Should the mood strike you to follow your favorite Big Ten team on the road, there is a good chance that eventually, you will need to make the trip to Bloomington. And while you could probably spend your entire time in Indianapolis and only come down to B-Town for the game itself, you would be doing yourself a great disservice (not to mention, near-constant construction around Bloomington makes game traffic not fun to navigate if you don’t leave really early). While this won’t be the most comprehensive list of places and things to visit in Bloomington, these are my personal recommendations based on four years of experience.
Places to Eat:
To start with, every college town has that one place that is generally acknowledged as “the best pizza place.” And while some students would probably argue that Pizza X is the superior pizza in Bloomington, they don’t have seating for customers inside their storefront. As such, while I do enjoy Pizza X, there’s just nothing like dining in at Mother Bear’s Pizza.
The tricky part about getting there is that, just before the main location on 3rd Street on the south side of campus, the street becomes one way going away from the building, so you have to know exactly how to circle back to the parking lot behind Mother Bear’s if you want to park anywhere close. Trust me, the pizza is worth the hassle, as is the sometimes clever and occasionally excellent graffiti the patrons leave behind in the booths.
If pizza isn’t the meal you want to get (and really, you’re coming to a college town and not getting pizza? What’s wrong with you?), the next place I recommend is one that you’ll want to get to sooner rather than later, as it’ll be moving to a new location in August 2018. Yogi’s is a bit farther away from campus, but a bit closer to the stadium, than Mother Bear’s, so you’ll have a bit easier of a time getting up to Memorial Stadium or Assembly Hall if that’s where you’re headed.
While the menu seems to have changed slightly since I was there last, if you’re looking for something more on the order of bar food without an entirely bar-like atmosphere, Yogi’s is your place to be. The main reason I’ve heard to go there is for the Pork Tenderloin, and also to join the Century Club*, as Yogi’s boasts over 100 beers in its selection. *Note: Yogi’s website no longer mentions the Club, so it may have been discontinued in the last couple years.
If you still haven’t heard something that strikes your fancy, let’s head over to Kirkwood and into the best brunch hangout in town, the Village Deli.
Be prepared to eat big if you’re going to the Deli, as they will give you large plates of food for a good price. The massive pancakes they serve are good anytime, and will fill you up just right, though you can’t really go wrong no matter what you order.
If you’re more interested in getting something very different from your normal food choices, Bloomington is home to all kinds of cuisine, most of which clusters around 4th Street, but can be found elsewhere if you’re looking for something specific. On 4th Street alone, you’ll find Turkish (Anatolia), Tibetan (Anyetsang’s), Indian (Taste of India), Thai (My Thai Cafe), and plenty of others. I highly recommend Anatolia if you only have time for one.
Finally, if you’re just looking for some dessert, it’s time to get Baked!
(You were expecting something else?)
Baked! of Bloomington is a made to order cookie shop. You pick the homemade dough, pick the mix-ins, and pick any toppings or frostings you might want, and they’ll bake the cookies up fresh for you. My personal preference is the chocolate dough with mint chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips, but whatever you want in a cookie, if they’ve got it, it’ll end up delicious. You’ll definitely want some milk to wash down whatever you order, as these cookies are very rich, and very worth it.
Of course, I know some people won’t care a bit about any of the food I’ve just listed off, so we’ll turn to the next most obvious list of places to go in B-Town.
Places to Drink:
(Disclaimer: I have been to exactly one of the places on this list, because my college experience was not everyone else’s, apparently. If you want a better review of the Bloomington bar scene, Ben Raphael of the Crimson Quarry has you covered.)
The best place to go relive your college days (with everything that might entail) is Kilroy’s on Kirkwood (KOK in Bloomington parlance, to differentiate it from Kilroy’s Sports, which is imaginatively called Sports). Guaranteed to be packed almost always, if you’re looking for the college crowd, this is where you go.
On the other hand, if you like your scene to be just a bit older/possibly wiser/probably all actually of age drinkers, across the street from KOK is Nick’s English Hut. Best known as the home of popular B-Town drinking game “Sink the Biz”, Nick’s has been a Bloomington tradition since 1927. Any bar that can stay popular in a college town for 90 years has to be doing something right, and it’s the one bar in Bloomington that I’ve actually been to.
For a more local flavor (quite literally), Upland Brewing is what you seek. With three different Bloomington locations that each cater to a specific aspect of the experience (the Brewpub, the main Brewery and Beer Bar, and the Wood Shop Sour Brewery), Upland has the local craft beer you’re looking for.
Finally, if your quest for alcohol requires a more fruitful taste, head north to Oliver Winery, the oldest winery in the state. Some of the vineyard is visible from the road as you’re traveling into Bloomington, and a variety of wines will greet you even if you don’t take a tour of the full facilities. Wines from Oliver are distributed throughout the Midwest, so if you want to sample the goods before visiting, it’s quite likely you’ll be able to do so.
Other Places of Note:
- Cook Hall and Assembly Hall are right next door to Memorial Stadium, so if you have even a passing interest in Indiana basketball, finding time to stop in at either of these places wouldn’t be amiss.
- 7th Street on campus holds attractions of a more artistic nature if that’s the entertainment you seek. Surrounding Showalter Fountain are the IU Auditorium (where most national touring productions will take the stage while in Bloomington), the IU Art Museum (though it is currently undergoing renovations, and will be through 2019), and the Lilly Library, home to a rather large rare books collection that is open to public viewing. Just down the street is the Indiana Memorial Union/Biddle Hotel, a major hub of foot traffic on campus and home to a handful of dining options, most prominently the Tudor Room.
- Beyond the Kirkwood bar scene, downtown Bloomington has plenty of other entertainment and eating choices, including the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, the Irish Lion Restaurant and Pub, and The Tap Brewery and Craft Beer Bar. Just off the square is Little Zagreb, where some of Bloomington’s best steaks are prepared. Finally, if you’re looking for a laugh, the Comedy Attic has a different featured performer every weekend, and has been known to occasionally pull in some big names for a set or two.
There’s plenty more to discover in Bloomington, but the only way to find out is to experience it for yourself.
B1G 2017: Indiana Week
Monday I Season Preview
Tuesday I Big Man on Campus
Wednesday I Visiting Bloomington (You Are Here)
Thursday I Content TBD
Friday I Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate
ALL DAY ERRY DAY I Potlucks