Vitality Bowls: 4/5 stars $$-$$$
This trendy superfoods shop is a great way to end the school week, especially on a sweltering day. Informational posters about uncommon ingredients ease any tentative customers’ minds. The medium-sized dragon bowl appeals to everyone’s fresh, fruity cravings. The frozen, puréed, purple dragon fruit is a sorbet-like texture, and the purple kind’s antioxidants are superior to those of the white kind. The colors, radiating like a halo from the metal bowl, blew me away at first sight. It was mouthwatering to the max. It was nice to see Vitality Bowls go above and beyond on its selection of ingredients as well. The service was standard, although the amount of “exotic and imported” product did not quite measure up to the price. Vitality Bowls is, however, an accessible way to introduce newcomers to unusual fruits and ingredients.
Woody’s: 3/5 stars $$$
First impressions are always important in any occasion. My first impression of Woody’s withered away in 15 minutes. Service is a customer’s first impression in a restaurant, but sadly, it did not perform to its highest potential during my visit. It was the opposite of a pièce de résistance but Woody’s redeemed itself with its interesting library theme that complements the building’s history and a fair range of menu selections that are vegetarian and gluten-free inclusive. To test the waters of this aspect, I had the quinoa primavera, quinoa with a mix of vegetables and white wine sauce. The dish was palatable, a little tangy due to the sauce and presented pleasantly. One suggestion I had is to make sure the sauce distribution was even; all the real flavor had sunk to the bottom. Quinoa is a hard staple to add flair to, so in retrospect, a selection of choice steak might have served this restaurant justice. Learning from this, I followed with a classic dulcet crème brûlée. This is what I expected of a family American restaurant like Woody’s: solid recipes that satiate an appetite. It is highly unlikely I will revisit Woody’s because of its poor first impression, but my personal taste coincided with the 30 or so people that dined outside, so my service could just as well have been a glitch in a steady business.
Tina’s Traditional Old English Kitchen: 4.5/5 stars $$$
This little British heaven just off Main Street is owned by a resident Briton, and the quaint decor makes a statement to the charm of the UK. It boasts a wide variety of pastries, luncheons and, of course, tea. The Queen’s Royal High Tea at $25 is recommended for anyone wanting to try a bit of everything that dedicates itself to a standard afternoon tea. The surprising standout, of not only my three loose-leaf selections but also the Royal High Tea, was the 1776 blend that “captures the spirit of the American Revolution” with an ambrosial brew of maple and strawberry. The staff was courteous and attentive to any questions and needs and also checked in regularly to see if I needed free refills. The pastries and sandwiches were well made, making a fitting companion to three whole pots of tea. However, if you doesn’t favor strong cheese, cautiously taste the homemade tomato chutney and mature English cheddar as the cheese is overpowering. Tina’s also hosts a number of tea parties and children’s birthdays, as well as themed evenings for those wanting a different style of a night out. This tea room leaves the customer with a whimsical remembrance and a compelling consideration for a weekly afternoon tea party.
Pad Thai: 4/5 stars $$
This restaurant, tucked away off Main Street on a pedestrian-only street adjacent to the Monon Trail, is an ethnic food gem in downtown Carmel. The restaurant is always fairly quiet and never very full, but the food is delicious. The decor and mood of the restaurant is formal with dim lighting, dark walls and cloth napkins. Many people who eat there, however, come in from walking around on the street or Monon and are dressed casually. You can also sit outside; the Monon is right in front of the restaurant, so if you like to people-watch, it’s a nice place to be. The service was rather slow, but the wait staff is generally very nice. Recommended dishes include the Panang curry, the red curry, the pad thai, the calamari and the pad see ewe. Also, the Thai Iced Tea is a must; it is creamy yet very refreshing and comes with a sweet paper flower on top of the straw when it is delivered to your table.
Agave: 4.5/5 stars $$
If you’re in the mood for some rich, flavor-bursting, authentic Mexican food, Agave is the place for you. Guests can sit inside or outside; both have unique, comfortable atmospheres. The inside is small but has bright, colorful artwork and walls. The wait staff is very friendly, and the food came very quickly but was well-made. Large portion sizes make leftovers a nice bonus to take home if you have a small stomach. There are lots of creamy sauces that have dairy in them but they are willing to accommodate for lactose-intolerant people and leave the sauce off or replace it with salsa or some sort of non-dairy alternative. Recommended dishes include the Agave burrito and the pollo a la crema. The only warning I have is that the food is very filling.
Muldoon’s: 4/5 stars $$
This long-standing Carmel restaurant has some classic American fare with a touch of Irish influence. You can get soups, sandwiches and full entrees here as well as brunch on Sundays. There is indoor and outdoor seating with fun, festive lights strung around the outdoor patio that are lit at night. The portions are large, but the food is homey, classic and rich — perfect Irish pub food. While there is a bar area, there are plenty of places to sit for guests under the age of 18. The wait staff was very nice and welcoming, and the food came fairly quickly. Recommended dishes include the Irish stew, the BBQ and cheddar sandwich and the loaded potato salad. If you even remotely enjoy potato salad, your taste buds will be blown out of this world with this delectable concoction of mayonnaise, bacon, cheese and a whole lot of potatoes. It’s not your average picnic side dish; however, the side salads are mediocre at best, and if you are looking for lighter fare, this is not the place for you.