Trying to feature locally sourced products is a growing trend, but at Community Hospital East (CHE) in Indianapolis, they have taken the idea to the next level with a dedicated retail space called Bistro East that features foods and beverages produced and sourced locally. The eatery, located adjacent to the main cafeteria, will also have a place of prominence just off the main lobby once CHE finishes an expansion and renovation project that will see a new hospital tower completed next February followed by the construction of a new main entry/lobby set for completion in the spring of 2020.
“We are a community hospital in an urban setting [that is] doubling the size of our campus,” says Suzanne Koehler, COO for the East Region of the Community Health Network, noting both the hospital’s place as an economic driver and a health and wellness resource for the community. “We do a lot of work in the community,” she adds. “For example, we organized and started an east side redevelopment committee [through which] we offer a lot of population health services, so when we had the opportunity to introduce Bistro East, Caroline took the initiative to go out and find local vendors for it.”
Caroline is Caroline Patrick, director of nutrition and food services for CHE, and she is very enthusiastic about the project.
“I think this was a no-brainer for a lot of us,” Patrick offers. “Everybody in the department and a lot of the people here at Community East are big foodies, so we really wanted to partner with local companies that we enjoy outside of the workplace setting and bring them in here so everybody can enjoy our favorite foods, so to speak.”
Among the more prominent local partnerships is one with Tinker Coffee Co., a roaster located in Indianapolis that supplies Bistro East not only a number of drip coffee options, including a single-origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, but also a nitro cold-brewed coffee that is the first of its kind in a healthcare setting in Indianapolis, according to the hospital.
Another out-of-the-box vendor is Circle City Kombucha, located less than two miles from the hospital, which supplies seasonal kombucha tea flavors that are available on draft at Bistro East along with growlers customers can refill repeatedly and take away.
Bistro East also sells goat cheeses from the Paramount School of Excellence, a school-based farm program located on the east side of Indianapolis that holds the distinction of being the smallest licensed dairy in Indiana. Paramount incorporates vegetable fields, chickens, an apiary and six dairy goats that supply the milk for the cheese the farm-school produces. Currently, Bistro East sells Paramount’s ricotta and Gnarly Val cheeses, the latter a goat cheese rolled in a vegetable ash to give it a unique flavor.
“We may try to talk to them about growing vegetables for us next season,” Patrick says. “We would also love to get some of their honey but for now they’re keeping it close to vest.”
Bistro East has also developed a partnership with Brick House Dressings, a company founded by Chef Jess Bricker, the culinary director of Ivy Tech State College in downtown Indianapolis, which markets a series of premium, healthy dressings such as the Classic Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette made with non-GMO oils and lower amounts of carbs and sodium than traditional formulations, a sugarless Creamy Garlic Herb dressing made with organic stevia leaves and herbs and the Sunny Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette, which incorporates a locally sourced cold-pressed sunflower oil.
Among other locally sourced products available initially from Bistro East are Colby and cheddar cheeses from Steckler Grassfed Farms that are produced from 100-percent grass-fed, raw, organic milk fresh from a Dutch Belted dairy herd and aged for at least 60 days; gluten-free baked goods such as snickerdoodle and vegan cowboy cookies and a chocolate warrior mix from BeeFree Gluten-free Bakery; and jams and jellies from Dillman Farms.
In addition to packaged goods from local suppliers, Bistro East has three grab-and-go coolers from which customers can quickly secure sandwiches and salads to go, as well as a prepared food area where options include hot open-face sandwiches, casseroles and pasta bakes made quickly with a high-speed Merrychef oven. The Bistro’s coffee station serves not only coffees and kombuchas but also a selection of Italian sodas and flavored drinks.
“With the Bistro, we knew there was a factor for convenience and fast service, so we really wanted to tailor it to get customers in and out quickly so they can get to appointments or to go take care of patients,” Patrick explains. Future plans include adding housemade soups and even prepared take-out dinners.
The Bistro East currently is in its soft opening phase, but once fully rolled out, it will operate from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily in order to accommodate late-night staff.
“We want to make sure everyone feels they can have good, nutritious food at all times when they’re here” Patrick emphasizes.
Meanwhile, reaction to the new Bistro has already been enthusiastic, Koehler says.
“Everyone’s been super excited about it, really impressed with the options and design that we have and the local, homegrown products they can buy,” she notes. “Things that they typically can get at farmers’ markets they can now get here at East.”