The Uptown Cafe
102 E Kirkwood Ave
Location: Downtown on E. Kirkwood near Walnut
Cuisine: American with Creole Influence
Price: Breakfast Entrees $8-10, Dinner Entrees $10-15
JJ and I went to Uptown one night recently because so many people recommend it, especially for breakfast.
The restaurant is somewhat fancier than most in Bloomington, but other patrons were still dressed very casually. Our server was very nice, attentive, and willing to answer my questions with no problems.
We started out with the Artichoke-Kalamata Olive Dip, which was wonderful, and not overly pricey at $5.95. This was a decent amount of food for two to start out the meal.
I have heard, and our server told us, that Phil's Famous Garlic Bread is what many people start out with. I don't like when restaurants charge for bread, so I'd rather order something a bit more if I'm going to have to pay anyway.
I had looked over their menu ahead of time, and wasn't very impressed with any of their vegetarian selections. They have 2 or 3 vegetarian dishes, but then many other dishes have the option to not have meat for a cheaper price.
What they did have though was a specials board with about 6 entrees. I've always read it's best to try the specials because they're generally fresh and seasonal. I saw something called Pasta Bella, so I asked what it was. Pasta Bella is a fresh linguine tossed in a saffron broth with crumbled feta, which melts a bit to make the sauce creamy. Artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, olives and more feta are added to the dish and tossed in with the pasta. It was probably one of the best pasta dishes I've had. The saffron added enourmous flavor, it was creamy but still light, and the fresh pasta was wonderful. I wish there was a bit more sauce and vegetables, but it was great. The Pasta Bella was $13.95, with the option to add lamb chops for a few dollars more. I was a bit dissapointed it didn't come with a salad, they are $3.95 extra to add on.
JJ ordered the Louisiana Hot Pepper Chicken, which was crispy chicken strips over rice with a spicy pepper cheese sauce. His was $13.95 as well. JJ thought the chicken was really tender and crispy, the rice was well seasoned, and the sauce had a good balance of heat and flavor. He said he wished there were more peppers in the sauce because he didn't get many vegetables.
We passed on dessert, though the key lime pie was hard to pass up. Overall, I'd say we had a nice dinner at Uptown, but I don't think it was very high up on my personal Best of Bloomington list. I had no issues with the quality of my dinner, the flavor was good, but it wasn't a very memorable dinner, and a little more expensive than similar dinners I've had elsewhere.