the breakfast dictator [215]

Chef Matt O’Neill

Posted in Travel by thebreakfastdictator on October 17, 2009

Just received this email from Matt O’Neill, owner of the Runcible Spoon:

Runcible Spoon

Runcible Spoon


Thank you, you paint true pictures with words as well with the camera. Sorry I missed talking with you, you have probably departed Bloomington by now.
I don’t have my staff wear uniforms, it hides the spirit and depersonalizes people. You are right about Wix and Mary, there is something about them.
Thank you for the gift you left here, the gift of seeing, a real artist does not just take pictures, he or she captures an image that reveals a greater truth and a deeper mystery concurrently, which is not a mere picture, because it plugs its roots into the spirit of a thing, or a person, or a place.
I value your impression and its documentation more than 100 five star reviews on some restaurant blog.


My Server’s Name was Maple

Posted in Breakfast Portraits, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on October 11, 2009


The overnight low was an unseasonably cold thirty-five and it was oh-so-warm in bed. Sleeping another three hours didn’t sound like a bad idea, but there was breakfast to be had. Ice covered my windshield and I scraped it off with an old, too-scratched-to-listen-to Smashing Pumpkins CD.

Walking down 6th, I could see the Spoon in the distance and it appeared warm and inviting, much like 312 used to be in Bloomington adventures of years past. I arrived a few minutes past eight, just as it was opening and slowly waking to life. When it’s that early on a Sunday, you can sit where you like. I chose a small nook with wooden benches near the front door where the windows are large and blue morning light was slowly streaming through them.

My server was the same pretty, doe-eyed girl as yesterday, which was fortunate, for in the madness of the morning rush, there was no way I’d’ve been able to make her photograph then. I asked her to sit at the large table in the center of the front dining room and peppered her with questions while cleanly snapping a few frames.



I often forget the power of the camera to break into new people’s lives and though she was not my server, she refilled my coffee a few times. I asked to make her photograph as well, and after dancing around the dining room floor for a few moments to take care of her orders, Wix most certainly obliged. She was clearly comfortable with the camera and I made a few frames of her in a few different spots in the restaurant. She called over Maple and I took a few more of them together. They refilled my coffee and headed back to work as the breakfast crowd began to meander in.

I finished up my coffee and said good-bye. And as I was leaving, Wix told me I should live here.

Don’t tempt me.

The Runcible Spoon | Bloomington, IN

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on October 11, 2009
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict | The Runcible Spoon

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict | The Runcible Spoon

I can’t count the number of times I visited Bloomington between 2004 and 2006, when my sister was an All American Field Hockey player at IU. When in town, most of my free time was spent at the Bloomington Bagel Company, which is a fantastic little joint in and of itself. Somehow, though it was right around the corner, we missed the Runcible Spoon, a small house turned restaurant in 1976 (and at the time was the only gourmet coffee roasterie in the entire Midwest) which was named one of America’s 59 Best Breakfasts by Esquire Magazine earlier this year.

We got there “early” for a Saturday morning (11am) and the wait was surprisingly short — about five minutes. Owner and head chef, Matt O’Neill, seated us himself while busy servers gracefully zipped around the maze-like dining room floor carrying massive trays of food over their heads and smiling as they did so.

All of the Spoon’s coffee is imported fair trade and roasted in house. Burlap bags full of raw, green, beans are visible next to the massive bookshelves full of literary classics and contemporary reads. Our server was more than likely an IU student who recommended the Eggs Benedict, and, though I rarely take the server’s recommendation, I jumped all over the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict (on a Croissant) and added sliced tomatoes. I’m not sure I could have made a better selection (though, perhaps, she made it for me), but that is yet to be decided because the chances of making a return visit early tomorrow are rather likely.

There was some slight confusion over where the term “Runcible” came from, so we asked our server and she gladly handed us a full-menu, complete with a full-description:

A runcible spoon is a utensil that appears in nonsense poetry, which also uses the adjective “runcible” to describe objects other than spoons. It is fundamentally a nonsense word.

Quoted, on said menu, is Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat (the very imagery to adorn the Spoon’s outdoor signage) which reads:

They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.

Unfortunate as it is that I missed out on this fantastic breakfast joint for the most of three years, it was most certainly worth the nearly 700 mile trip from Pennsylvania to Bloomington, not only for the fantastic food, but also for the eclectic atmosphere, which most certainly represents Bloomington well. The total tab including tip was $16, but I’d’ve paid twice that to again experience a breakfast this grand.

The Runcible Spoon | Bloomington, Indiana

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on September 16, 2009

This Bloomington breakfast joint was recently listed as one of Esquire Mag’s 59 Best Breakfasts in America. And while I spent countless weekends in Bloomington between 2004 and 2007, it somehow escaped my knowledge; a grand faux paux, indeed. Regardless, there is talk of making the trek to the un-official Hoosier capital in October just to swing by this grand little place that was literally a block or two where I spent so many fall weekends for three straight years. (One should know that there is a ton to do in Bloomington, especially if you’re from out of town, so don’t fault myself [or anyone else for that matter] for missing a hot spot such as this.

Hopefully, we’ll bring you a review (complete with photos) rather soon.

:: The Dictator ::