By Aaron Ketzenberger
I used to be a vegetarian. With options like the ones I found at the Butcher’s Block in Bloomington, I’m very glad I’m not one today. And I’ll admit it — I’d never had fresh oysters before. But I definitely will again soon.
On a recent trip into the Butcher’s Block, a craft butcher shop located at 115 Ind. 46 in Bloomington, I was impressed first by the selection, especially the exotics section. Things like ostrich, alligator and antelope are all surprising finds for Bloomington. They even have turtle and kangaroo. It’s been years since I’ve had a ‘roo burger, but I remember it being tad dry. Perhaps I’ll give it another go, now that I know I can.
The Butcher’s Block offers an incredible array of options packed into a relatively small space, with shelves full of jams and jellies, specialty crackers, olives — the works. It really does have the big-city butcher’s shop feel, while keeping an emphasis on fresh, well-raised products. I talked with manager David Schell about the shop and its plans of expansion, and he explained about the restaurant side of the operation. The restaurant, No Coast Reserve, which is attached to the Butcher’s Block via a shared entry way, opened in late December last year. The restaurant’s emphasis is “sharable, fresh seafood.” I hadn’t intended to stop in at a restaurant, but sometimes the universe puts an oyster in front of you, and, really, who am I to say no?
No Coast Reserve bills itself as a casual raw bar, and the inside is hip and welcoming — absolutely not what you’d expect from a restaurant in a strip mall next to a Great Clips. The seating and lighting create a dynamic dining space, and the atmosphere is casual, but not excessively so. A friendly and knowledgeable server offered excellent advice, and per his recommendation, I had three oysters Mexican style, with salsa verde and lime ($12 for three).
I cannot believe it’s taken me 22 years to eat an oyster. I need to make up for lost time! They were silky smooth, and the salsa verde added just the right amount of flavor and kick. David had recommended any sandwich with fresh pesto, and I chose the Craft #8 ($9.50), which featured prosciutto and mozzarella in addition to the pesto, on a toasty baguette. The sandwich was delightful, the pesto was bright and the prosciutto melted with each bite — just like it’s supposed to.
I was very impressed with the Butcher’s Block and No Coast Reserve, two incredible Bloomington resources. I think I know where my next date night will be (you know what they say about oysters). And for my next cook out, I’ll certainly go to the Butcher’s Block first. Who knows, maybe I’ll even make that ‘roo burger.
Aaron Ketzenberger is a recent IU grad living and writing in Bloomington. You can follow him on Twitter @theaaronketz.