With the noise of bustling college students gone, summer is the perfect time for visitors to experience the Bloomington dining scene.
When the warm weather rolls in, Bloomington dining becomes an experience no longer limited by four walls. Outside seating is dusted off, and menus change to include seasonal dishes. Taste your way through town with this list of Hoosier hot spots for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks.
412 E. Sixth St., Bloomington
You’ll find The Spoon nestled in downtown Bloomington, and like many other shops and eateries, the restaurant was originally a residential home. “It’s like dining in your home,” manager Bob Johnson says. “It’s eclectic.” Pictures, art and knickknacks throughout the home offer an archival air to the restaurant, which opened to the public in 1976.
Chef Matt O’Neill, an Irishman from Dublin, purchased The Spoon in 2001. O’Neill’s handy work in the kitchen landed the restaurant on Esquire magazine’s 2014 list of Best Breakfast Places in America. Now the breakfast and brunch spot is known for its eggs Benedict, homemade pancakes, corned beef hash and plate-size omelets. Even better than the delicious dishes? “We have large portions and prices are cheap,” Johnson says.
102 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington
New Orleans-style Uptown Cafe is known for Cajun/Creole inspired fare, fresh steaks, seafood, lamb chops, and extravagant breakfast and brunch items, including Cottage Cheese Pancakes, Eggs Maryland, Eggs Benedict, and Huevos Rancheros. Jazz and soul music compliment your meal. Uptown’s new bar serves craft beer, fine wine, artisan spirits and classic cocktails, as well as late night food on Friday and Saturday nights.
Nick’s English Hut
423 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington
Open since 1924, Nick’s has gone through many transformations. Gregg Rago, better known as “Rags,” and his wife, Susan Bright, are the current owners. Rago, who has worked at Nick’s since he was 19 years old, says owning the restaurant is a dream come true. “It’s not all beer and strombolis all the time, but it’s a challenge I accept,” he says. “I have a lot of people I can’t let down.”
For lunch, try Nick’s Traditional Stromboli, Nick’s burgers or the fish tacos. Pair your food with something from the eatery’s large beer or smallbatch spirits selection. It’s a tradition to eat and drink here while watching a game or reminiscing over the good ol’ days. “For IU alums they come here and feel 21 again,” Rago says. “It’s a great experience on Kirkwood, and people feel at home here.”
108 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington
Here, chef Daniel Orr focuses on providing an ever-changing menu that gives customers the chance to eat fresh, local produce and meats. The Lugar Burger, a 7-ounce bison burger with a Columbus Cowboy espresso chili rub, is a lunch favorite.
1795 E. 10th St., Bloomington
Enjoy a date night or quiet evening with the family at Lennie’s, known to regulars as being “casual and cozy,” owner Jeff Mease says. On the menu, try The Lennie’s Original, the bacon turkey melt or the meatball sandwiches, all house favorites. Adjacent to the dining room, you’ll find The Bloomington Brewing Co., often referred to as Lennie’s Brewpub, which opened in 1994. Have a pint of the brewing company’s Rooftop IPA, which won a gold medal at the Indiana State Fair in 2013, or the Ruby Bloom Amber and Ten Speed Hoppy wheat beers, which remain customer favorites.
Janko’s Little Zagreb
223 W. Sixth St., Bloomington
Feast on steaks and seafood at this long-standing Bloomington establishment, where tables are draped in red-and-white checkered tablecloths, and all meals are served simply: with a salad and baked potato.
106 N. Walnut St., Bloomington
A popular downtown eatery, Malibu offers steak, seafood and pasta dishes, along with woodfired pizzas. Dine in or outside on the square, and take in live jazz performances while you eat.
101 N. College Ave., Bloomington
8024 N. State Road 37, Bloomington
Story by Samantha Stutsman