Bloomington-based Upland Brewing Company brings a twinkle-lit deck to the northern suburbs.
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Draft Party: A Review of Upland's Carmel Tap House

Whether or not you buy into the marketing, Upland’s award-winning ales, lagers, and sour beers have been around since 1998—part of the original surge of high-quality Indiana craft brews to wash over the enlightened guzzling public.

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Mas Appeal: A Review of Delicia

Prior to ordering, guests are served an amuse bouche of warm, salty sancocho—a slow-cooked beef-and-chicken broth that servers describe as a welcoming stew. The soup is surprisingly addictive, with an intense flavor like that of the stock cooked off of ham-and-bean soup.

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Second Story: Plum's Upper Room

Entrees demonstrated Clarks’ Chef’s Academy training best, and there was a contemporary nod among the desserts at this place with its heart in the past.

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Toast of the Town: A Review of Plat 99

Though the core list of spirits is limited at Plat 99, there is a sweet emphasis on boutique boozes and local hard liquors.

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Are You Game? A Review of Latitude 39

Latitude 39, a rambling family-entertainment center laid out in the gutted multiplex at Clearwater Crossing, contains not only a large dining room built around an open kitchen and a ceramic-tiled pizza hearth, but also a dine-in cinema, a dinner theater, and a sports theater with full food-and-beverage service. Not that you would notice any of these. The fact that you can eat here gets lost somewhere between the row of Skee-ball ramps and the 20-lane luxury bowling alley with disco balls and white leather sofas.

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The Art of the Meal: A Review of Cerulean

I glanced up from my butternut-and-acorn squash salad just as a group of business-dressed women in CityWay hard hats filed past Cerulean’s courtyard windows—on what looked like a guided tour of this $155 million mixed-use complex-in-the-making. When complete, the downtown site will house a boutique hotel, townhomes, shops, a park, a YMCA, and this gorgeous fishbowl of a restaurant where lunch arrives in westernized polished-walnut bento boxes. I wondered, as I plucked bites of balsamic-glazed pork loin, green beans spiked with vinaigrette, and spicy chorizo–crumbled potatoes from their individual compartments, if that tour group was as captivated by the soaring modern floorplan as I was by my lunch. It’s easy to get excited about this much new-urban design and sauce-painted dishware. But should we resist the temptation to fawn over all the pretty plates? Does the style have substance? Or have we fallen under the spell of a very impressive dog-and-pony show?

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Total Knockout: A Review of Punch Burger

With all due respect to the breaded tenderloin, burgers are getting a lot of attention right now. And this meat-patty crush has nothing to do with size or the fripperies of melted cheese and mayo. In the land of exalted greasy spoons and seasoned backyard grills, the virtue of a burger has everything to do with the quality, the flavor, and (at a time when dishes wear their farm-raised/locally sourced origins like designer labels) the provenance of the meat itself. Hence: the love fest that occurred when downtown’s quick-casual Punch Burger opened its doors in October.

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Nouveau Riche: A Review of Indigo Duck

On the other end of the phone line, the server stammered and asked if I could hold for a moment. And then, speaking loudly over the din of background noise … “We might be able to get you a table at 7:15, but it will probably be closer to 7:30 or 7:45.” Or, she said, I could eat at the bar—if I could find a place to sit.

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Class Act: A Review of Eleven at the Pyramids

For local fans of Top Chef, watching episodes can inspire bouts of metropolitan envy. Where, people might wonder, do our own hot culinary upstarts—our Harolds and Hungs—conspire to plate their next great dish? How far would we have to drive to taste them?

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Greek Revival: A Review of Topo's 403

The menu plays coy at Topo’s 403, Bloomington’s elegant-edgy riff on Mediterranean food. An entree billed as spanakopita rainbow trout arrives not in the expected brick of phyllo but as a piece of iridescent-skinned fish, filleted and stuffed with spinach and cheese. You taste the same strata of crisp, salty flavors—the sweet nuttiness of the fish layered with the savory greens, on a bed of bulgur salad brightened with lemon-caper vinaigrette. But this is the big fat Greek restaurant standard deconstructed. Here, authenticity is overrated.

Fried tomatoes at Bluebeard in 2012
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Local Hero: A Review of Bluebeard

If there were a playbook for new restaurants, mapping out everything hot and covetable right now in the ever-changing game of dining out, Fletcher Place newcomer Bluebeard would already have it memorized.

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Surf and Turf War: A Review of Ocean Prime

Minutes later, she sat down a sugar-rimmed martini glass filled with a hot-pink liquid that was actually hissing at the surface, like a witches’ cauldron.

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Latin Class: A Review of Mama Irma Restaurant

On a recent chilly night, a ruddy-cheeked mix of date-nighting hipsters, ethnic foodies, and Spanish-speaking expats filled the 10 tables inside Mama Irma Restaurant. Twinkle lights in the windows gave the storefront a Thomas Kinkade glow. And yet, even as the owner greeted diners with a motherly “Hi guys!” as if they had just come in from band practice, this snug Peruvian eatery in Fountain Square seemed blissfully unaware of its own preciousness.

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Review: Late Harvest Kitchen

If you had followed Ryan Nelson’s career from the beginning, you might have predicted the scene: Just 10 days after he opened Late Harvest Kitchen in the former Smith & Hawken storefront near The Fashion Mall, Nelson strolled from table to table in the packed, candlelit dining room of his first solo enterprise, talking to customers with the ease of a seasoned restaurant professional. But in many ways, he was still the guy from Minneapolis, the onetime English major and avid hockey fan a tad uncomfortable in his chef’s whites, humbly hoping you enjoyed the food he had cooked for you. Only now he was not answering to the corporate offices of The Oceanaire Seafood Room, where he established himself as both team player and rising star, garnering an invitation to cook at the revered James Beard House in New York City at age 26.

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Review: The Local Eatery & Pub

The well-behaved kids coloring on butcher paper at the next table didn’t clue us in to the culinary aspirations of chef Craig Baker’s kitchen. Nor did the plasma screens streaming basketball scores—though one TV in the bar was tuned to Rachael Ray perkily whipping up another quick weeknight supper. Mixed messages aside, we’d been tipped off to the ambitions of Baker, who honed his skills in several Portland restaurants before heading up the kitchen at Casler’s in Geist and working the pizza station at Napolese. We hadn’t driven out to Westfield to a restaurant called The Local just to nosh on humdrum pub grub, after all.