Bloomington, Indiana is neither the largest nor the most economically dominant city in the state, but it is certainly interesting and attractive.
Nestled in the hills of southern Indiana, Bloomington is home to 85,000 residents and hosts tens of thousands of students from Indiana University.
Founded in 1820, this is one of the top state schools in the country. Like most large universities, Indiana University attracts millions of dollars in research money and knowledge professionals from all over the world.
It makes what appears to be a sleepy mid-western town into a hub of innovation, cutting-edge businesses, and upscale living.
The culture created by students and young professionals includes trendy bars, clubs, and restaurants. The last of these is especially noticeable in Bloomington. For a city of its size, Bloomington has a rich, diverse, and thriving food scene.
Here are the 17 best restaurants in the city:
Janko’s Little Zagreb
$$ | (812) 332-0694 | WEBSITE
Janko’s (pronounced yawn-koes) first opened its doors in 1973. It has been going strong ever since. The restaurant is known as one of the best steakhouses in the Midwest, and is most famous for its spicy meatballs.
The restaurant offers over 100 bottles of fine wines, which can be enjoyed with the choicest slices of steak and a range of excellent seafood dishes.
The aesthetics of the place are also pretty classy. They serve meals in an old-fashioned dining room.
Janko’s has won many awards, including the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence, OpenTable Winner for Diner’s Choice, and Herald Readers Choice Winner.
Mother Bear’s Pizza
$ | (812) 332-4495 | WEBSITE
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The restaurant started serving in 1973. There are now two locations to serve the students and faculty of Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College.
Indeed, the restaurant is a favorite with students and staff who have voted it the best pizza joint ten years in a row.
In addition to the more popular pizza toppings—pepperoni, ham, and meat lovers—Mother Bear’s offers a vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. These are just as fresh and delicious as the meat pizzas.
My Thai Café & Sushi Bar
$$ | (812) 333-2234 | WEBSITE
This is an authentic Thai restaurant that offers traditional dishes from the country itself. It is not too far from Whitehall Plaza and is also pretty close to Whitehall Crossing Shopping Center.
If you have spent hours in either one, it is quite easy to have lunch or dinner at this restaurant.
Green Curry, Beef Broccoli, and traditional Pad Thai (served at various levels of spiciness) are some of the many dishes to choose from. If you are in the mood for something different, you should try Pad Kee Mow. You will not regret it.
My Thai Café offers many vegetarian options. Given the nature of the cuisine, it is not that hard to choose a tasty meat-free dish. Vegan options are also available. When the weather is nice, you can dine on the patio.
$$ | (812) 339-0900 | WEBSITE
The flavors of the Bayou are all over the food served at this popular Bloomington spot. The restaurant opens early—at 8am—and is known for serving hearty breakfasts.
Cajun and Creole cuisine inspires the lunch and dinner menus. However, it is also possible to find conventional mid-west dishes.
Uptown Café has a full bar and is one of the few spots in town that shows professional soccer matches on its television.
$ | (812) 335-1821 | WEBSITE
The restaurant has an informal home town atmosphere with creative pub food and live entertainment.
Big Woods sits in the heart of Bloomington and is only two blocks from the entrance to Indiana University. There is an indoor bar, an outdoor deck, and a sporty dining room.
The restaurant serves beer that is brewed locally. It has an extensive list of craft beers and ciders. Its cocktails are also made from liquors produced in the area.
The food includes common favorites such as wings, fries, and burgers. Big Woods is also famous for its Bavarian Pretzels.
Bloomington Bagel Co.
$ | (812) 349-4653 | WEBSITE
Sometimes you just want a bagel. If you have time to spare, you may not mind sitting down and enjoying it. The Bloomington Bagel Co. gives you the opportunity to do just that.
The restaurant has been voted Bloomington’s Best Bagel. It has four locations throughout the city, but the most famous one is near the Indiana University campus.
The bagels are freshly made and the materials to make them are locally sources. You can taste the difference.
The recipes come straight from the heart of kosher bagel bakery—New York City. The Cinnamon Raisin and Everyseed bagels are particular dishes worth trying.
$$ | (812) 323-0002 | WEBSITE
Farm Bloomington is in the center of the city’s entertainment district. At night, the area’s clubs and bars light up and welcome diners and partiers.
Farm Bloomington is known for its funky vintage vibe, and its farm-inspired cuisine. By day, it is a café and greasy-spoon type restaurant. By night, it is a bar and nightclub that serves up classic American cuisine in a comfortable electric setting.
The brunch menu is one of the best in the city. It features an incredibly tasty biscuit basket and a full breakfast platter which includes farm eggs, peppered bacon, roasted tomatoes, and fries.
Lennie’s & Bloomington Brewing Co.
$$ | (812) 323-2112 | WEBSITE
This is another favorite of students and faculty, as it sits right across from the university campus.
As the name of the restaurant suggests, it is closely linked to the Bloomington Brewing Company. It offers an extensive range of beers, which are all fresh and super tasty.
The second tastiest thing on the restaurant’s menu is the pizza.
Nick’s English Hut
$ | (812) 332-4040 | WEBSITE
This is one of the older restaurants in the city. It has been around and in continuous operation since 1927. Nick’s English Hut is primarily a sports bar with the feel of a traditional English pub.
There are two levels, and the walls are covered with framed photos and historical newspaper clippings about the restaurant.
Nick’s English Hut tends to draw an after-work crowd. Everyone is friendly and sociable. Besides the beer, pizza and stromboli are the best items on the menu.
Runcible Spoon Café & Restaurant
$$ | (812) 334-3997 | WEBSITE
The restaurant opened in 1976 as a coffee roastery. It slowly expanded its breakfast and lunch offerings until it became a proper dining establishment.
Here you will find unpretentious and casual café fare. Pancakes as big as your face and corned beef that is roasted in-house are among the many delicacies you will find at Runcible Spoon.
If you are really hungry, you should try the 16-ounce rib-eye steak.
The Irish Lion Restaurant & Pub
$ | (812) 336-9076 | WEBSITE
It opened in 1982 as a restored tavern that was established in 1882. There is a very cool and laid-back atmosphere in this space.
The vintage décor and cosy setting make it a great place to grab a bite to eat and have a few drinks.
The menu features traditional Irish pub food, including steak, lamb, and Dublin stew. It also has a great selection of scotch and whiskey—both Irish and American.
The Owlery Restaurant
$$ | (812) 333-7344 | WEBSITE
The restaurant opened in March 2011. Here you will find some of the best vegetarian food in Bloomington. The food served in authentic and original.
There is also a selection of tasty craft beers. The Owlery also serves a range of creative vegan comfort foods. The atmosphere is relaxed and arty.
Sunday Bruch at the Owlery is not to be missed. Specialties include vegan benedict and red velvet pancakes.
Upland Brewing Company
$$ | (812) 364-2337 | WEBSITE
This is another Bloomington restaurant that specializes in pub food. It serves lunch and dinner, and the kitchen stays open late enough to serve after-hours treats ands snacks.
The ingredients are sourced locally. Everything is prepared fresh and from scratch. The menu reflects what is available in the current season. The restaurant also includes a tasting room where you can try out different beers.
$ | (812) 339-7737 | WEBSITE
This restaurant serves great pizza with ingredients that come from local producers.
You have the option of building your own pizza or choosing one from the menu. People who love a bit of pizza dough with their meat should go for the Italian Stallion.
Bub’s Burgers and Ice Cream
$ | (812) 331-2827 | WEBSITE
The Bloomington branch of this restaurant opened in 2010. That same year, the Indiana Daily student newspaper named it Best New Restaurant 2010.
As the name implies, the restaurant serves burgers. However, the real reason people go there is for the milkshakes, which are hand-dipped, and the pies, which are hand-made.
In addition to beef burgers, the restaurant serves chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and Mahi Mahi.
Hayden has been a digital director for years. He has five years of experience editing and writing about food, restaurant, and recipe review content. At Birch Restaurant, he’s in charge of scouting, showing up unannounced in different restaurants, and writing a thorough food guide!