The Uptown Cafe flies more under the radar than newer, flashier Bloomington establishments like Restaurant Tallent and Farm, but it shouldn’t. The food and ambience at this long-time local eatery are fantastic. Opened in 1976 as a breakfast-lunch diner, the Kirkwood mainstay has grown up into an upscale casual dining venue, undergoing renovations within the past few years to expand and transform the space next door into a sleek bar area. The vibrant main dining room is open and airy with tin ceilings, brick walls, rich neutral colors, cherry furniture and sophisticated art. The crowd is a diverse all-ages blend of local residents, families, couples and Indiana University students.
Uptown's dinner menu highlights Cajun and Creole dishes, but also offers steaks, salads and pastas with most items fairly priced between $15 and $30. The Louisiana Creole hot pepper chicken and the Cajun meat loaf seem to be popular choices; and the spicy shrimp with cheddar jalapeno grits ($16) is a winner when it comes to flavor, even if the portion is more appetizer than entree. Among the frequently changing dessert selections ($6 apiece), the strawberry shortcake with warm poundcake and real whipped cream is fresh, summery and simply delicious. And we daresay the wine list here is one of the best in Bloomington.
Our service experience was a little spotty (including a billing discrepancy), but the food was so good, we’re willing to cut a little slack.