feature every restaurant that’s been a part of Monroe County history, Fleck said she hopes guests learn about new favorites.
“I hope that [visitors] learn about the rich history that we have of restaurants in the community, and are encouraged to visit somewhere new, somewhere that they haven't tried yet,” Fleck said.
The exhibition is open during business hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Nov. 5. Admission to the exhibit is $2 for adults, $1 for children ages 6-17, free for children 5 and younger and free for history center members. All admission fees will be waived on the Free Family Day event on Aug. 6.