Monday, March 31, 2008

Vote Local

‘Tis the season for Bloomington, Indiana’s Herald-Times Readers' Choice Awards.
When we were in the process of moving to our fair city, I looked all over for a Best of Bloomington list. I’ve moved a lot and find this sort of thing invaluable when settling in to an unknown place. Unfortunately, what I found was that national chains won in a lot of the categories. This is no help to the new Bloomingtonian. I know about national chains already. What I don’t know is what the local alternatives are. So don’t vote for Old Navy in every clothing category, or worse, Wal-Mart in pretty much every category. Even if it’s not where you always go, pick the local store that you wish you could always go to. Are you a Bloomingtonian who needs a little local refresher before voting? Check out Downtown Bloomington’s Directory. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a start.

And if you still don’t know who to vote for, here’s a list of who I voted for and occasionally a reason why.

Bookstore: Howard’s Bookstore
Craft Supply Store: Shiisa Quilts
In the text box at the end of the online ballot I also asked if I could write Shiisa Quilts in for the following non-existent categories: “Sewing Machine Dealer,” “Quilt Shop,” and “Fabric Shop.” In all fairness, Shiisa Quilts is truly the only Quilt Shop in town. There is one other local sewing machine dealer and, well, JoAnn’s fabrics is here, but it’s not like there’s a lot of competition. But, if Netflix can win for best video rental store, then all the local stores are in competition with online options, which as far as fabric goes are considerable. And as an avid online fabric shopper, I think Shiisa Quilts compares quite favorably both in terms of price and selection, not to mention the beautiful natural light in which to hold up your fabric and check the color.
Gift Shop: By Hand Gallery
I’ve never bought anything there, but I love the idea of it. So this is an example of me practicing what I preached when I said, “Even if it’s not where you always go, pick the local store that you wish you could always go to.” In all honestly I bought the vast majority of the gifts I gave last year at the IU Bookstore with David’s faculty discount, but if I weren’t buying IU sweatshirts for every person in my family, I imagine I would buy them something at By Hand Gallery.
Grocery Store, Health Food Store, and Place to buy Produce: Bloomingfoods Near West Side
I love Bloomingfoods. Even when the checkout elves bark at me for having an insufficient number of reusable bags, even when the deli trolls cower by the sandwich counter to avoid weighing out my pound of smoked turkey, even when they don’t have the vegetarian chili at the hot bar, I love them so. And not just any Bloomingfoods. The Near West Side Bloomingfoods. David has a crush on the Downtown Bloomingfoods, but that’s only because he picks up his coffee there on his walk home from school, like the Pusherman. Me, I’m a Near West Side girl.
Hardware Store (name & location): Bloomington Hardware Covenanter Drive
That’s a shout out to our landlord, the owner of said hardware store. And technically it is a TrueValue franchise these days. But it’s been in Bloomington since the 1880s. Can Lowes say that? I didn’t think so. Also, this is where we bought our reel lawn mower, which we love and is helping us save the planet.
Home Decor/Accessories Shop: Relish
Again, like By Hand Gallery, I’ve never bought anything at Relish. And David gets cranky every time he sees the sign because he thinks it’s going to be a cool restaurant and then it isn’t. But they sell Denise Schmidt quilts, so they must be good people.
Kid's Clothing Store: O’Child
See above re: By Hand Gallery and Relish. These folks just opened this year and that can be a tough time for a new local store. So even if you can’t afford to buy your kids clothes here, go ahead and buy at Old Navy (or Goodwill), but vote for O’Child. Tell rich parents where to spend their disposable income.
Optical Store: Optiks
These folks fixed David’s glasses and treated him like a prince, which was even more impressive because he was pretty fussy about having to get his glasses fixed.
Pet Store and Pet Grooming: Delilah’s
Augie and Izzy love Delilah’s. They have the best, most affordable, speediest, friendliest grooming we have ever experienced anywhere. We seriously brought in Augie covered in sticky little seed pods (he looked like a poppyseed muffin) and olive oil (at the same time . . . do not ask) and they had him looking like a prized show dog in under two hours.
Place to buy Liquor, Beer & Wine: Sahara Mart
OK, OK, we don’t drink, but if we did, we’d buy all our fancy wines and microbrews from Sahara Mart. David does buy coffee and tea there with some regularity. And I hear they have a great cheese selection too, not that I eat that either.
Shoe Store: Sole Sensations
They sell all sorts of shoes that are good for your feet. David got two pairs of Obays for an insanely good price. And the service is fantastic.
Auto Repair: Mission Auto Shop
Our formerly local source for all B-town knowledge (aka Gentle Reader, aka Thalia), recommended Mission and they’ve lived up to the high standards we expect from anyone she recommended.
Bank/Credit Union: IU Credit Union
Dental Office: Allen Linnemeier DDS
See above re: Mission Auto. Dr. Linnemeier was the most reasonable dentist ever, both in terms of cost (we don't have dental insurance) and in terms of dealing with people who haven't been to the dentist in awhile. Though I have not gotten over the fact he gave David's dental hygiene an A- and mine a B+. I will floss my way to greatness!
Dry Cleaners: Crosstown Cleaners
Health Club/Gym: YMCA
Veterinarian Office: College Mall Veterinary Hospital
See above re: Mission Auto and Dr. Linnemeier. Dr. Kraus at the CMVH has been a superstar with Augie and Izzy. Just recently they had to go in on short notice and we saw another doctor who was equally awesome, so Dr. K isn’t the exception.
Park/Playground: Bryan Park
Radio Station: WFHB
OK, OK, so technically I probably clock more hours on WFIU but that’s only because of NPR and the fact I can’t easily switch between stations on the iHome. I love the midday talk programming on WFHB and when they do play music the deejays are very eclectic in an interesting way.
Monroe County Restaurant and Fine Dining: Farm

We went here for New Years Eve and it rocked our gustatory world. Technically, we’ve been to Tallent more frequently and Tallent is pretty awesome, but every time we go there something is just a little off. Like one time the side dish was super yummy, but the main dish was nothing to write home about. And for that amount of money, everything should be write-home-about material. But I’m not a hater, I’m a congratulator. Congratulations on your relatively recent grand opening, Farm!
Bagels: Bloomington Bagel Company
These are the best bagels anywhere on the planet. And they have this smores bar that we’ve been trying to reverse engineer for months. I think it’s a graham flour shortbread base, but I don’t understand how they prevent the melted marshmallows from melting the chocolate chips. But I'll keep trying to perfect these at home, even if I have to get diabetes in the process.
Bakery and Lunch Spot: Scholars Inn Bakehouse Downtown
Breakfast: Runcible Spoon
This was one of the first restaurants we ate at in Bloomington and my impression of it only improved after I took a cooking class at the Bloomington Cooking School with the Runcible's executive chef William Neal.
Chinese Food: Chow Bar
We suffered through many other Chinese food restaurants until we found Chow Bar. The sesame chicken is to die for.
Deli/Subs and Fast Food: The Village Deli
Their motto is “Eat and Get Out.” Doesn’t get any faster than that.
Desserts: BLUBoy
They made my birthday cake and it was AWESOME! Their cupcakes also rock if you can’t justify ordering a whole cake, or you need an instant fix. And their cupcake boxes are a wonder in package engineering.
French Fries and Hamburger: Upland Brewing Company
Italian Food: Grazie
Mexican Food: Casa Brava
We have suffered through every other Mexican restaurant in town and only recently found this place. It is in fact the best Mexican restaurant we have ever been to.
Other Ethnic Cuisine: Esan Thai
Pizza: Mother Bears
Romantic Restaurant: Trulli Flatbread
P.S. You know you live one of the top ten places to retire to when “Hearing Aid Store” and “Retirement Community” are categories in the Reader’s Choice Awards.

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Sarah said...

Thalia, aka Gentle Reader, would totally comment if she could comment but she computes at work and that's a no comment zone, so here's her "comment" which she emailed to me.
"I have to say that my favorite alcoholic shop is Butler Winery. They have a delicious selection of fruit wines that are actual wines, and not fruit syrups. (Ed.--So you've been to Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, then? Stopped vomiting already? Impressive.) And I'm so glad you like Dr. Linnemeier! He's a nice guy. I love WFHB too. I especially liked the listeners who got their own 30 or 60 minute shows - there was a couple of old ladies who played old timey folk music, which was cool, and their chatting with each other was adorable. I hope they're still on the air.

Smores bar at BBC? OOOO! That sounds new (as in after my departure). *drool* I love their bialys (sp?) too. It's funny you also mention the sesame chicken from Chow Bar - I was randomly fantasizing about it last night. I kid you not! :)

And I am with you on the Bloomingfoods west side store. A few times I'd be waiting at the deli counter and wanting to yell, in a horrible British accent, "SHOP!" to get someone to come give me food.

Now I want to head back to B-town and try Farm. *drool drool*"